Lessons in Humility

I’m told that when something keeps happening I need to listen. Repetitions of numbers, song lyrics, etc. Certainly this has been true of many major changes in my life–especially the lyrics. Thank you, “Unholy Confessions” for the role you played in 2010. For almost a whole month. Two lines. Over and over and over.

And then I got around to listening to them. And to the ones that danced through the month before. Thank you, “Buried Alive,” though your message quite a bit less obscure than the song that followed.

This time it is not a song (though there was one that I still haven’t figured out the message my brain was sending. Maybe it was just scrambled), but a repetition of events. Namely, failures.

I have a great life. A job and a place I love to be in–the differences from last year are so dramatic as to be pointless to try to describe. I’ve been fairly successful in my endeavors professionally thus far–nothing huge, but still there. And then there is this month. None of them life and death, only one panic attack induced (and talked down by rhyte and then a solid 5-miler), but no less failures. And public ones–a federal grant, a conference proposal (see, none of these are of grand significance outside my own head), a something else that I can’t recall at the moment–none of these private.

On the one hand, given the sheer number, the one panic aside (which was over something other than the failures), I’ve handled this terrifyingly well for me. I might be numb at the moment (oh, I did just remember the other thing. *sigh* yeah, it was important after all), but I’m more okay with this than I would have ever imagined myself being. That reaction is, of course, subject to change without warning and with plenty of drama.

What I am hearing in all of this is a lesson to be learned. I want to ask why I need to be humbled, but why probably isn’t the question. How do I respond from here–to this and to things that follow.  Do I hide from big projects? Do I apologize for my existence <–a personal favorite?

And what exactly am I supposed to be learning here? Ah, right, patience. Humility.

I forget so easily.

And at the same time all of the above is unfolding, I ran two races last weekend–a 5K and a half marathon–and PR’d in them both. For what may be the first (and last) time ever, my athletic-life is more…successful doesn’t feel like the right word, but it probably is (bonus: band on stage as I finished the half was playing Guns N  Roses).  My work life is fine–I’m doing the things that need doing, and perhaps I need to let go of the image of myself as a grand success in the particular area in which the failures are arising. Take steps back. Look at the matter. Turn my energies elsewhere and let that side marinate for a bit. Maybe come back later. And, as they keep telling me, sit with the discomfort.

Oh. I see. Perfectionism, isn’t it? Right, that one. The one I keep having to work on. Gotcha. Comically, I have been tiptoeing into that morass. My bass sits behind me right now, waiting for me to play badly just to play (it had been so long that my fingers are having to relearn the stretch across the neck). I have a sketchbook in which I am learning perspective and color. A poetry notebook so that I can laugh at myself, and a tentative research project beginning to join the nest around my favorite chair.

Clearly, whatever it is that needs to remind me to work on that rather significant character flaw has never seen my drawings, heard my music or read this blog. Perfectionism is clearly not a problem (I kid). Of course, none of the above (save the blog) is for public consumption, either. So I probably don’t get to count most of it.

So, there is more work here, apparently. More of the public variety, I expect.

Be mindful, be forgiving, be honest. <–perhaps my mantra for a while.


So, I checked my journal for the recent lyrics (which, thankfully, have been on a rotation). Today’s (which did not need checking, what with it being in my head at the moment and all): “Until our second chance, just enjoy the dance,/ and find out who we are /(these dreams will never leave you)/Let’s find out what we are/ (the dreams will never leave you)…” (“4 a.m.”). Recent others: “you’ve fallen asleep in denial/look at the way we’re dying” (“Blinded in Chains”); and for several days “There’s something in your eyes/ a part of me that I recognize” (“Lost it All”).  Personal favorite (and the kind of earworm that would not leave, no matter what I did): “Play your game you better walk away/your integrity don’t mean shit/run away you fucking parasite/or I’m gonna take you out.” (“Trashed and Scattered”)<–primarily the second line. Make of that what you will.

There were others, some of which are so commonplace as to have a permanent space for themselves. So: denial, identity formation, dreams, recognition and…threats of violence in the voice of a cocky 25-year-old male.  Creative interpretations are probably necessary.

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