Six months ago I wrote a blog about success and failure. Here is a resume and an update.
Success and failure: I struggle with these two close cousins. You might be on the cusp of success, moments later it can turn into failure.
Three years ago I discovered I have a specific learning disability related to dyspraxia. It was January 2013 and I was aged 51. It is a complicated story. When I made the discovery, I was in trouble at work and on a capability procedure. The dyspraxia has a history; getting bogged down taking A levels; staying in the library over nights to make deadlines when doing a degree; after starting paid work, using my own time to keep on top of things. I am lazy, chaotic, easily distracted, my own worst enemy. I am also conscientious, well organised, focused, and a problem solver. The latter takes a considerable effort and time I haven’t got. My dyspraxia causes a poor working memory, and slower than average ability to process information.
The diagnosis came as a revelation. Suddenly I understood what was going on. It gave me back some power. Dyspraxia does not go away. It is how I am made. My managers were not easily won over. I had lost faith and confidence in myself. The struggle continued. I gained support of people who coached and mentored me, and I found strategies that worked. Over a couple of years, I persevered, step by painful step, and perhaps for the first time, I gained control.
Was it chance or serendipity that caused me to discover the dyspraxia or was it God’s gentle grace?
Yet this hard won control can easily slip. Something can change the equilibrium and again failure can be knocking on the door. Change is a risk factor for me.
In July 2015 everything changed. We were taken over by a new employer. I like the change of emphasis away from the medical model of care to social care. It is a subtle change. The employer is keen to make us as a team of excellence and is aware of my difficulties. Yet, I feared being in trouble again. I requested a new mentor to help me learn new computer systems and short cuts through technology.
Yet from July to November I had struggled on my own, knowing that I had let things slip. It was hard to catch up with the backlog and face fresh demands. There was respite when I talked to our Divine Mentor. Despite those conversations, I lurched from one anxious moment to the next as I made mistake after mistake.
I tried to stay light, mask the rising panic and smile through the pain. I was like a duck, gliding on a flooding river, appearing effortless, only under the water; webbed feet paddled furiously in the torrent, in the effort to keep afloat.
In the words of Stevie Smith:
“I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.”
I finally fell down, the week before Holy week. I failed. My Manager discovered my plight and work incomplete. Then came my “dark night of the soul”. Have you ever experienced this? Sleep is elusive. In the wee small hours I got up and came downstairs to read or think or pray. I prayed aloud in whispers. Willow thought I was talking to him and purred. At least someone was awake. I trusted that God too was awake. I thought of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. I felt nothing but agony and failure. I wrote things down. I had so much to do the following day. I could not afford to remain wakeful. I went back to bed at 5:30am and fell into a dream filled sleep.
The next day, exhausted, I tried to concentrate in the open plan office. I was so distracted it took me an hour to do nothing. Close to tears, I went to my Manager, and again whispering because I could hardly speak I pleaded with her to let me work in a small office used for meetings. Fortunately it was free. Away from the rest, she talked to me and listened. My tears flowed. Then, I spent the day in my quiet space until the caretaker kicked me out at 7pm
After that I was on annual leave for two weeks. Initially the trauma was so great I could not talk about it. I wanted and needed respite. My Manager told me that when I return to work, she would have written a support plan to combat my stress and to include their expectations of my new role.
I felt embarrassed, grateful, ashamed, relieved, hopeful, and afraid.
Would I remain a failure or achieve success?
And this is my question to you: in God’s upside down kingdom what is the nature of success and what is failure? When we look at the people of the Bible, who is successful and who fails? Did Moses fail because he was unable to enter the Promised Land? It was said of Joseph, the dreamer that “success was with him”, and he nearly lost his life at the hands of his brothers and was thrown into prison through a false accusation. If that were success, what would failure look like? And what about Jesus? His life was taken by public execution. On a human perspective, surely that looks like failure?
I am still struggling. I would be grateful for your prayers, thoughts and constructive comments…