I think I may be a little late writing this post, except, maybe not. Maybe it’s better to write this a couple days after Black Friday, when the world loses its mind over shit it doesn’t need, and the day before Cyber Monday, when the world does the same, only online.
I would have written it on Thanksgiving, but I was too busy eating, everything. And then of course the day after Thanksgiving was not an option since I was super busy trampling the elderly and knifing people to save 40 bucks on a cell phone at Walmart.
As Melville said: “Ah, humanity.”
(If you can call that shit ‘human.’)
I’m grateful for a lot of things. The nanny, for example (AKA The Gift Descended Upon us From on High via Craigslist). My husband. My kids. Not having cancer. My home. My dogs. Bacon.
The standard stuff.
But you already know that. You gotta be a real asshole with some seriously limited perspective to not be grateful for the fact that some people love you and you aren’t suffering from terminal illness and you have a home and a Labrador with floppy ears and kids that think you’re alright.
Sometimes, of course, I am that real asshole with no perspective (and I whine and moan and cry because something isn’t going my way (OH POOR ME)), but mostly, as many of you know, I realize I’m lucky to have anything in my life, let alone the aforementioned bundles of goodness.
And maybe it’s for that reason that the thing I’m most grateful for, above all else, is the fact that I was once a total and complete failure.
I’m not trying to be cute. I’m not begging for compliments. I’m stating a fact. Four years ago I looked at my life and saw failure, in every direction. As a mother, wife, daughter, employee, friend, citizen of earth.
I tried to pull it off, I really did. But I couldn’t. I failed. One of the definitions of failure is “a state of inability to perform a normal function.” Yes, precisely. That was me.
And the “normal function” I was unable to perform was life.
Why was I a failure? Because I was maladjusted to life. Because I was immature, self-centered and full of fear. Because I relied on MYSELF, somehow not quite realizing I was the reason my life wasn’t working.
And for these reasons, I was a fucking drunk.
But I couldn’t admit it. So I blamed you and you and him and her and this and that until it damn near killed me.
Everybody talks so much about success like it’s the most important thing in life: Yay me! Go me! Look at these successes! And they’re all thankful for the way life has delivered them what they wanted. They’re grateful for having some neatly wrapped package of existence, all snug and comfortable and pretty. And for sure, that’s some good shit. Go team.
Maybe I’m just weird, but in my experience, the only real, lasting good in my life – the only solid perspective, lasting contentment, enduring peace or recurring joy – has been the result of failure, not success. My life changed when the agony of my existence became so thick I was forced to make a decision: change or die.
If there was a glimmer of success visible along any path of my life, I would have held on to that as proof of my own well-being, and I would not have changed. And I probably would have died.
But as it was I saw only disaster, so much so that even I couldn’t deny it, and upon that foundation of malfunction and catastrophe, a life was built, slowly, piece by piece, until it stands right now, firm and bright and beyond anything I could have imagined, and beyond anything success could have offered.
And so I owe it all to failure.
You, the fact that you read this, and the fact that I get to write.
And this life, all of it, a trip to Santa Barbara over Thanksgiving, when the world is celebrating the good, as it shines now, I celebrate the same, and love how it used to flicker dimly, in the dark recesses of a trembling mind, until it became all of this, and freedom.
ShanSunday, 25 November, 2012 at 15:45
ACH, it’s a good thing I am not driving this car… for all the usual reasons, plus those photos hurt my heart with their beauty.
MarisaSunday, 25 November, 2012 at 16:13
ShawnSunday, 25 November, 2012 at 17:02
Thank you for sharing your story.
Sam KiddSunday, 25 November, 2012 at 17:30
I love reading your shit. The photos are great. I’ll send you some of mine.
Katie VyktoriahSunday, 25 November, 2012 at 17:54
I have so much more respect for those who overcome their own shit than to those who are just goody two-shoes right from the start. Most of life’s problems are of our own making, and so many of us want/try to blame everyone else. So it’s those who recognise their own failures and set about to make them right that get my kudos.
None of us is perfect, but sometimes, in the right light and with the right frame of mind, just for a moment – LIFE is perfect.
Mom of 5Sunday, 25 November, 2012 at 18:59
Love this <3 Love you <3! Reading this made me think of a song I ADORE and I wanted to share it with you…..just because….:) The lyrics to this song get me bawling every time because of the connection I feel to the words. Hope you enjoy as well! http://youtu.be/r5mTJKg26jg and THANK YOU! <3<3
Mom of 5Sunday, 25 November, 2012 at 20:00
This post brought to mind a song that I ADORE and every time I hear it I usually end up bawling because I feel such a connection to the lyrics. I was trying to post the link here, but having some trouble! The song is (Alanis Morisette – Thank You!) You can look it up on youtube and it has the lyrics and even the cool video. 😉 Anyway…I Love this, and I LOVE you! Brilliant post!…and Thank You! <3
Merry Welker-TollaSunday, 25 November, 2012 at 20:40
I’d like to add that your failure made it possible for you to help pull me out of my failure. XOXO
MomtothreeMonday, 26 November, 2012 at 1:06
Brave, because you can write this stuff, beautiful, because you have a good heart. And wise, because you have learnt and accepted, and moved on.
Rock on, J.
Rachel CollinsMonday, 26 November, 2012 at 2:34
Thank you so much for this post, after reading so many posts about what people are grateful for finally somebody has the courage to say thank you to the dark which forces up to grow up and become better people. Failure has a purpose and you rocked it beautifully. I too once had to confront the overwhelming train wreck of my own life and it too allowed me to grow into a human capable of love and taking responsibility for my own shit. And that I will ALWAYS be grateful for, turkey or no turkey.
kimMonday, 26 November, 2012 at 6:51
I MISS YOU.
Renee'Monday, 26 November, 2012 at 8:02
I envy your strenght. And your courage….and you ability to admit your shortcommings to the world. You are an inspiration to us all! Thank you.
KateFriday, 30 November, 2012 at 18:35
This is exactly why I love reading your work (and it is work – a labor of love), because you tell the TRUTH in such a delightful way. Thank you.
AmySaturday, 1 December, 2012 at 18:22
Janelle, I’ve been reading your site for months and have loved so many posts of yours. I adore your frankness, vulnerability, common sense (as to what is really important in life), salty-sailor language, sense of humor, and intelligence. Thank you for writing–it’s such a gift to know that you exist.
JessicaMonday, 3 December, 2012 at 13:57