Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Failure

The word failure is never used at South Davis, as far as we can see, at least within the earshot of patients. But it happens just the same. After last Saturday’s enormous success in letting breathing happen by itself, Sunday brought a return of spasms, discomfort, poor breathing, and general discouragement. And failure. Brooke did one trach mask trial of just an hour or so, another that didn’t happen at all.

What causes failure? Too much trying, too many efforts, too much trying to reproduce what has happened before. But as many of you know, this is characteristic of many creative endeavors, musical composition (as Brooke was just discussing with some friends who came to dinner, bringing Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic), writing of all sorts, and even sexual intimacy. It’s impossible to reproduce the kind of spontaneity that characterizes those moments in which everything seems to come together without even needing to think about it. The great moments seem to just happen when you least expect them; then you try and try to reproduce them but you almost always fall short. Well, that’s what happened to me in the two days following the ecstactic experiences of the Fourth of July, failure—even though it’s connected with what’s most prized, really working hard at things. Maybe there’s a reason they don’t use that word around here; it’s not so much failure as part of a very, very familiar and even necessary pattern.

After all, failure is often followed by success. Lo and behold, two days after that memorable Fourth, after a terrible night’s sleep and no expectations of anything happening at all, I was able—even half asleep most of the time--to breathe off the vent for almost three hours straight. Now that isn’t failure at all, but it will risk producing what seems like failure as soon as I start trying to do it again.



Anonymous said...

Brooke--you amaze us. Francois sends his love and best wishes, as do I. Sorry we haven't been around--dealing with our own tidal wave over here. But that's no excuse.

I needed to be reminded about failure--how it comes and goes, how it is often followed by success. As a writer--hell--I should know this. But I think it's a lesson we learn over and over. Damn it.

I hope today is a good day, and that tonight you sleep well. And hello, Peggy. Would love to talk to you sometimes, if you have the chance.

Shelley Hunt

Anonymous said...

dear Brooke,

that's really great to hear; three hours off the vent would've seemed unimaginable a few months ago, but of course we're seldom patient enough to appreciate the bigger picture. . . at least, I'm not. Nothing you've been doing sounds like failure to me, but amazing triumph.
much love,

Mary said...

Dear Peggy and Brooke,

I'm just back from Bioethics Summer Camp where I learned with great distress of Brooke's biking accident. You were much missed by friends and colleagues. In the week since I've returned, I've read your blog with much interest. You are both so heroic -- and in such amazing good spirits. It's a testament to your past strengths and to the new ones you are developing as Brooke makes such good progress. Thank you for sharing both the struggles and triumphs.
Many good wishes.
Mary Devereaux

norm said...

Brooke and Peggy - sometimes I see there just aren't that many comments to the Blog. Don't let that lead you to think that there's any less of a passionate interest. I feel certain that there are scores or hundreds of your friends out there who, like me, follow it 2-3 times a week, but sometimes just can't come up with what we feel is an adequate response. I suspect that writing this narrative is helpful to both of you - but please be assured that it means a great deal to us who are grateful that you are sharing the daily ups and downs with us.


ed ranney said...

Hi Brooke,

Good to hear you rebounded from the setback, and are continuing to push on the breathing progress, in spite of sobering, difficult moments.

I am in the middle of winter in Lima, which you may remember, about to head south to Nazca, where it may be sunnier. People in Peru doing ok, but Lima is different from the outlying cities, so I´m curious to see what´s going on elsewhere.

hasta pronto,
love to you both


Gertrud said...

Hi Brooke and Peggy: sorry to have been out of touch for so long. We continue to be itinerant travelers, having just returned from a 3-month overseas trip. But we were able to follow your blog regularly and want you to know that we really care.
We were especially taken with the Salt Lake Tribune article on your saga written by Peggy Fletcher Stack -- a close friend. She and her husband Mike spent several weeks with us when we lived in Kenya in the mid-1980s. We look forward to reading the next two installments and believe this series will be deserving of a major journalistic award. We will call Peggy within the next few days to check into the possibility of a visit. Love and warm regards to you both,

Paul and Gertrud Carpenter

Lorraine Seal said...

I'm thinking of you both as usual and following the blog, even though I've been silent. Lots of reasons for that, among them trying to come to terms with my own fears and sense of failure, realising, of course, that the only failure is quitting.

So. Don't quit. I'm not.

I had a vivid dream about you both this morning, especially Brooke. In it, I am visiting you at your house and you are much more mobile than I had expected, even at one point getting up and walking from one chair to another. There are visitors coming to see you, so many they come in a long into the room, all happy to see you and excited for your progress.

May dreams come true.


Brenda Cowley said...

Dear Brooke and Peggy --

I agree with Norm's comment. When I see fewer comments, I wonder how you feel about it. I believe this blog has become for many of us, a necessary routine -- a way of following you, being with you, and feeling like we're "there." And often, I think -- people are moved or challenged, and to add words to your existing words seems an injustice to something so perfect.

I spent the morning catching up, re-reading both blog and comments. So often I lose all the words I want to say to the two of you.

But I remember something I heard once about "rejection letters" in regards to writing. You don't get rejection letters if you're not at least trying to get things out there. While they might appear a "failure," -- they exist only because of continual effort -- a testament to TRYING. And that's not failure. That's Hootzpa.

I love you both.
Brenda Cowley