The Myth of Failure – An Open Letter to My Daughters

The Myth of Failure – An Open Letter to My Daughters

Failure is a negative word in our society and I simply don’t believe it should have that failuremuch power. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Failure means that you took a risk to try something new, something different. Failure gives you an opportunity to grow through challenges. I’ve heard a few adults talk about things they won’t do because they are afraid of failing themselves or others. That bothers me. Life is short – live it! 

As a Mom I have a powerful influence over my daughters and their perception of failure. I want to make sure my girls know what failure truly is, and what it is not. I want to make sure I am not the type of person that has children afraid to experience all life has to offer because they are afraid of failing themselves – or worse – me.

My Beautiful Girls,

I hope you read this letter when you are feeling scared, unsure of yourself, unsure of your next steps, or when you just feel like a failure.  I want you to read it – a lot. I hope that as you read this you gain the strength and the courage to take chances in life.  Don’t ever let the fear of failure hold you back.  So many people go through life scared of failure – and they miss out on the greatest parts of being alive.

First, I have to admit something…I have failed.  Many times. I will fail again.  Does this make me a failure?  No!  There are times that I feel like a failure in life, and you will too.  However, I hope in those moments you remember what I say in the rest of this letter.

There are really two different ways to fail at life. 

  1. You fail to try because you are afraid to fail.
  2. You fail because you tried

Girls, if you fail to try because you are afraid to fail, then I have failed you as a parent.

You will fail in life.  No one is perfect.  So what does it really mean to fail?

Failure is…

  • Quitting when you are not the best. Never quit just because something is difficult. Choose to end certain activities because you have found something you are more passionate about.  Prioritizing your life is important – you cannot do it all.  Never quit in frustration – you will get through it, and you will discover some amazing things about yourself at the end of that tunnel.
  • Being scared to love with your entire heart. I am very guilty of this.  Your father gave me the greatest gift I have ever been given – the gift of unconditional love.  He loved me from the beginning of our relationship until the end.  Without question, without doubt.  He loved me at my best, worst, and everywhere in between.  Never settle for less, and never give less.  Yes, you will get hurt by doing this.  It is scary. But loving with anything less than your best-self will only short change you.  Take the risk.
  • Not communicating. When you don’t communicate you don’t give others the chance to help.    I don’t mean whining, complaining, or anger.  I mean the simple act of telling someone how you are feeling, what you would like to change, and what support you need to be successful.  This is another one I am not good at, but I’ve gotten better through writing.  You will find that I write down my biggest challenges and that is OK.  Everyone needs a little help or support sometime.  Find a way that works for you.
  • Pretending to be someone you are not. You do not need to be anyone other than yourself – you are beautiful.  Don’t copy anyone – you can never be a better version of another person.  You were put here on Earth for a reason, never forget that.
  • Lack of kindness. There are mean people in this world.  They are failing themselves, their friends, family, and anyone that has to be around them.  Being mean or negative is VERY easy.  Never take the easy road and always be true to yourself.  Be compassionate toward others and you will find success in all you do.
  • Being scared to fail me. If you take anything away from this, please understand that you will never fail me. Your failure is my failure and I am here to help you through it. I may be disappointed in your decisions, but I also know that you have to make some mistakes to learn. My disappointment will be short-lived and we will look for solutions together. I am your number one fan. I will always love you. Be true to yourself, your morals, and your values.  Don’t ever limit your life because you are afraid to fail me.

Failure is NOT…

Failure is not…Doing your best and not achieving your dream.  This is the old “shoot for the moon and land among the stars” analogy. Dreams change.  Mine have changed so many times in my life it is dizzying.  However, I have always worked towards a dream until I decided that my dreams had changed.  You will live, you will learn, and you will find new passions.  Never be afraid to dream a new dream.  Sometimes you have the choice, sometimes you will be thrust into a new reality that requires you to change your dreams even when you don’t want to.

Failure is not…Final. When (not if) you fail realize that your failure can impact you for any amount of time that you let it.  Don’t let failure stick with you for a long period of time.  Pick yourself up, own up to what happened, and do what you can to correct it.  Then, commit to doing better the next time – there will be a next time!

Failure is not…A reflection of your value as a person. We all fail. You are not defined by your successes or your failures. You are defined by your character, your integrity, and the “how” of your life – not the “what”.  You will be remembered for how you handled the failure not the failure itself.

Failure is not…Defined by anyone other than you. What you see as a failure may be seen as a breakthrough opportunity to another individual.  Be hard enough on yourself so you commit to learning from the event or decision, but don’t be too hard on yourself. How you handle the tough times is a much better judge of character than how you handle the good times.

My greatest failures in life revolve around my fear of being me. I wasn’t true to my character, my values, or who I truly am as a person.  In many cases, I was afraid to fail others and that fear led me to fail myself.

I want you to know you don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers – I will be here for you as you learn, grow, succeed, and fail.  As your mom I will try to protect you even when I can’t, and I will be there to pick you up when you fall.

Finally, when I think about failure I wonder if the things I feel like I fail at today will be relevant at the end of my days. Almost always that answer is NO! Life is the big picture. Be true to you, and you will not fail in life. When I am gone, I hope you can say that I was a good mother that supported you and helped you achieve your dreams – whatever they may be.  I hope people say that I worked hard, but I balanced my life and prioritized my family first. I hope people remember me for the positive impact I had on their life, which means I made a difference to people. If people can say these things about me – then girls, I did not fail in life.

R & K, you make my life worth living and I am blessed to be your mom. We are a team – we will win and lose together many times, but there is no one else on Earth I’d rather have on my team.

I love you,

Mom

Death With Dignity – One Widow’s Perspective

Erin's Phone Dump 10142013 803This post is going to be different than some of my other posts. There will not be a list of tips, no brand new ideas, but maybe there will be something for you to ponder.

This past week a young woman named Brittany Maynard received a lot of attention for ending her own life. You can read her story here. To sum it up for you, she decided to move with her family to Oregon so she could be prescribed medication to end her own life. She had terminal cancer and died at age 29.

This past week also marked the passing of someone a little closer to me – Steve’s uncle Denny. Denny passed away at his home at age 67 after a life of many medical ups and downs.

There is a reason I write about these two individuals. I couldn’t help but read all of the judgments and comments placed on Brittany’s decision by the world. Some agreed, some disagreed. Some became extremely agitated and bothered by a person that they have never, and will never, meet. Some of the people commenting have never lost anyone close to them, and others were fellow widows. What disturbed me the most was the polarizing effect of this entire conversation around death. As a society we have become so selfish as to think that our personal moral compasses are always “right” which automatically means that there are other people that are “wrong”.

I’ve been faced with death a few times in my life. The three that stand out the most are three people that meant the world to me. Three people that helped shape who I am. Three people that I have loved and lost – Eldor, my Grandma Maxine, and Steve. I’ll take the heartache of losing them for the simple fact that the joy they brought to my life was worth the sorrow. I feel like I have some qualifications to speak on death because it has been a significant portion in my life.

Death Is Personal

The only person that can decide how they would like to die is the person dying. If you are one of the people in the room when that decision is made, don’t speak up. Don’t try to convince the person that your idea is better. Only that person at that time can determine how, when, and where they would like to go. I would venture to guess they have spent hours, days, weeks, or months pondering their decision. Support them with your entire heart. For Brittany, it was prescribed drugs. For Denny, it was a chance to see home one more time. Don’t take away the person’s right to make their own decisions if God has given them the opportunity to do so.

Death with Dignity Doesn’t Exist

People have seemed to get hung up on these words that reflect the Oregon law that allows prescription death. They take offense to Brittany’s “Death with Dignity” campaign, even going as far as to challenge her for being weak when their loved one “fought to the very end…through pain…etc”. Death is death. How you choose to spend your last days is your choice.

However, there is life with dignity. Did you live life trying to make the world a better place for others? When people spoke to you, were they uplifted or brought down? Were you thankful for the little things in life today? Death is death…it is hard and can be quick or very slow. LIving is where we can leave a legacy. Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.

You’re Never Prepared for Loss

You can never prepare for the pain and emptiness you will feel when someone you love dies. Steve was gone instantly and there is nothing that prepares a person for that. In the case of Denny, my Grandma, and in some ways even Eldor there was a chance to say goodbye. I had the chance to let them know they were loved. I was able to tell my grandma how much she meant to me in a private conversation and I was at peace knowing I didn’t leave anything left unsaid. However, when that moment came and she took her last breath, the loss was huge. It is final. When I received the call that Denny had passed all I could think about was his wife, Paula. I know she had her time to prepare, but I also know that there is no way to prepare for a life without the person you planned on spending your entire life with. There is no way to reduce the pain of the finality of that loss.

We Don’t Need More Widows

Denny’s wife Paula is now a widow. There is no escaping the fact that she has to walk into an empty house that will likely never feel like home again. I get it. Brittany also left behind a widow. He gets the opportunity to carry on her dying wish to be happy, have a family, and continuing to push for the right to end your own life with prescription drugs. He had his time to make her last year one full of memories that he will cherish, but those memories don’t make the bed less empty. The memories don’t give you the person you laugh with, cry, and just love as part of yourself. No matter how the loss came about, no matter what choices were or were not made, those left behind have lost someone that cannot be replaced. That loss is universal.

Judgments Aren’t Neccessary Either

Going back to the start of this post, I have to wonder why people in this world feel the need to take time out of their day to judge a 29 year old with terminal cancer for her decision on how she would like to die. She made it a point of conversation so other people could have the same opportunity that she had. She never stated that everyone should follow in her footsteps. She never stated that this was the best decision for everyone. She said it was the choice she made for herself. Would I make the same choice? I don’t know – I have never been faced with her circumstances.

Think of all the time that was lost in this debate/argument/criticizing/defending campaign. What could we as a society have done with the millions of minutes spent focused on a single topic?

We could have donated our time to make our communities a better place to live. We could have wrote a thank you card to a friend we haven’t spoken to in awhile. We could have spent time playing with our children. As one person we may not have spent more than 5 minutes reading or thinking about the topic of the right to die in the way you choose, but think about all your neighbors who also took that time…how can we live life better in that amount of time? How can we make a difference and truly Live With Dignity instead of focusing on Death with Dignity?

What is one thing you will commit to do this week to truly live your life in a way that reflects how you want to be remembered?