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I am a failure

I spent the weekend on retreat with our beloved Franciscan Sisters. One of the many things we do (my husband and I, and the others lay folks that work with them) is to individually discuss  what we call our creative process, which includes how we deal with crisis. We start with our initial reaction to a crisis. Mine is: "I am a failure".

On the first night of the retreat, we were asked to come up with something from our Franciscan lives, without too much thought - first thing that came to mind, to share with the group as an icebreaker. Mine was "I am a failure".

Now, that's not as horrible as it sounds. I mean, it's only the first step in a long sequence of steps that I go through whenever I face a crisis in my life. It really does get better. But that's always where I start.

There are a lot of reasons for my starting at this place. Most of it has to do with the perfectionist tendencies I have and the willingness to take on the burden of everything in my life, whether it's my responsibility or not. It's where I start. It's not where I end up.

At certain times in my life, this "failure step" is a place I get stuck. It feels like I can't do enough, be enough, talk enough, get anything accomplished fast enough or good enough. I'm betting a lot of people feel like this. The Psalmist David did:
Hasten to answer me, O Lord, for my spirit fails me. Hide not your face from me lest I become like those who go down into the pit. (Psalm 143:7-8)
I cannot think of a more apt way to describe what I've been feeling of late: a failure of spirit, God hiding His face from me, being in a pit. It is an easy place to get stuck.

What's the remedy? It's pretty simple, yet very difficult: staying close to Christ in the sacraments and in prayer. I don't want to pray. It's hard to pray. I feel like a failure even at prayer, but it's the only ladder out of the pit.


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I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

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black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
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the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.