I have been thinking a lot lately about the ideas of success and failure. What do they mean in a big picture sense and what do they mean in my small picture?
Fame, money, success, stuff, recognition, a sense of self-importance based on external measures are all illusions. Pretty illusions, yes, but illusions nonetheless. We all want to feel special, extraordinary, important. But in the relentless pursuit of these illusions something gets lost. Life is mostly chopping wood and carrying water. If we can do whatever we do with the same enthusiasm, the same love, the same joy and find a way to be present in the moments of boredom and joy and sorrow and anger and hope and fear, without becoming attached to these emotions or stuck in these moments, that’s where the magic happens.
I have spent years trying and failing and trying and failing and succeeding occasionally before failing spectacularly again. This summer, I hit a wall. I retreated. It’s hard to fail spectacularly in public, I’m not going to lie. It’s difficult to let go of the concern about what other people think about you. It’s tough to accept that maybe things are not going to work out the way you planned.
I’m finding myself less relentlessly driven to keep searching for some elusive moment when I can say to myself, “Oh! There! Yes! You made it!” Because buried in that, lurking underneath, is the desire to feel important. So that then the people I love and the world at large will say, “Oh! There! Yes! She made it!”
I don’t think I need that any more. I don’t think it matters if the world at large celebrates me or recognizes me or cherishes me. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My value is simply in being me. That’s it. I’m already there. I may never succeed in the conventional sense of success. I may never be popular on the internet, write a best selling book, host an award winning TV show, be crowned the Queen of DIY, or act in an off Broadway One Woman Show. I’m okay with that.
I won’t stop creating or reaching or being insatiably curious, but I’m letting go of my attachment to the outcome of these things. Life goes as it will, not as we will it. It’s okay to fail.
I watched the Mr. Rogers movie today. Towards the end of his life there was some backlash on his messaging, the idea that everyone is special, which I also believe. The negative spin on this was that it made entitled adults and didn’t prepare children for life’s disappointments. That’s a cynical spin, indeed. His message was about love, acceptance, kindness, and inclusivity. Everyone matters. Everyone counts. Everyone deserves to be loved. Fred Rogers clarified the meaning in his message beautifully in a commencement speech.
“You don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you.”
This shot straight into my core essence. I burst into tears, big soulful down to the marrow tears.
Oh! There! Yes!
I already made it.
I don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love me. People who matter, the people in my day to day life love me exactly as I am. I don’t have to be popular on the internet or write a best selling book or host an award winning TV show or be crowned the Queen of DIY. I don’t have to worry about failing, because the people who love me, love me anyway.
All I have to do is show up, with an open heart and an open mind and be the fullest expression of who I am. The fullest expression of who I am is revealed when I practice love, acceptance, kindness, and inclusivity.
I am enough.
And you know what, gentle reader? So are you.
You don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you.
Thank you, Mr. Rogers.
“Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.”