Fail Better


I kill houseplants.  I think you all should know that.  

About once a year, I decide to pot up some herbs for our windowsill, and without fail they end up brittle and dead and dropping bits of dusty leaves all over the floor.  I so want to be a person who can grow pots of herbs on her windowsill, to have a bit of basil to snip for dinner or mint to garnish a dessert.  But they get scraggly and neglected, and then they die.

I also can be a bit crappy at family.  There's a level of immediacy that defies that rule--I am fiercely loyal to my son and husband, obviously, as well as my parents, my brother and sisters, and the counterparts to those in Sweet Husband's family--but beyond that, I tend to just disengage when things get complicated.  It's easier not to talk sometimes.

I'm working on it.  I'm trying.  I want to be the kind of person who doesn't give up when a relationship gets hard.  But I sometimes worry that I'm not becoming her fast enough.

My grandmother died earlier this week.  I say "my grandmother"--and she certainly would have said she was--but I was on the fence about that for several years.  

She was very much my grandmother when I was little--so much more so than she ever had to be.  If she made the "step" distinction in her own mind, I never knew it.  When I talk about comfort food, it's always her chicken and noodles or stuffing or peanut butter balls.  When I talk about making things, I remember that she was the one who taught me to embroider dish towels and crochet blankets and scarves.  When I think about adults that made me feel special as a child, she comes out high on the list.

But then--a messy divorce, much taking of sides, that pesky loyalty bit--the relationship got complicated.  

Or, at least, it got complicated for me.  On her end, I'm not all that sure it was.  The birthday cards still came each year.  The Christmas presents and greetings were passed along through others when I stopped attending the family gatherings.  And on the rare occasions when I did go to see her, there was never any reproach for all the times I didn't.

Just after the Kid was born, I began to realize that--between the time that had passed, some growth on my part, and (mostly) some understanding that came with having a child of my own--the old hurts looked much more gray than I was capable of seeing as a teenager or young adult.  In the past year, I've tried to be better and make amends, but--even though there were ample warnings to the contrary--I just always imagined I'd have more time.

Not that We did, shall be the test

When Act and Will are done

But what Our Lord infers We would

Had We diviner been

—Emily Dickinson

I've always liked that verse, but I can never decide if it's true or if it's just an excuse for not doing the things you know you should.  Was Emily saying that trying counts for something?  Or that it's all about good intentions no matter what your actions?  The later feels lazy and wrong, but the former seems like a necessary grace.  We do the best we can with what we have and who we are.  We try.  We fail.  We try again.  And--to make this even more quote-y--we hopefully fail a little better each time.

I think I may go to the nursery this weekend and buy some fresh herbs for the windowsill.  Maybe some rosemary or fancy scented thyme.  Spring seems like a good time to try anew.