When I was in the midst of post-concussion syndrome, in a state of constant anxiety when everything was fresh and horrible, I heard a man in Uxbridge library repeatedly saying in conversation: You must be humble before the Lord! You must be humble, you must be humble before the Lord! In his voice, a mature African voice, it sounded much less preachy and much more powerfully elegant then the above may seem.
He was right. It is important to be humble. ‘The Lord’ I take to be the cosmos, Nature, the all-things I keep going on about, the Mystery, the indescribable and the greater-than-us. It has immense power to shatter our hubristic illusions. It can tear a person to pieces, however much they think they are powerful.
I was doing well – days were packed out with community garden volunteering, visiting friends and comrades, I had taken a pause in my therapy with no repercussions, vibrant social lyfe, you name it.
A single poorly cooked ingredient threw me completely off course; something so banal and simple. A night of food poisoning followed and I retched my guts out til they were completely empty. The days that followed threw me back into anxiety and no small amount of depression.
We are so frail. ‘We must be humble before the Lord…’
This isn’t a medical tale. It is about how a trigger can drop you back into the Pit, and it can be exceptionally bad because you have forgotten how shit it is.
Things like panic disorder can come back, even when it feels like you are completely fine.
This is also completely fine. The hard-to-deal-with thing will go away, and faster because you know how to deal with it. But it requires patience aplenty. And humbleness.
‘You must be humble before the Lord.’
Our society does contain the plea to humility. But it is also soaked with the following message: You need to appear on top of things, independent, successful and lively, at all times. You must not be humble before the Lord!
It is unhealthy, stupid and impossible. I have internalized this so much that even with conscious awareness of it, a few days out of action can throw me into the ‘secondary suffering’ which follows feelings of failure and uselessness.
I do feel a need to have some kind of lyfe and success, but this must be balanced with the brute realities of physical human capability and our deep frailty (particularly for those of us born with no silver spoon in our mouths, already disenfranchised and alienated from the system, without access to securities others in more privileged social categories might take for granted).
I also want to be kind to my pride. I recognise that I have had a hard life, and a show of strength has been necessary. Being vulnerable means not being able to protect myself against abuse. Pride is the thing that allows you to have some volition over our lives, to defy dictators and abusers. Without it, why would we resist and struggle those who try to shit on us?
It is a balancing act, and a tough one. I cannot turn pride off, I cannot always lay at the feet of the universe and melt back into its womb. Its hard, life is tricky, perspective is often earned after catastrophe. I don’t blame people for being too prideful.
Fortunately there is a happy tale and I am on the recovery yet again from another ‘medical catastrophe’! I am lucky to have such a strong support network of friends and comrades, but also clever enough to have sought them.
How is that for prideful humility 😉