Friday, 9 April 2010

Embrace Your Failures

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

I think a lot of us who are part of the new simplicity movement are hard on ourselves sometimes.  We have high standards, we want to do it all, and we want it done yesterday, looking perfect.  I don't know anyone who's actually managed that though.  Certainly not me.  But I know that sometimes even the blogging I do contributes to other people feeling like they have to do it all, and do it perfectly.  It happens to me too when I read other bloggers.  I think it's because we're generally an upbeat crowd, and we focus on the positive, so that's what we end up blogging about.  It's not that we want to boast or pretend that failures don't happen.  There's just a tendency to want to share what we've managed to do well.

So today I want to talk about failures, imperfections, mistakes, bad decisions, falling short of goals and generally sucking at some things.

The few times I've attempted it, my jellies and jams have failed to gel properly.  My garden, while productive, has always looked like hell by June.  I chose bad garden lay-outs not one or two years in a row, but three years in a row.  I still buy toxic deodorant that will probably give me cancer, packaged up in plastic.  I never complete the list of goals I set for myself each year.  We indulge in take-out pizza, disappointing as it invariably is, once in a while.  I'm neither methodical nor patient enough to ever be any good at sewing.  My cleanliness standards for most rooms of the house are lower than you would imagine.  I've pushed myself and my husband too hard at times to make changes faster than I should have.  I order vegetable seeds each winter and when they fail to germinate, or when I fail to even try to get them started, I go to a nursery and buy seedlings.  I procrastinate and avoid a lot.  I'm a bad correspondent.  I hate doing dishes and rely on the dishwasher far too much.  I start knitting projects and rarely finish them.  I'm not very good at conserving water, and I rationalize this with the fact that I live in an area with plentiful rainfall.  I don't really want my cats catching birds, but I don't put bells on them because I do want them to catch mice and voles. Most of the time, I want to quit when I'm three-quarters of the way through any given project.

There!  That was liberating.  More than that, it feels important to acknowledge my own shortcomings.  In doing so, I'm not beating on myself or setting myself up for even higher expectations going forward.  It just feels right to admit that as much as I want to do things well, and succeed, and live my life according to my own highest standards, life isn't perfect.  My list of failures is almost certainly very average.  It reminds me that just as I would try to encourage someone else who struggled and but fell short, I should also be tolerant of my own failures.  I think we're often harder on ourselves than we would ever dream of being on another person.  I know my intentions are good.  I know that I'm genuinely trying to make a positive change in the world.  If I knew someone else were doing the same, I'd certainly sympathize and encourage when they bemoaned their own imperfections.  Recognizing that makes it easier to extend the same compassion to myself.

So please, share your failures.  And recognize your generosity, your compassion, your charity with others around you who share theirs.  Then give yourself a little dose of that understanding too.


polly's path said...

I am allergic to house cleaning.
My dogs don't get their bath often enough.
Sometimes we indulge in takeout pizza too, even though my homemade one tastes a million times better.
Some nights I am too tired to spend time with my animals.
Convenience still tempts me sometimes.
I have a rain collection system sitting in the back yard and it's not hooked up yet. I rationalize with the recent rainfall as well.

But the point is, I wouldn't take my old life back for anything.

hippychick said...

That post totally could have been written by me! Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one! I feel a lot better!

Rebecca said...

Oh Thank you Kate! You sound so much like me!!! It's nice to hear, because reading so many blogs like these I do get the impression that everything goes well for others! I have heaps of unfinished projects, knitting projects, art projects etc. My house is always untidy. There are piles of papers and clutter in well just about any area they can be. I only really started a veggie patch last year, but I only got one potato, grubs ate my lettuce and my husband says that my ceylon spinach is like eating snails. I do give in to take out especially on the one day of the week I work. One thing I am good at is procrastinating. Very good at sitting reading blogs like this, rather than actually doing the stuff I read about. Ha, its very nice to let all this out! Actually writing this out has helped me see that perhaps I'm not quite as bad as I seem to think I am. Perhaps we should write lists of all the things we do actually achieve, I think that would be an even greater list. Thanks again.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

Well written. I think the other reason we don't write about our failures, is we don't want people to read us and think 'man that girl is whiney'.

For me sticking to my already tight budget has be a huge failure, and not because its not doable, but because convenience wins more often than not.
Housework, I don't do housework, DH does the laundry, GreenTween does the dishes and I occassionally pick things up and dump them in another room.
I have yet to start my garden beds (and we have lived in our home for 10 years).
I haven't completed my knitting project started in September for DH's christmas gift.
Last night we ordered pizza and wings (And I was really looking forward to the wings, because the pizza cannot compare with homemade) and instead we got a side of karma.

Hathor's Bath said...

My son has sensory food issues and therefore most, if not all, of his foods are prepackaged (though I have discovered this easter he loves turkey and carrots).

I do not have anywhere near the amount of energy necessary to do half the things I want to do. Some days I am a whirlwind; some days brushing my hair is impossible. Such is CFS.

Due to sprog's autism, everything comes to a halt one week out of six due to half terms. In summer, I barely work at all without help. I don't have the energy. Then, washed laundry is in a pile, dusting doesn't happen, and I'm lucky if I even do anything with my hair other than tie it back and get it out of my way. It's my son or nothing. If he was aware enough of how much of my life I put on hold to entertain him, it would help, but he doesn't - so sometimes I resent the whole lot and want to run off to Bermuda.

I have discovered that there are some things I'm prepared to pay the flyer miles for, and chocolate is one of those things. Non-slavery chocolate, but it's still not native to the UK. Nor are blood oranges - and nothing says summer like sangria made with blood oranges.

Anonymous said...

I work with many amazing people and especially today was feeling rather inferior. My house is overrun with 5 dogs, so it is always messy and the floors are, well, not up to many peoples standards. But they add so much to my life, so I endure the dirty habitat. it is embarrassing tho when others see it, and pass judgment whether or not they share this with me. My coworkers sometimes seem to me to not have imperfections. It does me good to read about someone like yourself, brave enough to share their reality of not being perfect.

Nikki said...

My garden also looks terrible by June, or maybe July, if I dont' get it in early enough!
I've been meaning to get chickens for 3 years now and still have no place for them to live, hence, no chickens.
My kids love McDonald's happy meals, even though they only get them about once a month.
I buy mulch. Yes, I know. That one bugs me:-)
I'm horrible at sewing, OK at knitting, but also not so great at finishing projects.

I think we're all about the same, but hey, we're trying! Great post!

cpcable said...

An important message to remember...we all do what we can with what we've got. As for me? Cleaning is not my strongpoint. There are clumps of dog and cat hair everywhere. Most of my garden's bounty last year went to waste because I didn't harvest it in time. I spend more time reading than doing. Fear of not doing things perfectly often keeps me from even trying. And I really dread making my weekly menus even though I know that doing so allows me to go to the grocery store more infrequently (which I dread even more). So, there! :)

Suzie said...

I just started reading this blog ... mostly because of chickens, but this post is great, too. No matter what our background, we should all strive to improve and conserve our consumption, even if it's a crooked path!

I like Dr. Pepper and am trying to cut back my consumption, without a lot of success. I dislike that I like a soda sooo much. My clean standards are not as high as outside perceptions. For instance, the floor under my kitchen table has been known to show the same crumbs for over 5 days. My son's unfinished Christmas stocking is still sitting on the sewing table and a pile of folded towels is on top of the stocking. Rain barrels have been sitting in front of our garage ... in their plastic wrap since last fall. We still don't have grass around the house, even though we moved to the farm in 7/08! The last project that still needs salvaging is the 3 bin compost pile. Maybe we'll get to that this summer.

Embrace 'em, own 'em, and move forward.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Great post Kate! I think in our society perfection is taught to be a worthy goal. However, most of the time good enough has to suffice because it's all we can do.

I have found myself sometimes almost physically ill over a loss (cow loses calf, etc) and it is hard to write a post about something of that nature - but it helps to put it down. Life on the farm is not all green grass and rainbows - at least not on my farm. My bucket list of stuff I want to make or do, will probably never get done - and finally I am OK with that.

Laura @ GettingThere said...

Thank you for a fabulous post, Kate. I could have written much of what you wrote! I agree that most bloggers only share the positive, which is understandable but can sometime make readers feel like they can't measure up. On my own blog I try to share some failures as well, like the Easter eggs I dyed last week that turned a hideous shade of brownish-green. Next week I'll post the terrible looking teddy bear I tried to make--I figure, others can have a chuckle over my shortcomings and maybe find encouragement too.

Anonymous said...

Here's a partial solution to "I don't really want my cats catching birds, but I don't put bells on them because I do want them to catch mice and voles."
Keep the cats inside during the day when the birds are out. Let them out to hunt at night when the rodents are active.

Vicki said...

Great post! I'm guilty of feeling the same way. I moved last month & there's still lots of boxes to find homes for (it doesn't help that I also had to move my mom & deal with her being in the hospital at the same time & I had some health issues)

My house is never without lots of clutter. Takeout pizza... Well we had some just last night. I can't say I feel bad about having it though. I get Price Choppers & they're $8 a piece & it actually tasets good. I'd rather my bubby makes it, but sometimes hes just way too tired after work.

I think we don't always want to admit our shortcommings in our blogs just because we don't want people we may or may not know thinking we can't handle things. Not that any of us are perfect by any means. If we were, what a boring place we'd be in. Plus we wouldn't have anything to look back & laugh at.

Oldnovice said...

I don't want to embrace my failures. I want to embrace my successes, tho they be few and far between.

sweet locus lane farm said...

I am my own worst enemy. I have high expectations but never meet them.Well said!

*Michelle* said...

Thank you! The illusion of perfection that so many blogs present is distressing. Your honesty is refreshing. The messiness of every day life is failure... it is life.

*Michelle* said...

Correction : is NOT failure. Sigh... Even my comments are not perfect.

Mel said...

You are not a failure. You are human. Welcome to the club.

The Younger Rachael said...

At least 2 or 3 times a month, we each mac-N-cheese from a box, 'cause I'm too tired or time is tight. And we both really like it! There is a load of towels in the dryer that have been sitting there for several days. I have lists of to-dos that have been waiting for months to be done. I haven't vacuumed this week, and the dining room floor is sprinkled with lots of dirt (from the backyard).

This seems to be normal life, with only 24 hours and you need about 8 for sleep... that's 1/3 of your life! And how many hours for food.... and how many hours to just use the bathroom... There is always something more to do and never enough time to do it all.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhhhh, how refreshing! I'm not perfect either but I do keep on trying!


Eric said...

Wow, I feel so much better about myself now! I am not alone!

I also can claim every item in your post to be true of me. And my terrible addiction to convenience stores and secret love of fast food...

joolz said...

loved this post :) i don't have enough space here to list mine ;) but i wanted to pass on my latest discovery and success, homemade deodorant. i only made it up two days ago, but i have terrible b.o. problems due to my chronic illness and all the toxins my body tries to get rid of, and i don't stink! :) my only advice is to pour it into a used and cleaned plastic push up/turn up deodorant holder, my mixture is in an old nivea tub and it's rather hard, i have to rub fairly vigorously to get some on my fingers, but it appears to work :) thanks again for showing us some real life.

Den said...

I have 2 words for you Kate:
Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Yes, how many times I feel slack or a failure when I read all those lovely posts about handmade bread and sour dough.
Ten years ago I always made bread in a Panasonic Bread Maker,mmm!
But didn't feel as good as the hand neading types....But then my husband and son got Coeliacs and I do make homemade gluten free bread, but the ingredients come in a packet. Guilt again! Even though I should feel great for making it at home and not buying the expensive shop product. So it is nice to hear everyones not perfect!
Everyone has their own road to travel!:)

Margo said...

I'm so reassured by this post! Thanks for sharing :*)

Margo, compost making failure (among many other failures) who can't sew a straight hem LOL

sensiblevermonter said...

I killed all of my started seedlings last year that I spent months on. Our first year garden was pretty weak. I can get away from mac & cheese in a box, my compost always needs help and instead I just walk away, and I never finish knitting projects. And I always get my hopes up way before I ever start anything- and I always tell myself I wont do it again, but I do.

Failures, they're a part of life even if we don't want to admit them. Thank you!

Karen said...

i spend too much money on clothes i don't need at the goodwill.

i buy lots of veg grown in california (i live in KY) .. .even when the farmer's market is stocked full of goodness (and i was just too lazy to go)

i buy new books a LOT ... way more than i can actually read at any given time. i don't have the patience to wait for a lot of things i "need" ... so instead of hoping they show up on freecyle/on sale, I just buy them. NOW. RIGHT. NOW. I really dislike this about myself. I blame it on consumerist brainwashing ... oy. vey.

I often leave knitting projects to get dusty for months

Sometimes I just forget the whole to-do list and go on Facebook all night

I've left dirty dishes in the sink for days

and the list goes on.

i make note, accept, let go, move on.

keep on.