Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. (C.S. Lewis)
If you have ever tried to read trail signs on some forest trail, or around some preserve land, you may have noticed that it is kind of like an art you must master. Certain symbols mean that the path will go straight, increase your climb, maneuver through harder territory, or even turn you toward a new destination. Those markers are there for a reason - to help you find your way. Have you ever been off-course so badly you totally missed a few of those signs? I have! In fact, I have blazed new trails where no one seems to have gone before! I don't just mean the paths in the forest, my friends, because I have blazed paths into relationship faux-pas where none have gone, cut trail through 'new idea' territory that didn't end so well, and stumbled through some character choice pathways that some would never even consider traversing! What did I learn from these 'not so well-traveled paths'? As Lewis indicated, these failure paths became 'milestones' on the road to actually finding the right course to take!
I am prone to repeated failure - it is something I do well! I am not sure why I find myself blazing new paths, or worse yet, traversing old ones that only ended up in me pursuing wrong choices. I guess it is because I am human and I am definitely not perfect yet. I open my mouth and out comes words best left unspoken. I act upon impulse and the reverberations of that impulse create relationship aftershocks I have to maneuver through time and time again. Am I much different than the rest of us? Probably not! We don't realize how much the other person right next to us is struggling to get through repeated failures until we stop long enough to recognize the 'pathway signs' that eventually become evident in their lives.
The other day I shared with my BFF my continued concern with managing my emotions when I have to continuously remind mom that she needs to do the simplest of tasks, or answer the same question for the twentieth time in a day. At 101, mom doesn't remember a long series of tasks, so the fewer I give her at one time, the more successful she will be in doing them. That works most of the time, but with age comes this thing called 'short-term memory failure'. Plain and simple - she can ask the same question twenty times over, never even realizing she has already asked it. At times, I can let a little of my frustration come through because it is the twentieth time I have told her what day it is, what we are having for dinner, or that we are the only two people in the house. Mom hears that frustration and thinks I am mad at her. Yup, there I go down the relationship faux-pas path!
If you think it is easy caring for an elderly parent, think again. There can be constant frustrations on both sides of the fence. Hers perhaps because she can no longer do the things she once did and mine because she puts herself in danger every time she tries to do one of those things. If you think it is easy caring for a toddler, husband, wife, or even a good friend in all the 'right ways' that we are supposed to 'take care' of them, it isn't. We all face times when we are going to go down the wrong path in these relationships - what we do in those moments makes all the difference. I have had to learn to step back, allow mom time, not demand so much from her, being willing to step in and do what she cannot. The one who cares for the toddler has to learn to model good behavior, love them when they are acting like spoiled little kiddos, and gently give them guidance to grow in all the right ways.
The thing I have found is that as important as the path is that we are choosing to travel, it is more important that we keep the right traveling companion on that path with us. When our psalmist reminds us that God is his strength, he isn't just spouting 'religious' words. Broken in body and spirit, but God is his strength forever. We learn from the repeated failures - never alone in the journey. Just sayin!