In The Active Life, Parker Palmer wrote, “Much human action is laced with the problem of pride…. Prideful action is often followed by a fall. But we make a mistake when we try to avoid that fall…”
In my twenties and thirties, along with my teaching career, I played the role of the perfect wife. I worked hard to earn that distinction. Pride in my efforts hid the truth of my imperfections, but mostly from me.
My first husband nailed my faults with his parting shot: “You are too controlling. You work too hard which makes people nervous. You are not a good hostess.” When giving parties, I was afraid others wouldn’t approve of the real me, so I busied myself in the kitchen. My struggles with hosting, as with control and work, were just another manifestation of pride.
In my mind, I rejected the truth spoken by my soon-to-be ex-husband: I am not! (Self-defense), You ungrateful SOB! (Self-righteous anger), Nobody appreciates me! (Self-pity.) Humiliated but not humbled, I avoided a chance to make significant change.
“The human ego prefers…just about anything to falling or changing or dying. The ego… loves the status quo, even when it is not working,” Richard Rohr stated in Falling Upward.
After the divorce and with my new belief in God, a new status quo seemed to work. My two children and I managed pretty well during the carpool years – piano lessons, choir, dance and sports, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Science Fairs, School Plays and Speech Tournaments.
Then came the teen years and driving. The skills I’d developed teaching adolescent girls hadn’t transferred much into my personal life. Another fall loomed.
When my children drove at night, I prayed and worried and stayed awake, thinking I could protect them and control their fates – and my reputation as a good mother. Love, fear, exhaustion and pride landed me in the kitchen at 1:30 in the morning screaming at my daughter who had broken curfew – again.
“If you can’t abide by the rules, Jessica, leave the keys to the car on the kitchen counter.” Screaming did not help Jessica, who was struggling to grow up. I was failing and falling – again.
We muddled through, and my children left home for college and life. As my 24/7 parenting role dropped away and after my 34-year career in education ended, I took time for contemplation. I practiced humility and honest self-evaluation, and discovered that the belief in God means love, forgiveness – and action.
Palmer wrote, “We risk so many things when we act: taking a fall, failing to achieve a goal, appearing incompetent, evoking criticism or competition or resistance or anger, or simply being ignored. But most of all, we risk exposing ourselves… The greatest risk in action is the risk of self-revelation, and that is also action’s greatest joy.”
Writing is action, risk, self-revelation and joy – failing, falling and succeeding. It feels like flying in the light of a new day over the Rockfish Valley.