perfectly alone

 ...the jaguar roams alone

...the jaguar roams alone

I'll be honest with you.

I never fuck up.

Like ever.

No really, I'm that girl.

...Yuck, I know.

Okay, so I'll fess up to a few self-sabotaging relationship failures, yes. Usually with men who weren't ever meant to work out, anyway - details of the tragic strategies I employ to avoid the type of connection I find terrifying in vulnerability.

Or getting fired from jobs i'm not that interested in, sure. Which some people might perceive as an epic fail, but which actually feels like relief rather than let-down, if you ask me.

But when it comes to the things I truly care about, like presenting my work, planning an event, publishing an article, hosting a workshop, teaching a course, I honestly can't think of a time where I was responsible for something and failed. In fact, more often than not, I'm surprised by my own success in the validating sense of connection I feel, and the words of praise I receive from an audience, my colleagues, friends and peers, on a job well done.

It's like when I know it matters, I step up to the challenge and step into my perfectionism with flying colors, because the alternative of facing soul-crippling failure, just isn't a possibility I could even fathom. So I don't. And I get it right, and nearly perfect, every single time. And for a moment, that kind of success feels pretty damn good.

For as long as I can remember, I've always chosen to work alone. Nobody to fuck up my flow, you know? Nobody to depend on for the things I know I can do best myself. No one to blame when the shit hits the fan. No fear of trusting my own self-worth to a stranger. Or even to my closest friends, for that matter. Not for the big things, the ones that define my power in the world, my sense of security, contribution, purpose, meaning. Those things I wouldn't dare delegate to another soul on this Earth.

Even the little things, really. Because let's be real, I do all those things myself, too.

So in the sleek success of my failproof perfection, like the jaguar in the jungle, I take pains to be perfectly alone.

****

Last weekend, at ConversABLE's advanced Inner Freedom workshop, we deepened into the theme of interdependence, engaging with the magic of self-connection, empathy, dialogue and feedback as the means toward finding creative strategies to satisfy our own needs and those of others whose lives intersect and connect with ours in mutually dependent ways.

After discovering, in the mirrored sadness of self-reflection, that I tend to live my personal truth with detachment instead of love, which of course would require a more invested style of courage to connect with the challenges of life and relationships, as opposed to running for the hills (or the sea, in my case), I learned that my default style of authentic solitude was in fact yet another mechanism for evading the type of open-hearted connection I escape in relationship - both within myself and with the important people in my life. 

Hell-bent on breaking the habit, embracing the vulnerability in accepting the challenge of interdependence, and mostly because we had to, I paired up with another trainer, assuming the shared responsibility of facilitating a 45-minute session on just that: interdependence.

I loaded the experience with expectation. This is my chance to prove to myself that I'm capable of working with others, connecting from the heart, and creating something beautiful and meaningful with someone I respect and value, I told myself. I welcomed the opportunity to explore the ways in which we, as humans, satisfy our needs through interdependent relationships, by inviting myself to step outside my comfort zone and trust in the power of teamwork. I approached it as a personal challenge, destined to succeed, if only by the strength of my own free will.

My co-facilitator was all about creating a dynamic activity to mix it up and have a little fun. I was obsessed with learning the content so I could teach it in an approachable way. I resisted his ideas from the start, fixed on my own agenda for success, yet determined to make this working together thing happen by any means necessary. Because my ability to succeed in connecting through love and interdependence in every aspect of my life depended on it, I was certain. There was no room for failure.

Unable to find common ground for long enough to work out the details of our presentation, I defaulted into survival mode, detaching from the teamwork dynamic and sliding ever so subtly into separation couched in compromise. He focused on the group activity; I read-up on what this interdependence thing was all about and created some index cards to facilitate discussion. I was prepared. And excited to share with the group from a space of collective learning, contribution, creativity and inspiration.

Ours was the last session before lunch. Time ran short. The group activity didn't quite work out as planned. Content was lost in the hurried space of disconnect and scattered energy. I sat in our emotionally secure circle of ConversABLE facilitators, watching from a place of witness, as our message on interdependence fell on deaf ears, and blank stares greeted my every uninspired word.

Anticipating success on all accounts, instead I watched myself, in awe and disbelief, as I floundered in failure - first at facilitating a meaningful experience of learning for the group, and foremost at the expectation-laden possibility of embracing interdependence in teamwork.

Shame.

Regret.

Disappointment.

Hopelessness.

This was what fucking up felt like.

And it was fucking terrible.

*****

The first time I decided to trust, to embrace the beauty of mutuality in shared experience, I failed. The whole dream blew up in my face like a sneeze in my Rice Krispies. Snap. Crackle. Pop. I never fail, and here I was failing at interdependence. At the core organizing principle of an empathic, connected human experience. At everything I was seeking to manifest as the journey out of a successfully lonely solitude.

Maybe it's better to just keep doing it all alone, I told myself, defeated. At least then I knew I'd always succeed. But what about being able to connect and live my truth courageously from a space of love rather than detachment? Did this mean I was doomed to fail in that realm of life, as well?

After some much needed empathy and a feedback session with my co-facilitator, I found solace in sharing my sense of disappointment in self-deprecating defeat. Learning together through the process of self- and shared reflection, the lessons I gathered continue to unfold as I write, unraveling layers of deeper challenges I'm committed to surfing my way through, despite the muddied waters.

I ask myself now: which is better - failing together and growing from the experience; or succeeding in everything all by myself? Can I redefine success in new terms, in a way that leaves space for mutuality and learning, honoring interdependence and open-hearted connection? Or is being the best at contributing my gifts and talents a strength I couldn't possibly forsake, even if it means consigning myself to the jaguar's future of perfection in the lonely jungle of solitude?

As I sit with the core values and needs I've prioritized for my own evolving depth of fulfillment in the beauty of life's impeccable chaos, I haven't yet found an answer to those questions; a solution to the conundrum of success and what it means to my soulful sense of self-worth. And while the jury's still out, I sit grateful in the experience of failure as my teacher, in the power of resilience to face the godawful fact that everyone fails at something, sometime or another.

That even me, the girl who never fucks up, fucks up sometimes, too.

And that's okay.

Especially when I can let go long enough to trust that there are people with hearts wide-open enough to catch me when I fall.

And all I need to do is let them.