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I should just live in this stupid sinkhole:thoughts on humility.

At mid-life everyone should do themselves a favor, and everyone else around them. Stop, and glance back, over-the-shoulder. The windstorm, or in my case, the tornado fog, has fallen and drifted into the path I left behind me; I can finally SEE all the interesting leftovers. Sometimes the looking back is the most clarifying view. Not everything, but so many things, start to make sense. Soon, a good cry erupts and tears watermark the neck line of my shirt, again. It’s a massive wake up call for those of us who face-plant into the same sinkhole 50 different times, or worse, scale down it like an impulsive adventure. But looking back, there’s a message decoded. Every last terrible decent was bringing me under the earth. Reminding me of my origin: Dust. In no way is this an expression of self-contempt, rather an insight. I just left the job I have enjoyed for the last 11 years. I moved from the south to the north after 21 years. My address is now with my parents, my employment status is: unemployed, and my savings is dwindling to a small reserve. My entire identity has been unraveled by so much change. The younger me watched people bend a little sideways when they crossed the line into mid-life. To be honest, I never thought it would do much to me since I have no major markers in my life. No adjustment to marriage, no changes in my marriage due to babies, no children to manage, no graduations that leave me sad to see them on to the next phase...My big markers have been mostly around everyone else’s markers. So it was natural for me to think I would weather the confusion of milestones. Enter: Burn out. Tornado. Sinkhole. But the fall, the breakdown, is its own watershed event. As humans, we grow up, strap our shoes tight, fix our minds on adulthood things and leave behind wonder, trust, celebration, raw emotion, and curiosity, all the good things we need to keep us human. We get downright serious. We use each other. We promote ourselves. We work too hard. We stop playing. We walk among the skyscrapers with hubris steaming out the top of our heads. Whatever we do, wherever we work, no matter our profile of personal and professional accomplishments, age subdues us. It’s not all negative muck and muddle, of course. But in a way, we petrify. In areas of consequence, we go numb. Too many times we’ve been hurt and now it’s time to close up shop. Too often we have been the recipient of misplaced anger or maybe we have never been picked. So we get on the cynical bus and take it till it we get nauseous. After long hours of travel, we forget where we are or where we were going. Our state changes, like Dorian Grey, becoming less human and more statuesque. Misfits in our hipster garb. Twisted in figure and manner. Then we trip. Plummet into a cavity with so many warnings and yet seemingly none at all. I have fallen so many times it would appear logical to remain down there in the dark room of my collapse. And yet, in the end, this is the necessary fall for the necessary development. “Get up every morning and pray that humility would be thrust upon you and draped over you like a covering.” I repeated this phrase in my classroom often. It may be a dramatic claim, but I said it with such confidence: “Humility is the most attractive quality you will ever see in a human.” This is not something learned, but rather cultivated in the face-plant position. Every fall seems to produce a little more. Coldness in an adult-sized heart is ugly. Control, agitation, and fear shut down the childhood spirit of freedom and spontaneity; the result is pride. Blinding, hurtful, stoic pride. There is no room for confusion or questions; mystery is a threat. We begin to quantify people by unfair standards. Curiosity is lost with such little space or time to contemplate and notice what is around us. The older we get, the more robotic. The older we get, the more flat. And so enters humility... A softened demeanor, A wanderlust spirit, A default to admit wrongdoing, An awareness of something bigger than ourselves, A willingness to sacrifice, A admittance of limitation and the need for others, A selflessness which results in sacrifice and self-control, A comfort in being alone, A teachable heart space, A desire to forgive, A prayerful bent, A non-demanding presence, A priority of listening, A value for creation, A posture of open hands, A repentant conscience, An empathy that carries the pain of others, A beautiful self-forgetfulness, And a sincere gratitude. These are the qualities that dress us after a fall. This is evidence of the experience and the recovery. When we edge our way back up, out of the ditch, we wear a new self. We are hidden behind humility. It is spectacular, and the irony is...we never know it’s happening.

©2020 by Dawn Poulterer-Woods