Her intimacy, the sheer depth and unguarded nakedness of it, was such a
gift. She stood before me and shed her clothes - figuratively, that is
- letting me see exactly what was going on, exactly what she was
She said she'd left the man she was once married to because after a
while she was no longer sure he was the one. She didn't want to
be with him after that, although she hoped they could continue to be
There were various similar situations later in her life, like when she
stopped going for walks at dawn on the beach with her girl friends.
They weren't really the desperate housewives they kidded
each other they were. They were ordinary people who knew each other in
passing from the neighborhood they all lived in, who shared a desire
for company. So they walked their dogs on the beach at dawn together
until she no longer enjoyed their company. She said she'd tried to make
it work but eventually she realized they simply had very little in
There were other earlier, similar endings to the contacts she'd made
with the people in her life, each one punctuated by a similar,
perfectly justifiable story, each one leaving her with the
position that they just weren't right for her.
The tears welled up in her eyes. I didn't have to ask why. Inside of
her own inquiry, she was starting to see her justification, her
story was ending all her relationships, all at about the
same time, all when about the same level of intimacy had built up. For
all of them she had the same set of reasons and similar expressions of
I didn't want to jump in too quickly. I already knew she'd gotten what
I was about to suggest. Quietly I asked "Who is it you'd
really rather not be with? You know it's not them,
She took a deep, deliberate breath, and straightened her shoulders. I
could see she was calming herself. Her eyes opened wide. She gazed
straight ahead, tears bejeweling her lower eyelids but no longer
flowing. "No, it's not them I'd rather not to be with" she
said. "It's never them. It's me I'd rather
not be with. I'd rather not be with me.".
There was no need to say anything, so I didn't. There was no need to
say anything smart. A pat retort would have been
inappropriate. She got it, and I could tell she got it big time.
Later in the evening I revisited the issue. "So you'd rather not be
with you, and with that going on, you're around people. How do they,
given how you're being, show up for you?" I asked. She said "It's like
wearing a pair of sunglasses which, without me knowing, have violet
tinted lenses. Everywhere I look, people show up violet - not my
favorite color. I make the assessment they're violet. I don't
like violet. So I determine I'd rather not be with them. Yet even as
I'm doing that, I have no idea it's my own sunglasses
which cause them to show up violet for me. Given it's my own sunglasses
which cause them to show up violet for me, there's nothing they can
do other than show up violet.".
Noticing how it goes in my own life, I've learned one of the essential
aspects of a breakthrough is for people to experience it personally, by
themSelves, all the way through. If pushed, if it's
explained, if it's not granted the space to be with
it, it quickly gels into concept, recipe, strategy, belief. It ends up
having a kind of intellectual value which has as much
lasting satisfaction as merely thinking about a cool
shower during the
of July and August. So I chose my words carefully, wanting to
participate with her bringing an experience forth without interfering.
I said "Good. When you wear sunglasses with violet tinted lenses,
there's nothing they can
other than show up violet. What about you?".
At first she didn't get it. "You mean
I can do
other than show up violet also?" she asked. "Yes, clearly
there's that too" I said. "But what else do you see with regard to
your role in there being
they can do
other than show up violet?".
She stayed silent for a long time this time. Then she started to nod,
agreeing with herself as she began to see the baseline of her
predicament. She smiled. "I get it. Given my sunglasses are violet,
I can do
other than have them show up violet.".
It was an amazing moment, a moment when time stops, a moment when
there's suddenly no more certainty, no more predictability, a moment
when anything can happen next ... and probably will. I
backed off, not saying anything, walking away, leaving her alone in her
moment of silent revelation.
A few weeks went by before our paths crossed again. She looked amazing.
Years had fallen from her face. The wrinkles, the crow's
feet had gone from her temples. Her eyes were clear. A smile
danced on her lips as if she was sharing a private joke with herself.
I said "Wow! So
with the violet sunglasses?". "I gave up wearing them" she laughed.
Just ... like ... that, I thought.
Not bad. Not "took them off". Not "gave them away". Not "stopped
wearing them". Not "figured them out". None of that. Instead, simply
gave them up - just like that. How big is that?
"Congratulations!" I said. "How is it for you, now that you've given
them up? What's shifted for you? What's it like?".
I could see she was elated. "It's awesome!" she said slowly, still
bathed in the newness of it. "For the first time in my life, I'd rather
be with me.".