Thursday, July 12, 2012
On Your Head Be It
Over twelve years ago, Lee put his enormous hand across my shoulder and said: "I just spoke with Zan. You can move in with us when we get back (from the NCECA conference)." Everything changed that day. At a point in my life where my divorce had just begun, where my concepts on family were shattered, when all hope for the future were dashed.... and all of a sudden, someone said they cared enough about me to take me in. I didn't even know I needed taking care of.
Fast forward twelve years.
Last weekend Lee called, and let me know that he was on the road and might be stopping by that afternoon/evening. I was flabbergasted. I didn't even know he was on the East Coast. Surprise!
Around 10pm Lee showed up in his spiffy bright yellow racing-car truck, larger than life. With his cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile spread from ear to ear, he stood in my doorway. I couldn't have been happier!
Reflection: It is a strange thing to be cared for. It would seem an obvious thing... everyone needs care. Right? Yet how do we practice receiving care? This was something my friend Leon Ginenthal introduced me to via the eloquent words of Milton Mayeroff's book: On Caring. Mayeroff talks about all the various aspects of caring for someone... but what was so incredibly striking about his (very brief) book is that in order to care for someone, you must, in return, be able to receive care.
What does that mean?
I think that in general, most people don't really know what care they need. Granted, sometimes, you may know what you want... but need is different. We tend to avoid addressing this need for care because of the fear that we might not receive what we really need. That fear and shame of needing care tends to leave us frustrated, embarrassed, ashamed, or worse.
When Lee took me into his home, he didn't judge me. He didn't offer to solve my problems. He didn't offer conditions for moving in... (except he asked me to tone down my sailor's blue streak). He didn't try to drag me off to church with his family on Sunday.
How does this reflect on our visit this past weekend?
Lee and I are like twin brothers from different mothers, as he is fond of saying. In many ways we couldn't be more different. In other ways, we truly are like twins. There are times, where we can finish one another's thoughts. We find humor in so many similar things. And that zest for life and the willingness to wring every last drop of vigor out of each day... Yeah, we share a great deal.
Seeing Lee standing in my doorway, then sitting at my dinner table, reminded me that I am loved. In the past three years, I have had to walk away from so many things I thought would be permanent in my life. I have plummeted to the bottom of life's ladder and hit rock bottom. No question. But when Lee called me while I was in the hospital, recovering from my coma... that voice, that low growl coming through the line... that voice calm but so unsure that I was really on the other end... so uncertain I would survive.... that was caring. There was nothing Lee could do, either from Utah or if he had come and stood by my bedside. But that phone call was a massive hand across my shoulders, letting me know that I could survive.
When I think about the friends I have surrounded myself with now, I realize that every one of them, no exceptions, all embody that same caring. Without a doubt, we are so fortunate to know the friends we do... and to have them care for us so well.