On occasion, I work in my living room instead of my office. Mostly, because it looks like this:
Today, while thinking about some function I had to write to sort and filter out an array of data, I was staring into those trees. I saw a squirrel jump from one tree to the next. The squirrel did this a few times and then, inexplicably, it missed. It banged against the branch it had landed on 5 or 6 times previously and fell all the way to the asphalt driveway below.
Because it’s a squirrel, there was no injury and the squirrel proceeded to climb the tree again and make the same jump at least 10 more times. Then, I realized my order of operations in the function was backward so that pulled me back into work and away from the squirrel.
Now, I’m eating lunch and thinking about the times I’ve failed to do something that might be second nature to me like jumping branch to branch is for a squirrel. Maybe it was something I do at work. Maybe it was part of a hobby I enjoy. Or, maybe it was something that makes me quintessentially me. Either way, I’ve failed at those things a number of times. Very rarely did that failure injure me in any noticeable way.
Yet, I have stumbled and stayed down or changed direction over the slightest mistake on a number of occasions despite not really being injured. I don’t mean in the physical sense here. I’m saying that sometimes I fail at a simple, rote task and it spirals me down for an hour or a day or maybe even a week. Unlike that squirrel, I don’t always bounce up and get right back to it. I might just lie in the driveway a bit and stare up at the tree branch cursing it and all the ones it connects to.
Is this a character flaw? Is it a weakness? I see lots of other folks run into walls much stronger than I’ve hit and they back up and bound over it even if their face gets a little bruised in the trying. I suppose I’ve done that, too. But, not as often as I’d like and not as often as I think myself capable.
What then keeps me laid out on the ground breathing in heavily and lamenting having to get up and try again? What’s the barrier that slows me down in that moment? Is it fear of failure? I’ve already failed. What’s to be afraid of now? Maybe, instead, it’s the fear of success. Because, success means expectation and expectations often morph into resentments.
If I’m always bouncing right back up, soon enough, my vulnerability comes into question. My need for help seems to diminish. It’s then that I become disconnected. I became separated from the support and guidance that I need. I seem much stronger than I am. When the real stumble comes, there’s no railing to grab on to. No shoulder to lean against.
That’s what keeps me on the pavement. There’s a need to live inside my frailty, my shortcomings, my limitations, if only briefly. It’s a way to say, “I cannot do this alone.” Nor should any of us have to. An individual can be incredibly strong. We’ve all seen it in our family and friends when things were dire. But, we don’t always have to be that way. We can stumble. We can be seen in our totality. And we can still be vital, loved, and creative in that struggle.