Monday, May 10, 2010

Man on Wire: Everyone has their boundaries

Tonight, as we were getting ready to watch Man on Wire, the film about the Frenchman who walked on an illegal tightrope between the World Trade Center towers in 1976, I was making tea, and I got this on my Yogi Tea tag:

Recognize that the other person is you.

I love this one. I've gotten it before, and every time that I do it strikes me hard. I think that this is an amazing lesson in compassion.

It forces me to look at those old adages; "Walk a mile in his shoes.", "Put yourself in her place." in a new light. Its not that you enter their shoes or their place. Its that you are them, they are you.

I try to wrap my mind around this idea, that I am Bodhi when he's crying because the Lego piece he needs won't stay on this incredibly elaborate construction he's building. Can I ask myself to be him? To see the world through his eyes and feel what he feels, to have enough compassion that even if I want to say, "DUDE! Turn it around, and try that way, it will stick!" maybe what he needs in that moment is compassion for the fact that he's frustrated, not a solution to his problem.

I was mulling this over as we started watching the movie. I've been thinking in my own life about people's decisions and feelings regarding the path I've chosen. So many people are so very supportive. A few are frustrated. A couple are outright angry. Some people started along my path with me, and then left, and I felt abandoned.

"You told me I could count on you! You told me you were part of this!" is how I felt. "You told me that I could make it, you told me that you believed in me. How can I continue to believe in myself if you step away?" Was the thought I had.

Struggling through these thoughts brought me to a place where I wondered if the choice I had made to pursue my passion was selfish, if this was the subtle message I was supposed to be reading. But it was hard to know, because I'm seeing this as a web, now, everyone has their dreams, and people are constantly in flux, in and out of each others lives, supporting each other and taking care of themselves at the same time.

Perhaps because of ideas that were still in me from my experience growing up with my fiercely competitive step father; that once I accomplished something I would have proven my worth, it was hard for me to give space and grace to those who stepped away from my journey after telling me that they were in it with me.

Over the years, I've worked hard to learn to meet people where they need to be met, rather than imposing my ideas and concepts of the proper path on them and insisting that I am right, leaving space for other people to be right has opened me and kept me growing and learning. Its often like getting smacked in the face with the humility stick, which is the best lesson that there is. I say this with the caveat that there is always a lot more work to be done here, this journey of growth and becoming and humility and compassion is never finished.

Tonight, when we were watching the movie, there was this great moment where Donald, an accomplice in the rigging of the tightrope, reaches his limit. He has told Phillipe that Phillipe can count on him. He has told him that he is there, that he is part of the team. He has broken into the World Trade Center, and hauled gear. Then, the possible consequences of his actions rear their ugly heads, because they are nearly caught by a guard.

Donald says to Phillipe, "I don't want to do this. I don't want to be a part of the team that rigs the line." and Phillipe says to him, "Ok."

Donald describes what it is like for him to run down 110 flights of stairs away from the thing that has become too much for him. "Glee." he says. His description of running the endless flights of stairs is quite beautiful. And he reaches the ground, and he watches Phillipe walk across the wire, and perform, and he is still grateful to have been a part of this journey, and glad that he marked the moment when he could go no further, and glad that Phillipe released him without malice, but simply let him go.

It struck me in that moment that this is a great example of the other person being you. Donald had a boundary, which he recognized. It was closer than he thought, his original idea was that he would be able to go the distance to help Phillipe succeed in his plan. But he couldn't. The reality of the situation put Donald's boundary much closer to him than he expected.

This did not mean that Donald didn't love Phillipe, or believe in him. This didn't mean that Donald didn't admire Phillipe's ambition, or the task he had set himself to. This didn't mean he was withdrawing support and commenting in some way about the fact that Phillipe should not, or could not succeed at this task. This meant that Donald could not participate any more, because Donald had reached a boundary that belonged to himself, and honored it.

I think that often we are so stuck in our own myopic view of the world, that it is very hard to be the other person, and to give grace to them, without making that grace feel like commentary or judgment on our own position. This lesson is powerful, I think, something that is coalescing for me, because I feel that often we pull judgment forward.

This person must be feeling this way about me, and therefore, I must be less than I had hoped to be. Perhaps I am a fool, and no one has thought to tell me. As opposed to, This person is feeling this way about themselves, and am I taking care of this person in a way that is compassionate to them? This leaves room for them to state their feeling without fear of misinterpretation, or to simply care for themselves by honoring their own boundary, and if we are clear in our own selves, and able to see the other person as us, the imposed or supposed judgment, which honors no one, can be left in the dirt behind.

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