Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Last week, a Target cashier asked me how many days were in December.

"31, I think," I replied.

"Oh, good," she said. "I have four more days to eat chocolate. And drink soda. And eat fast food."

I smiled at her and wished her luck. I tried, sincerely, not to be cynical. I imagined her sleek and svelte and completely fast-food, chocolate, and soda free for all of 2008.

And then, less than a week later, here I am, doubting her. Blogging about her. Holding her up as Every Woman Who Will Fail. Mean, right? (And totally against my blog rules.)

And yet, this is exactly what we do to ourselves. We say that we believe in ourselves. We say we are listening to our dreams. We say that we will never give up. But sooner or later, we're going to be dissing ourselves and our good intentions. We're going to blame our disintegration on "not enough willpower" or "being unrealistic" or "life had other ideas."

So, for every resolution you make, consider this: do you have a plan for failure? What will you do on the day you fail to get up and write 500 words at 4:30 in the morning? What will you do on the afternoon that you eat a whole bag of Oreo cookies? What will you do when two weeks go by and you haven't been to the gym, not even to drive by it?

May I suggest that you make the answer something fun? Failure doesn't have to be miserable. On the day you realize that you haven't walked a mile for several days, give yourself a foot massage. On the morning you sleep in and don't write your word goal for the day, read a poem to yourself. On the day you eat the Oreo cookies, allow yourself to daydream for fifteen minutes. (At least make use of that sugar rush!)

You can even have a Failure Jar. Put in it several slips of paper with failure plans on them. Draw one out as needed. Celebrate. Rejoice. Because failure means that you're pushing hard enough for something else to push back. You've provoked a reaction. You've budged the universe one tiny little bit.

Whatever you plan to do when you fail, think of the cashier at Target. What would you say to her? Be at least as kind to yourself as you would to her.

And now, I'm going to get nerdy and quote an online dictionary.


1. To make a firm decision about.
2. To cause (a person) to reach a decision. See Synonyms at decide.
3. To decide or express by formal vote.
4. To change or convert: My resentment resolved itself into resignation.
5. To find a solution to; solve. See Synonyms at solve.
6. To remove or dispel (doubts).
7. To bring to a usually successful conclusion: resolve a conflict.
8. Medicine To cause reduction of (an inflammation, for example).
9. Music To cause (a tone or chord) to progress from dissonance to consonance.
10. Chemistry To separate (an optically inactive compound or mixture) into its optically active constituents.
11. To render parts of (an image) visible and distinct.
12. Mathematics To separate (a vector, for example) into coordinate components.
13. To melt or dissolve (something).
14. Archaic To separate (something) into constituent parts.

That's fourteen ways of looking at your Resolve for the New Year. (Isn't the music one cool?)

But I really like #11: " To render parts of (an image) visible and distinct." I can't be something that I'm not. But I can be more of what I am. And everyone, absolutely everyone, can fail with more distinction.


  1. Thank you SO much for these words. You are right. We really have to look at "failure" differently, and stop beating ourselves up.

    Is there a definition for "resolve" that says, "to effect a change in someone, or to inspire, via blog intoxication?"

    By jimminy, you've gone and done it again.

    Happy 2008!

  2. Great post, Sara! I like the idea of a Failure Jar--moments of inspiration for when you need the extra pick me up. This will be fun to create!

  3. I really am in love with this post more than I can say. It makes me sad to hear women berate themselves for such "failures." One particular pet peeve is women who have a little extra padding after having given birth, but go on as if they're obese. I would like to get back into the shape I was in before I had children, but until I get there, I'm not going to bemoan that padding, when what I did was brought life into this world, not something to sneeze at, indeed.

    To be clear, I'm not criticizing women wanting to lose that padding, women who strive to take better care of themselves and get their bodies back into shape. I'm talking about the "O MY GAWD, I'M SO FAT!!!" women who only gained 15 or 20 lbs since pushing a human out into the world. What a beautiful thing it is to do, and if our bodies change as a result, embrace it.

    At the risk of sounding psychobabbly, I do think our contemporary American culture is bad about not seeing the value in failure, what we can learn from it. "All the signs of life aren't clear and straight and always right/ Our ideas of perfect are so imperfect," a wise woman once wrote.


  4. Thanks for the food for thought, Sara! And speaking of food....I'm off to hit up the Oreos.

  5. I love the dissonance to consonance idea of resolve. When a chord resolves, something within your relaxes that you didn't know you were holding taut. How interesting a word is resolve.

    One thing I just love about you is that you're so positive. To resolve to have a plan for failure -- but to have that plan include releasing the need to feel that you've failed and finding something fun and thoughtful to do is Classic Sara.

    Thanks for sharing yourself.

  6. This goes totally against my favorite activity of self-punishment for not living up to my own expectations. What planet are you from? Can I come live there? Right away?

    Thanks for the post, Sara. Excellent for the old heart and mind.

  7. As always Sara - you ARE right! Here's to failure! Hip hip HOORAY!!

  8. My gosh-- I just realized how much extra time I'd have every day if I didn't beat myself up over the failures! Thank you for the inspirational post-- truly a gift.

  9. This is wonderful! I love the music one, too, though it reminds me a little uncomfortably of a music class I took in college that involved writing chord progressions. (I did not do as well as I would have liked in said class...sigh.)

  10. You guys are the best. I love hearing your thoughts when I throw something like this out there.

    For the record, I did start out today by saying my Theme (dare I call it a Resolve?) to myself: "Once upon a time..." And I dreamed about a new idea for a novel last night.

    But I'm sure I'll forget to start the day this creatively soon. And the day I do, my reward is going to be re-reading The Little Princess (Sara Crewe). Take that, failure!

  11. Great thoughts, all. Thank you, Sara!

    Now, I'm off to daydream for, oh, about 15 minutes. I've been a bad girl today!

  12. I truly believe the most important conversations we have are with ourselves, so be positive and don't talk out loud.

  13. Genius!

    Thanks for these thoughts. Sara, do you write a daily or weekly column for a paper or commerical site or something...because if you don't, you should!


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