How far down does this thing go?

My eyes flicker open, barely conscious of where I am.  The side of my face presses into the floor boards.  There is dust and debris scattered around.  I push my hands into the wood to raise my body off the ground.  I look around.  I see the hole over my head where the floor above has given way.  

My mind wanders back to last week.  I was sure I had fallen through to the lowest level.  Surely this is the bottom, I had told myself a week ago.  Today it feels different.  I have been through enough floors—it’s familiar now.  There is a little, square window high on the wall to my left—this is new.  I’ve never had a window before.   I get to my feet and feel the pain from the most recent impact but my curiosity drives me.  How far down does this thing go?  I jump to reach the window sill and then pull myself up with strength that I wasn’t sure I still had.  There is just enough space for me to fit my shoulders through the opening.  I’m suspended with my waist resting on the ledge and my legs dangling behind me down into the room.  

I lean my head out and look down.  There are about eight levels below me but there is also evidence of a basement and I have no way of telling how many levels down that might go.  I turn my head and look up.  The building stretches hundreds of feet into the air.  I can see some of the levels I had previously occupied.  They are labeled with things I thought I knew.  One is called “The Recipe for a Happy Life.”  Another, “Manifestations of Spirituality.”  “What is Important.” 

On some of these levels, the floor has completely disintegrated.  There is nothing left to stand on.  On other’s, like the one just above me, it’s just a body-sized hole.  I consider that these levels might be revisited one day.  There might have just been a weak spot beneath me where the floor gave way.

I retreat from the window down to the floor and sit with my back against the wall.  Something inside of me has changed.  I can now see the building I am in more clearly, more entirely.  I understand that there are miles beneath me.  Maybe I had an intellectual understanding of this before, but now this knowledge has sunk deep into my heart.  This is humility, I think.  Humility is knowing, deeply knowing, that the floor can always fall out from under me.  

As this settles into my soul, I notice another feeling arise.  I have a new appreciation for the solidity of the floor on which I sit.  I realize that the entire building is available to me and the floor on which I now reside was built for me.  FOR ME.  It was intentional.  This is gratitude. 

I am glad to have a second, a minute, a day on solid ground. I am glad for the glimpse out the window.  I am glad to know that life is to ascend and descend in my own way.  That all the levels of this building are for me.  

This is a weird story but I had a vision of this building one morning as I was driving to pick up R.  And with it I gathered the sense that humility and gratitude are two sides of the same coin.  That real gratitude wasn’t available to me until I had my face in the dirt.  So I’ve been considering humility, which has been so thoroughly pressed into my being.  

“Part of being evolved is having the capacity to hold two opposing truths in one hand and recognizing the truth of each and understanding how they serve each other.  Humbly acknowledge that the very, very best thing you have to give us is only what you have to offer.  It’s what you already have.  It’s what you already hold…It’s about singing with your own voice…And the word for that is GREATNESS.”

Cheryl Strayed, The Humble Journey to Greatness

2 thoughts on “How far down does this thing go?

  1. glen says:

    This is a beautiful post containing interesting insights, Michelle. I see the truth in your story. I clearly need to work on both humility and gratitude.

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