It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)


My friends and I, my loves and I, we spend a lot of time talking about the meaning of life. And I know—I really do know—that the meaning of life is to, you know, live the life. That’s it, really, and all the angst is superficially over-intellectualized crap that, if we could completely and totally let go of, we would be tranquil. I know this. Sean knows this. Most of us know this.

And yet, here we go again: Why are we here? What do we do this for? Is it enough?

I have an engineer friend who, when I go do this place, tells me sternly to shut up my monkey brain—and he’s not using the Buddhist concept here, he’s referring to my too-clever-for-itself monkey, whose immense curiosity and agility invented—well, everything, from the wheel to the nuclear bomb, and the unfortunate unintended evolutionary side effect of which (nothing in evolution, by the way, is intended, not really—it just happens—that’s the meaning of life—isn’t that marvellous and crazy?) is all this self-doubt and questioning and spiralling and chatter.

I don’t spiral much, not really, but when I do, it is quite spectacular.

Anyway, this day, we do not talk about the meaning of life. We eat pancakes and drink cocktails and then then have cherries and steak for lunch and demand a delivery of chicken and beer for supper. Somewhere in there, we make arrangement for smores.

We are, on this day, pretty much perfectly happy. All the existential angst is in the background. The foreground is—friends, food, drink, pleasure.

Would only every day feel like this.


I was here…

…and I worked this:

Bucket list moments.


I want you to read this:

My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed.

I don’t, by the way, live with chronic depression and generalized anxiety. I live with chronic existential angst, which is a very different thing and manifests not in unhappiness, but in this bone-deep desire to make sure that my life matters, makes a difference, is neither cosmic accident nor irrelevant blip in the unfolding of the universe… contrasted with the awareness that actually, if the universe is the backdrop, I am an irrelevant blip, a cosmic accident, and any attempt to matter is arrogant, foolish, and pointless, oh-my-god-why-am-I-here?

Ender: Mom! I’m hungry!

I make the nth burrito of the day. This is, of course, one of the reasons that I am here. Is it enough?

I just think this is really funny.


Sean: Maggie, we have something to tell you. This may come as a shock to you. You’re adopted. Jane is not your real mother.

The dog dances in circles on the floor and stares at him with a look of dumb love in her eyes.

Jane: Would you guys stop calling me the dog’s mother. Please.

Sean: Did you not hear me? I just told her she’s adopted. And broke her heart. The poor, poor puppy.

True story: I had a dog before I had kids. I loved her, probably too much.

This little thing? She’s just a dog.

I am NOT her mother.

Cinder: But she really, really loves you anyway.

I don’t. Not really.

The rest of them do.

Me… I think she’s ok.

Cinder: You are the favourite child.

Jane: Well… um… you know…

Cinder: Do you want to break the dog’s heart again?


Jane: Maggie? Walk?

She dances circles around me and stares at me with dumb love in her eyes.


Fabulous book launch. Much joy.


2014 was sort of a hard year for me and mine, and I spent much of it in a fog of shock, but that does not excuse the fact that I saw this video for the first time last week:

So do you think Weird Al suffers from existential angst?

Or is he perfectly happy?

I’d really like to know…


I’m lighting incense off the stove because I can’t find any lighters of matches in the house.

Cinder: There are like five lighters in the house. Why are you doing this?

Jane: Where are these lighters you speak of? In your room?

Cinder: In the bathroom, behind the jar full of nail clippers. There’s one only lighter on the floor of my room. And I need it to build a flamethrower.

I so didn’t hear that and you so didn’t read that.

Jane: Can you get me a lighter?

Cinder: Flora! Get Mom a lighter!

Jane: Dude! I asked you!

Cinder: But I hate the smell of incense.

Flora: So do I!

And Sean’s allergic to it, so I burn incense on the balcony or on the patio, when nobody else is around.

Secret incense burner, that’s me.

I smoke cigars on the balcony too—oddly, they complain about that less.


surprise delivery from Damascus


The ghosts from the past are extra active this week. Maybe there’s something in the air or in the stars. I am happy-sad, exhausted-mad, angry-hopeful. Also, resigned.

All at the same time.

The question she wants to explore with me this week is… success and failure. What is it, exactly? How do you define it? How do you measure it?

I yawn.

I can’t define success or failure. Nor do I want to. Because, although I don’t know very much, I do know this:

Those are the wrong questions. The irrelevant questions. Get bogged down, get lost in definitions and semantics if you want to.

This week, there is no success, there is no failure.

There is only being alive.

And I am.



PS There is a box of cookies in my studio right now. It was bought here:

Hashtag… perspective.


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)


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26 thoughts on “It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

  1. Pingback: On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting) | Nothing By The Book

  2. Pingback: Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice) | Nothing By The Book

  3. Pingback: In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate) | Nothing By The Book

  4. Pingback: Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion) | Nothing By The Book

  5. Pingback: That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles) | Nothing By The Book

  6. Pingback: And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow) | Nothing By The Book

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  8. Pingback: Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness) | Nothing By The Book

  9. Pingback: I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors) | Nothing By The Book

  10. Pingback: Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence) | Nothing By The Book

  11. Pingback: It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth) | Nothing By The Book

  12. Pingback: Pavlov’s experiments, 21st century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude) | Nothing By The Book

  13. Pingback: The last thing I remember… (Week 40: Truth and um, Not Really) | Nothing By The Book

  14. Pingback: All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation) | Nothing By The Book

  15. Pingback: Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst) | Nothing By The Book

  16. Pingback: Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight) | Nothing By The Book

  17. Pingback: Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, Day of The Dead, Candy (Week 44: Neither Here Nor There) | Nothing By The Book

  18. Pingback: Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language) | Nothing By The Book

  19. Pingback: War, Famine, Pestilence, Mornings (Week 46: Mornings and the Apocalypse) | Nothing By The Book

  20. Pingback: Time flies but the Christmas tree is up (Week 47: Status quo and Change) | Nothing By The Book

  21. Pingback: I didn’t kill anyone–it just smells like it (Week 48: Guilt & Poison) | Nothing By The Book

  22. Pingback: You have a bad memory, while I want to rest on a flower (Week 49: Mothers and Caterpillars) | Nothing By The Book

  23. Pingback: Atheism, Spirituality, Boundaries, Slytherins (Week 50: This and That) | Nothing By The Book

  24. Pingback: When everyone’s a special snowflake… (Week 51: Normal and Narcissistic) | Nothing By The Book

  25. Pingback: The year will end on a Monday (Week 52: Guilt and Gratitude) | Nothing By The Book

  26. Pingback: 52 Weeks Project (2018 Blog Post Index) | Nothing By The Book

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