Do you ever have days, weeks, or even months when you feel like a failure? Where you failed to meet a goal, made a tangible mistake, or just feel overall inadequate?
I’ve been having a week like that.
Failure #1: I set a goal that I would spend a minimum of 1 hour a week outside before I wrote this letter. The same thing I challenged you to. I did not do it.
Failure #2: My Postcards to the Earth email stopped working out of nowhere 2 weeks ago (if you wrote to me and I did not respond – that is why!). I still haven’t fixed it.
Failure #3: I bought a gift for my sister weeks ago that is still sitting on my desk. My other sister sent me a gift that I have barely opened and I neglected to tell her I received it. My mother sent me 2 boxes of my things, which I had asked her to do, and for 2 weeks they have been sitting in my basement, unopened, and also without an adequate expression of gratitude.
Failure #4: I woke up late every morning this week even though I have TONS to do. My body hurts so I feel like I must not be doing enough to take care of it.
Below I will share with you some antidotes for failure that I practiced this week.
But first, why am I writing about failure in the context of Postcards to the Earth?
Acknowledging, recognizing, and experiencing failure is a painful and real experience of those who shift their lives to act on behalf of the earth. As we become more aware, we are able to perceive places we have failed as a species. We may feel our own failure to act responsibly, such as choosing to drive 3 minutes when it’s a beautiful day and we could have biked or walked (yes, another thing I did this week). Or ordering our favorite take-out even though it still comes in Styrofoam containers wrapped in plastic. Or flying frequently when we know the enormous fossil fuel footprint of an airplane.
The thing is, environmental failure is impossible to escape. Bill McKibbin, activist, writer, and founder of environmental organization 350.org, writes, “Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself.” **
We may even feel a sense of failure just reading about wounded places on the planet. Joanna Macy, world renown ecologist, Buddhist, and scholar, writes, “As part of this world, you contain the whole of it.”** In other words, we truly are all of the same fabric.
Bottom line: failure is inevitable. It is woven into our psyche as humans. It is a harsh truth of our times.
That is why we MUST cultivate antidotes for our failures, starting inside ourselves.
4 Antidotes for Failure that I practiced this week, as related to my actual and perceived failures mentioned above:
Antidote #1: Mind Shift: Focus on what I DID do.
I went for an amazing 2-hour hike, alone, early in the morning. I challenged my stamina, rested and connected for a while, and set some powerful intentions.
Antidote #2: Just Do It: Take Ownership & Face What I Don’t Understand.
By the time you are reading this, I will have called the web people for support and (hopefully!) fixed my email! I want to communicate with you!
Antidote #3: Self-Compassion & Patience.
My family knows I love them. I am doing the best that I can. They will be happy to receive the gifts and gratitude whenever they come.
Antidote #4: Focus on Beauty.
I put on a nice dress, jewelry, and did my hair even though I will be home all day by myself. I’m sitting outside under my gorgeous cottonwood tree. I have the postcards next to me. I am breathing.
What is a failure you experienced recently, and what are your antidotes?
Especially amidst the complexity of these times, in honor of effort, intentions, failures, and successes, let’s keep falling more and more in love with ourselves, each other, and the earth.
Bill McKibbin, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math", Rolling Stones Magazine, July 19, 2012.
Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self. 2007. Parallax Press, Berkeley CA. Pg 28.
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