Bruised egos and Truck tires

I bought a set of tires for my pick up truck and decided to install them myself. I no longer have specific equipment to do this job, so tire work involves scrabbling on a concrete floor with hammer and pry bars.
The first wheel went well. In short order, the old tire was stripped off, the new one levered on and inflated. The only semi sophisticated piece of tire machinery that I have is an ancient bubble balancer. It told me that a small weight in one spot would set everything close enough to perfect. Back on the truck it went.
The second wheel went equally smoothly, so smoothly that I threw it onto the balancer with just a smidgeon of smugness. Who says that things are harder as a grey beard? But wait, something is askance. The tire hung awkwardly. The bubble was nowhere near the center.
I began piling weights on the tire, soon setting my whole tobacco can of used lead weights on the tire. But it would not true up. In my impatience, a delightful trait, I’m sure, I decided that I would bolt it to the truck anyway, that the old balancer must somehow be at fault. If it was truly amiss, I would stop at a tire shop and get it trued up.
I picked the wheel off the balance machine, and bounced it on the floor. The tire responded with a curious thumping noise. Picked it up again, dropped it, that noise again. I removed the tire from the rim and inside, I discovered my meaty sixteen-inch pry bar.
A boneheaded mistake. A mistake certainly connected to my grey beard status.
Immediately, it seemed important to share this story with those who would most enjoy jeering at me. Messages went to a brother, a son, a son-in-law, and a couple of friends. They responded as required, with giggles and mockery.
Later in the day, it struck me that my response of immediately sharing that story was perhaps different than I might have made years earlier.
Authour and mystic Richard Rohr points to the value of seeking out an “undefended spirit.” It seems worth some thought.
We (I) seem to spend much of our lives protecting our ego. We do that by micro managing every story that we tell about ourselves. If it’s a hard story, that often means we paint ourselves as the aggrieved person, or the heroic one. How many of our stories paint us in self righteous colours? How many of our stories fall into the inevitable good/bad, white/ black framework. We emerge wearing the white hats.
Think of the stories used in the Bible. The Exodus from Egypt, by a clan referred to repeatedly as the “people of God,” the “chosen ones.” We would assume them to have spirits that had no need of defending, because they were, after all, chosen. And yet the litany of whining, of rebelling, of denying, of obstinacy, is unending, throughout most of those years in the wilderness. That included the masses, as well as imperfect leadership. And yet, this became the story of God’s people, a metaphor for our own escape from the wilderness that traps us.
In our current reality, think of the stories of conflict, past and present at larger scales. Every one of those stories, including what the issues were, and where honour was lodged, every one of those stories is controlled by the victor. WW 2? The Allies had the nicer helmets and the clear faced and honourable men. It must be true, the movies and textbooks tell us so. The history of our country? Again, told by those unchallengeable historians who trumpeted their own version of valour and progress. Currently, the war waged in Ukraine calls us to leap to assumptions that make that conflict simple and worthy of our biggest and unquestioned vehemence. There’s a self righteousness there that causes unease. There are human beings, created in a holy image, at opposite ends of any weapon you might spot on the news. Can our evaluation be a little more thoughtful?
Perhaps the years of the grey beards comes with, along with decreasing skills at installing tires, perhaps the grey beard years come with growing into that undefended space. A recent sermon focussing on reconciliation with Indigenous folks reminded us with some passion to tell all our stories, and that definitely included the hard stories. We all have those hard chapters in out lives, and far too often we’ve held them close, until they could be told with someone else as the villain. When we are honest, we know how well that has worked.
Find that “undefended” space in your spirit. Push back the edges.