Using the Feelings of Failure as a Tool of Exploration
Flying home to Baltimore, I had a sudden flash of fear and sadness ripple through my body. The feeling and thought was, “I am a failure.” Ten years since my husband died. Five years of living in Los Angeles and traveling to different parts of the world, why do I feel like a failure?
I can make a list of some of the things I have accomplished since my husband died ten years. Organized and sponsored Evolutionary Women retreats and mentored a group of 44 women to write stories in a book called Conscious Choices: An Evolutionary Woman’s Guide to Life. Ordained as a spiritual peace minister in the Beloved Community. Studied and completed two different year long coaching programs. Completed the homeschooling of my youngest child who graduated from Santa Monica College and is now enrolled at UCLA. Sold a house and my husband’s business and moved from Maryland to California. Drove over 40,000 miles in the United States in a three year period. Traveled to several countries. Started an organization called Heal My Voice with nine published books of true stories by women, two of the books in Swedish and developed and launched several other programs. Became On Purpose Woman of the Year in 2013. And there is much more I could add to this list.
Looking at that list, how can I even think I am a failure?
It comes down to internal and external expectations. It means I am focusing on the things I haven’t accomplished. It means I am trying to measure myself by the standards of society, family and friends.
This is not the first time I have felt like this. In 1980, when my 5th High School Reunion rolled around, I didn’t attend because I had this feeling of not having done enough. I had graduated from Temple University with a BSW and was immediately hired by an organization focused on working with teenagers. I loved my job and my life. I was living with my boyfriend. We had been together for four years. But we weren’t married and were not engaged and I wasn’t pregnant. It is so crazy to think about it now as my 40th reunion is approaching. Why did I think I should have accomplished all of that in 5 years?
I was caught up in the inner critic and the expectations in my head and noticing the life that other high school graduates were living in my town. I now have moments of feeling incredulous about that because it feels so crazy! AND…here I am once again with this idea of expectations of what my life “should” look like and what I “should” have accomplished instead of asking myself if I am using the time I have on the earth to experience and explore life in ways that are meaningful to me. Am I living the life I want to be living?
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Even that statement is limiting, it is more than that. Life is a series of experiences where we learn about ourselves in connection to people, places and things. A moment of intimate connection, a moment of laughter, a moment of sensation with smell, touch, seeing, hearing, feeling. It is the moment in the experiences. It is many journeys with many twists and turns and many destinations. Stops along the road.
So, noticing the feeling of failure in my heart and soul right now, I have been using the feelings as a tool of exploration. Noticing the depth of this feeling inside of me and noticing how it is being reflected in the comments of a few well meaning family and friends. For the last six weeks, I have embraced this feeling of failure as a teacher. I let myself sit in the feelings; Giving myself a day here and there to just feel shitty. No pushing through it to find the silver lining, to give myself a pep talk, no putting on a happy face or listing all the ways I have impacted hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the world.
Feeling all of the feelings is helping me to unravel outdated beliefs and get to some core or root issues. It is helping me to identify my “expectations” and the societal pressure to be anything except me. It is helping me to get in touch with my desire, to love myself more, to redefine my life and let it come into form with newly discovered desires. It is helping me to notice where I have impacted the world around me. It is helping me to find questions to ask and explore. I am writing, meditating, listening, reading, watching movies, having some conversations with people.
What do I want to create? Who do I want to spend time with? Where do I want to live?
At the age of 58, there is an expectation that I should be looking to retire, slow down, live in one place. Instead, I am continuing to live what may seem like a radical life. I listen to Spirit and I follow the beat of my inner guidance. I do not own a home or a car. I have been asking myself if I want to change that and how will that serve the expansion of the work I am passionate about. Do I need my own home to do the things I want and feel guided to be doing in the world? Or is it better to be home free?
The question I ask myself regularly is: “What does my soul want to experience and how what gifts do I have to share with the world?”
This is the experience I am choosing right now. Living in temporary spaces by house and pet sitting. Working out of coffee shops. Writing and listening.
I am curious. What is the question you are exploring right now? Post in the comment section and share it with us.
I wrote this blog post in August 2015. Nine months later there were new ideas and a new program I created that helped me excavate and alchemize my experiences into supporting women on the same journey.
Andrea Hylen received the 2013 On Purpose Women award by the On Purpose Networking for Women (OPN) organization in Baltimore, MD in recognition for her work to empower everyday women and girls all over the world. She founded Heal My Voice through her own experiences with grief, trauma, and loss which lead to living from greater inner authority, purpose and leadership. Andrea’s journey with grief includes the loss of her brother, husband and son.
With more than thirty-five years of training and teaching experience, Andrea is a coach, author, speaker, and parent, with expertise in grief, and healing from sexuality and trauma. Her training includes, BSW from Temple University, Ordained Minister in the Beloved Community, Enwaken Coaching System and OneTaste Coaching program and ongoing trainings in energy healing.
In addition to serving as Heal My Voice’s Executive Director, Andrea is an Orgasmic Meditation Teacher and Sexuality Coach. She thoroughly enjoys connecting through social media, blogging and hosting radio shows.