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Finding the Wisdom in Failure

Posted Nov 25 2012 6:30am

There is a rhythm to weight loss. A cadence.

I have lost it.

It is as simple as a child swinging their legs on the seat of a swing, going ever higher with each contraction of his legs, suddenly losing his timing: the swing loses its momentum and regardless of the energy spent, the swinging slows and comes back to earth.

A birthday celebration and a Thanksgiving have broken my rhythm  The swing is motionless – the momentum gone. Last week I was steady in the high 190s and today is the second day I am 205 – a nice bump of 7-8 pounds.

This is prime material for what I call ‘Failure Practice’.

Failure practice is the art of failing gracefully, and without recrimination – without blame. There are reasons, certainly, but searching around for a basket full of excuses takes your eye off the ball.

So does despair, which is the most useless of human emotions.

It must be remembered that perfection is not a common human trait. Nor is consistency  We all succeed at anything in spite of ourselves. Those who make it look easy are liars who leave out the less than flattering portions of their narrative.

Instead, I’ll come clean to my flaws and be authentic in my presentation of them. It is the first rule of failure practice: honesty.

A brief post-mortem is where you start. The term ‘post-mortem’ – ‘after death’ – is used in medicine to describe the autopsy done to determine why someone died. It is also used in business by those brave enough to analyze failure to describe the process where you review a failed project to see exactly what went wrong.

My weight loss constitutes a project, and my failure, I believe, stems from the following causes:

Novel routine. I find myself wonderfully unbusy over the long holiday weekend – made longer by my taking a few days off that I will lose if I don’t use. While enjoying this free time, it did allow for extra snacking on things I ought not to.

My birthday and Thanksgiving in the same week gave me too many opportunities for indulging in food. I have no regrets as to what I ate on either of those days, but the combo of the holiday and birthday, combined with the extra free time, with the addition of leftovers, equaled an upset scale.

That’s the honest assessment of the situation. The second half of the equation is: why did I succumb? This is where most people beat themselves up or perform some ritual self-abuse like starving themselves or running to the gym to hurt themselves exercising as some penance. You have to be careful here because this is where we can descend into disorder – where our goals lose all sense of proportion and instead of liberating us, enslave us.

I succumbed, really, because I stopped counting. I count calories not because I think calories count all that much, but as an awareness exercise. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but it helps me stay aware of what and how much I am eating.

I also failed because I am human, and this is where we find the center of our forgiveness. If you hate yourself for failing, you hate humanity. Failure is a lesson in humility and where wisdom comes from. Its offspring also include patience, tolerance and humor.

It also brings perspective.

I must admit that the number on the scale was a slap in the face this morning, but I accept it as the pebble it is and will not make it into a  millstone that hangs around my neck. The path back is the same path I’ve always taken. I know it well.

If I am going over the same ground I trod before, it must be because there is some lesson to be learned here – one that I missed last time.

What brought me here will make me wiser if I am open to it.

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