She looked into my eyes and shook her head as she whispered my name. To some, it would have felt insulting. But for me, it brought me directly in touch with my own sense of wholeness. It was the simplest gesture. It is something someone does who knows you intimately. A response given to the way you get inside of them in those moments when they are alone and they find themselves giggling over the the thing(s) they love about you.
She just shook her head and whispered my name. And then she said, “you have so much energy!”
It was as if looking at me was both completely exhausting and inspiring to her.
It was quite a stunning moment given the week I had. I had to go for another MRI, another surgery had been suggested to me by two different surgeons, I lost a job I really wanted, and most significantly, I was experiencing deep heartbreak. Quite honestly, psychically, I could barely get out of bed.
For my true “buoyancy” to shine through was a stunning reflection back to me of my essential nature. And it was a great teaching.
I don’t know if I can speak to what I have learned from the challenges I have endured. But I do know that I have both wanted to give up and yet, I never do. That I never settle.
That “not settling” gets me both into trouble with my relationships and yet it also keeps me going.
I know that I have had to deal with a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain and both have worn me out. And I am awfully tired of living with both.
I’m tired of the pain. But I am bigger than my physical body (even though it is already on the “diminutive” side as many have described) and I am bigger and greater and even more buoyant than my emotional body, both of which have nearly taken me out.
About a week ago I was engaged in a very painful conversation and what was reflected back to me was that I was basically coming on too strong. I took a moment to sit. And I realized what was happening and I named it immediately. I WAS going at the conversation very strongly. I was quite relentless, actually. And I realized this was so because I didn’t feel heard. AT ALL. And subsequently, the “trigger” of not feeling heard caused me to INSIST upon being heard and with no reflection back, no signal, no sign at all, I simply would not give up. As I said... this quality gets me into trouble in my relationships, and luckily, when left to my own devices, it also keeps me going...
I think back to who I was in my late twenties and I was someone who was not buoyant. I longed to be that. But just around my 27th birthday, my father died after a 5 1/2 year unforgiving battle with cancer.
I never remember my father being happy. And I had very few memories of being happy with him because he left when I was two and the bitterness I was brainwashed with within my household about him was not at all in service to seeing him in “his light.” My father was born in Germany and he witnessed his father being taken by the SS officers and sent off to Dachau. He witnessed his mother being beaten and raped by these same men. He was brutally beaten every day by the Hitler youth until he and my grandmother were able to escape Germany. These things lived inside of him in a way which could not be spoken by him as hard and as tenderly as I tried to pull them out.
After the marriage to my mother ended, he married a German woman who was deeply troubled and continually threatening to kill herself.
I never remember my father being happy.
When I was 21 and learned of his illness I insisted that he work with me to heal the deeply-seated areas of fracture between us. And I pushed and even forced his hand to work with me and although I was living in San Francisco at the time, every trip back east was worth the time and work. I showed up for all of it. And although he didn’t want to do the work at first, he became inspired by my determination and learned how to show his love to and for me in a way that he had never demonstrated before.
All of this to say that at the tender age of 27, after he left this earth, I began to think that my loyalty to him was rooted in my unhappiness because “unhappy” had always been who I had known my father to be. And in the silence after his death, I was still trying to know him. So that is what I became.
I stayed there for a number of years until I had an epiphany that not only was that not my true nature, not only was I destined for more, but that his legacy was not his unhappiness, part of his legacy began with the hope which had begun with the profound shift in the healing of our relationship which had (in the past) been deeply and profoundly damaged.
Part of the pain I sat in, and kept “indulging” was that I felt continually sad and ripped off that I only had those last 5.5 years with him, the first 2.5 in which I had to fight with him just to get through to him and wake him up. And the other part of the reason for the sadness was that I only had a handful of Wednesday evenings throughout my childhood, most of which he’d cancel at the last minute because “something had come up” (meaning my step-mother was having a terrible fit of some sort).
I think back now and only have mercy for my father. Mercy for how angry I was that he was never there. But as an adult, I recognize how hard his life was. And as an adult all I feel is gratitude for how deeply we healed our relationship no matter how hard it was, and no matter how much work it took. No. In fact, GIVEN HOW MUCH WORK IT TOOK!
I was angry. He was dying. I INSISTED we get to work because the clock was ticking, which ALWAYS IS!!!
Then I sat in unhappiness. And then I realized, that was not loyalty. That was who my father was. I didn’t have to be like him to continue to love him.
I have faced much deeper hardships since. And what I have found and what has continually and astoundingly been reflected back to me is that my lights are still ON. In all sincerity, there are days when I feel as though I don’t know if I can take one more hit to my heart. One more injury. One more loss.
But the truth is, I feel like when I describe myself as a “Pushy Jew from New York,” I realize that there are layers to this description. One of the deepest parts of it is this: I truly know myself like Katie Morosky Gardner (and for those of you who are not film buffs, that would be Barbra Streisand in “The Way We Were”).
Hubbell: Because you push too hard, every damn minute. There's no time to ever relax and enjoy living. Everything is too serious to be so serious.
Katie: If I push too hard it's because I want things to be better, I want us to be better, I want you to be better. Sure I make waves you have I mean you have to. And I'll keep making them till you’re everything you should be and will be. You'll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much as I do or to love you as much.
I have always seen myself in this way. THIS PUSHY way. I push myself this way and I push those I love in this way. I pushed my father LIKE BLOODY HELL. And subsequently, once he was on board- to do the work with me, it was the deepest gift and healing I have ever experienced.
People either love me or run from me as a result. I have seen it happen. I had a friend who told me that she truly believes that I scare people. But I don’t consider myself scary. Pushy, yes. And yet, also deeply deeply humble. So when I am told I am coming on too strong... I sit. I get quiet. I sort out what is happening. I figure out what is amiss in the dynamic that may be causing me to get fiery. And then... I shift.
I have no interest in pushing my ways onto people. Unless you begin to tell me who you insist that I am and I know I am not that. I will not push my way(s) onto you. But I certainly will not allow myself to be told who I am.
All I can offer is my sincerity. All I can do is show up and express who I am and if I am lucky, have the opportunity to give an offering. If it is not wanted, then I have learned, truly learned, I must stop trying to offer the same thing in the same way to the same people.
And what I know I must do, no matter what, is to keep my heart open.
And keep my buoyancy alive. If it is there inside of us, it can be kept alive.
Go find your buoyancy!