Failure, Perfectionism and Keeping Going

The other day I decided I was going to set myself a challenge. I felt overwhelmed by my stack of books waiting to be read, and so I decided it would be a reasonable challenge to go three months without buying or acquiring any new books, instead reading the books I already own. I got some of my friends interested and even made plans to review the books on Goodreads for accountability. I’ve failed at this before, but this time! This time I was going to do it!

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Early the next morning I got an email notification that a book was on sale in the Kindle store that day and I scooped it up without even thinking about it. An understandable weakness, especially before I’d had an caffeine, but my first reaction was not to laugh at myself for the lapse. Instead I jumped straight to beating myself up for failing so quickly and thoughtlessly.

Of course, that does no good either. My spouse was quick to point out that I should see this as an exercise in mindfulness, ensuring “that you don’t feel like you’ve destroyed the world by accidentally buying a book.” I screwed up and it’s okay, and I need to remind myself of that more often.

I certainly could take this as an excuse to give up, pretend I was never serious about doing the thing, erase it from my mind. Or I could tell my brain weasels to fuck off and keep going.

As I was thinking through this, a post popped up on my Facebook feed about using planetary energy of Mars. Mars, it turns out, has just turned retrograde. (Traditionally this is a bad time for starting new things, so perhaps I can blame Mars for my failure at book-restraint.) Mars as a power gets a bad rap because we are often opposed to the kind of war Ares represented to the ancient Greeks, but I was reminded that Mars can be a power of the discipline needed to enact change, as well.

I certainly could use more discipline, but more than that, I need change. I’ve tended to be scared of asking for help with change, because I need my family to be stable, but I’m reaching the point where I have to wonder how much of that fear is actually reasonable and how much is pointing to something so I don’t have to admit that I’m shying away from actual change. After all, it’s certainly convenient to not want to change to protect my family…

Living with OCD means constantly picking apart which of my anxieties are reasonable and which aren’t, or doing the calculus of degrees of reasonableness. It’s important to prioritize my family’s stability, but it’s not reasonable to fear all change, and trying to hold myself in place while simultaneously trying to improve is just shooting myself in the foot, magically. I need to change that mindset.

Another post reminded me of Guan Yu and the different energy of a martial Wealth power as opposed to the sovereign wealth or fertile wealth I usually turn to, so I end up with something like:

Power of Mars, right now we are in sympathy
nearly at a standstill, looking backwards
in this retrograde I need to break down unhelpful patterns
lend me discipline, lend me mindfulness
remind me how it feels to be in control of myself
that by the time you once again turn your face forward
I will be ready to turn with you
on a rightful path to do my duty to my family and my gods
and unafraid to succeed as I walk forward.

Mars leaves retrograde on June 29 – ironically, I seem to have unknowingly created this challenge to last almost exactly the length of the retrograde. I’m taking that as a sign that I am on the right path, or at least a right path.

3 thoughts on “Failure, Perfectionism and Keeping Going

  1. The challenge makes perfect sense to me given the Mars retrograde from the perspective of choosing not to take on new books but rather look back at the books you already have. I’m experiencing something similar during this retrograde phase, being forced to look at all the things I have taken on in the last few months and realizing that I do, in fact, NEED to say No to some of them, need to acknowledge that I can’t do everything. Thank you for sharing your experience of the retrograde; I can completely empathize with buying more books with dozens already unread on my shelves..

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