Have you ever had a week when upon reflection had a learning theme to it? Sometimes life lessons are repeated over and over again..........the lesson is received, considered and seemingly accepted but then all of a sudden you find yourself in a situation or a predicament when you are confronted with the same damn lesson. It's that broken record kind of feeling, or to put it in a more present day context.......that repeating blip on your favourite CD. Don't you hate it when that happens?
The theme for this week in my bewildering numbbrain world was the connection between being impulsive and feeling humbled by my stupid actions. It didn't stop there either because I kept having to revisit humility every step of the way, even when I wasn't impulsive. I should've put the word on the back of my hand to remind me when I looked down in frustrating resignation and I should've written it backwards on my forehead so when I was standing in front of the mirror, I would be reminded. I should've tacked that six letter word, the same one that best described Wilbur the pig in Charlotte's Web...................on my computer screen........HUMBLE.
Humility. A stew of feelings, reactions...........of gut stabbing realizations that throw one into a pit of discomfort while the event and actions are stirred.....where the spices are absorbed. It's like biting into a hot chili pepper and then shrinking away from the hotness permeating your whole mouth. ZOWSA.
It always seems to defy me until I have stirred up a hornets nest or let my blistering opinions topple any balance, or until I have blurted out something in anger. Badabing!
Anger, Opinions, Distorted Rights, "I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW"...... and then a nudge happens (or sometimes something even more jolting....) and all of a sudden a red rash of shame floods me as my whole demeanour shifts into submission. I feel small because I've found myself knocked down a notch or two.
We have a tendancy to shore up our beliefs and interpretations of our world with illusions and rationales to a point where we are living a lie that we consider a truth. We have convinced ourselves of one angle, one perspective that we become blinded by the reality of a situation. There's even a fancy schmancy term for it...............cognitive dissonance. In other words, our heads are not screwed on to the rest of our bodies. We are living a disconnect..........thinking one thing, feeling another and sometimes doing something completely different (and possibly the opposite). And yet...........we BELIEVE we know! We BELIEVE we are right in our view of the world around us and ain't no one gonna be telling us any different.
In my workshop yesterday I told the group a story about a job interview I had a couple of years ago. I had actually been approached by someone who believed I was THE perfect person for the job and when she gave me the details, I was beyond excited because I could picture myself in it as well..........and loving it. So...........I prepared like a crazy person, all the while boosting myself, filling my head with facts and information that may be helpful to draw from during the interview. I contacted various people to see if they could help with the whole small town network thing. I filled my cup of knowledge and enthusiasm so full that I was bursting at the seams by the time I walked confidently into the boardroom.
I answered all the questions..............tried to stay linear......showed my enthusiasm for this BRAND NEW position with the city of Fredericton. I offered up a vision or two, reiterating some of the recommendations made in a report that had been the impetus for the job. I made sure I made eye contact with all four of the interviewers. I was thorough, expressive, vibrant........
After an hour or so, I shook hands with them all.......feeling like I had won over 3 out of the 4. That's how I read it. I then serendipitously bumped into one of my references.........and excitedly OOZED about how I feel like I had NAILED the interview! In fact, I think I even said that it was the best interview I had ever had.
The next morning............like a sober second thought...........I was pummelled with shame and embarrassment. It was then that I realized how over the top I had been..........how I had oooooozed too much. And I wondered if perhaps I had scared even the assistant chief of police who was a part of the interviewing team.... and yet it would be a couple of months before I would see it more broadly........that I saw, accepted and sought to change this extroverted part of me that can overwhelm and frighten. I had basically shut down the discourse by coming across as a know it all. Who the heck wants to talk to a know it all?
Compassion for a topic or an issue is one thing. Crazed enthusiasm coupled with compassion and a belief that you have ALL the answers scares the shit out of most people. This was a lesson in humilty which has stuck, I told the group I was delivering a workshop to yesterday. A shift happened..........for some reason I was finally able to see this part of me. Since then, I have altered my approach in those type of interview situations.
And yet....... I keep having to learn humility again and again..........because it doesn't seem to cross over into other life situations for me.
Before humility there is anger, frustration, pride and impulsivity. After the eye opener, there is awareness, remorse, and vulnerability. Humility is the doorway to a vulnerable openness of the heart and mind where new learning can happen. It feels this way for me.
Before humility there is a full cup of knowledge, opinions, facts and beliefs. Theres no room for discourse on anything because our cup has no more room for even a drop..... After humility when the contents have been spilled or have evaporated? There's room for discourse and for seeing our world and how we interact in it in a different light.
Henri Nouwen who seems to offer me up lessons with impeccable timing, wrote about the process of spiritually and emotionally moving from a "hostility to hospitality" as a journey of recognizing when our cups are filled with too many "I knows" ........... so many that we are stuck perseverating and closed to any new awakenings. He wrote about the importance of emptying the cup of perspectives........in order to offer up an empty vulnerable space where one can listen and learn and interact with others who may have different perspectives. Empty spaces, a poverty of the mind "as a spiritual attitude is a growing willingness to recognize the incomprehensibility of the mystery of life," according to Nouwen is where one can receive and discover the gifts of others.
Could this be where humility dwells? If it does, than I'm wondering if new learning happens only when one reaches a point where surrendering to the mystery of life is the only option? This is most definately a hard lesson to learn for someone like me who wrestles with the idea that I don't have complete control over my destiny.