Michelle Anderson was the first person to transform my soul, so see me so completely, despite my facades, and laugh with love at my soul. She was, in many ways, my first love, my best learning from study abroad and undergraduate study. Holding her soul close to mine again up at her Berghaus retreat this summer and telling her that, completely and directly, felt like a completion of something.
My graduate school mentor, crush and academic partner, Laurie, told me this summer how HARD it was for her to write a recommendation for me back in the 90s when I listed her as a reference. Her feelings for me were so complicated. Our graduate school friend Gabe laughed and said OH YEAH!! She admitted that she had a really hard time figuring out something honest and positive to say.
I’ve gained quite a bit of valuable self-knowledge in the last ten years. I discovered I’m WHITE (gasp) and self-centered (WIDE SURPRISED EYES!). But I was a bit taken aback at that piece of information .
I think a see a few more trips to visit Laurie in the near future.
For a while, after my stage IV diagnosis, when old friends wanted to come visit and connect, I was a bit put off. I wasn’t ready to be present for their journey and their needs. I was too busy unravelling my own stuff.
But this summer has been a place of identity calm for me. After shedding and reframing and purging and reframing again, I could sit still a bit. I could be with people from my previous lives who are near and dear to me.
Being with these people has made me realize I have a need for reconciliation.
Reconciliation isn’t about making amends for me. It’s more about trying to understand that external Suzy those close to me have experienced (but whom I did not see) and to expose that internal Suzy I assumed my dearest and closest heard, but who never spoke up. It’s about “I love you’s” and “oh, I get what you mean there…”
With Laurie, there were a couple of images that came forward.
There’s a young person, a professional connection, that my husband and I call “puppy.” Puppy is young, enthusiastic, amazed by her own ideas and skills, and stepping with her big muddy puppy paws all over everyone and everything.
Now, let’s be clear. Puppy is probably one of the most talented practitioners and thinkers I have ever met. Puppy is AMAZING and VALUABLE. But Puppy acts like every thing Puppy learns is NEW to EVERYONE. Puppy annoys me because Puppy makes me feel old and irrelevant with her sense of responsibility for everything and everyone around her. Puppy makes me invisible.
Honestly, though? Puppy annoys me because I’ve been puppy.
Worse than puppy is EGO. Ego is a really really nice guy. Ego is an extrovert and kind. Ego goes out of his way to get shy people to participate in the conversation and is thoughtful about how he can help people feel better about themselves. Ego is good at talking and at framing other people’s perspectives. So people feel heard when Ego talks. But Ego also often gets credit for those ideas he reframes. And Ego, a verbal processor, honestly feels EVERYONE’S ah-hah was at HIS framing, and therefore HIS idea. Ego doesn’t acknowledge or even understand that other people HAD the idea . He doesn’t grasp that even as he is speaking they have a more PRECISE sense of the idea than he has. When Ego gets the credit, he grows in confidence and gets even better at being good and kind and helping others.
Ego is water torture for highly perceptive, deep thinking introverts, people who see the world so complexly it doesn’t fit into simple metaphors or analogies. Ego leaves a raw, sore wound with his subtle stealing of light, attention, admiration and gratitude.
I have close friends who have been wounded by Ego. I hate him. I would like to put his shiny happy face on a bullseye and throw darts at his worry-wrinkle free brow.
Now I know I have been (am still often) Ego. And I hate what that external Ego has done to people I love.
But I also love being Ego. I feel powerful and important. I get positive attention and concrete rewards.
I think that conflict of interest, my own ego addiction, and the potential of shame in recognizing what Ego-Suzy has done to others, might have kept me from working on this reconciliation stuff right now. But then, maybe it’s also a turning 50 developmental thing.
In general, though, here’s what I know. With stage IV cancer, people are ALWAYS nice to me. They are ALWAYS forgiving. Honesty and self-acceptance comes more easily when you know you are already forgiven. And that kindness and compassion is contagious. I feel it for others. Ifeel it for myself.
Maybe it is only because I have this freedom to forgive myself and be kind to myself that I am able to see and acknowledge these parts of me.
Maybe, ironically, dying is healing me.