I once attended an event where entrepreneurial women came together to share stories, not about business, but about life, over dinner and drinks.
There were five awesome speakers who told personal stories around the theme, "Rising From the Ashes."
They opened up about relationship struggles, about recreating old patterns, ignoring their inner voices, about unbearable abuse and pain and death, about traumatic health scares and so many BIG SCARY things.
The common thread through each story though, was that they all got through it: lessons learned, insight gained, perspectives shifted.
And their stories, as painful and hard to live through as they must have been, all led to these women, standing strong and brave before our eyes, baring themselves, inspiring and connecting all of us.
When it was dinner and dessert time, around our individual tables we were asked to discuss our answers to this question with one another...
"What's your biggest failure, and what did it lead to?"
I heard women from 30-something to 60-something opening up about their failed marriages, about having to declare bankruptcy (3 of them had!), of being misunderstood and not accepted by family, of health issues, of wanting to be better mothers- more BIG stuff.
So when it came time for me to share, the spiel I had been rehearsing in my head fell away, and instead, my mouth just spilled open...
I talked about how I've always been so goal oriented, achievement focused, a work-a-holic, and then suddenly, right around when I turned 30, I put the brakes on and had to stop. Catch a breath.
And now, for the first time, I feel like I'm seeing the whole forest for the trees, realizing on a deeper level that achievements are not what life is about, but instead things we do to support and create what we want our life to be about.
And how over the past year or so my priorities have shifted and I feel more compelled to focus on my house and hubby and health and making babies and playing music and creating just to create, to start to really enjoy life as its happening around me.
That it's been nearly impossible to focus on work lately, to find the willpower for it, like that part of me that's been fed up with the whip-crackin boss I've always been to myself finally got the guts to storm into my brain shouting, "F-U, man! I quit!"
I paused to look up and meet eyes with all the women around the table. They were just giving me attention, ears perked, open.
So, I kept spilling, about how I guess I'm maybe living my biggest failure right now, that I'm in the thick of it.
That I've been failing on so many different levels lately...
Failure to feel heard, understood and able to communicate with my dear mom.
Failure to successfully get pregnant. Again.
Failure to find my motivation, stay positive.
Failure to keep up with housework, work-work and my own self care in between accidentally throwing a pot of boiling pasta water in my face and throwing my back out.
Failure to meet deadlines, keep plans, reach out.... fulfill all the expectations.
I shared how it's really brought me down, and on my worst days, it can feel like a success just to get out of bed, to feed myself. How I often feel content to wallow in my own self-pity and watch a Real Housewives marathon all day.
A part of me was waiting for an interjection about how my failures don't stack up to theirs, about how I was complaining about things that are so puny in comparison.
It was the sound of my own self-judgement talking though, as the ladies in front of me were quiet, listening, nodding.
So I kept talking, about where these failures are potentially leading me...
About the recent insights and connections I've been making between some of my childhood experiences and the obstacles I've had in my adult life.
And how maybe I'm being shown these things now so I can start to shed some of those negative patterns and false messages about myself, so I can come into my own skin even more.
That's when all the ladies started to chime in- "Oh yeah, welcome to your thirties, girl!" "I'm going through the same thing!" "It's the achievement oriented society we live in that makes it so hard!"
I received... a lot of understanding.
They heard me. They've been where I am and are also going through so much inside, even though they all look like polished, pretty business ladies on the outside.
It made me realize just how much understanding and acceptance is all around me- us- if we just let it in.
The night as a whole gave me so much perspective, knowing that everyone has gone through, and will go through more horrible things in their life.
But even from the worst stuff, from the depths, from the ashes- we can always rise again.
After that night, my smile came back. My backache went away. A peaceful, more motivated feeling started seeping into my bones. Even though my circumstances didn't change much immediately, my mindset did, and it's a good reminder that life is all about how you look at things.
Failure exposes different layers of yourself that need to shed so that, like a snake, you can transform.
So that, by the end of it, though you'll look the same on the outside as you always have, your skin will be thicker, more resilient.
So go out there and fail. Fail hard. Shed. Transform.
Now I suppose it's your turn to answer the question: what's your biggest failure and what did it lead to?
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