I Never Thought I Wanted To Fail At This

In My Year of Becoming I’m Learning I Must Fail And Be Human

To err is human, but I want to be perfect. My therapist (does admiring I am in therapy break your perfect picture of me) reminded me that it is okay to fail because that means we are alive. Yet, I still strive to be perfect and I am failing at it. So I am learning how to become okay with failing.

Failure is not an option! The year I started teaching in the states I worked at a school that had posters all over the building telling our students that “Failure Is Not An Option!” By November we announced as a school that we were closing. We failed! Maybe if failure had been an option the school would have found success. I am learning that failure and success works like that.

I’ve been failing quite a bit lately. My sleep has been rather horrible. Fail. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. Fail. I’ve let work make me feel like I am not good enough. Fail. I’ve not been much help to April (my wife) and my puppies in the morning while they are preparing for the day (see sleep failure). Fail. But mostly at being perfect. I am not sure where my perfection comes from, but I sure do have high expectations of myself. I want to get the perfect night sleep so I try to make everything right in my room. I have a ridiculous routine before bed that would make Adrian Monk seem normal. I like comfort and sleep, what can I say? So anything to help calm my anxieties, I try to do. Yet, having the perfect set up for sleep hasn’t always led to a full eight hours. That is where my therapist comes in. We were having a conversation about my frustration at not sleeping well again. I told him all about what I do (from journaling to taking melatonin) and he said I need to keep doing those things, but that it has to be okay if they don’t work. Failure has to be an option. I have to be able to go to bed and when my brain says, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Over here! Listen to me! I’ve got a thought for you! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SLEEP! Now dwell on that for the next 10 hours! Goodnight!” I have to be able to think, okay, that’s fine. When I don’t fight back, I let God win the battle for me. This is a very kind thought, which is what my therapist is asking me to do. Being kind is to not pressure myself into perfection. Kindness helps me live in the moment and let go of my worries about the future. If I expect perfection and then fail, I am a mess.

This has allowed me to be gracious with myself when I have a bad day at work. Why should I worry about what my coworkers think of me? They are not the ones who define who I am. That is Christ’s role. Speaking of Jesus, His option of me is that of a friend and brother and he is the only one who lived a perfect life and yet things didn’t always go his way. Two weeks ago we celebrated Easter (April made a delicious carrot cake) at my parents house. It was amazing to be able to celebrate together because last year we were all in strict Covid isolation. Easter of 2020 was far from perfect and Easter of 2021 was no where close to a fail. I think living in-between perfection and disaster is human. Jesus brought that balance when he died for us. He asked God to not have him sacrifice his life, “not my will, but yours” he said. In a night of extreme anxiety, he prayed to have the cup pass from his lips. God didn’t grant him his wish and Jesus went to the cross for us and then three days later defeated death so that I could lie in bed telling God he needs to let me fall back to sleep! No, so I can be gracious to myself as I remind myself that I am loved and life in that freedom. It is this love that defines me and makes it okay to be a human who fails.

And so the biggest fail of the last two decades happened to me two weeks ago. I forgot to spend time in prayer. Fail! My brain was on fire at three in the morning, letting me know I had failed to spend time with God. Now, hear me out. I started reading my Bible and writing in a prayer book during my Freshmen year of high school. I wanted to look Godly and attractive to this girl I was digging on a mission trip to Costa Rica. God used my selfish desires to help build a strong relationship with Him instead of the girl.

I remained inconsistent in my Bible and prayer time until my sophomore year of college. I was on a mission trip to Belize and a strong desire to grow closer to Jesus prompted me to make a decision not to miss a day in pryer. I was struggling with feeling connected to the group I came down to Belize to serve with and I felt Jesus tell me he loved me and that he saw me as His friend.. If Jesus is my best friend, why would I not want to spend time with Him everyday day.

Seventeen years later I had not missed a day. God has used my quiet time to help me decompress, heal, and be filled with his love. Through my daily interaction with God I moved passed insecurities and addictions and I have come to know I am loved. This has set me free, especially when I fail. So when I awoke with the thought that I had not read my bible nor written in my prayer book, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Okay, I did briefly think about waking myself up all the way and spending time in prayer so I could “count” it for the missed day. I mean I didn’t even miss a day while in the hospital with pneumonia, which included two major surgeries. But why spend time in prayer if it is just to check a box? I do not need to be perfect for God to love me. Maybe if I fail more often I’ll feel that love because it is only in our fallen state that grace can come in. To forgive is Divine.

So I am learning to fail and forgive myself. This act of kindness covers me with grace which is like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to my body. This might free my writing up so that I do not worry about having the perfect blog. It will also help me love my wife better because she too is loved by Jesus and does not need a husband who is constantly worried about being perfect. So here is to failing.

April deserves a husband who is human and so is like my young puppies. They do not care that our backyard is in shambles right now, they have joy in their hearts because they are together. Also, they love that they can climb all over the fallen fence. They see life as an adventure and in adventures it is okay to become immersed in the mess. If I can love and live the way my puppies do, I can be live in joy with my wife because we are together. It won’t matter if I sleep or if my job is going perfectly. The mess of life will just bring out the beauty in us. So here is to failing inside the mess.

Dear Anastasia

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I was in the 7th grade when you bounded into my life.  You were a Christmas gift to my older sister.  She’d been begging for a dog, but she never loved you the way I have.  It’s not her fault.  She didn’t know that she wasn’t a dog person at that point.  But I do know she loved the way you cocked your head when you were listening to something.  She needed your love and she loved you the best she could, but when she left for college she gave you to me.  She’s always given me good gifts and you were the best gift she’s ever given to me.  And from that point on you’ve always been my dog.  Right by my side, at least until the television turned off and then you bolted for bed.

When you were little you would jump up on top of the fence post next to the house and wait for us to come home.  I wish you could be there waiting for when I fly back in June.

I am going to miss our hikes up into the crisp mountains behind our house in Edwards.  The way you would sprint ahead and then sprint back to check up on me.  The dirt kicked off your feet like a small tornado.  Yet, you always had time to sit and wait with me and let me pet you.  I will not be able to hike up through the aspen’s on East Lake Creek Trail with out thinking of you.  I think maybe, you loved that hike more than I did.  You used to go crazy when we would mention the word hike.  After your leg injury, which I am still sorry about, I loved how you would try your hardest to jump into the back of the Pathfinder and then yelp when we would help you make it up the rest of the way.  You still wanted to do things on your own.

I am going to miss how you would nudge my elbow in the mornings so I would pet you while I ate breakfast.  Let’s face it, you could never be petted enough.  I love how you loved to be loved.  You would lick a guy to death just to say I love you in your own little way.

You were always a puppy at heart.  Even when you lost all the hair on your tale and didn’t have any energy, you still loved to jump on command.  And after we started giving you medications for your thyroid and your hair grew back, it was as if you grew 5 years younger in a week.  I think you became addicted to the cheese we gave you the medicine in.  Why else would you jump for medicine?  Even this summer when we went up to the flat tops people asked me if you were a puppy.  And you smiled and wagged your tale.  Your beauty has lasted beyond your sicknesses and your weird behavior.  Even when you ate some of my clothes and I caught you red mouthed, you were still cute.

I am going to miss how you greeted me with that warm smile of yours every time you saw me.  And how big that smile was when I drove all the way up to Wyoming to pick you up.  You jumped when you saw me.  I jumped too.  Stasia, I wouldn’t drive 16 hours in one day for many other reasons.  Even after you woke me up at 5am on New Years Day having pooped all over my room.  You were sheepish and I was mad, but I cleaned it up and I forgave you.  Then you did it again the very next morning at the very same time.  You couldn’t ever figure out how to bark just to let me know you needed to go.  Yet, I love you still.  You have been my dog and my friend.  You may have kept me up and night with your snores, strange dreams, and worse smells, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

I know that I haven’t been around much over the past few years.  My job has taken me out of the country.  And it is hard living so far away from the ones I love.  I have missed my fair share of family events, weddings and birthdays.  But not being there to say goodbye and seeing you go is by far the hardest.  Living down here in Guatemala has had it’s fair share of rewards.  I have a special bond with my students.  I hope they know I love them, but it is still very hard to live and work down here when you are sick back home and I am missing you.

I will love you always,

Your pal, Brendan