Author Katie Mettner

When is failure actually success?

I didn't have a great day today. There, I said it. The day started out with lots of little 'fails' that we have all come to understand are part of our daily grind. The coffee pot is clogged, you're short one ingredient for every meal you can think to make for dinner, your kids are whiny or the washing machine overflowed. We are used to those kind of fails in life, the kind we can brush off and move on. It was the fail at the end of the day that I was most distraught over. I failed in a big way. A BIG way. Not only today, but every day for the last 371 days. Today I reread a book I published last year, Winter's Rain. No, I'm not a narcissist rereading my own books for fun. I was rereading Winter's Rain with the intent to enter it in a writing contest. Before I did that, I wanted to do another proof of the book and make sure all my Ts were crossed and my Is dotted. As a refresher, here is the book I'm referring to.



Okay, now that we are all on the same page (see what I did there?) let me tell you a little background on Winter Cheyne before we get to my BIG fail. Winter's story is about a woman who has suffered at the hands of a very brutal, abusive man for the majority of her life. She managed to break free of him, but when he turned back up in her life, unannounced, she knew it would come down to his life, or hers, and this time she chose hers. On the run, after leaving him dead on the floor of her home, she embarks on a life changing journey to live John 8:32, "then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (Let me insert here that this is in no way a Christian romance book. There are topics, situations and sins discussed and committed in this book that are not found in the Christian romance genre. MOVING ON) Winter isn't a religious woman, but that verse has been on the bracelet she's worn since high school. It's taken her eight long years, and seeing the eyes of an old friend again, to see those words in a different light. She always saw them as literal, 'telling someone about the abuse you suffered for so many years would set you free,' but what she learned after killing her abuser (even though it was in self-defense), was a lesson far more expansive. 


Now, getting to meat of the story (hey, I'm a writer, you didn't think this was going to be short, did you?). I failed. I failed in every aspect of the promises I made to myself on February 16, 2015 when I published Winter's Rain. There is a whole lot of me in Winter Cheyne, and like Winter, I wanted to make a concerted effort to change those things about myself that were self-depreciating, ingrained behaviours. Like taking every opportunity to cut myself down and avoid the truth about who I really am. Whether it was about my writing, my body image, or my skills as a wife or mother, I could always find some part of my day that I perceived as a 'fail.' 



Here's when it struck me that I hadn't gotten anywhere since February 16, 2015. I was having a Facebook conversation with another author friend about entering Winter's Rain in that contest, and I ended the post with, "but, it probably won't win." What I didn't say was, "it probably won't win because I'm nobody, no one reads my crappy work, my family thinks my books are stupid and there's no way I can even put two words together to make a sentence much less win a writing contest." Harsh much? Yup, but I promise you that was what was running through my mind. Self-confidence issues much? Oh, absolutely. I've used those same five words to keep me from the first goal I made last year of putting myself out there more. None of those things I was thinking were true, but if I let them they would stop me in my tracks from successfully submitting my work. Now, that little nugget of 'failure' came last Friday, and with a busy weekend in between, today was the first chance I had to sit down with the book to get it ready to submit. Oh boy, that's when all those 'feels' hit me again like an anvil to the head. As I read Winter's story I was reliving all the 'fails' that I didn't fight hard enough to turn into a success over the past 371 days. Early in the book, Rain, Winter's old childhood friend, is telling her he doesn't think she's fat. Here is the passage:

"You don’t have to be nice, Rain, I know I’m fat. I see the tags on the clothes and the numbers on the scale. It’s not a secret and you don’t have to be all politically correct about it,” I seethed, pulling my hand from his.

“I wasn’t trying to be politically correct, Winter. You are who you are, why does that have to be bad? Why I can’t I appreciate the fact that there’s an exquisite woman sitting in front of me without having to question the numbers on the tags of her clothes or the scale? Why can’t I be attracted to you regardless of whether you’re a size one or a size twenty-one? When did the eye of the beholder become the holder of the scale?”


Never had those words come home to roost more than when I thought back to this past weekend when my husband and I went shopping. See, I don't shop. I wait until I have one pair of pants left without holes and two shirts I can wear that are still slightly presentable before I go shopping for new clothes. I've gotten in the habit of hanging out in comfy clothes since I haven't worked outside of the house in 15 years and that's okay, at least that's what I told myself. But, alas, the time had come to find the basics of a new wardrobe and my husband, God love him he's a patient man, dragged me hobbling and limping to Kohls. He patiently went through rack after rack to find shirts that didn't make me look pregnant, like I was wearing a tent, or something his mother would wear (No offense to my mother-in-law). He put them in the cart, prodding me towards the fitting room, came into the fitting room with me, and handed me the clothes to try on. Yes, I'm that bad. If he doesn't go shopping with me, nothing gets bought. I've grown up believing that the size on the tags matter, so shopping is a little like torture for me, you have to look at the tags, man! As I stood in that horrible three-way mirror trying on clothes, being forced to look at myself in the mirror and pretend to like what I saw, what I missed was the look on my husband's face because he really did like what he saw. He liked the things we picked out together and thought I looked nice in them. The only thing running through my mind was 'at least now he wouldn't be ashamed to be seen in public with me.' That self-deprecating attitude didn't stay in the dressing room. Oh, no way Jose! It came home with me, and everything my kids said to me the rest of the day I was able to twist around into an insult against my body image, my mothering skills, or my cooking skills. The truth is, they were being kind and paying me compliments, but I was failing in remembering the lessons Winter taught me. I know a lot of you reading this are nodding your head right now because I am not the only one who feels this way. As I sipped my coffee reading Winter's story again, a little of my own story was playing through my mind. 

Then came this scene:

I’m trying to figure out who I am, Rain. I’m twenty-four and I still can’t accept who I am.”

“What’s to accept? You’re a big, beautiful woman with a resilient heart that you share with the world without them even knowing it,” he soothed, rubbing my back.

I sighed and pulled away from him. “Why do I have to be big and beautiful? Why can’t I just be beautiful? Why does the first thing that defines me always have to be big? That’s why I can’t accept who I am, because I’m repeatedly told by society that the most important thing, the very first thing they see, is that I’m big. The beauty will always be second fiddle to that. People tell me not to be so hard on myself all the time, because it’s okay to be a big beautiful woman. It’s like a constant assault on my psyche that says, ‘All we see is that you’re big, but it’s okay because you’re still beautiful in a big kind of way.’ It’s incredibly frustrating.”

He sat there quietly for a long time. I could see he was working through what I said.

I smoothed the hair on Maggie’s head, “The reality as it sits is, I am a big woman. I always have been and always will be. That part I’ve accepted. What I haven’t accepted is why society needs to have a tagline to continually point it out. No one says, “small, beautiful woman” when describing a Victoria Secret model. It’s a backhanded compliment put there to make their disdain more palatable.”


Am I the only one who has stopped and thought about the moniker 'big, beautiful woman'? No, my husband doesn't call me that, but I see it everywhere I turn. It's on Facebook, book covers, TV and advertising. When I got to this point in the book I did a little fist pump because I found something I didn't fail at! I didn't call anyone a big, beautiful woman in the last 371 days! Okay, I've never, ever called anyone that in my life, but I put it in the success column anyway because it was looking lonely with no tally marks. I had to start somewhere, right? As I continued to read I began to feel like, "Now I remember why I wanted to enter this particular book in the contest. It's a great book." Oh, ho! I just paid myself a compliment. It's a far cry from where I wanted to be 371 days ago, but it was there! 

Then, I came to this scene near the end where Winter is giving a speech to a group of readers at a book convention:

"I wore this bracelet every single day, not taking it off for many years and the words on it were none other than John 8:32, ‘And then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ I’m standing here today in front of all of you because I saw God in the middle of the dark woods. I saw God in the eyes of a very domineering pit bull who led me to the place that would set me free." My destiny was still waiting for me all these years later, and He chose the exact moment when I needed to see it the most, to reveal the truth to me.” I moved away from the podium and walked down the row. “Whatever you’re going through in life remember one thing, be who you are. Don’t hide behind what you think other people want you to be. To all of you I am Winter Rayne, but I hope for a few moments today you got to meet Winter Cheyne. I hope for a few moments today you saw that the stories I create have parts of me woven into the words on the page.”


I closed the book yesterday and sat for a long time thinking about my 'failures.' I often fail to be who I am in the deepest part of my soul. I often fail to look at myself in the mirror and really see the woman staring back me, the one who wants to come out, but is being held down by that fear of all the things she tells herself. I often fail at accepting compliments from people for so many reasons. So, at the end of the book, I had two very unfulfilling tallies in the success column, and too many to count in the failure column for the last 371 days of my life. And then I saw God again. He was in the form of words flowing across a page and for a brief moment I saw all the other words I've written over the last 371 days. That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks to the gut (I can't take another anvil to the head), I indeed had a great success this past 371 days. That success was the tally with the biggest, boldest, and brightest mark, much bolder than any on the failure side. I succeeded in staying true to what He asked me to write. I succeeded in the most important goal I made last year, and that was not being afraid. I can hear you now, "but, but, you just said!" I did just say that I failed in not being afraid of a lot of things, but I was never afraid that the books I released didn't tell the story the way He asked me to tell it. I didn't shy away from the hard stories like Winter's because they were too emotional or too unsuccessful or wouldn't sell because they didn't have that 'Skittles and rainbow kind of love" in them. I wrote about real people, people like you and me, who have real problems to face in life. Guided by His hand I wrote about two women fighting so their love would be treated equally. I wrote about a man still haunted by his parents' death. I wrote about a young woman faced with the diagnosis of MS, but who was determined to succeed anyway. I wrote about a single mother who has physical challenges to face that are a direct result of her past mistakes. And I wrote about how they found redemption when they found the truth, and it set them free. 


Tomorrow, God willing, I'll wake up and have another day to put more tallies in the success column of life. I'm not going to set myself up for failure for the next 371 days by giving myself a laundry list of things I can't fail at. I'm human, and I will fail. Instead, I'm going to look at that woman in the mirror every morning and tell her she's beautiful, that alone will be the start to a very successful day. I'll stop looking at every little thing as a fail, and start looking at more of them as a learning tool. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So, tomorrow morning, I'll be submitting Winter's Rain to that contest, (It's now 12 hours since I wrote this & since I haven't published it yet, I'm reporting that it has been submitted!) and even if the book never makes it past the first submission requirements, it will still be a tally in my success column because today, I saw the truth and the truth has set me free.

And just in case you've forgotten...

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