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.