Exuberant failure might be required here

screamSo I’m sitting here in the airport, my flight delayed, after a devastatingly disappointing tournament. I am thoroughly sick of fencers, of competition, of people in general. I am sick of my own inadequacies, of my inability to rise to the occasion this time. I am sick of rumors and innuendo that left me feeling like I was back in junior high school, alone at the lunch table with gum in my hair. I am exhausted.

I have run, worked out, practiced three times a week, and competed an average of twice a month for 10 months in a row. This week, at the competition I trained for all that time, I got my teeth kicked in by a bunch of boppy fast teenagers, a badly timed comment from a friend I love deeply and respect enormously, and a general sense of frustration and loss of control over the course of three days.

I could not seem to stem the tide of despair, but, in the sense that I am an adult with fairly good coping skills, it was entirely my fault. I am a grown woman, and I sat in a corner of the venue and I sobbed with rage and frustration and disappointment like a child. I think I was surprised at how painful it was; I haven’t felt that badly in decades (I believe a long-ago lover of mine could verify this). I had let all the external crap get to me. I was so sad and furious it physically hurt.

I wish I were the sort of person who could be briefly disappointed, then sanguine; the sort of person who rights themselves quickly. But I still feel myself on the verge of tears a day later, even after profuse and sincere apologies were made on both sides (mostly me apologizing for totally sucking), perspective was regained, fences were mended, and the world was restored. I am not angry, nor upset, nor unhappy.

What I am right now is pathologically humble. I think I need to stop pretending that I don’t care if I win or lose; I care, deeply. But, I have to also not let external stuff get inside my head.

I feel like I need to start over, learn some stuff, and unlearn some other stuff. In this place, outcome is not a consideration. I know I’m going to have to do it wrong, again and again. Probably some more after that. And this time around, I’m also not really sure what’s going to happen. I might be able to get better; I might not. This is an interesting place to be for someone who plans stuff out. But trying to do it well is not working in a high pressure situation (I know, I know…there is no “try”; I get it –  I am completely letting the perfect be the enemy of the good enough).

So maybe what I’ll do is fail for a while, until it’s not so horrifying. Maybe I’ll see if I can go an entire night just trying stuff and failing outrageously and not freaking out about it.

As usual, there’s probably some bigger, more obnoxious life lesson tangled up in this stupid mess, probably something I should have really, really learned about 30 years ago. I have a feeling some exuberant failure might be just the thing I need right now. Stay tuned.

graveyard book


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