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Failure is not a dirty word.

10-04-2010

mayaleavesMaya Stein, poet, writer, teacher, feral hairdresser, and chef, joins us as our guest at Happy Hour today at 12n PST. Below is a snippet of conversation from our Lively Conversation, Drive into Your Dreams, with Maya. And below that, a poem of hers called The Luxury of Failure.

It might seem odd to launch the “Driving into Your Dreams” conversation by talking about failure. But after I listened to the Lively Conversation I was really struck by the idea that allowing ourselves to fail may be the very first step in “Driving into our Dreams.” We have to trust the journey that life takes us on. We have to allow ourselves to not be perfect. Give ourselves space. Here’s what Maya said:

“I”m a big believer in making mistakes. I have this poem I wrote called, The Luxury of Failure. There is something beautiful about failure, which is: we get to start over again. That word, “failure” is tinged with negativity but really it is an opportunity to try it again, maybe using different muscles or tactics or having different expectations.”

The Luxury of Failure (by Maya Stein)

After the cake had fallen.
After the vase shattered and the vacuum had died.
After she had miscalculated how much water
even the cactus needed. After a poem
had slipped through her fingers.
After she had broken someone’s heart.
After the taxman had taken her savings and the rain
had wiped out the garden. After the apology
didn’t come. After no one noticed her new dress.
After her body became a series of disappointments.
After she had run out of ways to save him and the cord
of her bedside lamp had frayed beyond repair.
After the bolts of the garage door had buckled
under the weight. After she had buried her wild anger.
After the doctors had reached an impasse.
After the weather showed no signs of improvement.
After the coffee failed to revive and the stranger
did not rescue her from loneliness. After desire
had not met with fulfillment. After the moon had
winked out and the sky became a wail of question marks.
After the detour had ended in a mud puddle.
After the horse would not come to feed at her hands.
After the baby refused to be held. After the tear
in her shirt had widened irreparably and the muscle for patience
had exhausted itself. After she could hold her breath
no longer. After winter had pummeled her with frost.
After the hill proved too much for her bicycle.
After the front door swelled and stuck and the window
was a cemetery of moths. After the wind
swallowed her whole. After love was a carpet
of potholes. After even escape eluded her.
After she could not bear another almost.

She did not despair but instead
welcomed the luxury of failure,
the velvet of it warming her skin,
how easy it was to slide into its open arms,
and nestle against its breast.
She thought it would take everything she knew
to fling her weight against it, shoulder it
from her path, sandbag the corners of her house
to keep it from leaking in and drowning the furniture.
She imagined its animal clutch at her throat,
the feral mewling in her ear, the cadaver scent
of it putrefying the air. She had pictured
its hulking footsteps presaging an earthquake ruin
for what she had worked so hard to keep whole.
She had armed herself against the possible wreckage,
kept the medicine cabinet replete with bandages,
left a surreptitious trail of breadcrumbs behind her.

But no.
It turned out failure
was a tiny slip of a thing,
a drop of water that could topple
an army,
a clear-eyed note slicing a thousand cacophonies,
a single seed offering this magnificent invitation:
Again.
Begin again.

Poem, The Luxury of Failure copyright Maya Stein.

“Meet” Maya at our virtual Happy Hour to chat about dreams and failure and allowing and whatever else you want to talk about! 12n. Monday, October 4. Click here for instructions on how to join us on Facebook. Or leave your thoughts as comments on this blog. We’d love to hear from you!

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