When Life Brings You to Your Knees

The past week has been a huge lesson in humility. I don’t mean humiliation or low self-esteem. The word “humility” originates from the Church Latin word humilis, which literally translates as “on the ground.” Other words that mean “Earth” are also part of the etymology of “humility.” Being humble means keeping your feet on the ground, and staying present here on Earth. Sometimes humility is interpreted in the context of others, i.e., remembering you are no better and no worse than anyone else. Humility can also mean recognizing how powerless you are over yourself and others.

That’s been my experience in the past week, recognizing how powerless I am. I’ve had social interactions, or non-interactions as the case may be, that I REALLY didn’t anticipate. I reached out to eight people and none got back to me within a day or two like they usually do. Some of them still haven’t responded. As I told my friend, “If it’s odd, it’s God applies to the unpleasant things too.” I think God was forcing me to touch some unhealed places within me, particularly in my past where I felt lonely, alone, and invisible.

And then on Friday, I woke up with twinges of pain in the same places I experienced from my car accident in 2021. For context, I haven’t felt pain in those places for at least 1.5 years. It’s not like they ache on a regular basis. No, this was a searing, out-of-the-blue pain. It, too, forced me to confront a quite literal old wound.

Sometimes life is like this. Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash

When I slowed down and asked myself what was up, why this all was happening, the answer that came to me was, “Your wounds are meant to be healed. You cannot pretend they don’t exist. Nor can you focus on how good your life is now as a way to fix when it wasn’t.” In other words, it doesn’t help to say, “Look how many friends you have now!” in response to the pain I felt when friendship was scarce.

Like I wrote about in 2020, trauma is always running in the background because it’s stored in the central nervous system. We used to think trauma was stored in the brain as a memory, but the latest research shows trauma is stored in the body. You might have heard of the book The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk which is all about this. He writes, “As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”

What I know is I’ve felt deep emotional and physical pain in my life. What I know is some of it remains unresolved because otherwise, I wouldn’t feel so triggered when eight people don’t get back to me. What I know is my physical body still has scar tissue from the various accidents I’ve been in. What I also know, but struggle to believe when so many things go wrong at once, is that my higher power wants me to be happy, joyous, and free.

I’ve quoted this poem by Hafiz before but I’m sharing it again because it’s appropriate. It’s called “Tripping Over Joy”:

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

Humility reminds me I don’t have a thousand serious moves left. Humility reminds me that all I can do sometimes is surrender. Sometimes in laughter but sometimes in sorrow. That’s what I do when life brings me to my knees: I give in.

I dream of a world where we realize there’s a difference between humility and humiliation. A world where we understand old wounds continue to exist until we confront them. A world where we understand Higher Power wants us to be happy, joyous, and free, and sometimes that means hurting emotionally and physically. A world where we surrender when life brings us to our knees.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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