There are those who go through life mellow, passive, flowing and rolling with whatever comes their way never pausing long enough to contend or diverge. I think they live happy lives. Content lives. Then there are those of us who are ferocious: we are outspoken advocates for our own or shared interests. Our passion can be intense, our drive intimidating. For better and for worse, our hearts and souls live in those aspirations. We make things happen, and we get upset when, despite our best efforts, those things go wrong. When we know success is within reach; we’ve tasted it in the past and it was so sweet. But, suddenly or gradually, it seems birds are crapping on that outstretched hand. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s irritating. It’s not the dream you’ve lived before or know deep within you can bring to life. It’s not a 10.

Those lucky enough to know a 10 day have likely known many. From my experience, you can live months of them on end. But, reality is not perfect and even in fairy tales there is usually conflict and resolution. The upsets are important. We fail in order to learn not just how to succeed, but just how sweet it feels. We need the contrast to recognize and appreciate the 10. Does that make those stumbles better? More digestible? Not at all. In fact, it can make them all the more frustrating because you know you can do better. Sure, you can insert a multitude of motivational discussions on not being hard on yourself and appreciating what you have accomplished, but for those of us driven and teetering, they are only pretty excuses. And we don’t excuse ourselves. We make things happen. And then sometimes they don’t.

So how do you accept less than a 10? You can consider the merits of failing. Failure has receive a lot of attention over the past few years in the medical community and learning process in general. We need to be allowed to fail- not just by our peers, but by ourselves. Short-term failure I can handle. But what about failure with no success in sight? What about slips that force you to redefine your definition of health? Force you to modify those goals to levels you had previously blown past? Now that’s challenging. We want to be all we can be–not all we have already been or less.

I don’t have an answer, although I’m sure many can be found in the Tao Te Ching. I’m reminded of a few lines from the 8th verse that someone very special brought to my attention. A verse I often keep at the back of my thoughts, taking on new meaning from time to time when my attention is drawn to its subtle melody. Here is part of one translation, as I remember it:

Best to be like water

which benefits the ten thousand things 

and does not contend. 

It pools where humans disdain to dwell

close to the Tao.

When the 10’s are nowhere in sight, maybe we look to our mellow yellow brethren and practice our flow, our mindful disconnection in order to reconnect with something more important and see the beauty in the mishap. Perhaps we let the failure wash over us and sigh out, “best to be like water.” At least the thought of sighing bubbles underwater should bring a smile to your face.