Sunday, September 09, 2007

Confessing an inauthenticity

I spent 12 hours in a workshop yesterday. Friday I was all jazzed about going there, about hearing about what everyone was up to. But Saturday morning I had this pall hanging over me. I felt down, suppressed, contained and constrained. When I tried to examine why I was feeling that way, I touched upon the issues of my mother's death 6 years ago and my sister's imminent death sometime in the next 6 months. I sat down and wrote the blog entry for September 8th, titled "Death, peace, and beauty" as an attempt to work through what I was thinking/feeling, but what I ended up doing was rationalizing and deciding how I should think and feel.

I was being completely inauthentic, because I was evading allowing myself to feel what I was feeling. For some reason I've always found intense emotions personally dangerous, and with regards to my mother and my sister, there is such a swell of emotion that if I even so much as crack the hatch on those feelings, tears well in my eyes. So I wrote up this elegant little lesson to myself about what was appropriate for me to think and feel about the situation, hopped into my car, and drove to the worshop. And the closer I got to this workshop that I had been looking forward to, the worse I felt. I was positively glum when I got there, and when someone asked me how I was, I said "I'm here, but I don't want to be."

The woman I sat next to asked me what was going on. I told her. She asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was feeling sad, angry, resentful that I had no choice but to accept that my sister was going to die. She said to go with those feelings. Tears filled my eyes. I was appalled as a couple slid down my cheeks. I rarely cry. I hate crying. I shook my head and said, "No." She asked, "Why not?" and I answered, "Because it won't make any difference." She said, "You're being inauthentic. You won't even honour those feelings. Be with them. Be present to them." And then we were interrupted, and I was grateful. The tears subsided, and I did my best to be present to what was going on in the workshop: a discussion about self-expression and leadership, about integrity and personal power, and creating successful community projects.

Early on, someone expressed that she had a real breakdown in progress on her project: she was stuck. So the leader of the workshop coached her by asking her some questions. And the questions resonated with me, and I answered the questions she asked in my mind, and as I did so, I made some powerful connections. I had not spoken to my mother in the five years before her death. It is one of the very few regrets in my life, and it had a profound impact on me--I told myself never again. Today, my sister is very sick, and she won't talk to me. Oh, she will say hello, and when I ask her how she is doing, she says fine, but that is it. If she cannot find someone else to hand the phone off to, she tells me she has to go. She doesn't want to talk to me because she is mad at me about what happened a year ago when I tried to have her involuntarily committed to medical care. She saw it as me trying to take over her life and humiliate her. I saw it as me trying to save her life, trying to prevent her from deteriorating to the point she is at now: the point of no return. So she is still angry with me and her illness comes with a form of psychosis when it reaches the advanced stages, and her periods of lucidity and connection with reality of her condition are fewer and farther between. And the overlap of the anniversary of our mother's death and the hopelessness of my sister's situation in conjunction with the life-coaching questions brought about a breakthrough.

A breakthrough in recognizing the inauthenticity in nearly everything I'd been thinking and feeling about the entire situation...

Yes, I was sad and angry and resentful--but not about her death. No. I could accept that she was dying, that she had made her choice a year ago. I was at peace with her choices and mine. No, what I was upset about was the fact that I was facing another situation in which someone I love is dying and because she won't talk to me, yet another person I love will die and there will be unresolved issues and bad feelings and no closure. I've made it about me, not her. I've made it about my loss and my frustration and my feelings of helplessness, instead of about her. And then to avoid being honest with myself, I wrapped it up in more acceptable packaging: my sister is dying and I'm terribly saddened by it.

Something clicked when I recognized this, and while I still have those feelings, and while I still feel stuck and unwilling to allow myself to really be present to how I am feeling and who I am being and the impact it is having on me and on her, I feel fairly certain that I'll connect with my real feelings and work it out soon, and be able to read yesterday's blog entry and honestly say "Yes! My sense of connectedness with myself and others is the measure by which I understand the the beauty of life and the beauty of death. I am at peace."

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Anonymous Bruce Meyer said...


I'm sorry to hear about your sister. When we last talked, I knew she was ill but did not know the seriousness of the situation. There were promises made and so forth, I remember that much. Anyway, last year I lost a very close uncle to cancer. It's tough. One thing I did was to write him a long letter explaining to him how he had impacted my life in a positive way. It helped me deal with my feelings of sadness and was something I felt he deserved to know. I later found out that of all the sympathy cards he received wishing him well in his cancer battle, my letter was the only one that had brought him to tears.

That's something you don't forget. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

Bruce Meyer

1:39 PM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger soumynona said...

Deeply moving and sincere,
thanks for sharing at a difficult time

3:29 PM, September 14, 2007  

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