Saturday, August 16, 2008

Failing

The universe must be speaking to me again today. I have been trying to catch up on news and blog reading, and more and more posts keep popping up about failure and being human.

I have a hard time not being perfect. I'm the A-est Type A person I know, I take on too much, and I flog myself when I fail. I don't seem to have lapsed into much in the way of harmful behaviors, other than putting cleaning way down on the list of priorities for the first time in my life this summer, but I know it can't be good for me.

This particular post really spoke to me - I really love the idea of covenant vs. contract. I have been hit over the head with the clue stick by my husband last week that I'm not doing a very good job of being considerate toward him. It's hard for me not to defend myself; I think of him often throughout the day, buy him special things at the grocery store, try to take on some of his chores when I have the time and energy - but none of those things probably jump out at him, because I mostly just do them quietly and happily.

I'm not the person who enjoys potlucks, or making a meal for someone who is struggling, or sending cards and letters. I'm working on it, and trying to be more intentional about such things as part of my spiritual path, but internally they don't feel sustaining - even though I know they are to the people who receive them.

So that's my constant failing - selfishness. I'm a lot better than I was 15 years ago, and I'm a lot more intentional about it - but I still fail a lot.

Hopefully putting it out to the universe will help me be more aware and find ways to forgive myself for failing, yet still find the energy to work to be a better person living my values. A hard balance.

4 comments:

laura said...

Kelly -

I don't know if this might help, but it spoke to me last night, as did your post today.

http://www.uuworld.org/spirit/articles/5711.shtml

Kelly KH said...

Thanks for that Laura. I am constantly surprised (and maybe shouldn't be) at the similarities across UU churches, given how prized autonomy is. I have some thoughts on this article:

. But along the way it seems that many Unitarian Universalists and others in our culture have moved to an expectation of the possibility of human perfection that in its own way is as unrealistic and harmful, I think, as was Original Sin.

In the community in which I live, the cultural insistence is always on how close to perfection are one’s children, one’s home, and one’s life. We teach that second best is not acceptable. Our children should certainly achieve much, and do it grandly. And in most of our churches, I sense, there is a similar expectation of the highest levels of achievement.


I think that part of this journey that I'm on has been this concept of Original Sin, coming from a Catholic background. My rejection of that religion, and my immersion in US culture that pushes us to be perfect is starting to turn full circle, as I see the humanity in each of us and in myself. I think that what I can learn from this too is that in my case, it is partially personality and partially cultural that I am a perfectionist, and learning to forgive myself is an important lesson, and learning to be honest about true imperfections and take responsibility for them is the flip side of that.

I often struggle with comparing my kids against others, who seem to have talents and skills that flow from them effortlessly, and I remind myself that we all have different gifts.

Twenty years ago, a UU minister proclaimed at a meeting that to be a Unitarian Universalist you needed minimally to have a master’s degree and earn at least $100,000 a year. That minister has died, and so has my anger about what he said. I understand now that he was speaking from a particular analysis of just who was sitting in the pews of the congregation he served. But then, and now, I knew and know just how much that kind of assumption has cost us in our ability as a religion to serve more than those just like us, those others who might just help us to better understand that life involves both achievement and failure and might help us to learn how to deal more honestly with life failures.

This always makes me angry too, because I know we have so much to offer in our faith, but the reality is that our lack of diversity is about much more than color, or orientation; it's about class. It's a huge issue in our culture and we need to face up to it honestly. Last year, my husband was railing about this very thing - that there were all these rich people in our church feeling good about helping poor black people. It was hard to hear, especially given my call to ministry - it made me wonder if there was a divide too big to bridge for him, and what it would mean for me, for our marriage, for my faith...but we have worked through it and talked with others, and he is finding ways to connect to our church that help him see that there is so much more than meets the eye. But it is sad that that IS still what meets the eye for many people. That, and our lack of radical hospitality.

laura said...

I agree - while we are radical, we radically fail in many things that are crucial to the mission we purportedly serve.

Somehow between knowing it's ok to fail in some things (the first part of the article) and failing in the things that matter (the second part of the article) we need to bridge a divide - and I think that is where you and I (and so many others) are struggling right now.

Failing is ok. Deliberately turning away is not. One is a normal, human frailty... the other? Is preventable... is readily and steadily met by people with conviction, even if it is only by putting a penny in a box once a day for relief from hunger in our community. It is a step-by-step balancing act.

But don't beat yourself up over your own, very human failings. They are not a sign of being weak - they are a sign of being alive. They are what shape you, just as much as the successes.

And doggone it, as another human being on the same, difficult journey, I love you for facing your demons, finding them worthy of battle, and wrestling with them as a result. You can do it. But again, don't beat yourself up if every last one of them doesn't lose its grip.

You are loved.

Kelly KH said...

Thanks Laura. It's so good to be a UU, despite our failings ;).

Wrestling with demons seems to be my forte, and it's good to have partners on this journey.

You are also loved!