Finnegan begin-again and other F words

There once was a man named Michael Finnegan,

He grew whiskers on his chin again,

He pulled them out, but they grew back in again,

Poor ole’ Michael Finnegan Begin-again.

Have you ever heard this ditty before? I know my kids have because I used to sing it to them before they went to sleep.  I don’t remember when I learned it but I always knew its message was important. And last night I realized why it kept coming back to me.

Begin-Again is a common theme for me. I think it’s because it’s a more polite way of saying I failed at something and need to start over.

Now before you get all up in my face about calling myself a failure, please hear me out, because I feel so much better having figured this out and really want to share it.

It starts at birth.

You are born, and at first you can’t do anything except suckle and relieve yourself. But after just a short while you are not content with this small repertoire and begin to see your hands and feet being all wiggly in front of you – yet you can’t make them do anything. You try and you try and you try, but you fail and you fail and you fail. Then one day, voila! You catch your other hand or your foot. You feel amazing! Success! And yet, you are clumsy and you only catch that hand or foot one time for every 50 trys. Which means: you fail and you fail and you fail, again and again and again…but you do not give up, why?

And it’s like this for so many more things at our very young age: rolling over, sitting up, cruising the furniture, walking, and so on and so on and so on.

When my daughter decided it was time to walk she clumsily raised herself to a standing position on the deck, took a step, and toppled over. With not a tear in her eye and the determination of an olympic champion she slowly raised herself up again; and again she toppled over, promptly putting her two tiny teeth straight through her lip (even as an adult she has that scar). Now I was freaking out, there was blood dripping down her face and yet the only thing that made her cry was my insistence on consoling her! She wriggled out of my arms and crawled right back out to the deck, where she proceeded to bleed and try to walk again. She tried and she tried and she tried…and she failed and she failed and she failed. But each time she stood up she was a little sturdier than the previous attempt and, within an hour she had made the length of the deck. Now I was quite worse for the wear but she was more than fine and she went for her nap happier then I’d practically ever seen her.

Maybe you’re asking yourself (because I certainly am) why on earth are we so afraid of failing? And how can we learn anything if we won’t let ourselves do it???

I could get all intellectual with you, because I do know a thing or two about child development and psychology, but I think ‘knowing’ something and internalizing that knowledge are very different things.

My most valuable mentor told me I might just need to be okay with failing so I could move on. She said I probably wasn’t going to be able to overcome the issues I was dealing with and shared stories about failure, including her own. It was the hardest conversation. I admired this woman and I trusted her – how could she tell me that I needed to accept failure? After all failure was my very worst fear.

Painful? You bet. I chewed on that conversation and I cried a bit too.  My friends were angry with my mentor – they told me I wasn’t a failure. I was crushed yet I knew what she said had the most merit of anything I’d heard in a very long time.

Now here is where the message got warped initially, and I think it’s how I missed the point for a while…

My mentor NEVER told me I was a failure; She said just that I might want to accept this failure and move on. Very different messages wouldn’t you agree?


today I’m going to learn a new dance, wish me luck?

Oh… and stay tuned for more F words!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dyana
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 16:03:09

    I have enormous faith in you Raeleen and as soon as you can figure out a way to pluck out a few extra pounds with the ease of a chin whisker , I’m witcha girl …. I don’t view failure the same way, I see the repeated evaluation and effort as a re- ratcheting to achievable success at whatever skill is the aspiration. Its funny how many lives we have in the virtual reality of a Video game and how the concept of time and lifetimes is so different I guess thats why so many people live addicted to their virtual world. How can we get a virtual International Standard partner and head to blackpool? I am thinking of a computer engineer we know who may produce the game for us. … Enough rambling for now …Want my Christmas wish list? …..Dyana


    • shakeupyourlife
      Dec 02, 2011 @ 16:15:47

      So funny! Thank you for your comment. I think the Computer Engineer has his card quite full just learning advanced bronze technique…maybe in a year we’ll be ready to VISIT blackpool for fun and entertainment, but certainly not competition.
      Failure and Success are interesting polar opposites. I’m great at failure these days – and I think soon I will round the cusp of the hill; boy will the ride on the other side be grande! I hope you’ll follow my blog a while…you’re fun to have around (even if it is in the virtual world)! See you on the dance floor sometime.


  2. Armi Rowe
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 09:06:41

    Thank you for reminding me about those fearless toddling years. I even fast forwarded to my college years when I took up skiing as a phys ed course — the instructor prepared us well when he told us, “You WILL fall! When you get past all the falling, the true learning will begin.” I wanted to learn how to ski so badly that I let all the falling happen and got it over with! He was right because I had much better control after I knew that falling wasn’t not such a big deal. Those were truly our most focused efforts. And as I continue to reign in my inner-creative child each time I’m faced with a blank page, I am inspired to accept each fall, get up off my butt and move on! You’re on a roll with these blogs…your voice rings true!


    • shakeupyourlife
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 09:44:42

      Armi, Thank you for sharing this story! It IS amazing to allow ourselves to ‘fall down’ ALOT, isn’t it?! Thank you for the compliment too. Someone asked me recently just how many days I could continue to succeed in writing a blog EACH DAY…I said, I don’t know but I’m just gonna go as long as I can. I am happy you hear “ME” in the blog too, that is my goal.


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