Forty-five years ago, the doctor projected when I would be born. Somehow, when I heard it, I must have said, “Oh, that just isn’t going to work for me!”
I was born three and a half weeks early. Not only couldn’t I not wait to get out of there, but I was a runt. I was always a runt.
The other night, I walked 5.16 miles home because it was my desire to do so. I do not have the pace of a “runt” even after 3 hip surgeries and a spinal fusion. When you end up at the front of the line because of being forced to stand in “size order,” you either learn to overcompensate for your size or you succumb to it.
For me it was inherently hard to keep up, which is why my shins became overdeveloped as well as various other muscle groups. The strides of others which were twice that of my own, took some getting used to because I was (am) very willful (let’s refresh: “Oh, that just isn’t going to work for me”).
I am still small. And because I live alone I am far too often in situations where I carry things which are as large as my house on my back without help.
What I have learned after all these years is that we don’t really know what other people need. We think it may be carrying a bag upstairs or having groceries delivered. But the demand of saying “Oh, that just isn’t going to work for me” in utero has stayed with me my whole life.
It’s about listening.
Deep deep listening. Not to what YOU think another person wants or needs but listening to what the other person actually wants or needs.
So often we fight with a beloved or feel rejected because they do not appreciate or like what we are offering. But at the heart of it, is missing the deeper intimacy of feeling “missed” to begin with.
I truly believe that honoring another’s emotional timeline before your own is the doorway into successful intimacy and I believe, happiness. Otherwise, it is just bulldozing, dominating, and utter unhappiness. The receiver doesn’t want the offering. The giver feels rejected. But the truth is, the person who wants the least amount of intimacy will always trump the relationship.
A deeply beloved friend of mine passed away many years ago and was buried on Mother’s day. She was much older than me but someone whom I cherished and adored. Looking back, I recall that my own mother carried a bit of jealousy over my friendship with her. But I never allowed those feelings to tarnish the love I felt for my friend.
My friend had three daughters. And she developed cancer. She lived with it for 5 and a half years and at that point, we all thought she had won the battle.
But unfortunately, after a year of being in remission, it came back virulently and then she passed through.
During the last year of her life, I had been writing to her because at that point I was living in San Francisco. Her best friend told me that she carried one of my letters with her in her wallet every single day. When she passed, her family (husband and three daughters) decided to bury her with the letter.
They buried her on Mother’s Day.
As a tribute, I wrote my own eulogy and sent it to the family.
I called many times and they never took my call. Finally, her husband answered and said, “Please don’t call here anymore.”
I was devastated. I had lost my beloved friend and they had buried her with a piece of me.
This Mother’s Day will be 22 years since her burial.
It took me ten years to get over this grief. This exclusion. But I understood so many things all in that instantaneous moment as well.
The moment I sent the family my eulogy, I showed her husband and children that I had seen my friend with such clear eyes, that they could not hold the beauty of that seeing YET.
THE PERSON WHO NEEDS THE LEAST AMOUNT OF INTIMACY IN ANY RELATIONSHIP WILL ALWAYS TRUMP THE LEVEL OF THE RELATIONSHIP’S INTIMACY.
The family needed their own time to see less of the searing beauty which I was so adept at expressing and in their experience, “splashing in their face.” Yet, they still had the ability to honor her (and me) by burying her with a letter she carried every day.
Although it was a devastating split, not affording me anyone to grieve with, I understood their need to not be able to see me, one who saw their mother and wife so clearly and whom they needed to put to rest.
I understood, intellectually. It took my heart ten years to catch up.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I wish to honor my friend whom I have always carried with me and the same family who needed to bury me with her.
But that was part of their own survival and ultimately, the best way they knew how to function.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I wish to soften the words I said in utero, “Oh, this just isn’t going to work for me,” and find a new way to function when I, myself am in distress.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I continue to offer love and healing to my friend’s family. Healing and the deepest caverns of Susan’s exquisite heart. A heart like I had never known before and still carry with me every day (also like a note sewn inside my own chest pocket).
To all the mother’s and to all the motherless daughters and sons, I spread my love to you no matter what you are facing on this day or any day which may soon follow. You just never know what is around the corner. Forgive those who shut you out. They can only handle so much for whatever their reasons may be.
Our lives are so fragile and so ephemeral. Hold yourself in your inherent worthiness and show another the beauty of their own.
Maybe one day, they will carry it with them in their pocket until they day they pass through their temporary and beautiful vessel.
(This is not a photo of Susan. But I feel this photo conveys the essence of what I have attempted to write about here.)
Godspeed to all.