I have no idea where I found the courage, but somehow, miraculously, I did. I talked to him yesterday. Not in the exact words from If Only I Had Enough Courage, but I admitted to the fear, the reason I’m afraid, how almost impossibly difficult it is for me to be honest and even what an enigma MCF still is to me. I also got an answer I badly needed without even asking the question; he assured me if I ever crossed a line he would let me know. I never doubted his honesty or integrity, but still I was uncertain if he would really put the brakes on if it was ever necessary rather than outright abandon me for I crossing a line.
In talking about wanting more than to just survive, I compared it to being thrown in the deep end without knowing how to swim. He said people instinctively know how to swim and we continued to talk. Just before I left he assured me I am going to succeed and I retorted, “Well, I’m certainly not going to drown.” What I meant was that, no matter what, I will survive. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when he said, “I know. I won’t let you.” That was the most surreal moment of my life thus far. I open up, admit (albeit vaguely) to my past and this incredible man responds with utter support and solidarity. People don’t do things like that for people like me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slighting H here, it’s just different. H fell in love with me, wanted to spend his life with me and build a future together. H had something to gain through his constant support of me. There is literally nothing I can offer in return to MCF. He isn’t getting anything out of this, out of helping me and supporting and advising me. And the thing is, I was attracted to him the first time I laid eyes on him, before he even spoke. So I know I’m not after him out of gratitude. Really I’m not after him at all, in spite of my insatiable lusting after him.
Anyway…back to our conversation:
It turns out I didn’t need advice on getting out of my own way. It took me quite a while to actually admit what the problem is because I was so afraid of shattering the gift that he is in my life. Eventually I did explain and it turns out I already do a pretty good job of not getting in my own way. I’m also fairly apt at managing work-related stress. These were the types of things he addressed in his advice prior to my full (okay, tip of the iceberg) disclosure. Once he understood the actual issue, his advice was swift and simple: passion.
MCF explained that he does what he does, comes in to work every day, because he loves it. He loves helping others succeed and breaking down barriers. He told me, “It might not be true for everybody, but for me, and I suspect for you as well, passion is all you need. If you take someone who is mediocre but has passion, well, that person isn’t mediocre.” This was a revaluation for me. There have been plenty of things at which I was truly mediocre in which I excelled because of my drive. I explained that I understood and agreed with that concept, but that I’ve never had that before.
I went on to admit that although I’ve overachieved my entire life, I overachieved as a mechanism to hide what I didn’t want people looking at. Like a magician, I wave over here to draw your attention and keep you from looking at what’s going on with my other hand. My career is on the verge of taking off and truly thriving, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to keep up. Now I have my answer, one of the last words I would’ve ever expected to hear come out of MCF’s mouth: passion. I told him yesterday that I would put my faith in that being true, that passion would be enough for me to excel without everything being built on fear and eventually crumbling from such an unstable foundation.
I was amazed to realize when I woke up this morning that I don’t have to go on faith or wait and see what happens. While it’s true that I’ve never had passion for my work, I did once do something out of passion which changed my life – I volunteered as a domestic violence advocate. I felt something I’d never experienced before, almost a calling. A drive so deep I was willing to put my marriage in danger in order to do this thing, this thing which my husband happened to object to. Obviously our marriage came through alright, but it was a tough time. I don’t regret a moment of it. Volunteering as a DVA transformed my life. I learned to let go of so much fear and pain. I reached a level of acceptance I never would’ve guessed existed regarding my own domestic violence experiences.
MCF asked me if my expectations were realistic, concerned about my reasons for expecting myself to succeed on my chosen trajectory. My response was not really something I’d though about, and truth be told, I was horrified to realize what I’d revealed once the words that had come out of my mouth caught up with my BRAIN! I explained that succeeding is not an expectation for myself, it’s more of a goal. I am at my very core driven to serve others. I know that I could never be happy doing something that I truly couldn’t be successful at because, if I’m not succeeding and not able to improve, I’m not serving anyone. If I ever ended up in a position where I truly was not capable of succeeding, I would have to find something else. I would never be able to just accept that.
Perhaps admitting to wanting nothing more than to be of service to others isn’t as earth-shattering a confession in normal, every day conversations about ones career as it felt to me, but I was shocked at myself. I truly believe I hide my submission so well; I bury it under every little thing I do, under every task and every sentence and every joke. I’ve turned my entire life into methods of forcing my submissive needs down, to where they won’t interfere. Then, all of a sudden, I’m spouting to MCF possibly the single most important truth about myself. I am driven to serve. I need it to exist.
It may not be obvious how I reinforce the chain with which this beast is contained, but there are a thousand little things I do every day to keep it contained. I get up and refill H’s glass when it’s empty, often without him asking. I do chores around the house, knowing it will please H. H will likely never understand how much my every move is truly centered around pleasing him. I am secondary, always secondary. Not in his mind, no, in my own. I see myself as below – I want to follow. I want to surrender the reins to someone I trust. I want to be able to let someone take care of me and make me feel loved and wanted and needed. I want to release the stress and every last shred of responsibility other than following. So yeah…I did not ever intend to even so much as hint to MCF regarding my desire, my drive, my need to serve others. Oh well, too late now!
I’ve officially given up on fighting my obsession with MCF. During our conversation I explained a compliment I received from a co-worker and how much confusion it caused me. I told MCF that I show maybe 8% of myself at work. I didn’t do anything for this co-worker; I didn’t help her, I didn’t offer her anything – I didn’t even offer her me. I showed her maybe 8% of myself and she was thanking me. MCF said that he completely understood where she was coming from and that while I don’t think I did anything, that doesn’t mean that for her I didn’t do anything; for her, I did do something. This lead to a tangent regarding humility which was extremely uncomfortable for me, although I don’t believe MCF was implying this was a problem area for me. Still. One way or another, I have no desire whatsoever to talk about humility. With. Anyone.
So, after basically admitting my entire life has been a nightmare which I barely survived AND admitting I truly want nothing more in life than to serve others, I then laid it out nice and plain for MCF that I hide a minimum of 92% of myself at work. Not that he appeared at all surprised by this, he knows better than anyone how guarded I am. That’s the actual word he used, he said, “You are very guarded in what you share.” I told him that I’m not very good at being honest, and it’s not something I have much occasion to practice. This did seem to surprise him, so I gave him an example. “You saw it the other day. You asked how I was when we were getting in the elevator and I told you the truth. When we were out of the elevator a co-worker walked by asking how I was and I said, ‘Great!’ I know there are social contracts and everything and I’m not saying I’m doing anything wrong, but I am not honest very often. It is not easy for me to be honest.”
I honestly don’t even want to think about what conclusions he’s drawn from this conversation, or even just that part of our conversation! I do know that he hasn’t given up on me. In the very beginning of our conversation I told him I was extremely stressed and he asked me if that was what was keeping me from being the “happy Lifestyle Gambler that I know?” I told him that was part of it and began by talking about pain, a topic I’ve discussed more honestly with him than any other person. I certainly haven’t described it to him with anywhere near the degree of brutal honesty as I did in that post, but I don’t hide it from him to the extend that I will myself to with anyone (everyone) else. Sure there are less guarded moments when I’m being treated by one of my doctors when I shed tears and my voice is unsteady due to the magnitude of the pain I’m in, but as I explained in that post, even then I’m not open about it. But MCF know’s I’m in pain. I feel safe admitting to being in pain to him.
So, I started on as familiar ground as I could grasp to lead in to this conversation. I told him something I’ve thought about saying to him for months, maybe longer. “Pain is just like other things, emotion, language, touch. If you know how to use it you can use it to do almost anything.” Those may not be exactly the words I used, but close enough. As I said, I’ve been thinking about saying this to MCF for some time now. I wanted, at least part of me wanted, him to understand that pain, emotion, communication, touch, they are all tools at best and weapons at worst in my life. They are things you use, how you manipulate people, situations. I have no idea how much he gleaned from my saying that, but I’m trying here. I’m trying to trust him, trying to let him help me. I’m trying to let him in without forcing him away. So I told him sometimes I’m in pain. “Other times, like last week, I’m not really in pain. I’m in agony.” I went on to outline how I use the pain. Sure there are times when it’s too much and I can’t do anything but survive, but mostly, I wield it. I wear it as armor and focus it toward whatever it is I’ve determined I need to do. It’s the only way I know to live and have anything even remotely resembling a life while this is happening to me.
I have literally never in my life exposed so much about myself in such a short period of time. Even more shocking is that MCF wasn’t pulling it out of me. He was just there for me. Listening, waiting, offering what he could. But he easily recognized that I was refusing to admit what the problem was which I’d identified, and he also recognized just as easily that while he could offer all the advice in the world, he wasn’t going to be able to give me what I needed until I could ask him for what I needed. When I clearly wasn’t able to continue, he still didn’t pressure me or even ask me to tell him. “You know my door’s always open.” is what he said. I don’t know if this man is a saint or just my own personal guardian angel, but I do know he is truly a rare and precious gift. Did I not mention that earlier? Yeah…this conversation actually took place in two parts, over an hour apart. He even said to me, “You got together the courage to come down here.” He recognized what it cost me just to show up, sit there, and try to ask for help – even before I admitted to anything other than being stressed.
Once I finally laid out the problem for him, he asked why the stress was so bad. I explained that I’d been struggling with this for six to eight weeks, maybe longer. That I would’ve asked for his help weeks ago if I’d known how to explain what I needed help with. I implied I spent that time identifying the problem, when actually I spent that time trying to convince myself I could trust MCF with so much of myself. I admit, I fell into one of my typical defenses there, implying without outright lying. To my credit though, that’s the only time I consciously did that during these conversations yesterday. Anyway, toward the end of the second part of our conversation he told me, “Next time, don’t wait eight weeks.” I always though I needed someone who could force me to talk. With MCF, he doesn’t have to force me. Next time, I doubt it will take me so long to convince myself he is worth my trust; I want to talk to him, I want to be honest. I want to be myself; I want to let him see me.
I can’t, obviously. That is obvious, right? He is a co-worker and, more importantly, my mentor. Yeah, I’ve never had a mentor in my life. It took me a year and a half, maybe a bit more? to even figure out that’s what the hell he’s been playing at all this time! Honestly, it did help me to finally have a label for it. He is so utterly unique in my experience, in the way he treats me and cares for me, defends my privacy and has demonstrated complete commitment to me from the very beginning. He has always prioritized me above his work, above everything. What he said really is true, his door is always open. So, now I’m the one that’s playing at something. Playing at opening up, at trying to repay him in the only way I have…honesty. Giving him the opportunity to see me, showing him myself instead of the litany of masks I show the world. I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified in my life. Unfortunately this week I was forced to admit that even as my mentor, he can’t do much for me if I refuse to let him in. What he told me about passion demonstrated that quite effectively. We never would’ve gotten to that advice if I hadn’t been truthful with him. I don’t even know how to quantify the level of stress relief I felt after this conversation.
So how do I balance my gratitude, my debt, my sincere desire to repay him, my less wholesome desires and the continents of fear I’m dragging through my daily life? I sure hope I figure it out without costing me one of the most precious relationships of my life. I feel even worse about lusting after him the more he proves himself. Proves he is worth my trust, my honesty. I truly, deeply value him. I once told a friend I’d cut off my right arm (yes, I’m right-handed) just for a chance to be friends with MCF. It’s the truth. A friend I might be able to be myself with. A mentor with whom I work? I don’t see that ever being possible. It kills me a little inside because I want to offer him more. I just don’t see how I could without destroying what I have, what he has so generously and selflessly granted me. But I also recognize that I’m taking advantage here:
“When I catch my breath, it’s you I breath.”
When I can’t sleep, I imagine his arms wrapped around me. I rarely get off to anything other than imagining submitting to him lately. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, whenever I’m struggling I find myself seeking him out. The majority of the time I don’t even talk to him, I just lay eyes on him and it’s like a knot loosens in my chest. He’s everywhere to me. How can I accept all he freely gives to me when I can’t even show him the basic respect of not wanting more?