Yesterday I took Max & Ava to forest school. We had a blast wandering around in the trees playing games & learning how to make lumps of coal to start fires just out of stuff found in the woods. We played other nature games, fed the chickens. It was an incredible few hours spent connecting with nature & spending some quality time with 2 of my kids.
One part that really stuck out to me was listening to Sam, the teacher of the day, tell a story about camping in Oregon. He woke up right at dawn. It was chilly and he was surrounded by trees so he wanted to find higher ground with a bit of sunshine. The trees were huge and as he explored, he noticed the sun hitting the top of a few of them. So he found a tree that he could climb, & worked his way slowly to the top. Once up there, he just sat and soaked up the suns rays with the chickadees that were flying all around him. Stay still. Be present. Just be.
He called it a Sit Spot. Which I took as a clever name for meditation. He then asked all of us to find a sit spot & to reflect on what we'd like to do in the coming year for ourselves.
Ava & I found a nice spot on some rocks where the sun was adding a bit of warmth. We just sat, stared off into the distance and got lost in thought. I learned later Ava wants to learn how to start a fire from sticks and wood like Sam showed us. That's what was running through her mind the whole time.
I, on the other hand, thought about failure for some reason. And how I failed a LOT this year at some pretty big things. I thought about how western society looks at failure as something that's wrong & negative & how we internalize that if we fail, then something is fundamentally wrong with US as individuals. I thought about all the growth I had as a person just because of the risks I took as well as the hard work I put in so I wouldn't keep repeating the behaviors that led to my failures (I'll get to those in a bit).
As I sat on that rock, I realized that my favorite parts of being alive involve some sort of risk, with a chance of failure, and that making mistakes is part of a well lived life. Mistakes & failures along our path to a well lived life are just little road bumps trying to steer us in a different direction.
Then I thought about how powerful it could be to share our failures with each other, because, let's face it, we all have made mistakes & failed in some form or another. But when we hide those failures, we send signals to ourselves that we are insufficient. When we hide the 'negative' we're admitting that we're not good enough or working hard enough or just a big mess up. And I can't believe any of those things are true about anyone.
So, I want to share a few of my failures this past year, in the hopes you have the courage to speak up to someone in your life about any missteps you may have taken this past year.
1. I failed my wife. In the beginning of the year, pretty much through July I did not show up for her with unconditional love. I tried to force her into living up to my expectations of how I wanted her to be, instead of seeing her for the wonderfully beautiful woman she already was. I shared a list of all the things I was going to do to strengthen our marriage and I didn't do any of them very well.
2. I didn't do the work to grow Hello Happiness as well as I could've. I made excuses. I didn't follow up or reach out quickly. I half assed my outreach at times. We did get a few cards in Paper Source, and we're in about 50 stores around the country right now, but I know with more effort we could be in so many more.
3. I wasn't the best father I could be. I let the kids play too many video games, as I kept telling myself I didn't have the energy to do anything with them. I didn't have as much patience with them as I have in years past. I believe this was completely related to item number 1 on my list as well.
4. I didn't take care of my body. I ate way too much sugary treats & didn't work out very much at all. Which led to me having less energy, feeling like crap & beating myself up for not working out or eating well.
5. I got in way too many stupid arguments on Facebook. Does this need any more explanation?
6. I committed to things/activities that didn't light me up, which led to a whole lot of unnecessary resentment (most of which was directed at my wife & kids when they had nothing to do with my commitments).
Those were just a few of the failures/mistakes I made throughout 2016. But as I sat with those things last night, I realized that the failures & mistakes will not be what I remember most about this year.
I'll remember the lessons learned, the growth in myself as a person & the wins. Because despite my massive setbacks, there is so so much to be grateful for.
1. Once I shifted my mindset on how I treated my wife, we've grown closer than we have ever been. And, we've been together for over 20 years now. I call that a win.
2. Even though I didn't put as much effort into Hello Happiness as I could have, we're still in 50 stores. And I spent a lot of time supporting Jenny which allowed her to pursue her dreams and find happiness for herself, which has in turn blessed all of us.
3. We took the kids to Thailand. We bought an RV & have taken a few trips in it & we're getting ready to head to California for 6 weeks just because. We homeschool all our kid which gives us SO much time together. I've seen so much growth in our kids since we brought them home as well including the little businesses Ava & Lia have started to the programming skills Max is picking up.
4. I can't change anything about my past behaviors, but I can be better going forward, and it's in my control on if I actually take care of myself or not. So I've been moving more & working out again. I've been making sure I have veggies at every meal. It's not a perfect process yet, but it is an improvement and a step in the right direction.
5. I made a commitment to myself to only say things on facebook I'd say to other people's faces. I re read everything I post before I hit enter & I just don't get on facebook as much as before any way because the real world is so much more fun.
6. I've seen so much growth and joy and positivity in my wife since started trimming out all the things that didn't make her happy. So I've been slowly doing the same. And my life feels so much lighter. I've started cross stitching again. I bought a wood burner just because it sounded like fun. I've been making things just for joy, which I didn't have time before because I was so over committed.
You see? Every single one of my failures/mistakes has taught me a lesson. I am well aware that I'll make more mistakes & fail time and time again throughout my life, but it's ok. We are not perfect. We don't expect our friends & family & other folks to be perfect, so why do we hold ourselves up to these unrealistic perfect standards? It doesn't make sense, does it?
To finish up, I have a challenge for you.
1. Find a sit spot & stay there for however long feels comfortable. Reflect on any mistakes you may have made this year.
2. Share those mistakes with someone in your life.
3. Search for the lessons learned and ways you're now living life differently because of those mistakes.
Let's all commit to sharing all of us with the world. Not just the wins, but the missteps & set backs. When we show each other we're all prone to mess up, it gives permission for others to share their set backs. It shows we're all human. And when we see each other as fellow humans, we're more likely be kind, compassionate & empathetic with one another. And that will make the world a better place for us all.