What is Failure anyway?

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By the end of this year I’ll have moved again.

That’ll make my fourth trans-Africa move in less than 24 months: Tanzania to Kenya, Kenya to Zambia, Zambia to Kenya and Kenya back to Tanzania. I’ll have called six, or is it seven? eight even? different houses Home.

Such movement, such apparently overwhelming change, seems as an insurmountable disappointment; something must have gone horribly wrong to have necessitated – instigated – such drama. And it did, of course it did. There has been a lot of betrayal in the past – almost – two years. But – ultimately – the betrayals that initiated the chain of catastrophe, this black comedy of errors, were the product of our error: A Bad Decision on Our Part.

A Failure then?

Diana Athill – and six other writers write of Failure in the Guardian (oh and there’s another one whilst we’re on the subject of Writing and Failing: my agent has shuffled off from one agency to another, she doesn’t want to take my book with her and the agency doesn’t want to keep it, Thank You Very Much All The Same). Of her own perceived failing, which precipitated a broken heart, Athill says, it’s imperative ‘to digest it, make use of it and forget it. Which is something to remember if you happen to be experiencing it’ Margaret Atwood holds more succinct and cynical views: Failure is just another name for much of real life’, she declares.

And real Life is sometimes about disappointment and betrayals and misunderstandings and interrupted dreams. We’ve just had a lot of that concertina’d into a briefer time. The dramas queuing so tightly to fell us that they sometimes seemed to topple one another over; that’s why failure can feel like crashing dominoes.

But Real Life is heady stuff. Potent. Intoxicating. It drags you up close and personal to smell the scent of what it’s all about. What matters in all this we ask ourselves? You have to. You have to Count Your Blessings. You have to separate what’s Real from what’s Really Important. I have Ant. He has me. We have our children. They have their health. The rest is White Noise. It’s as well I’m not the sort of person who harbours a desire for perfectly arranged scatter cushions and designer sunglasses given the chaos, and need for fiscal leanness, that has descended.

And there is little point in going through life totting up the failures (I don’t have enough fingers anyway). Its much more liberating to consider the skills we acquire in inching past them relatively intact (if you discount the fact tangled time has etched my complexion,  created a greater need for a good colourist, slightly elevated blood pressure and left my filing in disarray).

And who says failure is the opposite of success anyway? I would not deem my recent years to be unsuccessful. Certainly the plan, if there ever was one, went slightly awry. But I will probably, when the dust settles, when I unpack boxes that have stood packed for 24 months, when I get to that filing and tidy documents dated November 2011, look back on this bumpy journey, taking in the Big Picture, a broader view where the black days are blurred to the dust of distant memories, with hippy-ish affection.

In the end, I will take more from it than it will from me. And that doesn’t sound like a failing?

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8 Responses to “What is Failure anyway?”

  1. Tom Says:

    White noise? In that part of the world I always thought it was White Mischief!

    Bad decisions; it is a recollection of all mine that leave me unable to go back to sleep when I awake at four every morning.

    Failing is relative. If you shot for the stars but hit the moon instead, is that a failure?

  2. Mama D Says:

    It’s not a failure if you take something from it. Hope you manage to enjoy at least parts of the adventure while you;re living them!!

  3. Lyn Says:

    I side with Margaret Atwood – and not just because I am Canadian! Real life if riddled with strife, shock and awesomeness, and it is nothing if not Rich. “I will take more from it than it will from me” You get it! You are eking out the lessons of every adversity, and in the process evolving into all you were meant to be. Thank you for sharing your journey, that we also may be enriched.

  4. chris w Says:

    Maybe you can charge for us to read your wonderful writing. I certainly would pay for the next blog. I don’t see why you can’t earn from such interesting writing.

  5. daisyfae Says:

    My father always said “The measure of a (hu)man is not how he deals with success, but how he deals with failure.” Finding the lessons, understanding the path, counting the blessings and putting it into perspective… and picking yourself up and leaving it on the floor behind you as you move forward… That’s the best you can do. Best wishes for you as you move forward…

  6. iotamanhattan Says:

    I love that song in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (I think… or is it Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?)… “From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success”. Sometimes we can only achieve things in life because we have been prepared. Some of the preparation feels like failure, but, by grace, it can be the soil of greater things.

  7. iotamanhattan Says:

    What happens now, by the way? Another move? Or are you regrouping?

  8. Kit Says:

    Thanks for the philosophical insight. it puts my current small disappointments into perspective. FIngers crossed that you find a good place to rest and recuperate and some firm ground to put your roots back into.

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