A couple of weeks ago, I was asked about my biggest failure. What is your biggest failure? The question has had my mind swirling ever since. Here’s my answer to that question and what I’ve learned from my experience.
Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I love this quote. In fact, I love it so much that it is often my mantra during difficult times.
In particular, I remember reciting this quote over and over to myself as I struggled to learn the technology necessary to get this website designed and running the way that I’d like. For months, I’d read instructions, try, and fail. Over and over again, I’d remind myself that I wasn’t actually failing; I was learning.
Some days that quote would resonate with me more than others. Sometimes, it fell flat and felt like a BS consolation that you tell yourself so that you can hold back tears.
Now, after all the work and all the “learning opportunities,” here I am with a website that I’m proud of, a website that doesn’t feel like a failure at all. So, that doesn’t seem like a very fair or responsible answer to the question, What is your biggest failure?
It hardly seems right that my biggest failure would be something that I’m proud of, something that I don’t consider to be a failure at all. I went back to thinking.
My Other “Failures”
I suppose I could talk about my extreme love of chocolate and how that often sabotages my plans for a healthy diet. Likewise, I could talk about my laziness and lack of desire to vigorously exercise.
What makes it so difficult to list any of these as actual failures is that I’m very happy with how I am. I’m sure that when I feel like it’s important, I’ll be able to reduce my chocolate and do some cardio, but I’m very happy with my life right now.
Similarly, I could list any of the Keeping up with the Joneses type topics such as:
- I’m not a Pinterest mom who does crafty things for her kids.
- I don’t read up on developments in Pilates and yoga as often as I’d like.
- My garden (which is only 4 fruit trees) is dying.
- I don’t decorate our house.
- I eat out too often and don’t cook enough.
Truly, the list is endless. You can compare yourself to others all day, but the only thing that really matters is that, at the end of the day, you’re happy with who you are.
That’s where I’m at. So, if I haven’t had a big failure and I don’t count any of the small stuff as personal failures, how can I answer this thought-provoking question?
My biggest failure is accidentally enabling others to make unhealthy choices. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you should never do something for someone if they can do it themselves. By doing things for capable people, you are enabling them. Maybe they won’t make unhealthy choices, but you won’t know until later on.
I’m almost 40, and there’s only one regret that I have in my life thus far. I never should have bought my mother-in-law a house.
In 2009, we moved my husband’s mom to our town. We bought a house for her because we wanted her to be closer to family, and she told us that she wanted to be closer to medical care. My husband’s mom suffered from post-polio issues and had been having lots of pain and stiffness with joints throughout her body.
One day, I got a call from my sister-in-law. Their mom had not been answering her phone and her husband was concerned. He called my sister-in-law to inform her. Then, my sister-in-law called me, the homeowner, to inform me.
When I showed up at the house, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were there. We went in the house together and discovered quite a scene.
The small kitchen table was covered with sealed, hand-written notes and jewelry. Specific pieces of jewelry were set aside, but most of it was in an open display box. Next to the box was an instruction sheet about how the jewelry should be divided.
In her room, we found my mother-in-law. She was very heavily drugged. Her speech was unintelligible. It was as if her tongue swelled to fill the whole inside of her mouth.
She couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom. My sister-in-law and I had to maneuver her into the bathroom. Once we got there, she wasn’t even able to pull down her own underwear. My sister-in-law did that for her, and we sat her on the toilet.
I had never in my life seen such a thing. Was this what death looked like? My mother-in-law had always said that she believed it was her right to commit suicide if she wanted, and all of us were too young to challenge her wishes.
We walked her back to her bed. She had wrapped it in Saran Wrap. I suppose this was because she had borrowed the mattress from us, and she didn’t want it to get ruined if she died.
Once we got her in bed, the three of us had to decide what to do. I know now, we should have called 911. If we would have just called an ambulance, they would have recorded and reported everything and it would have been out of our hands.
But we were too young to know better, so we hung around at the house while she gradually came out of her drug-induced stupor. Of course, we didn’t know it at the time, but this was one of the last good days.
Eventually, the siblings joined together to have their mom committed to a mental health facility. This completely dissolved the relationships that she had with her children.
How I Failed
When I look back at this situation, I can see two main spots where I failed. Obviously, I should have called the authorities to let them deal with this. However, my first failure was buying the house.
My husband’s mom had an inheritance check that she was holding onto. If she had wanted to live in our town so badly, she easily could have bought a house herself. Instead, we offered to buy one for her.
That’s my mistake; that’s my failure. I’ve learned from it, and I do my best to remember to let other people take care of themselves. And never do something for someone if they’re capable of doing it themselves.
Discussing your biggest failure is so uplifting! (Ha ha!) Does anyone else want to share about their biggest failure? If you do, let us know in the comments below.
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