As I gazed in the mirror the other morning all I could see was the zit erupting in the crevice where my nose meets my cheek. Of course! My skin has a knack for knowing exactly when I’m going on vacation or headed to a special event and often blesses me with these unfortunate gifts. Touché epidermis, you win. I can’t hide anything from you.
By 10 a.m. I had gotten two separate emails from clients that had either had a change of plans or a change of budget and would not need my writing services. Its not you, its us! Coupled with a contract that I already knew was expiring, I found myself with a wide-open calendar and a bank account that was going to be lighter than usual.
As if my day wasn’t already testing my fragile self-confidence, that afternoon my workout ran up from behind and pushed what was left of my confidence over a cliff, crashing and burning in a fantastic mountain of flames. It wasn’t my workout so much as it was my workout gear—a sports bra that was doing nothing for my soft, 46 year-old double D’s, pushing them out the sides more than pushing them up, and a pair of high-waisted leggings that kept slipping down, forcing my pudge to pour over the waistband. All in front of a mirror I couldn’t manage to avoid in my gym. What’s the point? Why am I even bothering with working out? You look disgusting.
When my husband got home from work I met him at the front door shoulders slumped, buried my face in his chest and sobbed, “I’m a failure!”
He patiently listened (without snickering) to my horrible, no good, very bad day; from the pimple to the humiliation heaped on me by the Lycra industry.
“Honey, I don’t know what to say. You’re beautiful. You have tons of connections, you’ll pick up more work,” he said, pushing my hair behind my ears to avoid the river of mascara running down my cheeks.
I sobbed and groused and flopped on to the sofa like a sea lion hoisting itself on to the docks. I drank rosé while slamming pots around in the sink and whining about my failure as a human.
Oh honey, get a grip.
A few days (yes, I said days) into my tantrum, as I was dragging out my luggage that I had waited until the last minute to pack, I was reminded that I lead an extremely blessed life. In just a few days, in the middle of the week and for no special reason, I was hopping a plane for Florida to hang out with a group of girlfriends.
Under the rustling palm trees, basking in the warmth that had not found its way to my home in Michigan yet—happily in my bikini showing off my stretch marks and pudge—it was hard to believe I had completely lost my shit a few days earlier. Over. Nothing.
We are such fragile creatures, human beings. One minute we’re strutting our stuff like we own the runway at New York Fashion Week and the next we’re hiding in the dark corners of society like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. And why is it that I can totally tackle that big stuff that happens in life and the little things are totally my undoing?
The reality is we all have something to be thankful for, some tiny bit of success each day. But, finding that light when we are sitting in darkness is sometimes hard to do, and sometimes it’s just a really tiny speck of light.
We often believe that our happiness—our success—is just on the other side of some arbitrary achievement. When I lose 20 pounds. When I get a better job. When I get married. We are all guilty of the “if-I-can-just-do-x-then-I-can-get-y” self-talk. The problem is that kind of thinking sets you up for a lifetime of disappointment. The reality is you need to find success and happiness in the life you are leading right now.
I am by no means saying I have this all figured out—my high horse is a dwarf miniature pony; this is a not-so-gentle reminder to practice what I preach and get over myself. I am completely aware that my problems are first world problems. I know that my blessings are bountiful and that my worst days are someone else’s best. I can just turn on the news and see that by comparison I have nothing to complain about.
But everyone suffers from dark days. Sometimes you have to take the smallest wins and celebrate them. Did you get up today? Are you standing on two legs? Do you have a $1 to your name? I realize that these things seem absurdly trivial, maybe things you even take for granted, but it’s these small successes that will move you ahead. Maybe you never go to college, maybe you never get married, maybe you never make partner or get the Maserati or buy the cottage on the beach or write the next Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Are you going to look back on your life and say, “I was a failure”? I hope not.
It’s great to have goals, but the destination shouldn’t blur the journey. You shouldn’t be so focused on getting to the end of the race that you miss an alternate route. Or, maybe you realize that the place you were headed wasn’t really where you wanted to go after all.
In a million years I could not have predicted where my life is today. It’s been full of all kinds of ups and downs, detours and surprises—but I wouldn’t change it, and I regret none of it. If I was still holding on to my 21 year-old version of what my life was supposed to be, I guess I would have failed at that, but what the fuck did my 21 year-old self even know about life? You have to keep reinventing yourself and you have to start from a place of acceptance. Here’s what I’ve got today and I’m thankful for this, where can I go from here?
As I walked my dog this morning, tulips colorfully dotting neighbor’s yards and the heady scent of cherry blossoms and magnolia hanging in the air; a smile stretched across my face. Life is pretty good and it is the simplest things I treasure most—my rescued dog, time spent with my family, my health and well-being.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; failure isn’t what happens when you don’t obtain success, failure happens when you stop trying to succeed. Some days there aren’t going to be any big or notable wins, but as long as you keep trying then you haven’t failed.
So smear on some zit cream, hand out a few more business cards and by all means ditch the workout clothes that aren’t working out—but don’t quit the workout, because you never stop trying.