There’s nothing that knocks me off my game like a pimple. And not just the shy kind that’s easily disguised but the brazen bump that arrives on a chin or a cheek and refuses to budge as if to say, “And you thought you were going places, love?” and “Let’s order-in tonight.”
A pimple, an illness, a blow-up, a death, they all come bearing the same sly news: “Your humanity is showing.”
My humanity decided to throw a pageant for itself at a retreat I once led for young clergy. Everything was amiss. I had cried during a debrief. I had sworn during a debate. And now I had a giant pimple on my chin that could not be concealed with moisturizer, make-up, or the precise placement of my hand over my mouth. Every bathroom break, I weighed the pros and cons of popping, picking, or blotting. My ego flared over how it could literally save (my) face.
But, then, a funny turn. Eventually I got so tired of looking at my face—and the humanity so obviously oozing through—that I decided to put an end to the charade. I decided to put a bandaid over my chin. A big, gauzy, not-my-skin-tone-really, sticker that said, “Don’t look at me,” and “But look at me?!?” in equal measure.
Human. Humiliation. Humor. They all share the same root word, from the Latin humus, meaning of the earth. When the sky is falling, the earth (your earthiness) is a safe place to press into.
Not to be outshined by the outsized bandage, I pressed in to our next session with a very important announcement.
“Yes, I have a bandaid on my face,” I deadpanned.
A bit of shock from the crowd. Then a couple snickers.
“And, I know you can see it!” I was losing it now, but what exactly was being lost besides my pride?
“But I don’t want to see it, or touch it, or even think about it anymore because I have more important things to do. We have more important things to do!”
The whole room was smiling now. Eyebrows lazed. Shoulders fell. The whole motion of the room was down toward holy ground.
A seed of trust was watered.
I’ve been thinking about that moment a lot these days as my humanity spills. I’m writing a book again, going to bed drunk on possibilities and waking up with vulnerability hangovers. I’m co-parenting still, flopping between when to hold to my values and when to yield to another’s (feminist quinceañera, anyone?). And I’m caring for aging parents, a weird life phase that makes me feel both very young and very grown. My ability to pretend it’s okay, I’m okay, is growing thin.
We spend so much time pretending to be fine that we don’t notice the ground beneath our feet drying up. We forget that the ground needs to break a little to breath. We forget that we need to show our cracks a little for life to grow.
I hate this fact of the universe. Because it undermines how good I am at getting by. Because it feels dangerous to court the cracks in my facade. Especially as a female who is rewarded for being that most dreadful of words: relatable.
But thin places, or those places where our earthiness takes on a divine face, can’t be courted. They are simply greeted when we come to the end of our hustling and the ground of our humanity. When we admit to a crowd we are scared. Or forgive ourselves for not writing better.
When we look a pimple in the face and say, “I’m taking you out tonight, love” and “We had better get dressed.”
Human, God coos, is a good look on you.
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