Yesterday, I turned on NPR just in time to catch "On Being with Krista Tippett," a show I don't usually find that interesting, but her interview with Father Greg Boyle was interesting, inspiring, and funny, and I highly recommend listening to it. Fr. Boyle discusses his ministry in gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, and gives much food for thought.
Midway through the interview, Fr. Boyle says "anything worth doing is worth failing at." I almost couldn't concentrate on the rest of the interview, because that comment affected me so much. I am slowly learning how to fail. The phrasing is off, I suppose. "Learning to fail" is a facile phrase that doesn't communicate everything I mean. I am learning that I shouldn't let the fear of failure or even the certainty of failure prevent me from trying. Courage is persevering despite your fears. I am learning that some failures don't have to be permanent. There is wisdom in realizing that some failures are due completely to timing. I am learning to forgive myself for my failures. It is prideful to expect more of yourself than you would of others, and pride is a deadly sin.
At one point in my life I successfully trained myself out of worrying. Perhaps too successfully, but that is a story for another day. I had a permanent case of what I call "hamster brain." You know the feeling- you stay awake at night because you are continually running through a to-do list, rehearsing a difficult conversation, anticipating disaster. I trained myself to put those things out of my mind. If something that caused me anxiety popped into my head, I would ask "Can I do something about this right now?" If I could, even if "something" was just writing down a plan, I would do it- right then. If I couldn't, I would force it out of my mind in a sort of meditative exercise. It would come back later, and I could do the same evaluation. It was a great mental exercise, and it did add a peaceful quality to my life. I am now realizing that the anxiety is back, but it has changed form. Rather than worrying about things I need to do, I worry about things I should have done. Except "should have done" is an arbitrary rubric that only I have control over, and this is where the forgiveness comes in. When my anxiety manifests, my new conversation should be "Can I do something about this right now? No? Then I forgive myself. I will try again later." With a Hail Mary because it never hurts to ask for help.
Notice "should be." I will also be working on forgiving myself if I struggle with this.