An old friend…well OK let’s be honest…a flame I once was obsessed with for five minutes, sent me an invite for tea.
I was curious. I wonder what he’s like now? I replied “yes”.
Then, as the scheduled time grew closer, it didn’t seem like such a good idea.
It hadn’t been all that great an 8 week relationship. The exchanges were intensely dramatic, he had disappeared into some kind of mental angst and alcoholism.
Why was I interested?
It might have been different if there was a clear request for a discussion about what the hell happened all those years ago, or the sweetness of tying up loose ends, or resolving unfinished business.
So I made excuses and cancelled.
The reality that I’m spending tons of time with a dying friend in spare moments right now. It’s very meaningful to me to be with this friend as he rests in bed, someone I’ve known since childhood and cared for deeply. We share such powerful conversations–always have. Eloquence, laughter, well-read.
We both love our connection.
I said to Old Brief Flame that I’m not so available right now after all.
Which is true.
And then the real reason I didn’t want to get together with Old Flame appeared in living color.
He wrote several paragraphs via email about how I should behave, think, feel and act in the presence of someone who is dying. Something about letting go and releasing the “draining” energy to the universe.
I thought….Really? You have advice? YOU?!
(I know, it’s kind of mean.)
“Don’t rescue me, or lecture me, or act so superior. You think you’re so spiritual and enlightened now that you’re a sober person? Really? You have advice for me about how to stay present with someone who’s dying? Your ego is the size of Montana!”
I felt this surge of annoyance with Old Flame. Gross.
And then I knew, time for The Work.
I’ve done The Work on this person before! Because…Old Flames tend to bring up moments for “situations” to investigate. And now, the returning changed person, a new version of them, appears to be present. Yet I’m dismissing it based on old experience.
Definitely time for self-inquiry.
He shouldn’t give me advice.
You can do this work with anyone whose advice you might find questionable. Parents can sometimes be great targets for this thought. Someone you’ve thought of as unable to advise. For whatever reason. They shouldn’t. You have your own path. Can’t they see it??
Let’s do The Work.
Is it true he shouldn’t give me any advice?
YES. Jeez. This guy was living on the streets in his car. (Add lots of commentary about how extreme it was and what a nut job or basket case that person was).
Can you absolutely know it’s true, he shouldn’t give me advice?
I don’t really know what he’s like now. Maybe I never did. I have no idea. Which means, the answer is “no”. I can’t absolutely know it’s true I shouldn’t be hearing this advice, in this moment, from this particular person. Plus…people who go to extremes can sometimes be brilliant. Byron Katie comes to mind.
How do you react when you believe he shouldn’t give you advice?
I get a huge surge of irritation, like a red fire energy flame lighting from me and sending towards him. It feels attacking. Defensive.
What is going on? Can’t the man say what he wants about dying people? I mean…..jeez!
Who would I be without this thought?
Aware of how many judgments I’ve landed on about this man. Aware of my own disappointment, distress, fear, frantic worry about this man. Aware of my unfinished resentment, repeating itself, about this person I cared about once, even if briefly. Aware of the grief of being with the current very dear friend, who won’t be here much longer.
Without this thought that he shouldn’t give advice to me….I’m open. I hear him. I read his words. What’s so disturbing about taking the words seriously, respecting them?
Long ago, my former husband used to resist the advice of his father. He had the very same thought. It repeated itself almost every time we went to see my former husband’s parents.
He shouldn’t give me advice!
Who would we be without this thought?
Such a stressful thought.
There that person is, giving a stream of advice by talking talking talking, writing writing writing.
What if we weren’t against that stream of expression, that we’re calling “advice”?
I’d be light, free, even feel humorous, joyful, and kind.
Turning the thought around: I shouldn’t give HIM advice.
Oh. Right. I especially shouldn’t give him advice about giving advice. I see the advantage in letting things loosen up and relax when hearing someone make suggestions. No big deal. I don’t have to “take” the advice. I can listen, openly, to what it is. It doesn’t mean it’s the correct advice. It doesn’t mean he thinks I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean anything troubling. It’s just someone caring, being who they are, sharing with me.
Thank you for sharing your suggestion. Thank you for caring. It doesn’t mean I “have” to do it to make them happy.
Turning it around again: he SHOULD give me advice. How could that be just as true, or truer?
Oh, seriously? That can’t be true….can it?
But we’re just looking here at reality. And if I’m friendly towards it, if I’m open to what reality is doing, then why wouldn’t I be open to someone sharing advice with me? Reality is someone writing to me words about how to be with dying people. That’s thoughtful! I might need it! I’m spending a lot of time with a person who is dying, after all. So it makes perfect sense I would need this kind of advice.
I might want to look carefully at the words received, and notice how helpful they are. I notice this man has also been close to death. He may know a thing or two about it, first hand. He’s danced with it himself. He’s the perfect person to give advice about being with someone dying.
I love Byron Katie’s quip about everything being the way it’s supposed to be. “How do you know you’re supposed to hear it? You heard it. How do you know you’re supposed to read that advice? You read it.”
It doesn’t mean you deserved it. Or that you should follow the advice. It just means, it’s not out of order it was offered.
Turning it around again: I shouldn’t advise myself, especially when it comes to my Old Flame.
What do I know about his journey? Not much, honestly. It was many years ago. The way we related so long ago was immediate, and intense, and unexpected. And over, quickly. I have no clear way to judge what his advice means, or whether it’s bad or good advice. It has nothing to do with me.
This would be the same with anyone who gives advice. Perhaps their words, language, writing, gesture is brilliant. Perhaps it’s the perfect thing for you to hear, in that situation.
With love, and an open heart, you hear the advice and feel joy.
And who knows what you’ll actually do, or feel, or say, or follow.
“Your enemy is the teacher who shows you what you haven’t healed yet. Any place you defend is where you’re still suffering. There’s nothing out there that can oppose you. There is just fluid motion, like the wind. You attach a story to what you perceive, and that story is your suffering. I am everything that I have ever called other people; they were me all along.” ~ Byron Katie
There my Old Flame friend is, writing what he writes on email, showing me what I haven’t healed yet.
That I feel the deepest grief, the heart-breaking agony, the joy, the depth, the fear, the pain, the rawness of being with humans I care very much about and with whom I am deeply connected….
….and who I lose because something changes about the relationship. They need to go into treatment to get sober. They need to move into the Great Beyond because they have cancer. They get old and I grow up (and also get old, by the way).
Who would I be without my story that they shouldn’t give me advice?
“When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.” ~ Tao Te Ching #69