Throughout my childhood, I had a friend who had ‘that mom’. Her name was Pam and she was a bit eccentric, a little disheveled, and unusually optimistic when it came to us kids. Everything was surmountable, and we could do anything we wanted. Whether or not we believed that, she believed it for us.
In all honesty, it drove me crazy.
“Can do, Jaz! Can do!” Pam would shout from the dugout.
We were all softballers in those times and her voice would sing out whenever we were at bat. Each and every time we were at bat. She was consistent, relentless, and in my opinion back then, terribly annoying.
It was something as we grew into our teens, my friends and I would use as an inside joke.
Leslie is going to take her math test… “Can do, Leslie!”
Joanna is going on a date with someone who turned out to be a pimp… “Can do Joanna! Can do!”
It became so ingrained that I found when I questioned myself and my ability to get something done, the sing-song praise of her voice would pop into the back of my mind. It became my uninvited proponent, a tiny person in my corner wiping the blood from a fresh cut.
“Can do, Jaz! Can do.” Just push on.
For a long time, and even to this day, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. For me this comes as a great, debilitating fear that I am not enough, that I’m not normal, and that I don’t have the skills to do what I want in this world.
For the last eight years I have lived in the same house, despite me knowing for the last two that I needed to move on. It was my college home, the first place of my own, and while I was originally thrilled with it, I had come to dislike almost every room.
This caused me great internal strife, a huge sense of failure. Why was I remaining in something that brought me so little joy? I realized this discontent extended past my house, in fact it was most of my life.
To suppress this, I smoked weed and lots of it. Weed was great! I would get home from a job I didn’t enjoy to a house I no longer liked. I would hit a joint or a bowl and suddenly, I loved everything. The sky, the grass, my lack of motivation – beautiful. Everything in life is beautiful when you don’t feel anything, and that’s what marijuana did for me – numbed me out completely.
I worked so hard to be numb and forget my feeling of failure, that I forgot the reason for failing in the first place.
Why do we fail in life? Perhaps the first and better question might be: what is failure?
To fail, is kind of an oxymoron. We often think of failure as a lack of success. You fail an exam because you got all of those questions wrong. You fail a drug test because your pee is wrong. However, failure isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about not doing anything with the knowledge you gain from being right or wrong.
If we look at the synonyms around failure, we see: nonperformance, nonobservance, negligence. All of these words are leaving things on the table incomplete. They speak more about my coming home and sitting, smoking weed than my recognition that I no longer enjoyed the path I was on. They are about allowing yourself to be, feel, and remain stuck in a world that has few true limits (world, not society – world has few limits, society has many).
So I started thinking about Pam and the softball field. I realized, despite my childhood disdain for her words, she was actually reminding me of this. She wasn’t overly enthusiastic about my potential to knock it out of the park, she wasn’t even sure I would hit the ball at all. Instead, she was reminding me that, no matter how I hit last time, because I had come back to the plate, I ‘can do’.
So, I stopped smoking weed. I bought a van and moved out of my eight year house. I quit my job and gave myself the room to be a writer. I might not hit it out of the park, but at least I’m stepping up to the plate of my own life. Here I go, and you can too.