“It’s not enough to fail. You have to come to feel your failure, to live it through, to turn it over in your hand, like a stone with strange markings. You have to wake up in the middle of the night and hear it whistling around the roof, or chomping in the field below, like some loyal horse.”
- James Fenton
As I sit here at four o’clock in the morning, the day after Thanksgiving, I listen to the wind howl outside and wonder about the disposition of my life. Earlier in the day (on Thanksgiving), I got a message from my sister suggesting that I call, as she and my nieces would all be at my brother-in-law’s house. While I wanted so much to make this call, the effort was so overwhelming that I could not break myself away from the shallowness of my current existence to reach out. I am, as it were, living in my failure.
You see, eight months ago, I had my world stomped on by bullies who told me I could not continue to do the very thing I loved to do. They shoved a vile contract in front of me and forced me to sign the conditions of my demise and I did so in exchange for the money this piece of paper promised. All of you who know me know that I am a fighter but this was a fight that I could not win. I basically rolled over and let those bastards kick me in the side and I was not to say anything about it. I was devastated.
Still, I picked my head up and pushed forward as best I could. It has been hard for me, and it has been hard for Pam but we are persevering, doing the best we can. We’ve been humbled by this experience and we’re struggling but we are pushing forward. There are ups and downs, good days and bad days, but we are managing. We both feel strongly that this is only temporary and are really hoping that temporary will come to an end soon.
For me, this whole experience has made me feel very small…a feeling that I am unaccustomed to. Logic suggests that this would be a great time to catch up with old friends, see more of family, do those things that I have not been able to do because I were too busy before. But when you are small, it is hard to look out when so much of your energy is spent looking in. I am attending to my failure.
Technically, I should be depressed and I have tried hard to do so but to no avail. I think one of the things that has kept me from taking a downward trip is my anger for the injustice I have suffered. Indeed, one of my favorite inward activities is thinking through the various scenarios that see me exacting my but I also realize that when I do this, I am neglecting my failure. And, while it is hard to get out of bed some days, I understand that this experience will help to make me a strong and better person.
So, on this day of thanksgiving (or the day after, in my case), the things that I am grateful for are those things that are helping me to weather the storm: my corgis (oh, they can be so warm and snuggly), my wife Pam (not so warm and snuggly but someone who understands and tolerates me…my partner in life), and our friend Doug (who is not so warm, snuggly, or understanding but who has graciously opened up his home as a refuge for all five of us). Over the last eight months, I am also thankful for the opportunities to create more of my own work, to be able to have the time to read, to have an long and intimate affair with my old friend the television (enhanced by a fantastic selection of DVD’s from the local library), to sleep whenever I want and for however long I desire and to have the ability to live life one day at a time.
I can remember hard times like when I was struggling as a young art student in New York and hadn’t enough money to eat and ride the subway. I remember the time after grad school when Pam and I had to choose between paying the phone bill or paying the rent on our studio. I’ve been through failure before and have come out stronger on the other side. I know that things will turn out okay and that I will be stronger for having lived through this period of my life. I have reached middle age and the trials that I currently face are rapids that I must navigate through. When I do emerge from this turbulent time, stop feeling small, shed my failure, I will be able to make that call and I will reconnect. But for now…patience.