The Dreaded F Word

FAILURE. Such a tricky and touchy subject for me to talk about. How to accurately highlight some failing and then make sure that I correctly interpret it as a learning experience and grow from it, knowing that the object of the exercise is to see how I handle failure, and to draw some meaningful conclusions from uncomfortable and embarrassing situations. I have deliberated at length about which experience to include here and have finally settled on the one that I found the most painful, due in large part I’m sure, because I had so little influence over the outcome.

I divorced when my twin boys were two years old. For fourteen years I raised them as a single parent, with very little input from their father – financially or emotionally. We are very close, and family time has always been a priority for us. I am known as a devoted mother, who would do anything for her boys.

My firstborn requested at the age of fourteen that he be allowed to board at his school, and after some deliberation I allowed it – his level of involvement in school activities and the distance we lived away from school made it more viable for him to be a weekly boarder, returning home at weekends. I missed him terribly, and cried a little each time I dropped him at hostel on a Sunday evening. Just as I was adapting to this arrangement, my younger twin asked that he be allowed to go and live with his dad, two hours drive away from home.

Academically, I am well aware of the importance of a boy bonding with his father, and outwardly I went through all the right steps. My friends, the school, the counsellors; everyone praised the way I handled the situation. I granted my son his wish, and we made arrangements for him to move schools and go and live with his dad. How could I not?

Inwardly, I felt I had failed at the highest level. How awful a mother must I have been, for both my beloved sons to choose to leave the maternal home as soon as was realistically possible? The only job I felt I was actually really any good at, had been ripped from me several years before any of my peers had to contemplate their own empty nests. Everyone was very kind, and tried to console and soothe me with promises that of course he would come back as soon as he realised that life wasn’t so rosy over at Dad’s house. These statements fell on completely deaf ears. For the first time in my confident and assertive life, I felt shaken to my very core.

Finally, I learnt what it felt like to be truly vulnerable and I slowly and painfully peeled away layers and layers of onion skin. My relationship with my son was in tatters and I worried constantly that it had suffered irreparable damage. I felt hurt and resentful and very, very small. At my very lowest point, about five months into my new shrivelled and withdrawn life, I suddenly woke up and wanted to start growing again.

I had reached the bottom of the barrel and the only way out was up! That very day, I went to enrol as a student at SACAP. One of the early modules I did was Process Work 1. I fell in love with the method, and discovered that it was an amazing tool to use with my teenage sons. A profound experience occurred for me when I was able to use what I had learnt to connect deeply with my son as well as acknowledge a secondary part of myself that had long been buried.

Subsequently, I have created a short workshop course to help people deal with changes in their lives. My consultancy, Forging Ahead, was born because of this time. I’ve always been a strong and confident person, with natural leading abilities. This experience taught me to be weak and vulnerable and helped me to connect with people at a much deeper level. I “see” so much more now; now that I am able to look at and pay attention to the whole product, without the need to control everything on my terms.

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