I’ve been hiding this for some time and want to finally rid myself of its burden. I want you to know that everything I told you was true. But what I did not tell you was also true.
What I did not tell you was that when I am with you (but only occasionally), my thoughts whirl in directions I can’t quite seem to control. I tell myself how unworthy I am to be with someone I love so much. Could it be that my thoughts speak to my body? Because I then get overwhelmed with this ungodly pain filling up my chest, completely taking away my breath and my ability to be present with you.
But I hid this from you, pretending everything was fine.
I said the right things, made you laugh, and we shared many wonderful moments together. But I never allowed all of me to be with you.
I was afraid of seeing the disgust in your face, afraid of your pulling away, leaving me quite alone in the cold darkness, without you. I couldn’t bear the thought of that.
But what I was afraid of happening was what I was actually creating. I’m afraid of you pulling away, so I pull away because I’m afraid of you pulling away. It makes no sense. I’m so glad I told you this! I made it all up from nothing! There’s nothing to be afraid of.
So. Here I am. No more secrets. And all the more closer to you.
And to myself.
In the movie “Strangers in Good Company,” a group of elderly women slowly hobbled out of a lame bus, onto an isolated Canadian dirt road, and into their lives. The bus driver though younger and nevertheless mature and wiser than she appeared, injured her ankle upon exiting the bus. All of these women were stranded, alone, vulnerable, and dependent on a world for survival.
The movie was an early docu-drama which captured the story of a group of elderly women figuring out how to endure a seemingly hopeless situation. At first, I thought the intention behind the movie was simple entertainment – they said the darndest things which had me laughing out loud. But so much more was happening.
With canes and exaggerated limps, the women ambled away from the bus and toward a dilapidated and clearly abandoned house (a clear metaphor). Knowing they would be there overnight, the women got to work making do. This was a generation of women that made a home from scraps and making do was part of life. Each contributed in their unique way, creatively tapping into dormant problem-solving skills. They found themselves strong, resilient, capable and happy, perhaps for the first time in many years. They had reverted to an earlier version of themselves which the film captured quite nicely with pictures of their childhood, their marriage, a babies birth, graduation.
When the women were finally rescued, none of them looked relieved. I sensed that none of them (save the younger bus driver) wanted to leave a world in which they were completely accepted and a significant contributor. In this isolated countryside, they had meaning, purpose, importance, and real community. They were not being rescued; they were being sent back to where they were no longer relevant.
Irrelevance and Aging
What are your fears of aging? Does irrelevance sneak into your life today? Do you give up your power to those you believe know better about what is best for you? Or do you do that to others? Have you judged elderly people in the past? How do you want to be as you reach the last moments of your life?
I was a child running in the cool summer grass. It was dusk and my long shadow darted behind me. No, it was a deer chasing me, I pretended. I felt completely one with my body, so fast, so easily catapulting myself forward into the next landing blow toward the ground far in front of me. I was completely free and felt amazing joy in my human form.
Forty years later, I still remember when I was a child running in the cool summer grass. I can be her again, right now, and imagine the man that is today my son and see him differently. At this moment, I don’t see lack or disappointments. That little girl looked up and was delighted to see this young man, so handsome, kind and gentle. He is, will be, her gift from life. And in this space, I am unburdened, completely free to let in the amazing joy of the gift that is my son.
I was listening to an audiobook detailing the ways to handle conflict in the workplace. It simplified this complex human construct by organizing the attributes of conflict into lists, such as the types of things people disagree about, and the range of preferences people have when in conflict. For example, there are two different preferences when it comes to managing conflict: avoidant and available, and there are five different groups of what people disagree about: personal (such as lack of respect), status (who has control), direction (who decides), and so on. Everything that possibly influences or defines conflict was defined in a very exacting and analytical way. And after listening to the entire book, I was overwhelmed with the details of what I would need to master just to have a conversation with someone I disagreed with!
Because each and every one of us has interacted with other humans, we know conflict intimately. We know what makes our skin crawl, pushes our buttons. We also have a good sense of what will make others react the same way, especially those that we are close to.
But we are all different and respond to conflict in unique ways because of our individual belief systems, our emotional and physical states, and our perceptions and realities of the situation at hand. It will always be asking the question: how will you respond?
But what exactly is conflict? If you are upset with someone, they may not even be aware. In this situation, the conflict only exists within you. The question of how to respond is based on your interpretation of the conflict. If you perceive your emotional reaction to be the fault of the other, then you are left with the task of changing the other’s behavior. But the conflict only exists within you. Is it reasonable to expect another to make you feel better?