Failure #20: Not connecting

While I’m pulling into our driveway I see the moving van. It’s parked a couple houses up the street. I heave Vivi out of her car seat and wander down to chat with my neighbour, who is running between their house and the van.

They’re a young couple who’ve only been here a couple of years, and now they’re moving back East. I’m disappointed they’re leaving already. We never even had them over for a barbecue like we said we would. In fact, we never visited with them for more than a few minutes, only briefly interacting while lending a shovel or running into each other in the back alley.  This is unfortunate because they liked music and canoeing and cross-country skiing. What was our problem anyway? What were we waiting for?

But there’s no time now. He’s not wearing mitts and his hands are getting cold. Besides, they’re busy and have other things to do besides making small talk. I wish him well, turn around and walk inside my house.

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*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.

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Failure #19: Seeking approval

I peel the onions and start slicing through them with my biggest knife. Whump. Whump. Whump. Wow, this is different, I think to myself. The knife actually seems sharp. Suddenly chopping is much easier than usual. Did an industrial fairy come along last night and do some sharpening?

I wipe my hands and send a quick email to Stan to ask about it; we rarely communicate during the day, but this seems urgent.

“Yep. Sure did,” he replies. And that’s it.

If I wouldn’t have asked he may never have said a thing, which is just like him. And not at all like me. That same afternoon, when he was sharpening the knife, I cleaned up the house with the girls and when he came in from the shop I’d asked, dramatically, how he liked our tidy space. Did he appreciate that we’d slaved away?

I always want feedback. I make a speech, clean a toilet, write a post, grow a cucumber and seek approval. Was it good? Did you notice? How does it taste? I’m a sucker for affirmation and wish I wasn’t.

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*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.

Failure 18#: No recognition skills

I look at the guy sitting beside me out of the corner of my eye. Who is he? Do I know him? I have two choices: I can act is if I’ve never seen him, or pretend we’re already buddies. Both are a gamble and I have no idea which is a better bet. I decide to go for the former. Extending my hand and smiling, I say cheerily, “Have you been here before, I don’t think we’ve met?”

He looks at me for a moment, then gives me his hand. “Yeah, I’ve been coming here for awhile.” He tells me his name and adds, “You know, you’ve introduced yourself to me before.”

Oh no! It’s happening again. I failed to recognize his face. For all I know we may have already had a deep conversation about the meaning of life, and here I am, acting as if we’re meeting for the first time. There’s a diagnosis out there for me somewhere, that would explain why everyone’s facial features look the same. I want to tell him this. That it’s not his fault. That he doesn’t necessarily look forgettable. That it’s me.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I fumble. “I have a real problem. It’s a facial recognition problem. It’s, like, a real problem.” I realize I’m sputtering now, so I turn away and release him from the awkwardness. We both breathe a sigh of relief.

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*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.

Failure #17: Being late

“Are you angry, Mommy?” Vivian asks.

“No, I’m not angry.  Just rushed,” I explain while pushing and pulling the socks over her feet. “We have to hurry.”

“But why are you holding me tight, tight?”

“Because Mommy wants to get things done quickly, that’s why.”

My body is crawling with aggravation. We’re late! We’re late! We’re late! every blood cell screams. “Hurry up! Get it together,” I call to the older girls.  “We’re getting in the car!”

No one who knows me–and who knows how often it happens–would ever believe I feel so terrible about being late. I hate it all the way down to the tips of my toes and to the ends of my fingertips. I hate the rush, the urgency and the awful dread of the tardy arrival, but it happens over and over again.

So why, if I can’t stand it, am I often late? It may have something to do with the scenario in Failure #16; it may have something to do with blogging when I should be brushing my teeth; it may have something to do with lingering at the table and telling a story to Belén and Susie when I should be dressing Vivian; or it may be any number of reasons.

When I’m feeling particularly defensive I say it’s because I like living in the moment, without worrying where I should be next. I also bring up how I wish we still lived in Bolivia, where people were gracious and patient about waiting. Where events started when it felt right to start and not at a preset time. My excuses may be partly true but they’re also childish. We’re not in Boli anymore and I’m late simply because I don’t prioritize being on time. Until the last minute of course, when I should be at the thing I’m going to. Then urgency headlines through my body. Please, I plead with my foot on the pedal, let there be no trains, no traffic, and no red lights!

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*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.

Failure #16: Hypocrisy

“You should be done by now,” I remind Susanna as I stick my head into a roomful of steam. “Get out of the shower!” I yell as I pass the bathroom, again, a few minutes later. “You’re using all the hot water! Your time is up!” I say while marching to turn off the tap.

Belén is waiting to shower, and there are only a few minutes left before the bus comes. How long would she stand under the water, wasting time, if I didn’t push her? I wonder.

Later that evening it’s my turn. I dial the faucet as hot as I can stand it and let the day wash over me. My mind wanders to paragraphs and sentences, conversations and phone calls, possibilities and peculiarities. I solve problems and come up with new perspectives. All while wasting time, just like my daughter.

“Wow, Mom,” Belén interrupts me, “how long have you been in here? Probably a half-hour, at least.”

“Nah! It can’t be more than 15 minutes,” I say. “Besides, our water bill is part of the cost of creativity in this house. I need time to think without distraction.”

“The cost of what?” she asks. “Never mind, I can barely breathe in here it’s so foggy.”

I hear the door close and feel a bit sheepish, reminding myself to be more patient with Susanna tomorrow morning.

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morning view outside our window

*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.

Failure #15: Explaining 13 years

I open my email and read the new message:

Can you send me your bio by Nov. 1?

Vivi is playing on the couch beside me, snot running down to her lips while she narrates the drama between her stuffies. She seems happy enough so I wipe her up and decide to respond right away. This won’t take long, I think. All I need to do is copy and paste, then tweak it a little.

I scrap a few phrases and re-read the paragraph that’s left. I can explain why I spent four years in Bolivia, wandering dirt roads and drinking chicha, but the 13 years that follow–when I started having a family–are harder to summarize. I write a couple sentences that seem awkward and vague at best. How do I spin staying at home, for more than a decade, with a professional sheen? I type some more, read it out aloud and immediately press delete. Not right again. It takes me the entire morning, between snacks and laundry and picture books, to come up with something reasonable. My failure is not the choice I made to work at home with my children (and community)–that’s something I’ll never regret. My failure is the limp words I use to describe it.

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Halloween cowgirl

*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.