Me, Myself and I /or / Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd….

A friend once passed on the observation made by someone (an actor? a modern French philosopher?) that each of us is three people: the person other people see, the person we wish to be and the person we truly are.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I try to make some decisions. I mentioned it to another friend who is a fair bit older than I am . “Oh,” she said, with a smile, “Once you get to be my age you’ll find they all three become one, everything else simply becomes too much trouble.”

Well, I wonder if that will be true for me. I hope so, because in some ways that would mean a fully actualized person and life right ? But I am pretty far along in life at this point and I know I don’t always know which is which. My motivations , my desires and my understanding of myself can end up somewhat muddled as a result.

Case in point, I am currently on hiatus from work as a hospice volunteer. A bike accident almost exactly one year ago, resulting in surgery and a long(ish) recuperation meant my work, which I had begun two years prior, had to come to a halt until I was healed. I am well recovered now and have been for a good long time, even biking again. Immediately after the accident I was asked to assist with an intensive volunteer project revamping a website for my daughter’s school which took masses of time and energy until the following January. But it is now June , I have not returned to this work and I am not entirely sure why.

My main qualifications for hospice work are that death doesn’t scare me (well, a stranger’s peaceful one anyway), and I can ( relatively)  fearlessly sit with another’s pain and join another person’s journey comfortably and at their pace. In my time as a hospice volunteer I had several patients, the longest I was with a little over six months, the shortest two weeks. I left the house to see them reluctantly , each time feeling that I had to drag myself out the door… and almost always left them at the conclusion of our visit feeling peaceful and fulfilled. When the “match” between the patient and I was strong, it felt transformative. (One match in particular was comically bad but most were quite good or far better than quite good) . But in all cases, the work was truly challenging and as I contemplate starting it up again I find my motivation and desires around this are unclear.

I started hospice work after experiencing hospice with my mom and contrasting her death with my dad’s which was in the CCU with tubes and machines and abundant indignity. My mom’s last two weeks were with me at her bedside, the first in the CCU, the second at the Hospice House. No other family member was there. I loved the gentleness of hospice by contrast to the hospital setting . The peacefulness there allowed me to really accompany Mom and as one of my sisters-in-law put it, midwife her death.

So my first motivation was gratitude pay back, nothing could be clearer, nothing could be simpler.

But to return after what is now a year’s absence ? This is where it gets muddied. Do I return because doing so hits on who I wish I could be (selfless saint), how others see me (in this discrete instance, ibid) or who I really am (someone who is not the least bit saintly  , someone who hoards her free time like a miser , someone who had a hard time initially , and then every time, before going to be with a patient ….and who wants, in spite of all this, to do this work or maybe…. simply does not?

Maybe motivation counts for less then we are taught in acting school. Maybe it just boils down to deeds done or not done and maybe it doesn’t matter which of “me” is involved or which of “me” declines involvement.

But I still kinda really want to know and I still think it sorta really matters.

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16 Responses to Me, Myself and I /or / Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd….

  1. imadirektor says:

    I love reading your blogs Chris. But not sure if/how to sign up for automatic notices of new posts since you aren’t going to email any more. And when are we doing lunch again? I miss you.

    • Here is the whole story from my computer whiz friend, thanks Betty!!

      “It can be a bit tricky if you don’t know where to look!

      When you open the link to the current posting you sent, you have to look way down in the lower right-hand corner for a tiny grey box which says +follow. If you click on that, a pop-up box opens to let you sign up to follow the blog.”

  2. Jeanne Leonard says:

    Hi Chris,
    Once again a very thoughtful piece that has my head and heart engaged (now my fingers too). Why do we do what we do? Yes, I think it does matter; for to be fully engaged, fully in something we need to want to do it. I think anyway. There are so many tasks in life that we just have to do, no questions asked, so what do we do when we have a choice? It does matter I think to make a choice that is fulfilling and joyful and that we want to get in our car and go (maybe not every time, but most of the time). That’s my three cents worth. I do like the thought that I might get old enough to have the three of me merge into one. Thank you for these thoughts of yours.

    • Dear Jeanne,of course I only see one of you, but the one I see is passionately engaged in meaningful pursuits.You plant, tend and nurture countless gardens beyond the ones in your yard. So many people rely on your kind wisdom and diligence, including me.And yes, I think it does matter and also find it an encouraging thought to think there might be a time when this all becomes seamlessly integrated!

  3. Suzanne says:

    Hello Chris,
    I’m looking forward eagerly to the post when you reveal the answers you have worked out to these questions! You’ve put powerful words and meaning to thoughts that are fumbling around my mind, and occasionally rubbing themselves raw. The fact that you form and press these questions are part of what I admire and treasure about you.

    • Thank you Suzanne!I admire and treasure you! Ummmm…answers?! Yipes, I wonder if they will show themselves. I love your imagery about these things rubbing themselves raw tumbling around. I think getting the thoughts out might provide enough quiet for the answers to slip in, we’ll see !!

  4. Evie says:

    Dearest Chris,
    Ooh goodie – I don’t follow any blogs but look forward to yours… I think actually this is a perfect example of all three of those people merging into one – other people see you in a good light, you see yourself in a good light and you feel good when you’ve done it (because it is inherently gratifying and feels good to you, not because it fits the first two selves). This is actually what is so wonderful about helping others – it feels good. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes we do it for selves 1 and 2, but we shouldn’t assume that because of that, we don’t also help others for purely ‘selfish’ reasons… Love and caring and support – well, they feel damn good to the person who’s doing it!

    The fact that you have to drag yourself out the door to go – that’s to be expected a bit isn’t it? I don’t really think that says much about “true” motivation as there are always a thousand things that I like to do and really want to do and am happy to have done after, but actually getting myself to do it – well, I don’t! I think it’s just human nature that it takes an oomph to get us to do anything sometimes. Ever had the experience of looking very much forward to a party/meeting/course in the evening and then 7:30 rolls around and you think to yourself longingly “or I could just stay in tonight…” ? Okay, so this is long enough isn’t it. Looking forward to other ones and seeing you this summer…

    • “…it takes an oomph..” I LOVE that! Yes it does. And you might be right that all three merge in this instance, I just have this niggling sense they don’t. Most things eventually become clearer I suppose this will too . Otherwise something we can perhaps mull over while drinking some good coffee this summer :). Looking forward to seeing you too Evie~

  5. jackie says:

    Dear Chris,
    In my humble opinion, the observation by that unidentified person is simultaneously oversimplified and way too complicated. The person you are encompasses everything about you — you are wonderfully complex and cannot possibly be explained or understood by looking at only three aspects of yourself. In everything you do, you care — to varying degrees — about both how you appear to others and the extent to which you embody and act upon your own values. How much you care depends on so many different factors. In the case in point, however, I would guess that your lack of enthusiasm for resuming your hospice work might have to do with the fact that first, you endured a good deal of pain from your accident and spent a lot of time cooped-up and not having any fun, then launched into a huge volunteer project, subsequently needed some time to yourself to regroup, and now…well, now it’s June and you want to ride your bike! Chris, you are perfect. At any rate, you are the perfect Chris. Now get out there and enjoy the sunshine…

  6. Jackie, your post made me think and made me laugh! I think you are on to something in this particular case, in any case I am getting on my bike today! I think though it probably IS both more complicated and more simple than that ~ fortunately bike riding is ideal for sorting things out :).

  7. Jeanne Leonard says:

    Thank you for your kind words to me. You are always so gracious.

    Your friend Jackie may have it right here. You have both endured and sacrificed a great deal over the past year. Your accident, must have been both physically and emotionally painful and the way you dealt with it was inspirational. I still don’t know how you had the courage to get back on the bike and travel around Holland.

    After that you generously committed your time, energy, and creativity to the web site, foregoing the play and many of your holiday plans. What would we have done without your leadership? Your insights, ability to negotiate, artistic decisions, and dealing with some very difficult situations were such gifts. Although I know you enjoyed most of it, it was again emotionally and physically draining. The web site became a reality because of you and is admired by everyone.

    So, I’m with your friend Jackie, get out there and enjoy the sunshine. You’ve earned it. After that maybe things may become clear.

    Your blog is really helpful for the rest of us. Thank you, dear sister.
    Love, Jeanne

  8. Thank you so much Jeanne. Can you see me blush from there?! The website project was a gift to me because through it I made two wonderful friends that will be the lifelong kind . The project was realized through the hard work and complimentary skills of all three of us and we were so lucky to have your thoughtful leadership from the outset. You two made it a joy :).
    I am SO glad the blog is helpful!!! To celebrate, I am putting on my biking shoes!!!

  9. StarStruk says:

    Perhaps your time helping people ease out of life has taught you what you “needed” to learn? Perhaps it is time to open yourself to something new?

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