finding failure

Growing up, watching the Redskins lose countless games on our living room TV, I always remember my father saying, “There they go again, pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory.” I would cringe in the truth of that, stomping madly along with my father, brother, sister. An answer to our shitty football team, our barking dogs, our pleading mother. “Damnit, damnit, damnit.”

My father’s words have been hanging over my head lately, seeping into the holes of my day. Where time opens up, a blank space invites the words and I manipulate them so that they fit my present state.

(I’m good at doing this with horoscopes, too. “How’d they know??”)

The way I’ve altered my father’s lamentation is this: I’m going to need to start owning my failure.

It sounds like the terrible intro to an even worse self-help book.

Yesterday I ran a half marathon. I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience and I don’t think I’ll run another one. I made a decision at mile 8 — I’m not fucking finishing this race. I’m over this. I’m walking. I’m calling for a ride. I hate this shit.

I finished the race. I got an OK time and I got happily drunk afterwards. But, in my mind, I’d failed. I hadn’t tapped into my strength, like I told myself to. I hadn’t pushed myself, like I’d promised my dear old soul in my daily intention journal. I’d shaken my head, hard, to the rap songs pounding in my ears. Just five more, four more, three more, jesus god, two more, really, really, almost finished.

As I walked periodically during that race yesterday I decided that it was OK. It was OK to not get the time I wanted. It was OK to not want a good time. It was OK to not want to hurt and go stir-crazy in my mind.

I failed yesterday and I’m absolutely thrilled about it. I don’t want to run that long and hard again. I don’t have to.

Balance is a bitch. Last night, applying lipstick in the men’s bathroom of an upscale bar, I thought about how “worth it” the expensive cocktails were for my depleted bank account. Would touching the shoulder of a stranger take me on a wild journey I’d never forget? Are egg and cheese biscuits at 1 a.m. part of a clean diet?

I think the running epiphany is the first of many. I’m always figuring out what I want and how I feel about things.

It’s blinding and raw to experience life this way, although I assume it’s how everyone else does it.

Last week I was carefully drinking four dollar beers at a bar, taking my time with each one, because I couldn’t afford more than two. I walked to the bathroom, hitting the heel of my boot on the slick floor, going into half-splits in front of two large tables. “I’m fine!” I yelled, hurrying on tiptoes to somewhere I could hide my face.

I laughed for two minutes in the bathroom.

My best work days are the ones where I’m cranking out blogs, wildly shaking my head to Trevor Hall pandora (which is absurd, but, ya know), and chugging lukewarm coffee. And then my editor brings me something I thought was really good and he’s marked all over it. He offers no words of praise. That’s a good damn day.

Because I need to keep failing in big ways and little ways. I need to evaluate what matters to me. Sometimes that takes a long time. Sometimes it hits me right in the face. I don’t like that anymore. And that’s that.

I’ve been trying to sit with myself when I’m bored. I’ve decided to become a running mentor — something in me pushes me towards helping others (which I’ve never really done) and this seems like a gateway move. And yes, I’ve been trying to eat less and exercise more because fuck it, it’s the new year and I’m enough of an asshole to act like I don’t care when I really, really do.

I fail everyday. Right now I’m drinking vodka which is something that I said I wouldn’t do this morning. My room is covered in dog hair and dirt. (I sit on the side of my bed and rub the bottoms of my feet on the boxspring, cleaning them before I roll into a pile of blankets.) I make plans and break them. I tell my dog I’m taking her on a walk and we just go to the park down the street where I can sit on a bench while she stares at me confused.

I felt both defeated and elated yesterday, stirring in the kind of discomfort that I can only guess means I’m growing up. (Does that ever end?) It’s an invigorating feeling but with it comes an inexplicable loneliness, like maybe this is something I need to warrior through by myself.

But then there’s that stranger who tapped me on the shoulder yesterday. I had a mile and a half to go and I was walking, audibly mumbling “god. damnit.” She smiled at me and said, “Come on, you can do this.”

I nodded, started running again, “Thank you.”