Success: a Kind of Inventory

A reporter once asked GWB’s press officer, “How do you explain your failure to capture Osama bin Laden?”

The White House press officer said, “We don’t look at that as a failure, but as a success that hasn’t happened yet.”

There’s a lot to be said for potential, and the future is uncertain; the guy was right. Just because they hadn’t caught bin Laden up till then didn’t mean they wouldn’t. Still, the “spin” was hilarious.

In the web of a human life the notion of success is very complex. I’m an enormous success because I have an income, a home, enough to eat, a reliable car to drive and I can pay my bills. I’ve also been extremely successful in the matter of dogs. On the other hand, I’m a huge failure because I never managed to form a lasting romantic relationship and live happily ever after. I’m a great success as a writer because I wrote three good novels. I’m a failure as a writer because my books are not best-sellers. I’m an enormous success as a writer because two book groups are reading them this winter. A group in Texas is reading Martin of Gfenn and a group in Montana is reading The Brothers Path. 

I’m a success because I’ve done three paintings I’m enormously proud of and love enough to hang on my own walls. That says a lot because generally, I don’t like looking at my own work. I was a huge failure as a teacher because I never got tenure. I was a huge success as a teacher because people learned from me and some were even inspired. I’m also yugely successful because I have fulfilled my dreams of traveling and seeing more than the confines of my world, my country, my expectations; I’ve made opportunities for myself to follow that star, though some people have said, “You’re lucky.” Not luck; priorities. I’ve managed to learn a few languages well enough to “get by” in different countries. I did that myself as I discovered in college that the way languages are taught in school doesn’t help me learn. I’m a huge success because I’ve enjoyed my life.

However, I’m still struggling to successfully defeat this virus.

That’s the way it goes. Some things are in my control, most is out of my hands.

12 thoughts on “Success: a Kind of Inventory

  1. Fortunately, we are not actually required to define ourselves by either our triumphs or our defeats. I’ve got plenty of both and they are things I’ve done, stuff that happened to me, life accidents, good stuff, bad stuff … but it doesn’t add up to me. Or you. We are outside that.

    Except for the virus. That’s right in there. It’s bound to let go eventually. It just FEELS like forever. Chicken soup. It’s your last best hope.

    • You’re probably right about chicken soup, but I cannot eat another drop. My neighbor made me glorious and tasty homemade chicken soup, but even with that came a moment when my body said, “I can’t take any more.” Ice cream tastes good right now and normally, I can’t stand the stuff. It’s all a big mystery and I’m feeling like a character from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 🙂

  2. I read your post slowly: thinking, responding, agreeing, connecting. Then your last two lines tickled me no end. I’m still tee-heeing. I’m sorry you’re sick, but can’t help but feel your pain was worth my mirth. This idea of personal success and failure is intriguing. Like you, I’ve experienced more than my share of both. And as a teacher, I also understand that teaching can cause both success and failure — sometimes on a daily basis. Though, over-all, like you, I think I was a success.

    • Thank you. I guess some of what we call success is in our control, some depends on how we look at it, and much of what we aspire to is not in our control at all – like this virus. But…teaching. The biggest success, for me, is that I loved it for almost the entire 30+ years and given the option, I would do it all again. ❤

      • I tell young people who are wondering if they should go into teaching that every day was rewarding for me, that I was never bored, and that, like you, I would do it all again. I was always baffled by colleagues who told their children not to go into education.

        • There’s no money in it. I think that’s one of the reasons. I also think that many people go into education for different reasons than I did. I went into it because, between under grad and grad school, I taught a man to read. I had never felt as happy or satisfied in my life. I knew that was what I wanted more than I wanted money or any other thing. I worked as a volunteer teacher in a literacy program all the way through grad school and after. I was very lucky to accidentally walk into my destiny. I’d never thought of becoming a teacher. I was going to be a famous writer or journalist.

    • Thank you! I think I’m a success, too. I did everything that it was in my power to do as well as I could and I have been happy. I don’t know what else there is! 🙂 ❤

  3. Hopefully you’ll over come this virus and return to your successful existence living a full life in the wilderness with your wonderful canine companions. ❤

    • Thank you! I dream of that every night, Barb, believe me. But I think I got this because I didn’t give myself time to fully recover from the first bout so I am taking my time… ❤

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