This morning’s silliness:

Ryan Lochte spoke passionately in an interview about the importance of athletes being vaccinated against COVID-19. He was speaking in reference to the upcoming Olympic competition and nodded vociferously that it was a good idea for all athletes to be vaccinated, for their sake and the sake of their fellow athletes. When asked directly if he had been vaccinated, he took on a wide-eyed and slack-jawed stare for a full 3 seconds, and then said, “That’s a personal question. It’s a personal choice, but…”. Allllrighty then.

Speaking of the Olympics, I’m a little stupefied by what it will mean for athletes to compete without a crowd or an audience. That’s probably not a big deal for some competitions, but for other more performance-oriented endeavors, I wonder if that will negatively impact some performances. Seems like it would have been a good idea to cancel this Olympic gathering, but…well…the virus and everything…even though a ton of athletes and support teams from all points of the globe will still descend on the Olympic Village. Bringing all of their germs with them.

The ballot recount is continuing in Arizona. For all practical purposes, the recount…er, audit…has been so corrupted by chain of custody issues that it’s virtually useless. They have removed ballots from the secure locations that are in the custody of the State and recounted them multiple times in non-secure locations, and the chain of custody for the voting machines has been interrupted. This may render them useless for future election activity. There have been so many recounts of the same ballots the paper medium is likely entirely corrupted, if not tattered.

A Louisiana student won the National Spelling Bee. She correctly spelled “murraya”, which is a plant. She questioned the language origin of the word before attempting to spell it. She is also very good at math and is a champion basketball dribbler and juggler. She is good at just about everything she does and is very interested in playing basketball for Harvard and working for NASA. Gene editing is also somewhat interesting, particularly since a Nobel Prize could be in the offing.

I’ll just be back here with the remote control, watching the news with a cup of coffee and misspelling my own name on FaceBook. Some days I don’t have much ambition, particularly when it comes to physical exertion. I have already taken the dog out, and we did a little walk in addition to sitting in the activity area. She got to commune with her apartment husband for a bit, which made her grin like Cheshire Cat.

Today, I am wrestling just a bit with activism. I reflected the other day on the seeming futility of petitions and email campaigns and phone banking. I suppose those are not entirely useless, but my frustration level is growing. I wondered aloud if more direct action is necessary, e.g. crashing the party at legislative sessions that have refused to allow public comment. I got a lot of pushback on that, and many seasoned activists contend that direct action is not always a better strategy.

So, what do we do? I suppose the main issue is that doing nothing is unacceptable. Organizing is not as simple as many people think, and it takes a lot of energy. I don’t necessarily have the energy for doing marches in the middle of July, but I have the energy to write emails, amplify messaging, and update community messaging. I have to believe that’s not a cop-out, and that it has some value in the overall effort.

In working with my UU brethren, I’m frequently challenged by how we all show up for this work. Some of us show up fully cognizant of the inequity that our movement has to offer us. A predominantly white and entirely non-conformist group of brainiacs has its challenges. These are more my people, however than any other group I’ve been involved with. That’s still a blessing and a curse for me, but I’m handling it.

UUs are the people who show up in force to protest racial inequity but critique the grammar and content of all of the flyers and posters that are proffered. At best, this is annoying. At worst, this is inequitable in and of itself. It’s that perfection thing again, and I don’t have time for it any longer. Pointing out historical relevance and factual imperfection in a protest sign or a t-shirt doesn’t include everyone, and it separates the Ph.Ds in the group from the non-academics. That’s what sometimes makes people of color roll their eyes and say, “Bitch, please – can we get pick up our feet and get to marching already?”

I made a comment to a humor group this morning about something that had been posted, and my comment was, “Somebody obviously has too much time on their hands.” This was offered on a picture of “The Scream” reproduced entirely with paper clips. There was a long thread of comments that began with criticizing the “Puritanical origins” of the phrase “too much time on their hands” and explaining that art is never a waste of time, there is never too much time on one’s hands, and there should be more joy. OK, thanks. I responded a couple of times, but they wanted to remain in their superior posture of “I know more than you”, so I’m done. Just because something runs across your brain doesn’t mean you have to let it out.

Today is going to be another hot one, it seems – when I was walking the dog, it was in the lower 70s. A couple of hours later, the temperature has risen by almost 10 degrees. I’ll be in here, with the A/C running full force. I want to do some research about how to overcome a veto-proof vote in the NC legislature, or what veto-proof actually means. There is so much I don’t know about how my country’s government works, it’s embarrassing.

I want another snowball. Maybe I’ll go out and get one, if I do at least some of what I pledged to do in this apartment today. I have been doing the follow-up on my physical therapy exercise program, I have picked up a few things (not entirely my schedule of 3 15-minute blocks of clean up every day, but something). I have tried to be a little more active, trying to walk the dog and not just throw her into the activity area. Any improvement is good.

My writing prompts are a little out of order right now, but one of them I never finished has to do with past failures. Oh, boy – what joy. One of the bullet points talks about the phrase “the only way to succeed is to fail”. It asks what I think about that, and if it resonates with me.

That phrase doesn’t so much resonate with me as it annoys me. I know that it must be true because failure is somewhat a constant. The odds of every attempt being a success are low to none, so yes, to get to success you have to keep making the effort and some efforts will fail. It’s like buying lottery tickets – most of them will be duds, and the odds of choosing a winner are extremely high. But, like Beckett said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Cornel West has quoted that in some of his presentations, and I get it. Fail better. Don’t just fail in the way of despair, in the way of resigned acceptance, but fail better. Increase the energy put forth in the effort, and the failure will be a more cogent one. Don’t try harder, try better. Don’t fail more, or simply repeatedly, fail better.

I failed better at my last job. I did try better, and I risked more, but I failed. It was a better failure than I’ve had before, and the downside of that is that it hurt more. That’s why it’s such a difficult concept, I guess because it hurt better. We talk about some of that in recovery, telling newcomers they will feel better if they take the program’s suggested steps. We tell them you will feel pain better, you will feel happiness better, you will feel anger better, you will feel sadness better, but you will feel. Better. Many of us describe our pre-recovery days as days of emotional numbness, feeling nothing. So we are grateful to feel better. We will try again, and we will fail better.

This is a frustrating axiom of life, I believe, and I can take it or leave it. If I leave it, nothing changes. Things become mundane and constant, but not in a good way. Everything is just fine (F.I.N.E = Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional). But my emotional levels are flat. There’s no pulse, no ups, no downs, no highs, no lows. It feels as though I’m one step removed from a frontal lobotomy. That numbing flatness is anathema for the spirit, I believe. I can’t learn anything if I don’t move, and being flat doesn’t involve movement. I don’t like being flat – it’s like an itch I can’t scratch, and it makes me crazy.

Failure is a variance in the continuum. A rise and fall, a heartbeat, a sign of life. Life is variable. There’s nothing static about it, as hard as we try to make it so. Our efforts to make things level are just our efforts to control that heartbeat, that life force, and it is a futile endeavor. We can never control that, but still we try. We are not gods, no matter how high we fly or how low we sink.

So, yes – I have failed. This last job ended very badly for me because I shut down. There was too much going on in my life the last few years I was there, and I was working – or trying to survive – in a rigid and pedantic system of alleged productivity. I had enemies, it seemed, and that didn’t help. At the end, I gave up and waited for the guillotine to be released. When that finally happened, I was pretty numb about it. The only thing even vaguely giving me pause was the loss of health care, but I fully accepted that I couldn’t work there any longer. Not because they said so, because I said so.

I chastised myself for quite a while about my inability to just conform, about my obvious low performance and the reasons for it, and having been incredibly stupid about the entire situation. What I felt most defeated about was that so many people who are still working there were coming to me for help, could not do what I could do, but I didn’t play the game correctly. That’s not very bright. I tried again and I failed worse. Much worse.

After nearly three years, I’ve gotten some perspective on the work experience, and I am in a better place about it. I have changed my perspective dramatically, with the help of supportive friends and in spite of myself. One of my friends told me that her perspective on how I shut down and just dig my heels in when I can’t take anymore is not that I’m being childish and obstinate, but that I’m setting a conscious boundary and will not be moved to violate it. It may look awkward, it may seem plaintive, but it’s my boundary and I am entitled to it. Day-um.

So, I can take solace in knowing that I truly did fail better, and it was worth the learning. I moved forward in some bizarre way, and I rather like that. I’ve had to get my ego out of the way in some big ways concerning the whole situation, because it’s my natural instinct to chastise myself for not performing well, for not knowing better, for not being able to keep my emotions in check. But sometimes I guess I have to fake myself out, and some part of me just will not take anymore. Boundaries by any other name, however they work.

So, there’s a bit of a silver lining in the last job experience. Definitely not the one I imagined, or saw at first, but silver lining just the same. My only hope is that I don’t repeat the errant attempt. If I’m going to try again, I have to try again better. And I have to know that I may fail again, and fail better. I don’t particularly care for that realization, but it’s unconditional. Nobody has to ask my opinion, which I suppose is a good thing.

So, I can look forward to a lifetime of progressively better failures, and to have those I have to keep trying. My heart wants to give up, but I think that’s really not an option. If I give up, I imagine that will be the end of my life. What more could there be if not to expand, to stretch the limits and bounce off the walls of the container. I don’t want to be contained, so I have to continually try, continually reach for liberation in the only way there is – try better. Always try better, knowing that I will fail, and striving to fail better.

Get it? Got it. Good. I just wish it didn’t hurt so badly.

The effort changes you, and it changes the object of your effort. That is the way of progress.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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