I had a friend who was asking for help.
saw himself as a highly creative person, with a deep and continual desire to express himself through music and theatre. He also saw himself as someone who was challenged in effectively managing the day-to-day requirements of our society, whether with work,
or money, or all the inflexible (and often insecure) structures at the foundation of it.
He sort of saw himself as a free spirit being
constrained in a caged world, which ironically is a truth for every single human being, including me.
I guess, being from the world
of the arts, it occurred to him that he needed a personal manager to do the things he couldn't do, which would free him up to do all the things he could. And for whatever reason, he thought that I could be that manager.
I sort of laughed whenever he brought it up. All of the things he didn't want to do, I didn't want to do either. A full time job at that would be my worst nightmare. I guess
he didn't realize how I was also a free creative spirit being constrained in a cage. It's just that I didn't end up fighting so hard to get out of the cage... I somehow learned to behave.
I eventually learned how to work within society's (and ultimately my mind's) limitations for me, for better or worse. For some of the specific requirements that I dreaded, I eventually gained some expertise
and found some interest in them. For the other requirements that I dreaded, I was not so lucky. I eventually got them done, but not without a great deal of internal struggle.
One day it occurred to me that I could offer to share with my friend, some of what I'd learned, in how to manage the unmanageable. He said yes to the offer.
We set a date for two days together and I spent some time beforehand creating a curriculum that offered possible tools for many of the tasks he struggled with, and included plenty of space for
discussion and exploration.
Ultimately it wasn't at all what he really wanted, and I kept missing all the signs that pointed to that.
I wasn't listening deeply enough to hear what he was trying to say. And although there was plenty of open discussion and exploration, my focus was on what I thought I was there for... to present and explore specific "best practice" tools and
Unfortunately AND FORTUNATELY, at no point did it occur to me to just let the agenda go completely.
When it ended, it felt like an utter failure, but since then it has offered me thousands of jewels of ongoing lessons in listening, and presence, and differing realities,
and differing cultures, and attachment, and one of my best ongoing life lessons... that although one of my passions and gifts seems to have been as a "teacher", what I'm really, truly here for is to do nothing more than to play, to observe, to learn, and to
My friend was a really good teacher for me, but about a year after that meeting, I had decided I was full of enough lessons.
Oddly enough, even without his presence, he continues to teach me now, in a myriad of beautiful ways...
...including the reminder
that our helping can often be incredibly unhelpful, and that learning to truly and deeply help - in the best way - is mostly about learning to listen and learn.