The Greatest Glory

Walking out of a fine art printer’s shop, I saw this quote tacked to the secretary’s bulletin board:

“The greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”

Van_Gogh_Self-Portrait_with_Straw_Hat_1887-MetropolitanBy Vincent Van Gogh, an artist I have loved and studied. He was a man who knew about struggle and failure all of his life, both ministerial and artistic. He was a devoted and terrible minister in his first career. He loved people dearly but served them so awkwardly. His failure there changed his path to art. And ever the unsatisfied perfectionist, he also struggled with feelings of failure as an artist. But he kept painting, and his art became his ministry of love and inspiration.

I am no Van Gogh, but failure has also changed my path. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be doing what I am doing now, I wouldn’t believe you. It has taken a lot to get here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the summer of 2011, my husband and I took our two small girls, almost 3 and just 1, for a roadtrip to visit his family in Fort Worth, TX. We hoped that the Southwestern air would clear our minds, emotions, and souls a bit so we could regroup as a family with family. In the last 3 years we had moved across country (twice), become parents (twice), and completed two graduate programs (his law degree, my Masters of English). Studying for the bar was looming, job prospects were not. In possibly the worst time to ever graduate as a new lawyer, we found ourselves trying to answer so many of life’s questions at the same time. Where should we live? How should we make a living? Who should do most of the making?

We were driving through southern New Mexico about halfway into our trip to TX, and on something of a lark we decided to stop at White Sands National Monument. This must have been an inspired decision because both girls were asleep in the car as we pulled off the freeway into the monument, paid the fee, and drove down the bumpy path. My three year old NEVER slept in the car, and you never wake a baby on a long car trip, not even to go to the bathroom.

white-84423_640But stop we did. And it was a magical detour. When the three year old woke up, she thought we were surrounded by fluffy white drifts of snow. She was delighted. And even more delighted that it wasn’t cold outside. For several late afternoon hours, we played in the sand as joyfully as our exuberant children. It could have been dunes of pixie dust it was so magical.

What has happened in the two years since then has been just as magical, but less delightful. We are still trying to answer those big questions. It has been something of a crucible for me personally as I have struggled with anxiety and depression that has wracked my very core identity. We have moved cross country (again) and had another child (again). And I’ve gotten more education: a Masters in Tenacity. I discovered that I can’t give up. It’s not in me. I might want to or talk about it, but when it comes down to it, I can’t. No matter how hard I fall, no matter how much I feel like a failure, I can’t give up. That’s what tenacity is. It comes from understanding that failure isn’t a possible result of trying. It isn’t an end or an outcome. It’s part of the journey. A very important part. It happens. And there’s no shame in it. At all. It’s part of the growing process. Without it, we can’t rise. Without it, we can’t be or feel glorious.

Without these two plus years of struggle, I never would have thought it was possible that I could be doing what I am doing now- owning my artistry and making a business out of it (and loving every minute of it). In rising there is glory. And to remind myself to keep rising, to take failure in stride, and to find the moments of delight and joy wherever they might be along or beside or even detoured off the path, I digitally painted the picture I took at White Sands Monument that day. Then added Van Gogh’s quote, and carved the word “rising” out of another painting of clouds. Because every cloud has a silver lining, and mine is Jabberdashery.


*If you like this print it is available for sale in our store!

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