Monday, June 29, 2015

FALLING SHORT

This morning after meditation I managed finally to name an unhealthy reactive pattern in my life that needs to be examined--with all the discomfort such self-inquiries bring along with them.  The name that came to me was "falling short," and it felt like a perfect fit.  Before, in meditation, I had been working with the idea of "laziness," but the word did not feel right in quite the same way.  I don't think I'm actually lazy. But "falling short" has the precision of a sophisticated lock, with all the tumblers falling into place with unassailable finality.  Do you know how that feels?

If I look back in a thoughtfully critical way--I hope without self-pity, but rather with the kind of clarity and honesty I aspire to--I recognize this pattern in almost every aspect of my professional life: falling short as a student, privileged to attend one of the greatest universities in the world; falling short in the career I embarked upon shortly after, as a grammar school teacher; falling short, next, in the world of academia, as a student and teacher of literature; falling short as a poet, abandoning that path after the publication of two books; falling short as a college administrator, a career that I quit just as the greater possibilities were opening up for me; falling short as a novelist, again after the publication of two books in the 1980s; falling short as the art critic, when it came to making a whole-hearted commitment.

In each of these fields I believe I could have had outstanding success, had I approached it with a full heart and with full conviction.  But in each case I chose to fall short.  And this is not to mention the more personal ways in which, looking back over the decades, I fell short.

I'm no fan of breast-beating.  It comes dangerously close to the self-pity I wish above all things to avoid.  I take full responsibility for all this falling short, and mention it in these pages only because I choose, here, to be as fully authentic as I can.  If you look at the banner I devised for The Buddha Diaries, up above, you'll be reminded that it's about "getting to the heart of the matter," no matter what that matter is.  Just recently, I've been trying to get to the heart of the experience of loss...

And now that I have this reactive pattern formulated in a way that feels just right, it's incumbent on me to get to its heart, to explore its original and meaning.  One way to do this, I have learned, is to examine "what's at risk."  If it's a choice--if I accept responsibility for this pattern in my life--what do I stand to lose in falling short?  And what's the benefit, to me, in choosing the shortfall rather than the persistence that it takes to go further?  What's at risk in failure?  And, just as importantly, what's at risk in success?  Something to contemplate...

2 comments:

Carol Es said...

Peter,

Do you think you have sabotaged your successes or maybe you have a fear of success? I have been accused of this myself by others. I wonder about it all the time.

PeterAtLarge said...

It's a good question, Carol. I was conditioned, as a child in boarding school, to keep a low profile--a conditioning that I think has worked in my disfavor. Thanks for the comment!