At a recent celebration of my sister-in-law’s 60th birthday, I tried to start conversation by asking if anyone had made a New Year’s resolution. The perfunctory response of “I never make any. Did you?” didn’t spark the exchange for which I’d hoped. Instead, I’d put myself in a corner. I fessed up to my annual ritual of choosing a word for the year to live by. When I shared that I’d chosen the word humility, a fellow guest asked if I was prideful. Although pride isn’t a vice I routinely examine as one of my character defects, in fact, pride is a nagging nemesis.
I am a Number Two or The Helper on the Enneagram. For those of you unacquainted, Wikipedia describes the Enneagram as “a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.” The Helper is caring and interpersonal; generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive. Notice how the good traits – generous and demonstrative – begin to turn ugly when people-pleasing and possession take over. The dark side of a Number Two is a manipulative and domineering person. Trust me, I’ve been her, and I return to her now and again. The basic fear of a Number Two is to be unwanted and unworthy of love. When those feelings creep up, this personality type binges on carbohydrates to satisfy love-starved cravings as a regimen for relief. I happen to love macaroni and cheese just a little bit too much.
So how did I settle on humility as my go-to for 2024 when more attractive words like marvel and focus were in the running? Seems that my relationships and daily encounters with others are key drivers in my final decision.
Without providing too much detail on the individuals and circumstances in my life, I seem to struggle on committees, with my religion, and in the gym locker room. Quite a concoction of circumstances, right? On service committees, I am always at odds with someone as I try to sift through the chaff of a group’s goals. The tenets of my religion can conflict with my more liberal relationship to the world and my spiritual conquests. In the pool locker room, I assume too much space, leave my bathing suit to drip dry for too long beside a vacant shower, or spray a lemon-scented body talc causing two women to react as if I had blasted a fire extinguisher. I’m not sure how to solve my committee behaviors, and my religious and spiritual development are a lifelong quest, but I have moved out of the pool locker room to an alternative location and that seems to be a good choice. I can’t change a fellow swimmer’s attitudes about my personal habits, but I can change my behaviors. This mindset is a new sprout of healthy 2024 humility.
I’m super good at beating myself up. In fact, I have it down to an art form. That is not humility. It is a lack of self-respect and self-esteem. My new year intention is to focus on allowing life’s irritations to pass through me…to let things go. Also, I tend to lack an easy acceptance of the idiosyncrasies and preferences of others. My way of doing things is pretty great and you may want to consider those pathways for yourself. True, in my sixty-six years, I have found ways to solve a problem or two, but those solutions may not be the answer to your dilemma. What a humble revelation!
2024 is coming down to the quantitative reference in that last paragraph. Sixty-six years. The best reason for my choice of humility is my struggle to come to grips with my age. There are high achievers who begin medical school in their sixties. There are octogenarians running marathons. I have an aching right hip that debates with my mattress each night. My arthritic right thumb isn’t as strong as she used to be. If this is all that I am fighting, I’m a lucky, aging woman. My challenge is to humbly accept this phase of my life and ask for help when I need it.
In a recent reflection by Kathy Hendricks, a spiritual director and author, she refers to Teresa of Avila who regards humility as a hinge virtue. Hendricks says, “It (humility) allows one to move from a sense of self-centeredness to that of unity with God and communion with God’s creation. To know who we are, as well as who we are not, is a key component of this great virtue.”
It isn’t going to be an easy year for me. Choosing a word that is a virtue is a tall order. One of the best things a Number Two on the Enneagram can do is self-nurture, and one of the better things I can do for others is to let them be, not to presume I know what is best. If I focus on humility and become a more loving and caring sixty-six-year-old in the coming year, I may marvel at the outcome and any fear of being unloved will disappear. Wish me meek luck and Happy New Year.