I went to a play last night with friends from work: Tom Stoppard’s Travesties at the American Players Theatre. Stoppard made my brain hurt, but in a good way. But this is not about the play. Before the play, we went to eat and sat and talked for about two and a half hours. Talking with lovely, smart women is one of life’s great pleasures, isn’t it?
At about two hours in, I told them how great it felt today when three contractors, who were leaving the company, came to my desk to tell me goodbye and express how much they had enjoyed my presence when working with them. They were each highly complimentary, telling me how much they valued my optimism and fun attitude. I thanked them each and returned the compliments (easy to do; they are good, talented people). It felt great to get that feedback from three separate people, because I have been getting a distinctly different message from my boss (i.e., you are not competent). I told my friends how I had had a realization recently that my idea of me was only made up of thoughts I had and, if thoughts are not real, then my idea of me is not real.
“How can you know yourself then?” one asked.
“I think the only way is through reflection in others,” I said.
I told a couple of stories that were examples of how disowned parts of me kept showing up in others and the easiest way to find those parts is to watch where you have a strong reaction and judgment of another. That repulsion is a part of you that you exhibit, but don’t see or you push down really, really hard and it pops up Whac-A-mole® style, in some other person. I told them about how I had had a strong reaction to a person there at work that was frequently sick or out for some alleged (!) ailment. I explained how I processed this experience by acknowledging the part of me that was like the other and took time to fully experience what it was like to be that way. I then told them the “miracle” part of this process. The next week that judged person turned in her resignation and left the company. That part piqued their interest!
“One of three things will happen if you own your part and fully experience it: you won’t care anymore or the other will stop doing it, or they will leave your universe. It’s happened for me many, many times. The magic comes from the understanding and compassion you gain for yourself and for the other.”
One of my friends mentioned her reaction to her son’s foot-dragging on college applications. I asked, “Can you see any way that you do that same thing?”
While she was thinking about it, we realized it was time to leave the restaurant for the theatre. As we walked to the car, she asked again, “How do you do that?” I responded that I would go over it again in the car.
She was driving and had to negotiate her way out of a busy parking lot and onto the road. But not more than a half mile on the way, she exclaimed, “Oh! I see it.”
What I could see was her full body reaction to the awareness she’d just experienced. Her face and body read clearly that she was changed and she knew it. It was an exquisitely beautiful moment to share and I am grateful to have had a part in it. In that moment we both expanded and touched the part of us that is all that is.
We drove west into a prismatic sunset framed by noctilucent clouds and talked about the possibility of seeing the northern lights this week. For all the natural beauty I saw last night on that drive and in the woods and hills surrounding the theatre, nothing could compare to the light of awareness on her face.