I’ve told you often that I respect you. At least I think I have. I know I’ve thought it. I know I’ve told other people I do. I think I’ve told you that I do, but in case, let it be known. I respect you. I sit with you and hear of your ability to wait it out, to push through, to keep moving forward, to hold out hope, even when everything suggests there’s no point.
“Catch me up. What’s changed since I last saw you?”
It’s my go-to phrase, you know. Because I’m thinking about all kinds of things, and even though I’ve read my notes from the last time you sat in my office, I may have likely remembered wrongly the things that were most important to you, and the things that I should be asking about this time. So, I say, “Catch me up. What’s changed since I last saw you?”
But don’t think I don’t remember you. As soon as you open your mouth, I pair your name with your face. And your name + face combination ignites a memory of our last conversation…of our previous conversations…about your protests against what is wrong in the world, your protests against what is wrong in your world, your protests against what you are not okay with in you.
And I make space. And I ask questions. And every now and then you say, “Donald, what should I do?”
And I always say, “You know I have no idea what you should do.”
And sometimes you say, “Then what am I paying you for?”
And sometimes you say, “Then what the #*&% am I paying you for?”
And I say in return, “I can’t give you advice. Who am I to tell you what to do? My job is to help you figure it out, not to tell you. Because I have no idea…and mostly because you will figure it out. You have the capacity to move forward; I’m just here to help you uncover it. What do you think you should…..”
I feel pretty clever, you know. In between our conversations I remind myself that you are the expert on your own world, and your choices are yours and not mine. When you succeed, you’ve heard me say the credit belongs to you. When you move ahead in ways you are not happy with, that choice belongs to you too. You’ve heard me say that too. I’m off the hook either way, you see.
Lately I’ve realized that you’ve put me on the hook. In fact, I’ve put myself on the hook.
In light of recent events where I’m left wrestling with my reality, my thoughts, my assumptions, my work, my faith and my world, I hear the words I’ve put in the space between you and me. I hear the questions I’ve posed to you in your reality, your thoughts, your assumptions, your work, your faith, and your world posed back at me. I hear my won questions. I hear my own challenges. I hear my own fears and anxieties.
You don’t have anything on me, by the way. I’ve got you beat. You aren’t any crazier than me; so sorry to let you down. We share our insanity which is also known as “being human”…something you’ve also heard me say before. So while you’ve put me on the hook, you’ve also helped me wait it out, push through, move forward, and hold out hope.
Your courage to lean into your own protest against the darkness has given me quite a challenge to meet.
Your ability to be both your sorrow and your joy has posed in me quite a standard to achieve.
Your insistence on pushing toward vulnerability, justice and peace even in from within the darkness of shutting down, admitting defeat and giving in to chaos has left me with quite a choice.
I’ve changed seats before with you, you know. I’ve made you literally switch places with me in my office, because we both quickly become aware that you know what to do and you need to hear yourself say it.
That’s what is happening now. We’ve switched seats, and then switched again. I’ve walked into your office, and you’ve switched seats with me. I hear the things I’ve pushed you toward coming out of your own mouths with your own individual languages of courage, ability, and insistence, and I’m left with little choice but to do what I have to do.
To move forward.
To push ahead.
To be sorrow and to be joy.
To hold injustice and demand justice.
To comprehend in complexity and to act in simplicity.
To hurt in ways that accept the reality of the way things are, and to choose in ways that foretell the reality of the way things will be.
It’s terrifying. But then again, you know that. You’ve already been here. You’ve already left here. That’s why I respect you. I hope I’ve told you. I think I have. I know I’ve thought it. I know I’ve told other people I do. I think I’ve told you that I do, but in case, let it be known. I respect you. I sit with you and hear of your ability to wait it out, to push through, to keep moving forward, to hold out hope, even when everything suggests there’s no point, and you leave me with no choice but to follow your lead.