I hate reading misspelled words. I really hate writing them. Like most people I’m subject to doing what I hate.
Over the weekend, I looked at my blog. I had scheduled Nina’s post. The day it went up, I read it. I read it like I had several times before scheduling it. But, after it went up on the blog, I saw an error. I saw a misspelled word, a mis-chosen wrong. If you read the last post, you saw it too.
I was reading the post on my phone. I reread it to make sure that I wasn’t seeing things. This happens when I wake up too early, when I don’t get sleep. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, looked away at an object on the other side of the glass. The mistake was still there. So I logged into my account.
I was going to write the wrong, fix the error. Except the mountains had other plans. It turns out that the interstate highway between Tennessee and Alabama isn’t too friendly to smartphones. I had the hardest time logging in to wordpress, and even after getting into my dashboard, I couldn’t successfully edit the post. I silently complained to peaks and cliffs to our side while we drove up and down the winding road. By the time I got to where I was headed, I lost energy. I forgot to edit the post. Then, after remembering–which was after a long day of driving and negotiating tiny truces with the boy and meeting relatives and cleaning a room that looked like an ad for a new bed bug product–I was too exhausted to visit the closet-labeled-business center in the hotel.
The error haunted me. It hasn’t stopped. But I wouldn’t correct myself. I wouldn’t change the word when I finally got the chance. The mistake meant something by then.
When I came home, I got back to a book, The Active Life, I’m reading for an upcoming class. It’s by Parker Palmer. I’ve read three of his other books and will read this one and a fifth one for my class. In the chapter I read through today, he talks about failure. I thought of my failure to proof the blog post. I thought of my day and the one before that, the mistakes jumping out at me, joining the other misspellings of my weekend. It was a moment of orientation for me, a moment where I came back to grace in a humble way. Here’s a quote from Palmer, speaking about the “downward movement” and the healing power of failure:
If downward movement is key to our quest for reality, then failure is key to our growth. Success, or the illusion of success, is an upward movement, an inflation of the ego that makes us lighter than air. But failure is life’s ballast. It restrains our tendency to float away on a bloated ego and pulls us back toward common ground…The paradox is that failure may turn to growth, while success can turn to self-satisfaction and closure.