Resiliency and the Art of Failure

For a few years when I was on the brink of adolescence, my family took a yearly trip to Bar Harbor Maine. These were magical days, when angst about my father’s health, and worries about bills all but disappeared. Disagreements were set aside and most of the time if a family could have a mood, mine had a good one. Almost every day, no matter the temperature or weather condition, we headed off to spend at least a few hours at Sand Beach, in Acadia National Park.

Each year, before stepping on the sand, I would kick off my flip-flops, place my bare feet for a moment on the scorching pavement, and face the beach with arms opened wide to breathe in the cool salt tinged scent that rode the air. The hair on my arms always lifted slightly in response to the sticky cool mist that landed there. This ritual contained feelings of excitement, anticipation, and fear.

According to the park service, the water temperature rarely reaches or exceeds 55 degrees, even at the height of summer and on the hottest of days. The beach itself, is made up of fine shell particles which are not all that soft, but are incredibly beautiful to look at, especially if you lie on your stomach in the water with the sun beating down on your back. The waves are not huge, but they are powerful, and loud.

My mission in life was to ride, explore, and survive the alluring surf – despite pounds of sand misdirected unkindly and with force into delicate parts of my body. The rocks surrounding the beach held equally wonderful mysteries and were a great distraction from numb limbs, blue lips, and skin etched pink by a million Brillo pads.

At the end of each beach session, I would return to the car drained of energy, with my heart (and often my head) pounding, sometimes scraped and raw, yet exhilarated beyond belief. Each night, I would write about these times in my journal with great detail, before shutting off the light and drifting off to sleep with a slight recurring vertigo, echoing the wave motions in my body. I considered that beach a friend, mentor, and confidant.  Every year I looked forward to going back, so much so that I experienced a profound sense of loss the first year we were no longer able to go. In all the years since, I have I have continued to hold that beach in highest reverential regard as one of my first true loves.

What makes a child risk life, limb, and dignity to be pummeled and crashed down upon over and over, day after day, and year after year? And more, how did that child become the woman I am today, who has failed gloriously more times than it is possible to recount or recall, yet remains resilient and optimistic about life more days than not?

I was driving in the car pondering this question when the answer came softly in a whisper I had to strain to hear. It wasn’t personal. I immediately turned down the radio to listen closer. The surf at Sand Beach knew nothing of the intimate or sordid details of my life. IT WASN”T PERSONAL! I started to repeat it out-loud, over and over, until I burst out laughing.

The pounding was not an indictment or indication or carrier of anything remotely shameful, unjust, or untrue. It was simply the benefactor of lessons I was learning at the time that were way beyond my years. How could I have not known this all these years? That huge shift continued throughout the day as I tried on more painful failures clothed in that same understanding.

Are you kidding me? Even the MOST humiliating debilitating spectacularly painful failure – so I tried that one on too. YEP. Still true. It wasn’t personal and neither are any of the bad days with mom. Wow, I have always known, and said that I welcome failure as a lover and befriending it has helped me continue, but this? This is a huge foundational shift.

I turned to my dictionary and spent a happy hour contemplating definitions about failure, success and their derivatives. I won’t bore you with all that, but what struck me was this;  succeed – what one aims or wants to, lead to a desired result, from the latin – come close after. Um, sounds pretty intimate to me, and a far cry from how much of society perceives such notions.

Did you all really already know this and were just waiting for me to figure it out???? Well, we will certainly continue to explore this theme in posts to come. In the meantime, I would love to hear from some of you about your most spectacular failures and how they have caused you to ‘come close after’ to your true self.

Storm clouds, clear skies, sun showers, fog, wind, rain, hurricane, tsunami, flood, high tide and low, life continues. There is power hidden in the shame-free chamber of this miracle. Breathe in, breathe out, and know with all your heart that you too are enough.



"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 bakka2thesource a collaboration of musicians and artists.
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6 Responses to Resiliency and the Art of Failure

  1. Amy Lapetina says:

    This is monumental! I have to think about this for a while, like you did, to see how it relates to my own life. Thank you once again, my friend.

  2. Robert Vanderwaall says:

    Beautiful job Beth on describing the beach, pebbles, sun and skin, etc. Although I have never been able to describe these things like this I do share with you these wonderful life experiences and happenings. I see photographs and through Photoshop try to make them so others see what I felt. Once in a while I’m able to write a song or short story. You do all this so well and getting better and better all the time. I like your very discriptive way of writing. A real art form.

    • Thanks, as always your keen eye and way of seeing beyond the surface of things. One of the things I appreciate most about you. I love the photos you post and your stories about singing for seniors and vets. I think it amazing that we grew up together in some parallel ways but never interacted much, but now support each other as artists. How cool is that?????

  3. Chris Stygles says:

    We are very fragile creatures. We aren’t neccessarily built with antennas or a sixth sense. So we are exposed to an agressive world.Then the body and the mind tire. Age kicks in and the years take their toll. The spirit keeps going though. Nice memories and friends, one’s faith and an occasional smile from a coworker or someone who passes you on the sidewalk with a smile helps make the load a little lighter and the journey more enjoyable. Thanks for sharing.

    • Chris, It is so true, a little kindness goes a long way, and I would certainly say that I experience your words as uplift. Fragile yes, and so very extraordinary. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Hope you will share more as time goes on. Beth

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