“Failure is not an option”

                   How many times have we been told this very thing? School, athletics, work — failure is not an option. You come home with a B, it should have been an A. You place 2nd or 3rd in competition; why didn’t you get 1st place? Why didn’t you land that multimilllion dollar account or sing that player or get that client? Society has conditioned us, branwashed us, to avoid failure, to fear failure, to the point where we go from one extreme to another — either we crush someone’s spirit if they fail, or we reward everyone simply for showing up. either way, we have an unhealthy and distorted relationship with failure. And yet, some of the most brilliant minds endured a TON of failure. Most inventorss failed hundreds of times before they discovered the right answer. Most business people who are sucessful experienced failure. Heck, if we are all being honest, some of our most prolific academic minds failed a test or two. Elijah Cummings (may he rest in power) was told that he wouldn’t make it through college, ans now is considered one of the smartest and staunchest activists and congressmen of our time. So, why do we avoid failure? Or at least try to avoid it? What is the real lesson to be learned here?

                   The truth us that there is no truth in that statement. Failure is an option, Failure, as someone once said, is proof that you are trying. Failure is NOT the end — it is only the beginning. Failure, my friends, is apart of life and an essential part of the growth process. If you don’t fail, you have nothing to learn. If you have nothing to learn, you don’t grow. And, if you aren’t growing, you are not living. If you are not living — you are dying. FAILURE IS A PART OF LIFE. Instead of hiding from it, we need to learn to embrace the discomfort of failure, to see it as an opportunity instead of a death sentence. Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.” Richard Branson siad, “If you don’t have failures, you’re not trying hard enough.” They use to tell children the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”What is that if not a lesson in failure and resilience?

                      One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown. Her statement on failure is this: “If you have no tolerance to failure, you will not create anything new.” Failure is a part of the innovative process, a part of the creative proceess, a part of any process, really. Only in those circumstances it’s called trial and error. I despise the day someone decided that children should not be exposed to failure in sports. If no one loses, how sdo they learn sportsmanship or resilience or character? If they don’t lose, how will they learn perserverence and build grit? Life requires stamina of heart and soul to endure failure and keep moving forward. If we shield our children from failure, we cripple them as adults. Failure builds character, but it also fosters grace eand compassion. Failure builds grit, but it also teaches humility. Without failure, we become cold, heartless, selfish, entitled, and arrogant. the human race cannot survive in such a cold and hostile environment. Success after failure produces inspiration.

                 At the risk of sounding cheesy, I think the lyrics from the theme song to the TV sitcom, “The Facts of Life”:

“You take the good, you take the bad

You take them both and there you have 

The facts of life, the facts of life.”

                        Failure, my friends, is a fact of life. But it doesn’t have to be a bad one. Failure puts you one step closer to success, but only if you choose to learn and not give up. Failure is something you experience; it doesn’t define who you are. Believe me, this is a reminder to me as well, because I am my own worst critic, and I grew up thinking that failure was the worst thing that could happen to me, despite my mother’s best and most earnest efforts.

                      My mom would always tell me and my brother as we went through school, “I will accept the grade you bring home to me, as long as you tried and did your best. I will take a hard C over an easy A any day.” God love the woman. She is one of the most resilient people I know. And she tried her best to pass it on. I haven’t gotten it all, but I am the strong woman that I am because of her.

                       Beloved, i want us to understand that failure is a part of the growth process, and to develop a healthy and appropriate relationship with failure. Embrace the discomfort of failure as an opportunity to learn and grow and move forward and go higher. As I am speaking to you, I am speaking to myself. I struggle with failure. I fear failure. But I understand that failure is a stepping stone to growth, greatness, and success.

                        So let’s change the narrative. You are NOT a failure. You have experienced failure. You have endured failure. You have survived failure. You are learning from failure. You are growing through failure. And you can learn to embrace failure. 

                          As Forever First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraiid to fail.”

YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE.

                            Failure is an event, not a person. learn from your failures and grow. Don’t embody your mmistakes, and label yourself as a failure. You are human, and we all makees mistakes. What defines a man or woman is how well he or she rises after falling. Failure is ineveitable; giving up is a choice. DON’T GIVE UP.

Time to be a Big Girl

An old supervisor of mine use to set an intention every year with her staff by choosing a phrase or quote to repeat throughout the year. And I remember one year the quote on the white board in her office was “Put on your big girl panties and handle it!” Well, I just got smacked in the face with that very reminder. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you are seemingly permanently annoyed with a person or set of circumstances because it just doesn’t seem to be going the way you believe it should be going? I am going through such a situation at work. I am the type of person whose passion often gets her in trouble — A LOT. Not because it is misplaced or out of line, but moreso, because I simply operate differently. I see things from a different perspective, and my standards are HIGH. I expect excellence and efficiency, and everything I do, especially at work, is a reflection of that personal commitment to a higher level of performance and production. I am my own hardest critic, and have always been. But, the other side of this is that many things are seemingly beyond my Circle of Influence, to borrow a term from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And this, for me, tends to create a lot of frustration and internal conflict, as well as some external conflict. My experience and personal expectations often leave me open to a fair amount of disappointment and dissatisfaction. But, in reading Covey’s book, I have been faced with some stark reminders of things that I already know to be true. 

First , I need to remember not to allow people and things/situations that I have no control over to cause me stress or make me upset. This is so important that I have a Post-It on my desk to remind me that I need to learn how to let things go. I set the standard for myself and no one else. I can offer up suggestions, I can participate in focus groups and committees if I feel so led, but I also need to remember that they do not have to accept or implement my suggestions. I need to focus on operating within my Circle of Influence and be most effective there. I am in charge of me and my energy. And, when I manage that well, when I practice self love and self care well, I am better able to engage outside of myself from a place of compassion and authenticity, my core values in life. 

Second, I need to periodically check my motive and my attitudes. When your input is undervalued or constantly dismissed, the natural reaction is to get defensive and shut down, back away, back out, stop giving input. At least, that’s my natural inclination. But, as I am discovering while learning about Habit #4: Think Win-Win, I need to be self-aware enough to recognize when I am acting out of self-defense and not out of self-love and self-care. Being aware of your mindset, regularly checking in with yourself and your perspective of things, will protect you from acting from a place that is destructive and undermines your integrity and your character. I am the kind of person who hates when I unwittingly allow people and circumstances to take me out of my character, causing me to act in a manner and fashion that is inauthentic to who I am and who I want to become. I am not showing up as my best self, and it compromises my values and my center. Over the past couple months or so, I have been regularly faced with this, and it is a struggle to stay focused and stay centered when there is so much going on around you. But it is important to be consistently intentional about maintaining your center and that you are taking care of you.  In doing so, you are better able to consider the big picture and be solution-oriented in a way that benefits everyone, instead of simply looking out for yourself. 

So, I have been challenged, yet again, to take personal inventory and adjust my position so that I am operating from a healthy, grounded place, and not from my defensive position. I am challenged to be proactive instead of reactive, and to be the mature, evolved being that I was always intended to be, especially when I don’t feel like it. That is the mark of true integrity — doing the right thing when no one is watching, or when you just plain don’t feel like it. Show up anyway. Do it anyway. Learn better, be better, do better, in spite of and in the face of those who don’t believe you will and do not hold to the same standards you do. Don’t let anyone or anything dim your light, and don’t let anyone or anything pull you out of your character. It is the most valuable thing that you can offer to the world.
Put on your big girl panties and handle it.

Full of Purpose

​The purpose and point of all my time on this earth is to be of use to someone else — to be a source of wisdom, a source of encouragement, a source of empowerment, and a testament to the grace and power of God that continues to work on me, work in me, and work through me. Nothing that i have experienced up to this point is by chance or coincidence. It is by divine design. And all the platitudes, overused phrases, and trite words of wisdom are all true, despite the fact that they have been overused and grossly abused. But all the promises of the Creator also ring true in the seemingly dark moments of life. No one is promised an easy life — life in and of itself is challenging. But you are also promised that the Creator will walk with you, every step of the way. Grace is a gift, and a way of life.  With it, we are able to hold on and stay the course. Without it, we are left without hope, without faith, without a lifeline that comforts us and confirms that we will be okay eventually, even if it is not in the present moment. It is because of grace that my life can produce meaning and wisdom and love, and, yes, even MORE grace! The unmerited, unwarranted favor and love of the Almighty makes everything better, worthwhile, worth saving. 

Resilience and Connection

I have four tattoos, all with their own meaning and story and inspiration to me or a reminder of a source of inspiration in my life. The last addition to the art is a lotus flower with a semicolon as the focal point. The combined significance will never be wasted on me, and the story I get to tell other because of it is equal significant to me. The lotus flower, in Buddhist tradition, is a symbol of resilience. The remarkable thing about lotus flowed is that they thrive in muddy water. The life lesson to be learned from lotus flowers is that we, as we mature and grow in life, are to learn how to maintain a sense of peace and stay centered no matter how muddy the waters of life may get. And then, as we further grow, we learn to be at ease and bloom in those same muddy waters. The lotus flower is said to immerse in muddy waters in the evening, and emerge in full bloom during the day. The semicolon is a symbol of suicide awareness and suicide prevention. Project Semicolon is a nonprofit organization committed to this cause, and the semicolon is meant to represent the moments where one wanted to put a period on their life, but instead, chose to put a semicolon, a pause, to remember what is still good and meaningful about life, and then keep going. So why is this significant to me?

In 2012, a dear friend of mine took his own life after a devastating heartbreak. The woman he intended to marry suddenly decided that she wanted out and left him in the house that they had gotten together to pick up the pieces. He was shattered. In one of the last conversations we had, he was in so much pain. And he asked me, “How did you get through your heartbreak? How did you manage to work through the pain?” He was referring to my own encounter with heartbreak that had occurred three or four years ago. Someone I thought i could be with forever broke up with me in an email, stating that “he couldn’t love me.” And, as a young woman in her twenties, I was heartbroken. Deeply hurt by his words, I sort of checked out of life. I was already struggling with what I now realize was depression, and that was just another hit. My friends remember me being off, but all I really remember was going through the motions of life. I was disconnected, and I felt like everything around me was falling apart. That night, I couldn’t really muster a brilliantly composed answer, because, at that time, I wasn’t 100% sure how I made it through. I told him I had good friends like him to keep me going, and told him that he could count on me to do the same for him. But now I know the answer: My village saved me. They fought for me when I couldn’t figure out how to fight for myself. Community is such a huge part of surviving pain, heartache, and heartbreak. Not long after that conversation that night, I got a call that he had taken his life. Talk about shattered. Nothing I had ever experienced before hurt like it did losing him. I cried for months. I made silly mistakes at work. I shut down and stopped talking to my family. My grief was so great and so intense at times that I could barely breathe. I was heartbroken that someone I cared about and loved so dearly felt such intense anguish and pain that the only escape he could think of was to end his life. And I couldn’t save him. I lived with an incredible sense of guilt for the better part of a year after losing him. I went over that conversation thousands of times wondering what else I could have said or done that might have changed his mind. But now I understand that no one knew the pain he was experiencing except him and God. Everybody has pain, some carrying pain with them that no one knows about except them and God. I didn’t realize the magnitude of his suffering until I got the call that he was gone. I don’t think anyone did. But now my job is to bring awareness and make sure that I am present and connected to the ones I love. I remind them often that I love them and I see them and I am proud of them. Life is hard, but community and connection is what makes life worthwhile. When my heart was broken, I didn’t think there was the possibility of love after that. I gave up on love for a long time after that.

Seasons of darkness and heartache are unfortunate parts of the human experience, some being more devastating and gut-wrenching than others. But the one thing that redeems all that is love and connection. Not just romantic love, but love shared in a community. Love from friends and family members who know you and love you for who you are. Those are the connections that are the foundation of the human experience, that we must hold tight to when life gets dark and difficult. This is why we are connected, to check in with one another, to hold each other accountable, to celebrate each other’s achievements and successes, and even to share and wipe away each other’s tears when times are challenging and rough.

And so I wear this tattoo on my right wrist with incredible purpose and introspection. I wear it to remind myself that there can still be beauty in struggle. I wear it to remind myself that there is always a reason to keep going, to pause but don’t give up. I wear it to honor my friend and to give incredible purpose to heartache and heartbreak. And I wear it to be a springboard for deep and meaningful and vulnerable conversations with others about struggles and depression and mental health. SELAH

Honoring the journey to wholeness

                When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to speak to women. I wanted to remind my sisters that wholeness is possible, necessary even. What I didn’t know or understand then was hoe much more I needed to learn and grow, how much I needed to learn how to love H.E.R. myself. This journey to wholeness has been one of the hardest, most painful, most challenging work of heart that I have ever done. And, with all the growth I have achieved and all that I have learned, I admit that I have yet still more work to do. This journey will never end, and I am okay with that. I am here to tell you that this journey is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who is unwilling to be honest and transparent with themselves. But the most important thing is that you must want to be whole, and you have to want it for yourself. Living from a place of health and wholeness allows you the ability to live, learn, love and serve in a far greater capacity that you could imagine. It allows you to fully embrace who you are, flaws and all, and see the beauty and find happiness. It empowers you to love yourself completely, which then enables you to love other openly, and with more compassion and less judgment.

                I have personally been walking the journey and doing the heart work necessary to come to a place where I genuinely love and honor the woman that I am, the woman God created and called me to be. And, because I am healed in some areas and still healing in others, I feel restoration and see restoration in my life. The most amazing feeling is soul restoration. For a long time, I felt disconnected from myself, from my true center, and from my Creator. My personal time and prayer time felt shallow, hollow even at times, but that didn’t stop me from praying or seeking. If anything, it pushed me to press deeper and seek more fervently. I now have a new understanding of Jacob, who wouldn’t let go of the man of God, as well as a deeper appreciation for the determination of the woman with the issue of blood, who pressed her way through the crowds for her healing. In many ways, I identified with her. The more I realized that I needed healing, the more determined I became to get it. I wanted what that woman, and every other woman who is hurting and in needed of healing wants – FREEDOM. I had no idea that I was living in bondage, enslaved to heartache, heartbreak, and fear. But I was, and I was able to see it and work through it because I was open to growth and allowing God to uncover my hidden chains. I had to be honest with God and with myself, and then I had to be honest with people in my life, both past and present. The hardest part about heart work is acknowledging your mistakes and then making amends and apologizing for them. It is an incredibly humbling process. I wrote letters and apologies to people I didn’t realize in the moment I had wronged. But, because I was willing to do the work and own my mistakes, and be transparent, a relationship was restored, a special one at that. Not only did I have internal restoration, I received external restoration, and that brought such joy to me that I cannot begin to describe.

                Now that I personally know the benefits of loving H.E.R., I can encourage others and share wisdom with my sisters about how you can find freedom for your mind, body, and soul. I want you to be healed, empowered, and restored now more than ever, because I know how it feels to be free, to feel that weight lifted. And it all starts with seeking healing for yourself.

 

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

~ August Wilson

Building Resiliency

                My birthstone is the opal, and recently I became the owner of two different opal rings. As a young girl, I was cautious with my opal jewelry because it has always been known to be a soft and porous gemstone. So, I only wore them on special occasions and handled them with great care. Until recently. I came across an infographic about the opal gemstone. One line stood out to me in the care and handling instructions – “Wear it often to expose it to moisture and humidity.” It seemed incredibly counterintuitive to someone who had otherwise believed this gemstone was so delicate and fragile. But now it is encouraged to expose it to the elements, perhaps to maintain or encourage resilience. The concept intrigued me, and I considered the life applications and parallels.

                We humans enter the world, fragile and delicate and helpless. And those who are not experienced with babies, especially newborns, handle them with such tenderness and great care. I see it all the time in my office, new fathers painstakingly undressing their freshly born infant, so worried that they are going to hurt them if they are too rough. That’s the way we treat ourselves all throughout our lives, like newborns, fragile and sensitive and afraid to be brave with our lives and our hearts. We walk through life shying away from the difficult and challenging experiences because we are afraid of getting hurt, afraid to make bold choices. But those are the very things that help us grow, doing the things that scare us – stepping out into a new work field, telling that person how we really feel about them, taking a chance on a new endeavor. It’s the only way to build a resilient spirit, to push through fear and do the things that scare us the most. Not unlike the opal, to build resiliency, we must expose our hearts to the “elements”, those life experiences that stretch us and pus us to the limits of who we are and what we are capable of. Freedom lies on the other side of fear. We just have to determine within ourselves that we are going to push through and grab freedom for ourselves.

Damaged Goods

We hide behind this label as an excuse to not do the heartwork needed to move toward wholeness and move forward in life. We come out of a situation that caused emotional or mental pain, and use “damaged goods” as an excuse, a cop out, for being stuck . We use it as an excuse to disengage, disconnect, and isolate ourselves. But the reality is that we are all damaged goods, wounded by life and not always healing from all the hurt and heartache. The Bible offers hope to those who feel like they are damaged beyond redemption.

[2Co 5:17 ESV] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

You don’t have to live damaged. You can live whole and in abundance. As women, we have allowed society to label us — by our profession, our body type, our fashion choices, our education, our viability, etc. — but none of those labels ought to stick. You are not “damaged goods” in the eyes of your Creator. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). You are a princess (Psalm 45). It’s time to stop hiding behind “damaged goods”, do the heartwork, and grow into your purpose. Embrace wholehearted living, heal your heart through grace, and show up for life!

Don’t just survive; THRIVE.