While driving to work this morning, Fight Song came up on my playlist and I was struck yet again by another unwelcome insight regarding my relationship with my mentor MCF.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to see MCF briefly after being out of state last week. He asked how things were coming with my mission statement and I let him know that although I haven’t done the work, I have a plan. I then thanked him, to which his reply was something along the lines of him having had confidence in me and that he didn’t have anything to do with it. Had I been prepared for this conversation I would have anticipated this deflection, as we share this trait of resisting praise directed towards us. I assured him that he did indeed deserve my thanks, as my plan resulted directly from something he said. Upon reflection, I realized that he was correct in asserting that I was attempting to create a mission statement both personally meaningful and appropriate for an audience – that just isn’t doable for me.
Before I got in to describing my plan MCF moved the conversation along (most likely uncomfortable having been backing into a corner of praise). Within moments we were wishing one another well and saying our goodbyes for the time being. I don’t recall his exact verbiage, but he wished me well with word choice that really got me thinking. This damn compulsion to be honest with him prevented me from outright agreeing because I could potentially fail to live up to his well-wishes for me, but what he described was positive and I am in a positive place right now, so disagreeing was out. After a moment’s hesitation, I replied “Okay.” in place of my usual arguments. He appeared to digest the fact that I didn’t argue with him, nor did I completely accept his well-wishes for me. This pulled a chuckle from him, and he repeated, “Okay.” From his tone repeating that single word, I believe he was pleased that I did not disagree with him outright as I so frequently do; I think he realizes that I am trying.
What I realized this morning is that over the past 18 months or so, when my physical and mental health were crumbling, I leaned on MCF more than any other individual, including H. I’ve written about how hard I worked to shield H from as much as possible while simultaneously discussing my pain candidly with MCF. When I was nearing my limits, I turned to MCF at every opportunity. I calendar-stalked him, I found excuses to go to the floor he works on so that I could get a glimpse of him, maybe hear his voice. The vast majority of the times I leaned on him didn’t even involved any direct interaction between us; just being near him or thinking about touching him was a source of strength when I was in desperate need. As I fought the agony which enveloped my life, MCF was the only person I willingly, consistently turned to for hope.
While there were certainly other people in my life doing their best to support me, I was unable or unwilling to rely on them until these last few months when things have been drastically improving. Perhaps low self-esteem was the culprit; I have certainly detested myself for causing pain to those I love, inadvertent though it was. Throughout my struggles, MCF never expressed anything negative in response as I’ve disclosed my trials; he never has seen me as a burden in any way; he has offered me unwavering support and empathy. MCF has never made me feel less in any way; I’ve only ever felt more after interacting with him.
Perhaps I should be ashamed of myself…maybe I am. What I know for certain is that I survived and I’ve fought my way forward in so many ways. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. While I’ve spent more time discussing my work with MCF than my personal life, he has been mentoring me personally since we first met more than two years ago now. He has opened my mind over and over again, while making concessions every time I’ve required it of him. MCF has never forced me, but always pushed me however far I was capable of allowing. He has always had my best interests, my happiness, my success as his motivation. He is so many of the things I recklessly wish of him – confidant, advisor, conscience. He doesn’t just listen to me, he hears me and chooses to stand with me in defense of all that I am. From the very beginning I’ve set the bounds and he has operated within them, yet still managed to help me learn and grow. I have never admired anyone as much as I admire MCF.