It’s Halloween. We should be well and truly afraid today–of the dark and witches and sugar overload! But this weekend, one of the sugar fiends in my life drew a pumpkin for me and declared it a failure. I reminded Audrey what “Fail” stands for: Further Attempts ILearning. This month, I’m repeating a post on failing from a few years back because we all get so many chances to fail, learn and grow. And then repeat.
On a transatlantic flight last month, I watched the movie, The Last Word. Shirley MacLaine’s character, Harriet, a crusty, live-life-full-on octogenarian (talk about typecasting) first offends and then befriends Anne, a young writer who lives life with caution. When Harriett challenges her, she responds, “I’m afraid of making a mistake.” Harriett squints and looks directly at her young friend, “Ahhhh” she says. You don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make you. Mistakes make you smarter. They make you stronger. They make you self-reliant.”  “But I’m not you Harriett. I’m not strong and fearless,” the young woman protests. Harriett isn’t impressed. “Fall on your face. Fail. Fail spectacularly. Because when you fail you learn. When you fail you live.”
Virtually everyone I meet in my office has failed and feels like a failure. One cannot face divorce or extended family fallout without acknowledging, at a minimum, however much good can also be extracted from it, a dream has failed to be realized.

Interestingly, I was on this flight to celebrate 30 years of marriage. That justifies a long flight! But here’s the deal: there was a big spectacular failure that preceded this marriage. I failed. I sat across an attorney’s desk–opposite the side where I normally sit today–and talked about parenting time and child support and property division. As a result, I admit that there’s a cautious, live-life-carefully-planned, aspect to me that I work at times to keep at bay. Failure can do that to you. And yet, in the best decision I’ve ever made, after 7 years of singledom, I dared to fail spectacularly. I married after dating for 4 months (not highly recommended usually!) And now I’m on my way to Paris with my best friend.
I want to urge us all to dare to fail spectacularly. Be afraid more often than just on Halloween and then step inside the haunted house. Unless abuse is involved, dare to fail at trying one more time to make your marriage work. Maybe this time you’ll find the key. Or dare to acknowledge that there isn’t a marriage any longer and dare to fail at being blissfully happy as a single person. Go ahead. Fail at having a difficult conversation with a family member or co-worker or friend who said or did something that’s been a bit of a burr-under-your-saddle ever since. Maybe it won’t go well. But maybe you’ll learn how to engage in that level of real discussion and do it better next time. Dare to fail at trying one more time to come together as siblings as you deal with decisions about your aging parents.
As the movie ended and I exited the plane, I committed to fail and make mistakes. To get lost on subways and trains and strange villages and miss reservations or the opportunity to see one more historic landmark as I explore new countries. Because in the daring and failing and mistaking, we are made. And we learn and grow and live. And who knows what adventure waits for us?
By the way, Audrey’s pumpkin was just lovely!
Wishing you wisdom,

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