Do Something

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.” – Neil Gaiman

Doing Something.

Making mistakes is akin to failure, is it not? It’s a bad thing. It’s not what any of us really want to do, is it? Yet we all make them. Big ones, little ones. Ones of lesser impact – and ones with sometimes catastrophic consequences.

The point here is what are we learning in this process? Or do we become so traumatized by our failures that we are hampered by our increasing fear of failing – again. More and more afraid to try a second or a third time, thus failing to move forward. Stuck where we are.

But we’re not perfect. Not I. Nor you either. And when we think we are or when we try our best to achieve perfection because we think we have to, or that we should, or because that’s what others expect (or at least that’s what we think they expect), we are doomed to fail. Why? Because no one, not a single person you or I or anyone else knows, has managed to achieve that perfection – or for that matter, ever will.

So what do we do about it? When we fail, misstep, err in some way big or small, how do we proceed?

We go on, and in the process secure the foundation of the building blocks of self-esteem. We do better by not letting our mistakes defeat us.

Which is kind of what I did – letting myself be defeated, that is – and why I’ve been absent from my blog these past few weeks. And it wasn’t just the writer’s block that laid me low, either. I’ve had some ideas but was totally unsuccessful in expanding on them. I felt as though I’d stopped thinking, clearly at any rate, about the work I’d been doing or about the essays I’ve written and the ways I might improve them.

I felt hopeless, lazy, useless, lolling around on the sofa watching meaningless television – which of course made me feel even worse about myself. Somehow I managed to keep working out at the gym and kept swimming, too, but with less frequency or enthusiasm these past couple of weeks. The “Loser” in me stared back at me in the mirror demanding an explanation for why I’d stop working to achieve the goals I’d set for myself. Why I’d allowed myself to fall into an abyss out of which it felt increasingly impossible to climb. I couldn’t even concentrate on reading the piles of books I have. Instead of whittling them down, I watched the piles grow higher. Even the two newest Stephen King books (my default when all else fails and which I use to extricate myself from this pervasive malaise) failed to garner my attention. Normally, he’s got me by the throat by the bottom of page one and doesn’t let go until the last page.

This I deemed a really bad sign.

There they still sit on my end table. I’ve picked up Revival – “a rich and disturbing novel {that} spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written” – three or four times but couldn’t tell you what is on that page if my life depended on it. I must change that – this weekend. Before things get worse.

Do these kinds of failures occur because we really are losers? Is everyone else we see doing so much better than we are because they are better than we are?

Of course not. What, then, is the difference?

The difference is they’ve gotten back up from the floor they slipped on, and they began again, tackling the same problems they first faced without letting their “failures” deter them. And they do this time after time, no matter how many times it takes. They cling to that determination that has so long defined Americans and our approach to life. They say I can do this. I will do this no matter how long it takes or how many times I have to try – no matter how hard it is. What they don’t say is I can’t, I’ll never get it right, I won’t achieve my goals.

They own their failures instead of blaming other people for them. Life is difficult for all of us, but at some point we must accept responsibility for those things we do – and those we fail to do. It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow. It’s how we become better people.

My New Year’s wish for you in 2015 is what Gaiman wishes for all of us – that we make mistakes, good ones, bad ones, amazing ones. Ones that we accept and turn into something positive. Ones that occasionally lead us somewhere we didn’t know we needed to go. How do we do that? Gaiman says don’t freeze up, don’t worry if it’s not perfect or not good enough. If you are afraid of trying, don’t give in to that fear. Do it anyway. You’ll never know what might have been if you fail to try.

And at least you can say you tried.

Do Something – Anything – in 2015 that you won’t have say you’re sorry you didn’t do when 2016 rolls around.

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