Quests, Success and Failure – Becoming or Having?

This post by PJ at Coming2Terms hit me like a ton of bricks.  In it, the choice to live childfree after IF is referred to as a “failure.”  I’ve been turning this over in my mind for the last few days, in between bouts of dealing with the effects of a lovely stomach flu virus which has been visiting us.


I’ve also been re-reading a childhood favourite book which involves a quest, so these themes have been playing off each other.  For many, children come along easily – there may be challenges, but it is a far different experience than for those of us that must go through infertility on a quest to fulfill this strong desire. 


Has a quest always been deemed a failure if the original intent has not been fulfilled?  What about beginning the quest, only to discover there are deeper forces or issues at work, other things that must be considered – priorities that we recognize as more important than the original goal?  What about the journey and all the growth it brings us – does that weigh in at more than achieving the destination?


In the book “Taran Wanderer” by Lloyd Alexander, Taran begins by wanting to discover who his parents were.  (He was adopted as an infant and has never known anything about his parentage, though he hopes it may be noble.)  This is especially important in his world where people introduce themselves as “son/daughter of …”   Ultimately he does not find the answers he is looking for, but he discovers much about himself and grows into a man in the process.  Not only is it impossible for him to fulfill his quest, but he realizes that he has other priorities – that other things matter more.


“As for my parentage … it makes little difference.  True kinship has naught to do with blood ties, however strong they be.  I think we are all kin, brothers and sisters one to the other … manhood is not given but earned … [Life] is clay to be shaped, as raw clay on a potter’s wheel.”


Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor, fought her battles in another kind of quest.  In 1847 it was extraordinary for a woman to want to become a doctor, yet she threw all of her considerable strength, determination, persistence and creativity to this end.  During her studies, and after her medical degree, the practice of surgery was of great fascination to her.  However, a short time later she contracted an infection in her eyes and her eyesight was irreparably damaged.  It was impossible now for her to pursue the passion of becoming a surgeon.  Despite her amazing resources, there was nothing that could make this dream come true.  Elizabeth’s sister followed in her footsteps and became a surgeon.  “and for a moment she envied her sister.  She could not help thinking of the sad accident … and the illness that had followed … impairing her eyesight and destroying forever her hope of becoming a surgeon.  ‘My life will have to take other directions now’ she said.”  (from The First Woman Doctor, by Rachel Baker.  Yes, it’s more a kids’ book!)  Elizabeth accomplished so many truly amazing things, including establishing public health and preventive medicine, plus a much better system for educating doctors.  She is one of my heroes.


Now it is not possible for me to imagine Elizabeth as having “failed” in any way.  What amazing accomplishments!  And yet, she too did not attain the objective of her quest.


All of this is leading me to think about the difference between becoming and having.  I think it’s so much easier to measure people by what they have, and that is what our society focuses on … after all, what’s the point of most marketing?  If you have a child, then you have succeeded.  If you have the knowledge of your parents, or have achieved being a surgeon, there is success. 


Yet there doesn’t seem to be a way of acknowledging our becoming.  You and your partner struggle through IF and discover so much about yourselves, your relationship, what you value and believe and can pursue – hopefully while protecting your relationship, respecting what you feel is ethical, and can afford.  Some may stop tx sooner because they aren’t willing to go to the next level – it will compromise an intangible but real part of who they are.  Some are comfortable going all the way with tx because it is in harmony with their deepest selves.  Some begin the journey of adoption, and others the journey of living childfree.  Either way, I think being true to your own integrity is the key.  And it can hurt worse than anything to have to make that decision.  Agonizing, excruciating … but there is no way around that decision and that pain.  The only way is through.  Hopefully we are left with a core of ourselves that is enriched in some way and not just embittered.  I know I am still working on rooting out the bitterness and treasuring the hard-won gifts that have come from the struggle.  But the bitterness still comes out at times.


What about you?  Do you have any thoughts about success and failure?  Becoming versus having?  What you have unexpectedly discovered when you were on a quest for something quite different?


I’ll leave you with some lyrics of a Great Big Sea song … “Something Beautiful”



You can’t believe your broken heart will ever mend

But every mountain has its faces that’d make you want to stop

On this so unwelcome journey from the bottom to the top.


Move along, I believe there’s Something Beautiful to see

Move along, I believe there’s Something Beautiful

Just waiting for you and me


I know you’ll never count the tears you’ve cried

Though you’ve asked a million questions

No one could tell you why

A single soul is chosen to be the one put to the test

But there will be some consolation for a heart that never rests

Move along, I believe there’s Something Beautiful to see

Move along, I believe there’s Something Beautiful

Just waiting for you and me


4 thoughts on “Quests, Success and Failure – Becoming or Having?

  1. loribeth61 says:

    Great song! I don’t know a lot of Great Big Sea’s stuff but I’ve always enjoyed them whenever I’ve seen them on TV, etc.

    What’s that old saying — it’s not so much hether you ultimately reach your destination, it’s the journey that counts, & the friends you make & the experiences you have along the way.

  2. Mel says:

    I think if people focus only on the end goal, they missed all the small accomplishments along the way.

    How about one goal’s failure is another goal’s accomplishment?

  3. Amy says:

    “All of this is leading me to think about the difference between becoming and having. I think it’s so much easier to measure people by what they have, and that is what our society focuses on … after all, what’s the point of most marketing? ”

    Amen to that.

    Especially in the U.S. and especially as a parent—there’s all this enormous pressure when you have children to buy the big house, the big cars, live in the suburbs, etc. It’s crazy. As if you have to acquire certain things to be a legitimate family. Where I live, people constantly vote for politicians who won’t raise taxes. As a result, sure, it’s inexpensive to live here, but the libraries aren’t open on the weekends, for example. All because people want the money in their pockets or to pay for the mortgage on their enormous house instead.

    I could go on all day, but what I mean to say is, great blog! I’m so happy you started one and I love these thought-provoking posts.

  4. One of my favorite quotes was said by Michael Jordan and I have it in a small frame on my desk.
    “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
    Michael Jordan is considered the most successful basketball player, if not athlete, ever. Yet, he failed again and again.
    If you read the autobiographies of very successful people you find that they all have this in common….constant failure!!

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