Failure Is Not An Option. (Or Is It?)


My yoga instructor constantly reminds me that how you do yoga is how you live your life.

She generally makes this casual statement when I'm knee deep in a difficult pose, gritting my teeth, forgetting my breath, unwilling to admit I'm killing myself trying to stay in the pose. There's a rule for when this happens - you're supposed to drop out of the pose and take rest in child's pose.

But to me, that would be admitting failure.

And so I laugh at her observation, jaw clenched, until the next transition comes. I catch my breath and stretch, slowly, into something easier. And promise myself - next time, I will take child's pose when it become too hard.

Yeah. I never do.

I've always been a proponent of failing. In order to succeed, you must be willing to fail, and fail brilliantly. To make mistakes. To hurt feelings, and get yours hurt in return. It's not all roses and kittens and rainbows and unicorns out there. Failing is how we grow, as writers and as people. 

Three years ago I wrote a post about fear - the paralyzing kind, and admitted that I'm a bit of a cliff jumper. In the three subsequent years, I'm finding myself less compliant with my own personality. Less flighty. Less willing to fail. And it's hurting me. I'm holding on too tight, as they like to say. I'm doing my yoga like I'm living my life - white-knuckling it through each day.

I'm suddenly afraid to fail. It's an interesting place to find myself.

My yoga teacher also tells me the universe wants to give you what you ask for. You just have to be open and willing to accept it, to be open to visualizing yourself in this position. There are four things I ask for when I'm touching my head to the floor at the end of class, quiet words of prayer I whisper to the earth. 

Graceful. Kind. Focused. Strong.

This is my mantra. These are the things I ask the universe to grant me.

In that moment, when there is true clarity, I don't ask to be unafraid. I don't ask for fame or fortune, for good reviews and high book sales. The latter would be quite lovely, the former - well, you know me, fame ain't my thing. Fortune... I won't say no if you want to buy my books. But money is not my end all be all. 

The things I ask for when I'm in my most vulnerable, most connected to God state are things that I need to feel like a success. Grace - in both the physical and metaphysical sense, to handle difficult situations. Kindness - to help others without asking for anything in return. Focus - so I can write more books and stories and spend less time online. And strength - the physical kind. Five shoulder surgeries, 1 back and 1 wrist surgery make it hard to fling my body around - I'm getting so much stronger and I love it. I love it.

Here's another component to focus for me: What I want to be doing versus what I am doing. I have this fantasy about an evening at home with my husband. A fire crackles merrily in the grate, soft classical music is playing, am I'm ensconced on the couch with a glass of wine and a superb book, chilling out.

How often does that happen? Not enough. We both work insane hours; deadlines and remodeling and travel have eaten into our downtime for the past year. We're much more likely to eat dinner on the couch while watching a couple of shows before collapsing for the night than enjoy that fantasy land version of my night.

And who's fault is that? Who's choice is that? It's mine. And it falls squarely in the failure column.

I'm starting to think about my goals for 2013. I need to reassess my willingness to fail. To let things go. To not worry so much, to lighten up. To be willing to take an artist's date once a week, to schedule an hour to read and an hour of yoga a day. To meditate whenever I feel like it. To recognize when I need to drop into child's pose and take a breath instead of fighting my way through. 

What are four things you'd ask the universe for? And are you willing to fail?