Monday, November 11, 2013

Sue Carson: An Intention to Love

Finding focus, finding depth: Sue Carson

Sue Carson and I went out for a cup of coffee and, let me tell you, it was no ordinary cup of coffee. For a very moving reason that I’ll explain later in this blog, Sue is determined to go through the rest of her life not just mindful of others, but connecting with others. Indeed, she is working on what she calls an “intention to love.”
It may sound corny to you, but that may be because there's fear and risk in opening yourself up to such an extent. And vulnerability.   
But back to our coffee. We stop in at a little shop and Sue doesn’t just order.  She talks with the young woman behind the counter. She engages her. She looks her in the eye. She finds a way to connect.
Why? Because Sue has learned that such small gestures can lead down paths never imagined. Paths you never had time for when you worked fulltime.
“When you’re so engaged in full-force throttle and into a job where you’re getting there at 7 in the morning and your to-do list on your plate is never clean, you don’t have time," she explains. "You don’t have time to have those small interchanges. I think that that’s the real beauty of that gift  of time. The smallest thing can become so significant and that’s what I’m really beginning to realize every day. That the smallest gestures are not just little things."
Late in her mother’s life, small gestures transformed their relationship, after decades in which Sue had felt resentment and anger. After her father’s sudden death when Sue was in college, her mom “became the lady in black,” depressed. Sue transferred home and, she explained, “I ended up being her care giver.” After college, Sue fled to Europe for two years, but “I ended up coming home to be with my mother and I would always say -- and I know it’s terrible -- when my mother’s not here, I’m free to go, to run. I always felt she was my anchor and I resented it. So we had a very tumultuous kind of relationship. I never really let her love me. I was always pushing back. I always had this anger thing that never let me hug or kiss her and be warm with her, though I saw her all the time.”
Fast forward. Her mom is in her 90s and dying. And Sue is complaining to a friend: “I have to be there all the time. She doesn’t feel good. She’s not nice to me. She yells at me… Same thing as when I was a kid. I can’t do anything right in her mind.”
Her friend tells a story of her own mother’s death and suggests that Sue “go to her house, rub her feet, wash her legs. Make her feel better. Show her how much you love her. You’ve been taking care of her all this time and never feeling love but it’s coming from love. Have it recognized.”
Sue continues, “I drove over to my mom’s house that day and I sat on the bed with my mother and I was rubbing her legs. She kind of just melted into me touching her. That evolved to me crawling in bed with her, with her head against me.”
Soon, she says, her anger, too, melted away. Their relationship shifted.  “I truly, truly, began to love her.”
After her mom died (during a night when Sue held her in her arms belting out show tunes), a vision came to Sue at the end of a particularly meditative yoga class, with a live singer.
“Her song took me somewhere,” Sue said, her eyes welling up over our now cold coffee. “I was on a hill, the wind was blowing, my hair was blowing, there were warm breezes. It was a dreamy kind of a state. And on the top of the hill was my mom. I was walking toward her, carefree, like in a dance.
"Afterwards I was just crying, I was just so moved. I thought how grateful I was that I really learned what love was at this moment. And how sad it was that I lived for 59 years with my mom and I never walked over to her with those open arms. Ever. And it made me really sad.
“I asked myself, ‘If I did this with my mother, where else am I doing it? Maybe I’m doing it with my children, maybe I’m doing it with my husband.’ When I really began to look at it, I was. I was pushing everybody away. I’m the strong person who doesn’t need anything. I didn’t let people do for me. I only would do for somebody else. I had to be the knight on the shining horse for everyone and I realized that I was keeping people at arm’s length and I decided at that moment that I was going to really work at opening up to love. 
"I decided I would be a more loving, devoted person, particularly to [my husband] John.  Because I realize he’s my core. He’s who I’m with.  If I can love him more, that’s the place to begin.
“Some days are easier than others. Some days are hard. But there’s this huge change and shift in my relationship with him.
"Because as I’ve worked to be more giving, less judgmental, more mindful… not rolling my eyes, letting him be who he is without trying to change him. it’s just opening up so many doors. My relationship with my kids. My relationship with my friends. I’m really trying to be here. I’m really trying to stop the chatter that takes me to places I don’t want to go. You don’t change overnight. That’s for sure. It’s bit by bit and piece by pieces. We’re all works in progress. Again because I have time, I have the ability to contemplate. [In my job] I was too filled and absorbed with columns and numbers and deadlines and have-tos and to-do's. I never had time. I now have the moment to pause, to ponder what I did and didn’t do with my life. I was just doing it. I was on autopilot.
I love that I’m not doing that now.


Wendy Lee Forman said...

Thank you for this honest and moving story. It will undoubtedly be helpful to many people, retired or not. What Sue learned is very profound, yet also simple. Thanks again.

Linda P. said...

Thank you for this post.

Elaine Woo said...

I really appreciate this too! That's my story except that I didnt discover what Sue did before mom died so now i remain with regret that i didnt overcome long developed protective barriers to be whre mom was. Think I will send this on to my family. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing down in such beautifull words, that what Sue ment to say to me, last month when she was here in Europe. Now I can read it over and over and hopefull I will find a way to walk with her in this way of living....♥♡♥♡ Bobby

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing down in such beautifull words, that what Sue ment to say to me, last month when she was here in Europe. Now I can read it over and over and hopefull I will find a way to walk with her in this way of living....♥♡♥♡ Bobby