Tag Archives: humility

Finding Humility at the NY State Fair

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My family went to the New York State Fair every summer. We visited The Dairy Building to check out the enormous butter sculpture and, afterwards, waited in a ridiculously long line to get a free baked potato, topped with butter and sour cream. We admired the plants and flowers, the oversized fruits and vegetables, the goats and cows and swine. I looked forward to sipping fresh-squeezed lemonade out of a chubby yellow straw.

The last time I attended the State Fair was August 29, 2012.

My son and I and met my parents there. We stopped at the US Army exhibit where officers encouraged passers-by the try a pull-up challenge. When no one was participating, they demonstrated how “easy” it was to do ten pull-ups with pronated hands.

I’ve always admired that kind of raw strength.

I watched a few people struggle to do even one, and I remember thinking, “Wow, these people are really weak.” (Not so nice, I know. but that’s where I was.) And it was with great swelling pleasure, I stepped up to the bar and showed the world how a 45-year old woman could do 7 pull-ups.

No problem.

Just a few weeks later, I got sick.

Very sick.

I couldn’t go to the gym for over 2 years, and my muscles wasted away.

Now that I’m back to taking care of my body, I’ve been lifting weights again, trying to regain all that I lost.

When I was going thru benzodiazepine withdrawal, I never thought I’d ever be able to leave the house again. The symptoms lasted for months and years, and I didn’t know a single person who could tell me that my symptoms – though horrifying – were temporary. There were no support groups. Doctors told me that my illness was evidence that I needed to stay on the medication. I just keep holding on, white-knuckled.

Going to the Fair was a goal I set for myself this year.

I never thought I’d ever be able to do it, but there I was doing it.

I parked my car, figured out how to get in, walked to The Antique Tractor display…all by myself. I met some people and, together, we walked to the Iroquois Indian Village, watched men and women dance in slow circles as elders beat a drum and chanted. We walked around the midway,  saw the cows and goats and horses.

It was as if nothing had changed, not one moment had passed.

I remembered how I’d once easily completed those pull-ups, how my father had commented on my strength, how the men and women in uniform had praised me and joked that I could have a career in the military, so when I saw the familiar US Army exhibition, I was curious to see if I could still do it, three years later. Tossing my purse on the ground, I stepped right up. The bar was higher than I remembered, but I grabbed it.

There was no turning back.

I’ve always prided myself on my physicality. I was a dancer, a gymnast and a cheerleader. I was graceful and strong. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d helped my father use a chainsaw to take down some thick branches.

Using all my strength, I found – to my horror – I couldn’t complete a single pull-up.

Not. One.

IMG_0045-1

The Agony of Defeat.

So there I was.

And here I am.

Feeling humble.

Realizing I’m not be as strong as I once was.

That it is unlikely I’ll ever be that strong again.

And yet feeling strangely grateful.

I mean, at least I have arms.

I can embrace people that I care about fully.

I can touch and hold and offer.

And I’m laughing.

Because it’s important to remember to laugh at ourselves.

(Y’all, I looked like a doofus.)

And I’m realizing that despite my lack of physical strength, well… I can celebrate the fact that I’m growing my inner strength, how all this adversity has proved that I am a survivor.

(Even if I never make it on the TV show.)

It feels good, this coming back to life.

I’m a baby phoenix.

This time, with each failure, I realize I’m learning to fly.

When is the last time you embarrassed yourself in public?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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Lessons From A Disney Princess: A #LessonLearned by Ellie Ann Soderstrom

Ellie Ann Soderstrom is positively magical. Besides being madly in love with her husband and three children, she writes fairy tales, tall tales, and is interested in transmedia storytelling. Her content is consistently fabulous. I recommend subscribing to her blog, Ellie Ann Navigates the Week. Follow her on Twitter at @elliesoderstrom and LIKE her Facebook page: Ellie Soderstrom.

Thanks for being here today, EA. {You know I adore your Tall Tale Tuesdays.}

Click on the teacher lady’s bottom to read other posts in this series.

I’m thrilled to be here to talk about MY FAVORITE PRINCESS EVER: POCAHONTAS. Because I’ve learned everything there is to know about life about her. (Slight exaggeration. She didn’t teach me not to wash new red sweaters with new white sweaters). I’ve watched her movie countless times, rapt with awe at her grace and oneness with nature. She’s my favorite Disney princess by far, Jasmine ain’t got nothin’ on her. No one can do a swan dive like she can except Captain Jack Sparrow, and even that is up for debate.

But I’m not here to talk about swan dives  — although they were helpful for my pirating career. I’m here to talk about the most important song of Pocahontas’ career: Colors of the Wind.

First of all, the unspoken lesson to be learned from this song is if you see the colors of the wind, or especially if they’re thick enough to paint with, you should probably run.

This is, I assume, why Pocahontas runs so much in the music video.

photo by Lydia White

Second of all, she says:

“You think I’m an ignorant savage. And you’ve been so many places, I guess it might be so.”

Let me tell ya, these words have saved me a laundry load of vanity and sorrow. I’m an ignoramus. Every time I think I know something about the solar system, Galileo goes and tells me the earth revolves around the sun! That’s my allegorical way of saying that I can spout all the important words that I want to with conviction, but if they aren’t said in humility then it’ll all be in vain the day someone comes along and tears down my pretty little soapbox I’ve been standing on.

So now, thanks to Pocahontas’ viewpoint, I accept that others might think I’m ignorant. I’ll cling to the few beliefs I hold fast to about God and Man and the Universe, but the rest . . . I’ll try to speak humbly with a big dose of humor because just when you teach that dinosaurs are extinct JURASSIC PARK II happens and you have a Tyrannosaurus Rex in New York.

Pocahontas speaks of walking two moons. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins,” as the old Irish saying goes. (At least, I think it’s Irish). As John Smith raises his gun to shoot a grizzly, Pocahontas stops him and sings:

“You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger; you’ll learn things you never knew you never knewwwww!”

And then they get to cuddle a bear cub.

So the lesson is: don’t shoot grizzlies! Be kind to grizzlies, even if they are hairy and smelly and smell weird, even if they want to eat all your honey, and even if they growl when you approach. As long as you are kind and cuddle with their children they will love you! That is my metaphorical example of being kind to people even if they’re ugly or weird or look scary. (Seriously though, you can’t take that advice literally! Do you know what would happen if you tried to cuddle a cub? Mama Bear Death Claw Attack!)

Charging Bears

But walking, feeling, living someone else’s life is a noble way to live.

Sometimes when I’m peeved at a woman who cuts in line, or a friend says something rude, or a family member cancels unexpectedly, or a car takes forever to turn left, I’ll try to think about what they might be going through. Sometimes it helps me calm down. Sometimes it just helps me come up with stories. But it always ensures I don’t take out a rifle like John Smith did.

That’s the way I want to live. By trying to walk, feel, and live in other people’s shoes. (Not literally, I am no shoe thief). Also, to walk with humility and grace . . . not willing to fight and hurt people for what I “think” is right. It’s not a lesson I’ve learned. It’s a lesson I’m learning. And maybe by the time I’m eighty I’ll have the lesson learned. And then perhaps my swan dive will be as perfect as Pocahontas’.

Have you learned any life lessons from a favorite Disney princess?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson & @elliesoderstrom