A little over 18 months ago, I started the process of what Don Miller calls “editing my life.” In my case, my editing ended up focusing on self-contempt.
Brene Brown says “vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It is the birthplace of everything we are hungry for.” Dr. Brown was my cohort one year ago on an act of insanity: I was the only person from Colorado headed to Hawaii Life’s Worthshop event in Wailea, Maui, and I read cover to cover her magnum opus “Daring Greatly“, a monumental work on shame. Part of the reason for the trip was to “reward” myself with something educational I could both write off and enjoy. But a bigger reason was that I was falling apart, and subconsciously, I knew that a dozen counseling sessions and some kind words from friends over beers weren’t the sort of encouragement I needed.
Deep in my recesses, I knew I needed encouragement to limp.
Debris was all over the place in my marriage. Twenty years with my soul mate and what I later learned was called “styles of relating” were basically patterns of coping with thirty years worth of self-perpetuated toxicity I had agreed to run my life.
My Real Estate “Career” was skyrocketing. But my over-taxed body was filled with cortisol that led to a mysterious auto-immune issue that was causing massive arthritis attacks every four days, and I was hopped up on 50 mg of prednisone to hold it at bay.
One of my best friends, my business partner, was leaving the profession. My best friend, and his wife who acted as my professional consiglieri, had just moved 1500 miles away.
My efforts at being the best, damn, helicopter parent in the west… were a never-ending series of wretched failures leading to tween-distance.
I made the mistake of buying new clothes for the event, and my stylish island slacks had cuffs an inch too-long , so when I wore them with genuine Hawaiian slippah’s the hems blackened.
Shame isn’t hard to find. Permission and space to limp, that’s hard. In one of life’s grand incongruities, I found my permission to limp at 5 in the morning in a lower level lobby of the Four Seasons, Wailea. I started writing…
“I am brilliant… at claiming my isolation. I am surrounded by strange metaphors. I am warring with the poser-Ben, an all-out combat of intense hostility fighting over the truth of a volcanic dot in the middle of the largest ocean on earth. Hawaii is the most isolated chain of islands on the planet. Maui is the most expensive. Everything is accessible here: with cash. Or credit. Doesn’t matter. Cocktails are $16. Muesli is $14. I bought sunscreen thinking that would be a billion dollars, but it’s free at the pool. Nice.
“So I take that wound, too. A test. A battle. Someone else’s struggle, that I just lost $12 and everyone else from the Four Seasons to Safeway to Wolfgang Puck has won, and I am the (deserved) loser.
“I won’t take my seat at the table.”
At about the moment as the sun rose over the island, I wrote “my paradox today is that I am someone else’s septic system, and I’m supposed to look good while I clean it?”
Limping is bizarre. No one’s work promotes it. No leader in their right mind would promote it. Culture doesn’t promote it. Sports don’t promote it (any Denverites of the 80’s remember that Dan Reeve’s ad?). But if “the unexamined life is not worth living”, then participating in the limp is as human as it gets.
Dan Allender wrote in his (brilliant) “Leading with a Limp” “I’m an illicit drug dealer. What am I doing leading a seminary?” Exactly. Dan also quotes Ann Lamott when he repeats “Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.”
Forgive and forget.
Never let them see you sweat.
Allender likes to use a word in his classroom sessions: “Metabolize.” Somewhere, limping and metabolic processes go hand in hand. Limping stands out, on a personal level. It communicates the start of pain. It references to the rest of the body that it cannot function at optimal speed, that sprinting wouldn’t be profitable. Somewhere down this chain of conscious identification comes some kind of limbic understanding… I can’t run like that. Why can’t I run like that? How long have I had this pebble in my shoe? How did that pebble get in my shoe? Why won’t the pebble come out? Why is the pebble that color? That pebble… hurts…
A couple hours before leaving my limping vacation, I drove the northeast shore of Maui, around the one-lane Honoapilani Highway, on a Saturday afternoon of nice surf around Honolua Bay. Amidst all this staggering, windswept landscape, the last image of the trip is probably my favorite: a local truck with boards hanging out the back stuck in a one-to-one faceoff with a rental car on the one-lane road, while a wild rooster and ferrel cats scuttle along the road’s shoulder.
There’s a metaphor out there, dying to live out loud.