By Peter Comrie
“Young man, may I sit here”. Looking up from my book to see where the request was being directed, I saw that the only empty seat available was at my table. There stood a delightful looking lady holding a latte cup about the size of a kitchen sink with an almost pleading look in her eyes. “May I sit here” she repeated.
Now you know right away she had me, first with the “young man” comment (I’m 59), and then with the softest gentle blue eyes, resting behind a pair of the most elegant eyeglasses I have ever seen. Springing to my feet, the chair opposite was quickly opened from the table like a welcoming clam shell.
With her monster cup secure on the table, she thanked me, and I settled back into my reading. After a few minutes I observed she retrieved a manila folder from her bag and began flipping through the papers it contained. Glancing up I noticed she had developed a pronounced number 11 right above her nose, and I heard the distinctive sound of sighs of exasperation. Then came the sniffle.
Oblivious to my presence, she wiped her tear, gently blew her nose, and settled in to her seat with the weight of resignation. As she looked up in my direction I asked her quietly if she was OK, and after eyeing me for a few seconds, answered in the affirmative.
I introduced myself, and she followed with an emerging smile, and told me her name. She proceeded to tell me that her “moment” was in response to the legal documents in her folder. Continuing on, she told me that her late husband took care of all the legal issues during their life together, and now she had to learn how to manage them on her own.
This obviously intelligent and articulate lady went on to share with me that her mate of almost 50 years “protected” her from the vagaries of business and legal matters. Her countenance began to change as I could see she was becoming quite irritated, and then she dropped the bombshell. “I’m so mad at him right now that if he were here I’d likely kick his butt”. Now she really had my attention!
She continued, “He thought he was shielding me from the complexities of our life and business and now I discover that they are so darned simple I could have been doing a better job of them than he did”. This lovely person shared with me that she had now discovered that her affairs had a set of conditions that were going to impact her in ways that were totally unnecessary, and a complete waste of money. She had uncovered that if she had influenced her hubby with the disciplines she used to run her household, her “nest egg” would be substantially greater.
Sensing a touch of relief in her as she let her story out, I ventured to ask her why she had allowed this to happen. As she peered over the top of her glasses giving me “the look” she asked what I meant by her “allowing this to happen”. I shared with her that indeed she had contributed greatly to the situation in not taking her own responsibility to involve herself in all of their joint life. I also cautiously suggested that if they didn’t entirely communicate in the business and legal arenas that there may have been communication issues in other areas of their life.
“Oh Peter, we had a wonderful life, beautiful children, lot’s a travel, parties, lovely homes, and now today I feel like such a phony. I’m realizing that there were so very many things that we didn’t do, and the most important one being that we didn’t really communicate”. I asked her if I could make a suggestion, and she nodded in the affirmative.
“Forgive yourselves and move on”. She looked a little confused, I continued, “No matter how hard you plead, beg, pray, or cajole your higher power, you can’t change one single thing that happened yesterday”. She asked me “How can I forgive him when he is no longer here?”
As we settled more comfortably into the conversation I shared with her that forgiving herself and her husband is simply her taking personal responsibility for the parts they each played in the creating of their life. Also that forgiving isn’t for the “forgivee”, but for the “forgiver”. It’s the way to release ourselves from the self-imposed binds of the past, and to move forward with a new sense of lightness. I shared that “Forgiveness allows us to truly give up all hope for a better yesterday”.
She smiled in way that lit up the whole coffee shop as she said, “Well young man (she had my number), I didn’t expect this when I came in today. There is clearly some work I have to do, and you’re right, I do feel lighter just at the thought of it all”.
As I rose to leave, bidding her well on her journey, she eyed my wedding ring and asked, “How are your communications with your wife?” I stopped, looked her right in the eyes, grinned and said “Enthusiastic”.
Peter Comrie, is a co-founder of Full Spectrum Leadership, a Kelowna personal development training group that is driving a mission to develop 100 leaders per year for the next ten years. For more information visit: www.fullspectrumleadership.ca