On Tuesday morning, a nicely dressed man walked into the convenience store.  He wore a smile and smelled like church on Sundays.  When he got to the register he purchased two scratch-off lottery tickets.  He moved aside and began scraping away the waxy plastic.

I bought my half gallon of milk and walked around him to the door.

He emerged from the shop a few moments later, his shoulders hanging three inches lower than when he walked in.  Head hung low, he sighed and got into his Jeep.  He’d be heading into the office today, after all.

…………………………………………………..

We’ve all had moments of hope for something that was not to be.  We’ve had to head into the office, after all.

I felt deflated and defeated following the election.  I needed something to cling to for the next four years.

Something of me, for me, that no one could ever take from me.

The idea of digging deep began to percolate.

…………………………………………………..

I recently started working as a server, something I’ve done here and there since my early 20s.  I’ve always found it so fun it doesn’t feel like work at all.  Even when things go wrong, it’s never a bad night and I always go home smiling.

As anyone who’s ever worked in food service will tell you, when things start to go wrong they snowball quickly.  If you don’t manage them, you end up with a nightmare station of guests who hate you.  Recovery is impossible until your tables turn over.

Sometimes, people just want to break you:

“What is wrong with you? Don’t you know how to time dinners?”

I’m sorry, I see that someone brought your appetizers out too soon, you wanted them with the entrees.  Your meals will be ready in about two minutes.  Would you like me to return these to the kitchen and order you new ones?

“No. You’re an awful waitress.”

I’m sorry you feel that way.  I’ll be right back with your drink refills.

“You should quit and get another job, you really suck at this one.”

I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m doing the very best I can to make sure you enjoy your meals.

“You haven’t done anything this whole time. Nothing.”

Is there anything else I can bring for you?

“We don’t want anything else from you.”

…………………………………………………..

When you’re a server, everyone wants (and deserves) a piece of you.

This guest wasn’t happy with her fair share of my time.  She wanted to break me into pieces and keep them all for herself.

…………………………………………………..

My failure to make this guest happy is the smallest of things I’ve gotten wrong in the last 40 years.  She spoke directly to the heart of truths I’ve held about myself: What’s wrong with you? You haven’t done anything. You really suck at this.

I’m acutely aware of the myriad ways I’ve failed others and of the ways I’ve failed myself.  I often get things wrong while raising a child who has ADHD.  I don’t do enough as a wife to hold up my end of our marriage. My last paralegal job was so traumatizing that I still can’t bear the idea of going back to work in a law firm.  I make commitments and break them.  I don’t save enough money for retirement.  I don’t nurture strong connections with my extended family, and I should.  I plan to exercise more and then pay for a gym membership I don’t use.  I can’t stop buying books and yarn.

I fail.  I fail every fucking day.

That woman didn’t realize she couldn’t break me more than I’ve broken myself.  It wasn’t possible for her to hand me an accounting of my failures greater than my own.

…………………………………………………..

Failure is evidence you’ve lived.  If your past isn’t littered with failure, have you ever grown?  Have you ever discarded a belief?  Have you ever done something better than the last time you tried?  Have you ever apologized or made amends?

Failure is only a bad thing if you allow it to own you.  When you harness its energy, it becomes a powerful catalyst for future success.  Failures are a solid foundation on which to build, because you must dig deep to move forward — through the layers of self-doubt and embarrassment and hurt feelings and shame.

Immediate success is intensely satisfying.  But the roots aren’t yet there to hold you fast to the ground.  When you fail, and you most certainly will, you’ll face a choice:  fall over or dig deep.

Which will you choose?

…………………………………………………..

As she and her party left, I wished everyone a happy new year.  They didn’t respond, turning their heads away from me so violently I’m shocked they didn’t get whiplash.  I knew I’d find no tip on the credit card slip.

I dug deep.  I refused to hand my pieces over to her.

Finding joy in my heart, I thanked her for the opportunity to fail.

Related Posts