Sunday, 4 January 2015

Are You A Failure......Is Anyone......?

Failing doesn’t make someone a failure, quitting does
                                        – Bob Proctor

'FAILURE' is of those word-stains that I haven’t really wanted to deal with - for the simple reason that I am not sure what this word really means. Of course I know what the dictionary says, but as the above quote implies - simply failing to achieve doesn’t make us failures, only quitting, or terminating the process of trying to achieve does. Then, as long as we keep trying, we are still in the process of achieving and haven’t technically failed. But are there not limits to trying?  Are there also not limits set as to the kind of time one should technically take to achieve something? Aren’t these the parameters that have been dinned into our heads? And more often than not, when one doesn’t achieve something in a designate or reasonably good time, then we consider ourselves failures and give up. Until Lisa Nichols and others like her incite us to keep going with “Quitters don’t win, winners don’t quit”. 

So like I said I don’t really understand how to deal with this word and what it means because where I come from, it has often been said that one should know when to how does this work?
But let’s forget for a moment whether we concur on the meaning of ‘Failure’ or if the word should technically even exist in the larger perspective of things and consider instead that often, it’s the mistakes we make that becomes our failures – failure to know better, failure in being able to judge better or do better. Failure seems to dog us, no matter if we give up on something or not, right?

And how many mistakes we do make in a life-time. And then make some more? So, does anyone ever really feel like a winner, all the time? Do you? 
I don’t know anyone who really does. Even those who stand up and conduct self-help courses and seminars or webinars as they call them today, or write that pile of books I have on my shelves, have all fallen down and picked themselves up, just like you and I do, every single day.  But the more of these there are around, the more I feel like I am a failure. Sometimes, precisely because I cannot stand up and tell you how to succeed. I don’t have that fool-proof, designed to succeed sure-shot plan.

There have been many times that I have felt like a failure. There have also been those times that I have felt like more like a loser than a winner. Yes, on some days I do feel pretty chuffed with myself – especially when I win ten out of the ten games I am playing on scrabble. But, on most occasions I tend to feel less so, and wonder what have I achieved?
However, the other day, I had a small success. I wanted to learn how to use the sewing machine and the class went very well. I actually managed to write out the word FAILURE through the machine and then cut some fabric into little bits and play around with the multiple stitch options. The result was quite familiar. Yes, you read it right. I said familiar because it was almost exactly what I felt within me -a  total lack of order, no control over where I was going –  concentrating so hard on trying to co-ordinate the hand and foot and while it wasn’t quite the same as learning how to drive, it was a challenge.

I have resisted using the sewing machine because I feel good doing
hand-work which slows one down, in tune with the rhythm of the body. However, the past weeks had been rather stressful and the mental strain was just not allowing me to access that natural rhythm of the body easily enough - making me feel even more of a failure. I mean, where was all my training as a yoga practitioner, reiki healer and someone who has done intense meditation for twenty years? What was going on, where was I headed with this screaming inside my head?

One after the other some domestic issue was cropping up  -  tantrums from the help, one maid left, a new one started – totally raw and now I have the pressure of training her to boot.  The fridge was over-cooling and no parts were available – there was a special offer on so I bought a new one. That should have been easy, but the fridge turned out to be, not the one I’d ordered. But I couldn’t have got that one anyway because Samsung had misrepresented the product in their catalogue. I was over-charged and had arguing marathons that fried my brain and am have given up trying to get Samsung to explain the mess-up.  The list continues in this vein – an almost non-ending list that anyone who runs a home must be familiar with. 
Anyway, young Advesh from Usha Sewing Machines came to give me a demo and also instruct me, on how to use the sewing machine that I’ve  had with me, for a while now, but never used. I felt like an excited child with her new toy and before I knew it 3 hours had lapsed.  I was simply delighted to have just about learned to thread the needle and move the fabric - to get the needle to go along the lines that I wanted it to – very basic stuff. I was glowing with the praise from my tutor who said that he had never seen anyone manage quite so well, on their first attempt.  How wonderful that sounded to ears that had been on living on battle lines and only heard criticism from within and without, for days together!

I hope that soon I will gain greater control over the process because truthfully, by the time he left, I was nothing short of exhausted. It took every ounce of my concentration to press the pedal and trace the needle over the word ‘Failure’ written in running hand, on the fabric. 

Advesh is 24 years old and had come all the way from Faridabad. This is his first job and he’s been doing it for three years. It was very reassuring to have him around every time the thread caught in the needle because of a knot, or when I kept stitching and didn’t even realise the thread had snapped and was no longer in the needle, and a lot more of such glitches that came up. His practiced eye and hand guided me with patience and also watched me with utmost curiosity as I created a blob out of the word ‘Failure’.  I am sure he was cringing. It wasn’t the kind of embroidery he had ever seen, he said, but patiently guided me to do what I wanted.

The  reason that I chosen to learn how to work with the machine was because it occurred to me that in this age, where machines do so much of our work, could I really afford to continue to working with the hand alone? I needed to explore this dimension before I decided it didn’t work. And who knows, it may well turn out to be a useful support tool. 
I took great delight in allowing the machine to stitch. It was my first attempt and there was no expectation from myself – I just had to learn.  I was having fun and the machine suited the frazzled state of failure. I found a strange calm descending over me because for a while now, I had felt this intense desire to take some kind of a quantum leap to get past the plethora of thoughts that would run amok in my mind. I really was struggling to organize all aspects of my life – those fundamental things that needed doing from cooking and  more along with my professional work, and then burn them out of the mind by exercising - exhausting myself.

I did find some measure of peace at the end of the day when I was alone, to write or do some creative work. But, I would be so exhausted the next day that waking up was hard, I just didn’t want to. This strategy wasn’t working out well. I needed to figure out another way to express the angst and also find mental clarity and peace. It wasn’t good enough to dull the mind with exercise as it only got more intense the next day. What I needed was something that could adequately express the frazzle.  Working with the hand may eventually calm me down, but truth is that it wasn’t expressing the way I felt and expression of this fraught state of mind is what I sought – it was needed to get the ‘gunge’ out!

The whirring of the machine; the random stitching, making a piece that didn’t take hours but could be accomplished in a short while, made me feel as if I had accomplished something. At the end of three hours, my first three hours of sewing with a machine, I actually had something to show. 

It was different, it was a challenge and it also brought into play a whole different work ethic – all of which I managed. That day, I didn’t feel like a failure. I had learned to thread the sewing machine needle and make some marks with thread that expressed, somewhat, the way I felt. In the bigger picture if failure looms large, one needs to be reminded that it is the small things  we do achieve each day that add up to what can be called success.

I don’t think anyone can really be called a failure, even if we do give up. In the process of trying, it’s what we learnt that made us decide to give up, which is integral to the success of our story, is it not?


  1. Thank you for sharing.
    Admire your persistence and honesty in this post.

  2. Thank you Austere, for reading and leaving your footprint.:-)

  3. Thanks for reminding that we can achieve whatever we set forth to with perseverance. I liked the easy conversational tone of your blog.

    1. Thank you Maybe, for reading and writing in. I am so glad to hear that you were inspired by my writing and that the conversational tone of my stitch journal appeals. Its taken many, many years of writing in all forms, to arrive at this level of comfort, while expressing myself in words. So its really good to know that its appreciated. Thank you! :-)