PREPENT DAY 24
Elul 24 5775 – September 8 2015
How easy or not is it for us to ask for help? When does this meet our shame?
During the fantastic Hazon NYC Bike Ride I just took part of, there were several moments when I felt like an idiot for not knowing certain things about my bike and needed help from more experienced riders. It was so not easy to ask for help and expose my lack of know how that I actually postponed fixing up my bike until the very last minute when it was almost too late and would have been dangerous and dumb.
Around mile 35, just a few to go, already in the hot and fuming city, no longer cruising briskly under canopies of trees in country trails but up and down the hills of Manhattan that one doesn’t notice when one drives, I had to stop, and ask for water, and ask one of the riders who was with me to wait with me for a few minutes, even though it was getting late, so that I can stretch and rest and make it there to the end.
I asked, we waited together, of course it was not a big deal. When we rose up the hill to the finish line to the cheers of those who rode ahead of us along with friends and family – it was all worth it – including the shame, and the pride and every lesson learned along the way.
In life, I feel, we often avoid shame and are motivated by fear of being judged, as to avoid pushing ourselves to new learning and new ways of being in the world.
Ezra, 7, told me yesterday, when we came home from the ride, how he wanted to ride his bike but was afraid that he will look like a dork with the training wheels still on. He made up a whole story about why bikes suck – but really at the root of it was the fear of seeming imperfect, shamed by a lack of skill not yet mastered.
His honesty is inspiring to me.
How can we take a step on the trail of Teshuva, of repair and return and recovery of our best self if we don’t own up to the shame of missing the mark on habits or behaviours? How can we commit to better living if we don’t acknowledge that we have things to learn, and unlearn, and ask for help from friends, or strangers, therapists or doctors or artists or bike experts who will get us what we need and help us get back on the road towards our goals?
Prepent 24. The summer’s over. Rosh Hashanah is but days away. The work to wrap up this year’s bounty of blessings and challenges is under way so that we can start the new one with as clean a slate as possible.
Shame and regret are essential elements of Teshuva. There can be no change without honest appraisal of what’s wrong – and what’s my part of that. But you can’t stay there forever. The shame must and can motivate us to do the work of change and lead us on to pride of achievement. If only for a while before another cycle of our own self doubt, so deeply human, begins again… But hopefully with each spin a little less harsh.
Today: What am I ashamed of? What is one thing I’m afraid to ask for help with? A skill, an attitude, a challenge that makes me feel not good enough but is really just a something needed to get me to the next phase, like training wheels, with nothing to be ashamed of. Who is out there able to listen, without judgement, helping me to deal with what I do not know or can not solve alone, just yet?
Today I reflect on the shame that prevents me from growing, on the courage that finally got me to ask for help, and the kindness of others who are here, as are we, for each other, with our training wheels on, biking or walking or running or crawling all the way to one more milestone on the ride of this gift of a life.
- Anyone have good ideas how to train a kid to use his bike and gradually lose the training wheels? we’re starting the project this wknd..