Our Antonymous Failures

Every adjective, noun or otherwise descriptive word has an adversary. In the world of grammar these adversaries are called antonyms. They are the opposite in meaning to the word being used. It’s really unfortunate that some words have such antagonists because that means for every positive word like: happiness…there is a rival whose meaning breaks down the positive nature of the word. Of course on the flip side words like sadness are contested by their own foe that shines light on their otherwise dark meaning. As we journey through life many of us encounter the antonyms of success and they seem to be heavy burdens…or so it seems. But the reality is that the antonym of failure is simply much harder to recognize because we expect more from ourselves than may be humanly possible; not because life has it out for success. The truth is our lives are full of successes with very few failures; we just have to recognize them as such.

For one to recognize their successes it often means being happy with the things in life which seem less like success and more like chores. Fixing up the yard, for instance, on a warm Saturday afternoon is a success. The antonym of a nice yard is one full of weeds and dirt and most likely met with some dirty looks from the neighbors. It takes real perspective to understand that back-breaking yard work, on a warm Saturday when everyone else is out at the lake, is success. One may not have a boat, which is often a social symbol of a degree of success, but taking enjoyment in the fact that the lawn’s edge is sharp can yield the same satisfaction of success through hard work.

When the piles of laundry wane into a few odd socks to match up, that is success. The antonym to cleaned and folded laundry is a bedroom with a path through it and dirty underwear ornamenting the bedroom ornaments. Again, it takes a unique perspective to understand that a bedroom with clean and folded laundry is a great success. It’s easier to label such tasks as chores because we do them over and over again…day in and day out. But if one can see these chores less as…chores, and begin to see them as daily successes, then the antonym to success, we will find, happens much less frequently than does the antonym to failure.

For those with children, their successes are ours. The first steps they take, the first words they say and the first time they understand the meaning of antonyms…those are all successes. Things like: finishing a workout, cooking a meal, washing the car-success, success, success. When we break down our day, we can plainly see that the successes far outnumber the failures. The difference is that the foe to success, due to its relative infrequency, tends to feel much heavier because we don’t always understand that the ratio is much in our favor.

For every small failure there are a thousand small successes to be recognized. However, when we’re told we didn’t get the new job we wanted so badly, it can erase the recent memory bank full of all of our other successes. Or when the meal we cooked for the family gathering gets overdone, the fact that no one raves about the taste may ruin our night. And when one shrub in the yard doesn’t make it through to bloom, we focus on that one failure and forget that 14 other shrubs look amazing. It’s far easier to get upset over one small failure than it is to relish in the countless successes. Ironically, if we measured our daily successes in piles of laundry our inner bedrooms would be brimming with dirty underwear.

Why is it so much easier to remember the failures and forget the successes? I don’t know…that’s a question that may only be answered after we’re gone. But we’re human and for some reason it’s easier. It shouldn’t be, but it is. To be sure though, taking time to change one’s perspective a bit as it pertains to life’s little successes may help us understand that mowing the yard and folding laundry are in fact synonymous with success; and they happen much more often than we think. I myself am often guilty of latching on to the failures and forgetting that, despite not getting everything perfect, life has many more antonyms to failure than it does to success. And on those warm Saturday’s, after the yard work is done, I’ll meet my neighbor out at the lake…on his boat. The neighbor whose yard, if put into words, is the ‘antonymy’ of mine!!


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