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.

Stress, Sleep, and Surrender: September 2019

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Maybe you are reading this because you haven’t mastered the tick to falling asleep.  Maybe you are like me and sleep has started to evade you.  Surrendering to sleep seems like a weird thing that we do every day.  Sleep is vulnerable, we lie there, prone and oblivious to all that is going on in the world, and yet without it we will waste away.  Worrying about what will happen to me while I sleep is not why I’ve had trouble slipping off into sleep.  What I get anxious about is plain old sleep and work.  My brain just won’t turn off sometimes because I am stuck in a cycle of anxiety and stress.  As I have struggled to sleep God kept reminding me He wanted my heart no matter the situation. I couldn’t control my life.  He was taking back the things that were his anyway.  God wanted me to surrender and open up about my struggles.

Finally, a little over a year ago, I told my older sister that I was struggling with sleep.  She said, “me too.”  That moment of connection was what I needed.  It was as if I had been heard.  I started to sleep soundly again.  Yet here we are deep into 2019 and I am taking a small amount of sleeping pills during the work week and I still occasionally wake up sweaty.

I am not sure why my sleep patterns haven’t fixed themselves and I am doing my best not to stress over the answer.  The best thing to do while going through a difficult or painful situation is not to ask why or try to interpret what is going on.  Struggling to figure out the meaning of my sleepless nights only led to more sleepless nights.  Maybe part of why sleep has not come easy could be my silence; my refusal to surrender to God’s will and share what He has been doing in my life.

But this September I felt challenged to open up about my sleep problems.  Every September I celebrate how God showed up when I was in the hospital due to Necrotizing Pneumonia.  I realized if I can share about how God used that pain, I needed to open up about what God was doing in my life now.  I was being selfish by holding back on talking about my sleep pain.  I would rather have God use my pain than waste it.  So I am opening up.  Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation and maybe I can help.

I have learned that instead of asking God why I am awake in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep, I want to ask God what are you doing in me?  He wants my heart no matter the situation.  So each night I am practicing letting go of my own desires.  God has taken care of my finances, my wife, my health, and everything else I have surrendered to him.  If I do not sleep well, he gives me what I need to make it through the next day.

I do not want to keep silent about my sleep or lack thereof because God has been too good to me and I want to praise him for that.  At night when I can’t sleep, I have decided to sit with Him and pray.  Some nights I leave my bed and go to the couch where I sit with my hands palm up on my knees.  I breathe deeply and listen for God.  I think of the beauty I have seen in His world and know that He is in control.  I surrender to him and trust that if He can make a world where Aspens exist, He can love me even in my stress. He might never heal me of this sleep problem, but all the while He is making me into the man he created me to be.  And isn’t that the ultimate adventure?

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Stress and Sleeplessness

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Teachers live for summer, right? Freedom for adventure right at your feet, or just to use the bathroom whenever. Oh and all the extra sleep, but sleep started to stress me out during the summer of 2018.

Yes, that was over a year ago, but for the longest time I felt like if I talked about how much I was struggling to sleep, my sleep patterns would worsen.  But I don’t believe that anymore and here is how God helped me change my mindset.

In 2018 my adventures seemed limited to waking up in the middle of the night, taking care of my landlords house, and worrying about being able to provide for my wife.  I was attempting to control my little world but God wanted me to surrender.

When I would wake up worrying about our finances.  He would tell me he was in control anyway.  I would wake up worried about healthy eating and my physical health.  God would remind me that he has always taken care of me and that no matter what he wants the best for me. I started worrying about taking care of the house we were living in.  I didn’t want to be thinking about these things so early in the morning. Time and time again God would remind me that the best life is a life surrendered to him.

Yet, I stressed on.  I wanted to be able to provide for April, buy us a house, and make us successful.  Surrender is difficult, so I didn’t sleep.

Without sleep, my rhythm has been off. I cannot blame it on where I live, bad air conditioning, poor heating, or the fact that my wife is a furnace.  Figuratively and literally! When we are next to one another in bed my body temp starts to rise, which doesn’t let me sleep.  Like I said, last summer I started stressing about many different things, but most of all I stressed about how hot I was when I was hoping to be asleep or I would stress about sleep.

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A little history on my sleep patterns.  When I was in the seventh and eighth grade I started struggling to fall asleep because I was too busy thinking up the statistics for Terrill Davis and the other Denver Broncos. During 1998, when TD would run for 2008 yards on the season, I started calculating what he needed to do to reach that feat each night as I lay in bed.  Soon sleep outweighed my desire to not worry about stats.  My solution was a fan to drown out my thoughts.  Over the years the fan has morphed into prayer time at night, a thankfulness journal, and a rain noise app on my phone.

On nights when none of these solutions worked, I used I would envision a peaceful field or hike and I would take myself into that situation and fall into a dream so over the last year when I just couldn’t fall back to sleep I was unsure what to do when my mind would not shut off.

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I felt like I was lost in a sleep deprived haze.  My brain buzzed.  I was waking up with my heart pounding and in a puddle of sweat. I was stressed, but I didn’t want to talk about it and this made me feel alone. Why was this happening? Over the last year I feel like I would turn a corner and recapture that mythic ability to sleep through the night and then I would go and talk about it.  Someone would ask me, “how are you sleeping” and I would crash.  I was convinced that if I talked about my sleep, I would start stressing about it, and therefore, I wouldn’t sleep well.  So I kept silent. I refused to surrender and my adventure seemed to stall out.  But that would change in September.  More on that next week.