Sometimes it seems like I am just a house of cards, one stiff breeze away from falling apart. There is so much that can go wrong. Illness, accident, conflict. It is a lot to manage.
I am not even talking about the huge things. Just the little jabs that remind me of how fragile I am. The dental work I had last week that sidelined me for a couple days. The heat rash on my shoulder that itches something fierce. A friend of mine fell off a skateboard a couple weeks ago and broke his front tooth and my wife’s wrist fractured in two places when her bike overturned yesterday.
We are fragile people. Physically, emotionally, even spiritually.
Running From Fragility
It occurs to me that I spend a good chunk of my time trying to run from my fragility (I’ve avoided this dental work, for example, for years). I try to hide from it or ignore it or outrun it. I try to mask it with emotional, physical, and spiritual cosmetics. I try to reorient reality to mitigate my fragility.
Of course, this is not all a bad thing. This is the way it should be, in one regard. Humans are supposed to avoid their own destruction. Survival is the first of our basic human needs.
But I am talking more about the reality of my own fragility in my mind and heart. I am talking about perception. And I work really hard to not face up to my own fragility. I work really hard to put myself in situations that reinforce my strength and ignore or vilify my weaknesses. I overcompensate with hubris and games of comparison.
But my own fragility follows me around like a shadow, reminding me of my limits, of my imperfections.
Learning from Fragility
Here is the great irony of human existence: acknowledging our own fragility is the key to thriving. We are strongest when we are honest about where we are weak. Our efforts to ignore or wipe away our fragilities only add to them.
So, my laments above are one side of the coin. We certainly should not ignore our strength or give in to our lusts. There is a wisdom and a balance.
The other side of the coin is that fragility teaches. It spurs us toward community; the real impetus of truly loving others is understanding you cannot really do this life alone. It tests our resolve, giving us a proving ground for our perceived visions and goals.
And, perhaps most importantly, it is real. It is the way it is.
Acknowledging our fragility without adding to it is one of the great dances of a thriving life. We learn from our mistakes but we don’t go looking for them. We try our best to explain things without explaining them away.
In the end, our fragility points us toward greater things. It humbles us. Reminding us that we are not God. Which, let’s be honest, is a reminder we need a lot more than we realize.
So, I am sitting here today with a heat rash, sore gums, and a broken ankle that never fully healed. I am also juggling a great fear of rejection, an over-dependence on the validation of others, and a concern my circumstances will reveal just how incapable I am.
The key to life is not to quickly cover these realities, but to share them. To acknowledge that they are not all I am. They are, in fact, what I am not. And defining myself by what I am not is a patent absurdity.
I am resilient. I am a learner. And, above all, I am someone who tries, who does the best he can. Trying my best to steward my little existence, fragilities and all.