My girls are watching Tom and Jerry cartoons lately, and it has me thinking about my cat-and-mouse relationship with failure. Many of us think that the fear of failure must wear off after one or two big successes, when in fact the stakes just get higher. Our stumbles and trips on the rug just become more public, with more people to witness each time.
I felt a lot like Jerry last week, watching Tom sleeping just outside my door. Calculating the odds. After all, he's got to catch me one of these days, right? But still knowing I must go on about my life. I must try to get to the cake in the kitchen, even if it means running right under Tom's nose and launching the chase of a lifetime. There has been time to muse (read: doubt), to feel quiet (read: paralyzed). To stare out the window (and drool).
Then I talk to Fatou yesterday about a project we're cooking up. "This will be hard," she says, and I feel my determination rise up. She isn't saying we shouldn't do it. She's just pointing out the booby traps Tom has laid all along the way. It doesn't change the fact that we can outsmart the difficulties, and it just makes me more determined to try.
Minutes later, I get on the subway. Three men get on the train with large African drums and small folding chairs. We pull away from the station and they set down their chairs in a tight circle, and start to play with people standing and sitting all around. One of them tilts his head to the side, as if he's listening to some unheard rhythm he will birth into sound. One is intent, one is smiling, slamming out fast staccatos. I watch them, and for those minutes I let them teach me how to be.
It doesn't look so hard. Open your chair. Sit. Listen for the unborn sound and release it through your palms. It looks like play, to create in a circle like this.
I think of Fatou, and the way we are sitting down to play together. It doesn't have to be hard, I see, so I sit down and begin.