Fuck. I love this word. The friction of the lips and teeth to create the F. The guttural UH sound. And topping it off with the plosive K. It's a beautiful word that has truly come in handy in many situations. I love it. I love its many variations. Motherfucker, fuckin asshole, fucktits, fuck you you fucking fuck. And so on.
But this post is not about Fuck. But rather about another F word. Fornicating? Farts? Felching (look this one up)? No. The word of the day is Failure.
I've had a very complicated relationship with failure. We've known each other since I was born. My parents wanted a girl. So, the first thing I did on this earth was fail. And I've been doing a fine job at it ever since.
Now, let's start with a positive approach to failure. As Yoda says so eloquently in the Last Jedi, "The greatest teacher, failure is." It's true. I believe we can learn the most from failure. That is, if we look at it the right way. In improv, I teach that there are no mistakes, only gifts. Therefore, failure is not only part of the learning process, but it is essential in discovery. And improv is all about discovery.
Most people live in fear of looking like an idiot or doing the wrong thing and this fear creates a self-censor. In improv, we want to break from that and embrace failure as a means to finding something deeper. By taking a risk, by being bold, by following that fear...we will find something true.
So, failure is such a vital part of my job. (I say job to make myself feel better and to convince my parents I'm a productive member of society. Improviser isn't really a job title, but I'm trying my best to make it one). I think it's clear why I consider myself a good improv teacher. If improv is all about embracing failure then who better to teach it then someone who constantly fails?
Now before you write me a message telling me all the wonderful things I've accomplished (please do by the way. I'm fragile and need as much validation as possible), please know that when I say I constantly fail...I'm not trying to imply that this is rooted in actual reality. But it's rooted in my reality.
I've come to realize that the positive things in my life happen by chance, are streaks of luck, and are temporary. And all the negative things and failures in my life are permanent, all-consuming and most importantly...my fault. If something goes wrong, which it often does (especially this week), then it isn't just a result of my actions and thoughts but it's also just reflective of how my life is supposed to go.
When something positive happens, I have a hard time enjoying it. I don't trust it. I know it won't last and I know that bad news is waiting to spoil it. And perhaps the saddest part, I feel like I don't deserve it. I know this thought process has helped create my dark passenger. A failure leads to self-doubt and self-sabotage, which leads to negative behaviors like binge-eating, which leads to more self-doubt, self-sabotage, and shame which is another failure, which leads to more negative behaviors. The cycle goes on and on and on.
I don't practice what I teach. I don't embrace failure as a gift. And therefore I've struggled to learn from it lately. I've allowed it to get the best of me. It is how I've defined myself. I am simply what I cannot and haven't accomplished.
All the wonderful students and performers I've gotten to teach and work with through CATCh have been amazing and I feel lucky to be a part of this community. I know what we're creating is meaningful. Yet, where is my mind and my heart? They're focused on the failures. Another failed attempt at a space, another week of no income, another class we've had to cancel.
Today, we got some bad news regarding a space. What did I do? I decided to get McDonalds. (Glass half full moment...I only got one meal instead of half the menu. But I still sat in line and got shit I didn't want).
Then, I got drunk with my friend (we did have a great conversation) and I bought a pint of ice cream. Today's failure led me to binge eat, led me to drown my sorrows with whiskey, and it led me to Talenti Chocolate Peanut Butter (soooooo good though...let's be real)
And so today's failure has become a whole night's worth of failures. A whole night's worth of self-loathing and self-doubt. A whole night's worth of questioning my purpose and feeling like I'll never be successful. A whole night's worth of thinking that CATCh won't be successful because I can't be successful. That nothing good will happen for CATCh as long as I'm at the helm.
It's become pretty clear to me that I get easily wrapped up in cycles. Especially negative ones. A failure occurs, I blame myself, so I mistreat myself. It's pretty frustrating that one major constant in my life is how I deal with failure in this cyclical way.
I need to find ways to apply my natural tendency towards cyclical behavior with a more positive approach. Something positive happens, I experience it and enjoy it, I trust that it happened because of decisions I made that led me to that point, I feel good about myself, I'm inspired to do positive behaviors that lead to something else positive happening.
Or something negative happens, I experience it and allow myself to feel upset, I trust that it happened because maybe my decisions led me to this point or maybe life just sucks sometimes, I don't blame myself though, I instead figure out what I could've done differently to receive a better result, I feel good about myself for learning from my failure, I'm inspired to work harder to achieve a positive result the next time.
These are the cycles I need to start living by. If it's true that a negative event leads to a cycle of negative behaviors, then it's fair to assume that if I focus on the positive events, positive behaviors will follow. This has got to be my guide for breaking free of my big fat dark passenger. This is how I regain some control of my life. Failure doesn't have to define me. Instead I need to redefine failure.
From now on, failure will be defined as just a step in my journey. One part of the cycle. It's no longer a catastrophic event that happened because I'm a piece of shit. And when it happens, which it will, I embrace it and move on to the next step with clearer focus and stronger conviction.
In improv (I feel like I start a lot of sentences with this), I talk about how a mistake is only a mistake if we call it one. We don't want to call it out for being wrong. Instead we want to embrace it and allow it to grow into something new.
My tendency with my life lately has been to see a mistake, point to it, and scream "MISTAKE! LOOK EVERYONE, THERE'S A MISTAKE! I FAILED. I'M A FAILURE! FAIL! FAIL! MISTAKE MISTAKE FAIL FAIL!" (or something like that.) So, instead I want to try and see a "mistake" and say, "Oh, what an interesting turn of events. This shall be a fine opportunity to grow and flourish towards a lifetime of success and happiness." (I imagined saying that in a British accent.)
I know this is a very optimistic outlook and probably going to be quite a challenge. It's hard to not to hit road block after road block and want to give up and drown my sorrows in sugary treats or strong alcoholic beverages. But I've got to try. What's the worst that could happen?