Catching the Fall of Another: WWGD?

“Balance” by Author. iPhone photo by author, too.

I. Did. Not. Like. Her.   

It just seemed that everything that came out of her mouth was just a little more negative than it needed to be. 

From the first Sharing Circle on the first day of this week-long retreat; Camille stood out. A little too much backstory, a little too much detail, a little too much self-pity… Even through casual comments made in off-hand conversations during exercises or casual time; there always seemed a dissonant nuance, an extra note of Negative.

It was bugging me; distracting me. I did not like this, I was not liking her. Though she presented as brilliant and professionally adult as any of our intimate group of 15, this relentless soupçon of negativity was becoming like a splinter in my finger; a constant irritant. I needed to find some sort of spiritual tweezer and remove it.

On the way to meditation, the second morning – after another brief, antipathetic encounter, I was thinking that perhaps I’d just sit down with her and ask her if she even realized how much negativity she was projecting. Maybe help her see and process it.

As I walked, I played a scenario in my head. How might this plan play out? How would she take it? Would it be productive or come off as confrontational, condescending? 

Maybe. (Probably.) 

As the meditation commenced, high on a deck overlooking the sea, I wasn’t really listening to the shaman. Rather, I was watching the waves and wondered to myself, “What would Greg do?”

What would Greg do?

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Greg is a dear, longtime friend of mine who lives his life such that he embodies all the spiritual and personal qualities to which I aspire. He is a driven, focused, unsurpassably accomplished athlete; he loves and actively cares for animals; he possesses a will of iron while being easily the most gentle and loving, fully authentic person I’ve known; and he embraces his spirituality so fully, so completely in the way he lives and moves through this life that it is sometimes simply breathtaking.

He’s a damn good guy. 

And the man Forgives. He forgives before being asked. He forgives without being asked. He has forgiven a lot.

None of his accomplishments have come easy; the things, events and treatments, the circumstances, negativity and actions with which he’s had to deal through life and career can be overwhelming simply to hear; not to mention actually experience or with which to deal. 

Yet. In the face of and having come through all that he has, he forgives and releases and moves forward; truly having forgiven and even given love back to those who may have hurt him. He is the most Namaste person I’ve ever encountered. 

I aspire to have that equanimity, that strength, that commitment to generosity, truth and love.

So, as I sat there, not listening to the Shaman, I thought about Camille and I thought about Greg.

Examining my experience with Camille, it came to me that negativity and anger are so often the outgrowth or manifestation of fear and unhappiness. Depression is so often rooted in Rage, and all of this comes from sadness, frustration, fear…

The times in my life when I’ve made my most egregious mistakes in treating others poorly have been when I’ve been struggling with the deepest of sadnesses or most paralyzing of my own fears…

What would Greg do? He would love her.

That’s all he would do. Love her.

I can do that.

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Afterward, during breakfast, as we were all randomly seated outdoors, I glanced into the kitchen and saw Camille with two others, baking bread. The body language among the three telegraphed to me that Camille wasn’t fitting-in, in there, either…

Next thing I knew, I saw her walking from the kitchen, face down and heading past us into the compound. I saw my chance.

Getting up from my table, I took a course to intersect with her. I had no idea, yet, what I would say; but there she was. 

She did not see me coming. As I approached, I called, “Camille! Don’t take another step; I have something for you…”

As I opened my arms to offer her a hug, she turned to face me and I was stunned. Her visage was a knot, so tightly screwed together so as to seem of stone. I saw pain, I saw worry, I saw anger and sadness, all of it raw and intense. Had I seen that before getting so close, I’d have asked permission to approach but it was too late! I had momentum and she’d already stopped and before I knew it…

“May I …?” was all I got out before she and I embraced. 

…and she began to weep.

I held her, fully embracing her as she wept openly, uncontrollably, sobs coming from deep, deep inside her. 

And I held her. Feeling her sobs against my chest, feeling her fragile soul opening up and pouring forth. 

I put a hand on her head and told her I wasn’t going anywhere, that I’m right here and I have her. 

And she wept.

And I held her.

And she wept.

And I held her.

When she caught her breath, she asked, “…you don’t even know what this is about, do you?” I have no idea.

And she shared with me a diagnosis she had recently received; one that had seemed negotiable when in familiar surroundings; but the extent and effects of which had become alarmingly pronounced and defined now, in her first foray into new geography. She was appreciating the reality of her life and she was terrified. And I got it.

“You know…” I said, “ …if you’re willing to share this with the group, I’ll bet we’ll all have your back…”

And over the next hour, in the next sharing circle, Camille shared it all and found a cohort of comrades ready to stand by her and to share love with her as the week unfolded.

What had been so heavy within moments became so light!

Camille’s face over the coming days grew smoother and smoother, the smile more and more present and fresh. She felt safe and we, as a unit, each and all became closer to her – and to one another, for that matter. 

That resonant moment, I believe, speeded the catalysis of our group in coming together and digging into the work we had come to do for this week. It was a powerful experience for all, I suppose, individually and collectively, to be such an active part of catching the fall of another. 

For me, it was simple and profound. 

He would just love.

I can do that.

Thank you, Greg.

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The lesson, through all of it, is to keep an eye on myself for perception through mindset or, as I term it in my own Tenets, Exploration of Assumption. (…or, in instances such as this; Seeing through One’s Own Sh*t.)

We know no one’s backstory, we have no idea what may have happened to that passerby this morning, we know no one’s makeup, experience, state of mind or why. 

If we…if I…can keep in mind what I don’t know when confronted with something negative or uncomfortable; chances are I can keep if from affecting me negatively and possibly even contribute in some small way to something more positive for the bearer.

From smiling at a stranger on the street to embracing what looks from the outside like a Problem.

One never knows, until…

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