• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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THere’s No SUccess Like FaiLure

What does it mean to be afraid of success? Does it mean you would rather live your life in the tenth row of a movie theater watching other couples kiss. Or watching families greet and part at the airport? Packs of identically dressed teenagers looking for something just outside their realm of experience? Or the walleyed toll taker on I-95? Does fear of failure show up like a dance? Like a velvet curtain? Or a small stitch in a torn pant? Are those my shoes? Can my lips tilt up to yours? Was that a poem no one read? Are you in line for the audition? Did you get her number? You can not stay there forever. There is no big picture. You can’t see it. The world will never end.

37 Responses

  1. The walleyed toll taker on 95 that would be me. Able to envision unable to leave the safety of the booth. Flat view down a crowded freeway passing me by.

    • CJ,
      I read your comments and can’t make my head wrap around this vision you have of yourself. Take another look. A harder look.

      • Actually recuperating from eye surgery for Strabismus–stray eye, walleye, lack of stereo vision. Literally learning to take a harder look, at my writing, my luck and the world. Humbling process.

      • CJ – I’m keeping a good thought for your recovery – there’s eye surgery in my not-too-distant-future and that appointment is approached with dread (even though I’m repeatedly told it’s a routine procedure). Hope the recuperation time brings you some good inspirations.

  2. Arrrghhh…no. more. horses. Here in Saratoga,Tuesday is dark and the one day of respite from the equine invasion. Even Patti Smith’s classic album is off limits on this day.
    One thought, however: if living in the tenth row of the movie theatre, would the couples kissing be in front of you, or behind, in the last row?
    Something similar is what prompted Delmore Schwartz to scream at the silver screen in agony when watching his parents dating in cinemascope for the first time. Didn’t seem to do him any good, either.

  3. Damn, you’re good.

  4. I’ve been thinking A LOT about this recently, and have decided, in my case, fear of success is stitched up with fear of commitment. To have to live up to expectations rather than having the freedom to reinvent myself at a whim is too costly.

    On the other hand.

    It could just be that my self-esteem is so tanked that I feel undeserving of glory, or a great kiss, or a huge book deal.

  5. No matter how hard I work, success is a fluke.

  6. But is the reluctance, the pause, the decision to turn away really fear of success or the dread of another, heartbreaking disappointment?

  7. What’s to be afraid of? Only the gut-grinding, knife-wielding envy of everyone who suddenly wants to be you. It’s so much easier to be popular when you’re struggling and everyone feels sorry for you while secretly sighing with relief you haven’t kicked their ass. Yet.

  8. It’s not being afraid of success, it’s feeling that I don’t deserve it.

  9. My lips are tilted up. Finally. Up is good.

  10. I’m not afraid of success. In fact, I deserve success. I’m not talking about the fabulous here-comes-my-Chinese-rug variety, but the small successes that I’m aiming for, that would make me happy — yes, these things should come to me, because I work hard for them. I will become a better book reviewer, will find more cool stuff for my blog and get more readers, will survive grad school in my late 40s and will get a better job afterward, maybe have a little discretionary income for once in my life. Maybe get a dog-sitter and travel somewhere fun. Maybe own a car with air conditioning.

    I am not, in case you didn’t notice, hugely ambitious. Which is fine, because it makes my version of success that much more graspable. I deserve all the best life has to give me… I’ll have to bust my ass for it, but that’s OK. It eliminates the potential for guilt.

    You never know — maybe that walleyed toll taker was unemployed for a year and a half and now he’s over the moon happy with a steady government job with insurance for his walleyed children, where he’s paid to sit on his ass all day and think of sarcastic remarks he’d like to make to people who can’t count their change right.

    • I have a silk Qum from when they were embargoed. Big deal. I don’t even like the colors.

    • I like your perspective – I’m thinking too, the toll taker on the FLA-end of 95 has a better deal than the workers sitting in the Maine booths! The real hell is DRIVING I-95 from, say, VA to FLA: the monotony had me in tears by the time I reached St. Augustine.

  11. I’m not afraid of success. I’ve had a lot of it. I just have trouble dealing with my failures. I’m prtetty sure they should not have happened, and I hope they bring me wisdom, cuz they brought me nothing else.

  12. You’re getting a little aggressive there, babe, you might want to tone it down just a little so you don’t scare those good folks away. I’m not saying you have done anything wrong, it’s just, you know, you could be a little more polite and just let them have their way once in a while. Is that too much to ask?

    • Sorry, I gotta be me: I’ve never been famous, and at this point I’m not a whole lot interested in it, except for the money, but I’ve been following it. So, I feel I didn’t complete my post, the being me part, so, rock and roll for rock stars: http://youtu.be/CFV8uZvi5pA

  13. “There is no big picture.”
    I’d rather be half of the kissing couple and if there’s an airplane going anywhere, I’d rather be on it.

  14. I’ve always preferred to think success is afraid of me. Probably some latent control issue. Or a damn good excuse for my failures.

    • I adore you, Sherry. I really, really do.

      If success could be afraid of someone taking over, that someone would be you. And you’d do a far better job.

      (and I’m not just sucking up so you’ll remember me if this ever actually happens . . . really)

  15. I am half of the kissing couple. But we’re wearing rags. Oh well.

  16. One person’s success is another person’s crippling embarassment. Chances are if you’re a writer you’re always feel like the perpetual and undeserving outsider anyway, no matter how comfortable the company or how many pillows they give you in first class. You realise all the cliches are true, and then you become one, despite what you promised yourself all those years ago.

    Of course, all I really know about success is what it doesn’t look like, and how to keep redefining it so that it always appears to be in the near distance, rather than so far away it’s impossible to contemplate.

    Hey, did I ever mention how much I like this blog?

  17. I’m not sure about being afraid of success but I do know something about fear of failure.

    But I’ve just learnt to push beyond. Ask for that number. Kiss that man in the bar. Not care if the story won’t be read or the shoes aren’t mine.

    That world had to end, and this one will when it must.

  18. If success creates devil gods, then is failure a beautiful angel whose glowing white gown is unexpectedly soiled by a celestial wet fart?

  19. Fear of success? Hell no, I won’t go there. I embrace writing success with all the brio of an alcoholic jumping off the wagon, a junkie coming out of rehab and jonesing for that first hit and, getting it, flies so high he’s in orbit. The best drug of all, is success. Success is the drug I snort, shoot-up, overdose and wallow in like a dieter snarfing an entire german chocolate cake. I gladly, wholeheartedly, crave and rejoice success. Afraid of it? Never. Bring it on, I’ll take every bit of it and gladly.
    Fear of failure? Not ever fearful because that monster used to lurk beneath my bed. I started by dangling a foot and daring the beast to grab it. When it didn’t happen I knew it for what it was: a childish fear that I came to outgrow. Put away childish things. Fear of failure went on that dung heap long ago.
    Bring it.

  20. Betsy, and Betsy’s faithful commenters,
    I am not afraid of success. I am afraid of failure. No, wrong. I am sick of failure, so I am seeking success. Sussing it. Courting it. In my blog. Please check it out. I don’t believe in God, but I sure was hoping for a way to directly relate your latest post to my blog, Betsy and Faithful Commenters, and I got it. Today.

  21. I think it means that you’re (I’m? S/he’s?) missing a part of your core. Somewhere along the line you didn’t learn that you deserve it all. The glass began looking empty and when it was filled you looked over your shoulder to see if it was meant for someone else. It’s a two part process. One is accepting failure as part of the game. The other is believing your worth.

    • Looking over your shoulder to see if the glass was meant for someone else… Brilliant, as always MSB. Couldn’t agree more that the concept of deserving is the real issue. I was exorcized during a recent conversation with a relative from my childhood. It’s funny how the malicious bitch didn’t make me feel bad at all. She actually freed me.

  22. Fear of success is insidious, quiet, paralyzing, stealthy and well-camoflaged. And it is safe. If you’re already on the bottom, you can’t fall. If you’re already nobody, you can’t offend anyone by becoming somebody. If you never play the game, you can’t lose at the game. You simply lose. But you’re nobody, and you’re on the bottom, so it doesn’t matter.

    But Roy Rogers is riding tonight…

  23. I think you have beautifully defined the place from which the writer works — from the tenth row, the toll booth, the other side of the street. It is fine that there is no big picture, because all the things we know that’re true lie in the small pictures. (I’m just reading Eudora Welty’s essay on the novel and politics and that’s what she says, and I’m going with it.)

  24. When I was a kid, my dad walked in on a conversation I was having with my mom. He heard me say something like, At least I’m better than her. My comment related to some specific incident, or was sarcastic maybe, but he took it out of context and ripped me a new one: Don’t you ever say you’re better than anyone, etc, etc.

    You couldn’t talk back to my southern daddy, so I had to sit out the tirade in miserable silence, thinking, I didn’t mean it that way. I know, I know I’m not better than anyone. How can you imagine I’d even think it, daddy, don’t you know me at all?

    Success, for me, would feel like that.

  25. For some, fear of success reaches from the bog to strangle the second book of a two-book deal. It puts on the meat suit. It sits and thinks about past goodtimes until the dreaming stops.

    Or so I’ve fucking-well heard, damn it.

  26. The Google ads are gone, by the way. At least you had big ones. I get little ones.

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