we all have that one person, and/or that one subsequent benchmark experience (that is, if we can recognize them/it) that helped shape us and our life for the better.
although a therapist once told me (and I still believe her) that I suffer from “pathological gratitude”, lately I have been reflecting on the people and experiences who and that, nonetheless, helped shape my life. maybe some of it is pathological gratitude, but even if so, I am still consciously grateful for who and that which helped remind me of who I’ve always been and where I am capable of going.
I’ll start at the earliest point in my life. there was a couple who lived across the street from me starting from when I was about 9 months old. Charlie and Sue. they did not have children, just dogs. the person I was most connected to, or who was most connected to me, was Charlie. my earliest memories include Charlie. as early as I could walk, I recall being with Charlie. as I sat on his lap and talked about his dogs (his dogs were a huge part of his life), he gazed at me with love in his eyes. this love had no attachment. this love had no need. this love had no expectation. it was perhaps my first recollection of unconditional love. I can recall, even now, what I felt: seen, special, connected, and loved. I moved away when I was just 4, so my time with Charlie was brief and intermittent. apparently when he died a few years ago (I only recently discovered that fact), I was in photos of a slideshow that was presented at his remembrance ceremony. it was only recently that I made a huge connection to the meaning of Charlie in my life: he provided me with a protective energy that would last a lifetime. how do I know this? because when I look at his photo today, I STILL FEEL THAT FEELING. the feeling that I had as a toddler. why is this important to share?
recently a close friend of mine went through a breakup. his partner has a young daughter who he was introduced to when she was very little. he was with his partner for over half a decade, no doubt leaving a very strong impression on the life of this little girl. as he spoke to me about the angst he felt in his heart for being apart from the little girl, and concern for her well-being and remembrance of him on her part in the future, I was reminded of my own experience with Charlie. what we often forget is how powerful and impressionable the mind and heart of a young child are; they never, ever forget. they forget things that are indeed dangerous…but they always remember the love. the positive. and all it takes is one positive to outweigh thousands of negatives in the form of people and experiences. no, it does not erase trauma or difficulty…but it will, at a certain point, prevail over negativity. our experiences with people are imprinted upon our soul, and for better or for worse, we recall them and bring them into our consciousness (either during our life span or on our death bed — either way it is inescapable! it’s just a matter of timing) one day. pain leaves us…love stays. ultimately.
the next memory of someone who shaped my life is one that came about in a very indirect fashion, and it’s sort of sad/raw. but I have to tell it. if you have been reading my blog for a time, you will have already gotten the gist of my life, even if sometimes cryptically described — that said, this next memory won’t sound too off-color. I was a prepubescent child. it was Christmas eve. those who were to care for and love me went to a neighbor’s house in the evening. while there, the very essence and truth of my being was thrown under the bus by those who were there to care for and love me. upon hearing such alarming and negative words come from such a seemingly unlikely source, the owner of the house, the neighbor, became enraged. instead of just playing politics for the sake of saving face and having to see his neighbors every day, this man (a real man, I would later understand) stood up and began screaming in defense of me. he called me one of the sweetest, kindest children he had ever met – and then he kicked out the people who were supposed to love and care for me. on Christmas eve. his rage and (rightful) upset over what he witnessed, a crime against a small child, was so intense that he woke his own children with his roaring anger and words (who were close in age to me). years later, I would hear this story told by this man’s own children. it didn’t start to hit me until I was in proper therapy, that someone had actually tried to defend me in my life. it was nobody close to me (otherwise my life would have been very different), but someone did indeed defend me. I just wasn’t there to witness it. but hearing about it proved to be a God-send, only many years later. what that man did for me mattered. it still matters. and a current piece of me in present day can connect to that timeline and feel gratitude. and protection.
during my second internship in college, I was paired with a software development company. my skill-sets and focus weren’t necessarily the best match for this company, but the founder, Phil, resonated with my passion for modern languages and travel. during the interview, he asked me what led to my interest in foreign culture, and I let him know that my first boyfriend was from another country. that seemed to be the clincher! – he could relate, as he himself wanted and had decided to marry a non-American! he impressed upon me the fact that intrinsic resonance was more important than technical skills or a resume, and he gave me a very important opportunity. aside from training or retraining my mind to think analytically (I was an analyst slash data entry person for his company), I learned interpersonal skills I had never learned before. he taught me about the acronym/word ASS-U-ME. I learned that almost everything I had learned up until that point was…not very helpful if I was going to make it in the world and be successful with any employer. he questioned not just my office skills, but my interpersonal skills. I cried in my car after work a few times, and sometimes even in the bathroom at work. I always knew he was a great person, so I didn’t blame him – I realized that he was showing me a new way of living and communicating, since my methods at that time would not serve me in the future. it was hard for me to change. but he gave me a chance. he saw me. and I realized that he could have chosen “better” in terms of the technical skills that would have been optimal for his company, but he worked with me both as an employee and as a human being. he brought heart and business into one setting for me. and it changed the way I looked at the world, and myself (can’t have one without the other, right?).
the next person who helped me to “see” myself, was my first true “boss” out of college. I took a sales job. an on-the-road sales job. door-to-door. C-Suite talk only. meaning, we were not allowed to discuss, on any level, a sale with anyone who was not a C-Suite. imagine that! we were not allowed to email prospects. it was all face-to-face, or via phone, or nothing at all. and they had to be top decision makers…or nothing at all. now to be clear, I was TERRIFIED of public speaking, and I was TERRIFIED of walking into (sometimes nearly breaking and entering!) an office building and demanding at the reception desk to see the CEO or CFO. I basically took my absolute worst nightmare job…because I knew I needed to grow. so this first boss is named Sean. we are still in contact to this day. at any rate, Sean hired me. and he trained me. I watched this 25 year old man blaze into offices in his suit (we were required to wear suits), casually and firmly demand to speak with the CEO, and act like it was normal. at first, I would stand there with embarrassment — I couldn’t believe anyone could be so brazen! but he did it with careful confidence. he did not let fear get in the way. I had a long way to go before I felt I could get there. but within a few months, I was there. it started with me entering offices and running out, due to fear. and it ended with me confidently asking to meet with the CEO on the spot (the company’s model was a 15 second pitch-to-close — or nothing was happening!). I became one of the company’s top sales people at that time, because I believed in the service, but also because Sean believed in me. he didn’t mind that I was socially awkward, or that I was hypervigilant or would probably shake at first or that my voice was in my throat most of the time. he let me burn some leads because I was not perfect or successful yet. and his belief in me, and his kindness toward me, changed me. it simply showed me that I didn’t have to not believe in myself or keep my head down.
the next person who shaped my life for the better happened to be an astrologer. her name was/is Veronica. I have no idea whether or not she is still alive. she came from London and lived in CT. I was 26 and I went to see her for a life consult. as we sat together for 3 hours, she shared some very raw and tough-to-hear truths about my life, my past, and my future. since I had become so accustomed to criticism throughout my life, I was able to sit there and hear whatever she needed to say (this is one of the perks of not being coddled and told “you’re the greatest”). the most important thing that she shared with me in her candid read on me and my life, was my destiny. I knew it, always, in my heart. yet, I was so scared of who that person was, because I was trained to be the opposite of that person. clearly, Veronica could see this, and it pissed her off a great deal. it’s funny, because now in my line of work, I see and feel the same way when young women come to me: rage and compassion surrounding things that have been taken from them – and it is my mission to return to them their intrinsic gifts. at any rate, Veronica sat and told me what was so clearly in my chart, and when she said it I sobbed a big loud sob. she didn’t waiver. she told me that I was crying because it was true. I said yes. and there it was. I had permission, for the first time in my life, to become what I already was — underneath a sea of opposition. and after that reading, that is exactly what I did: I went and became what I had always been, and was always meant to be. I am still expanding my wings to this day, and I won’t stop until I am dead. and probably not after that, either, FYI.
the “final” person and experience who/that shaped my life seems, even while writing this, almost innocuous due to the brevity of such…but the impact of it supersedes duration. and because it stands out so acutely, it is certainly a big part of who I am today. when I was starting Healing Elaine® – and I was just called it “Elaine” at the time – I was interviewing for part-time work within the sphere of what I do. I hadn’t fully come out of the spiritual closet at that time, and I didn’t have enough money for rent based on my work. so I spent my entire days and often nights looking for tie-in work with which I could earn, while handing out my “Elaine” business cards during the day. I found a top psychiatrist who was looking for a bilingual admin slash receptionist, and it seemed perfect! I had started as a psych major in college, and I minored in modern languages. I didn’t get the job, but I walked out with more than a job. when I went to the interview, he let me know that part of the process was to take an aptitude test that he had designed himself. I took the test, and I recall thinking DURING it that I could be doing better on it. he kept looking at me with curiosity, it felt. at the end of the test, he looked at me and said: “most people do not do that well on that test”. I was like, OK, and…and then he said it again, firmly, looking me directly in the eyes. it hit me, many months later, that what he was trying to tell me was that I was good enough. that I was worthy. and that I was better than I knew. perhaps that parts of me were above average. he could see that I could not see myself the way I was, the way that God had designed for me to see myself. and to this day, his words and focus upon me resonate and reverberate and heal me. that half-hour interview is still in my DNA. and I am grateful for it.
I wanted to write about this today, because I have recently been hearing about and seeing examples of lives that were positively touched in the simplest of ways…ways in which we often underestimate, regardless of our dynamic in a particular relationship. sometimes “just doing our job” as a boss or mentor — even if we teach someone a difficult lesson — can be savored many, many years later. and appreciated. and it can be life-changing. actions have power…we may not be able to stop child abuse, but we can certainly confront abusers by telling them “NO!” – whether that child is present or not. that energy goes a long way. as does love. just being in the presence (no matter how short of a time it may be, and no matter personal or professional in capacity) of someone who loves us because they are connected to themselves in some way, can heal even the deepest of wounds.