Surprising lesson on failure from the pickle fail

The pickles stared at me from a corner of the kitchen for over a week.  Something didn't look quite right but I couldn't bring myself to actually open a jar because I was afraid I would have to admit failure.  Never mind that my innocent post promoting that blog had started with "I did it backwards..."  That line attracted new followers that I had to block. Oh dear, not only had I driven over 100 kilometres for the stupid dill weed but the pickles looked shriveled and weird in the jars and I had inadvertently put out a social media sign welcoming what my mother would call unsavoury characters.  Yes, the pickle business had failure written all over it.

Those pickles had eyes, I swear.  They stared at me from their jars, daring me to twist the lid and face the music.  Have you ever been taunted by a pickle?  It went on day after day for nearly two weeks. The pickles stared and I avoided.  Avoidance bought me time to think. Greg patiently navigated around the pickle jars to get to the phone charger every day.  Nary a word crossed his lips until the twelfth day.  On Thursday, the twelfth day, he suggested that I needed to deal with the pickles.  You see, Friday was garbage day.  I wasn't obtuse; I knew he was thinking they were destined for the garbage.  He wanted the pickles gone. He wanted me to deal with my pickle conundrum and quit avoiding it. 

Thursday was my courageous day or my desperate day depending on your perspective on avoidance.  I opened a jar and pulled out a pickle.  Well, I tried to pull out a pickle. What happened next was squishy.  As I pulled, the pickle disintegrated and my digits met one another directly. My pickles were a confirmed failure.  They were a soggy, soft, gross mess.  I had a pickle fail on my hands. 

One by one I poured out the pickling juices and tossed the nasty things in the garbage.  They smelled wonderful even though something had gone dreadfully wrong. The jars went into the dishwasher and just like that within five minutes failure was out of sight.  But it wasn't out of mind.  I kept wondering what went wrong.  I got to thinking about how we handle failures.  Overall I was feeling a bit glum.  

I felt like I had a huge "L" on my forehead, I couldn't even make pickles successfully.  You know how that rhetoric goes inside your head when you have failed at something that you think you should have accomplished quite handily.  While I wandered through my days feeling wounded, I stumbled across some other fails that made me laugh.  There was the legal site online that had written something about pubic holidays instead of public holidays.  Then there was the management consulting firm that posted a list of their services on their window and managed to spell management wrong.  I was beginning to get some perspective on the pickle fail and on failure in general.

If we don't fail periodically we are living safe boring lives devoid of learning and variety.  Failure is not the end it is a detour that offers another chance to learn.  I messed up the pickles, no doubt.  On consultation with pickle making experts, I was advised there are certain kinds of cucumbers one should use.  And, one is supposed to trim off both ends. I could blame the cucumbers.  I could blame the recipe. I could blame my own lack of knowledge.  Blame, blame, blame.  The problem with blaming is it directs the focus away from us and supplies excuses for our contribution to the failure.  I'm not suggesting wallowing in self-incrimination over a pickling fiasco.

However a little pickle failure reflection has led me to think about failures a little more kindly and with some humour.  It has encouraged me to ask questions of myself and others.  In no way has it discouraged me from trying something new or accepting another challenge.  I know some failures in life really hurt.  They aren't always trite or inconsequential like my pickles; the worst ones involve people and relationships.  But even those can make us better if we choose to be patient and quietly listen for the things we need to learn. Wipe that big "L" off your forehead.  Put a jar of pickles on the counter or on your desk. When you get to feeling glum about your  failures look at the jar of pickles and remember that you aren't alone!


  1. I've been a little worried, too, about my dill pickles. I know I didn't use the "right" cukes. Ah, well. Maybe you and I could sign up for a pickling class? On the other hand, my pickled beet recipe is a winner, so if you want a recipe for that, just holler.


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