A Mouthful of Dirt

I say ‘no’ sometimes, because I’m afraid. Even typing those words, I feel the trepidation of confessing something I feel ashamed of, that occasionally, if I don’t think I’m as strong as the person who has invited me along, or if I suspect I’ll look dumb doing something I’m not good at (yet), I find a reason to say no. The injury I’m nursing is worse than it actually is. I need to do some family thing. Too much work. Blah. Blah. Blah.

In reality, I’m afraid to hurt as much as I suspect I’ll have to, to keep up. I’m afraid to let someone know I’m not strong enough, not fit enough. I’m afraid not to be in complete control of my effort.

This is embarrassing but also very human, right? The ego is this big, stupid bag full of garbage we drag around with us everywhere we go. When we our guard is down, in moments of fleeting vulnerability, we let it step forward and make decisions for us. The ego lies without compunction.

The flip side of this coin is my ego telling me I can do things I can’t. I find myself in midair, pulled up off the end of a dirt jump. This was going to look good, until it didn’t. I’m sideways, not completely, but enough, and gravity isn’t going to be kind when I begin to deal with equal and opposite reactions. This is bullshit. What happened to tip me over from fear of looking stupid, to too stupid not to look it? The ego is a gambler too.

In 12-step programs there’s a lot of focus on right-sizing the ego, on getting with reality. We are never as bad or as good as we tell ourselves. Maybe we’re never as weak or as strong either.

I try not to say no anymore, which is not to say I always say yes. In the best case scenario I defer a decision until I can be honest with myself. What am I afraid of? Can I articulate it to myself, to the person who’s asked me to do something with them? Or, on the flip side, do I really need to show off when I’m feeling strong and confident? What do I get from that? A mouthful of dirt?