Egg Catcher in the Raw

June 2, 2010

The title of this post would not lead you to believe for a moment that this is actually about facing failure.  One of my favorite writers on the planet, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, says in her epic poem “The Invitation,”  “I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!” If you’ve read my earlier post on the “squirm factor,” this topic definitely makes me squirm.  And I take that to mean that there is some growth available here, darn it.  Fine.

As a recovering overachiever, failure is just not in the vocab.  In fact, it would be the thing to avoid at almost any cost, really.  Partaking in the fruits of failure might lead to that scary state of being human, and, well, we all know how over-rated THAT is.  As a pure, unadulterated thought, failure is just a pure, unadulterated thought.  As a feeling, well, it generally is unpleasant.  I don’t know about you but I have called a failure a failure most of my life and this new concept of using the word “falling” instead takes a little getting used to, as in:  Honey, you had a falling when you missed that deadline, you are not a failure when you missed that deadline.  Well, don’t wordsmith me…a missed deadline is a deadline that failed.  Or, as my children love to tell me “That was an ‘epic fail’ mom!!!”  But I do see the real point here.  I do recognize that when we come up short in some human endeavor we often respond with the notion that we have failed and some of the more masochistic of us take it to the next level:  therefore I am a failure.  As if by missing the mark on something we then get a free pass to identify ourselves with the condition of being a failure.  How delightful that this is in fact absurd, ego-based, illusion-laden thinking.

Where I really want to go with this is to the place where we as a people re-examine our relationship to failing, falling short and failure–all of it.  I’d like to suggest that we begin to increase our capacity to catch eggs.  I hope you will appreciate the challenge it is going to be to use my native English to capture what is in fact optimally done with that wonderful technology known as U-tube.   And yes, I’ll spell it like I want to, thanks.  Picture if you will a spry thirtysomething fellow in an oxford cloth shirt and jeans standing next to a waist-high square table upon which sits 50 dozen raw eggs.  Fortunately for the story here these eggs will not be chugged raw by the thirtysomething fellow.  A mere 15 feet away is another thirtysomething fellow standing beside an empty waist-high square table covered only in a cotton tablecloth.  Our first fellow has been challenged to see how many eggs he can toss to the second fellow within a five-minute time period.  The second fellow has but one job: catch as many eggs as possible in the time allotted without breaking them at any time in the process from catching to placing on the table.  The clock ticks and the eggs fly!!! So many options, so little time.  Some eggs fly over the head of the catcher, though not many, splaying themselves on the back wall behind the catcher.  Some land gracefully into the hands of the egg catcher.  Perhaps one ends up on his cheek, his tosser sending them a little to swiftly at times.  Some crack upon impact on the table.  A ton of them have a succesful journey.  From the perspective of the egg catcher, this is like catching bullets, not dodging them.  I chose to focus on the catcher and ignored the tosser when I first saw this amazing act.  Egg after egg after egg was lobbed at this daunting dude and I noticed that no matter what the final destiny of any given egg, he stood ready to follow, catch and place the eggs onto that table.  Egg on the face?  Didn’t phase him at all.  Egg on the thigh?  ‘Nothin.  Eggs on the wall….no biggy.  DING!  Time was up.  He had a great collection of them, and, when all was said and done, he did not break the Guinness world record (where only absurd contests such as these exist) but he taught me what I wanted to know about failure.  Yessiree!  Egg on your face?  Wipe it off, keep going.  Egg flying past you over to the next guy?  Deal, move on.  Eggs landing square into your hands, right oh! High speed eggs, low-speed eggs, intermittent eggs…doesn’t matter.  When it comes to catching eggs it’s staying in the game that counts and laughing at the mess and spending little, if any, time dwelling on the broken ones.  Love the broken ones, and, more are coming so stay in that game!  What good would it do us to try to attach ourselves to that gooey, slippery, raw egg that just dropped?  Look at it, appreciate it, love yourself for having tried to catch it and look out for more eggs!!

So certainly, how we respond to life’s “eggs” (the other ‘f’ word) will determine what kind of relationship we will have when we come up short on something.  I know that after I saw this lively demonstration I most emphatically decided that I want to be an egg catcher when I grow up…or now would be ok too.  I want to get better and better at catching them but more so at being much more nonplussed at those inevitable times when they splatter, smash and fly over my head.  Take me to that world where nobody gets to be wrong.  Ever.


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