A dear friend of mine, and brilliant comedian, passed away last week. As those of us closest to him gathered, shellshocked, over to his favorite haunt, an inspired few began to speak. One by one, friends mentioned his keen eye for what was truly funny, his stand-offish, hard candy shell of an exterior, his deep and sometimes rigid sense of duty and honor unique to his own ethical code. They mentioned his well-worn, deeply trodden routines and patterns of behavior, of thought. One by one they stood and spoke about their wishes for him; that he would have seen his own gifts, talents and superpowers more; that he would've been able to accept a compliment more; believed in himself enough to put himself on stage more, in auditions more, “out there” more. They spoke about how what he really needed was the love of a good, strong woman to give him the confidence to really pursue what he was so brilliant at doing comedically, directorially, creatively.
As they spoke I found my heart starting to hurt thinking of all his talent, all of his fierce comedic discernment, all of his incredible ideas, creativity, sensitivity for which he never gave himself credit, let alone even fully believed about himself. I stood there listening, my heart aching, near breaking, when it hit me that these wishes for him—to realize said specifically magnificent characteristics about himself—were all wishes put upon him by those around him. As if, in being given these gifts when he was born, he had some obligatory responsibility to utilize them in a certain way, lest he be damned for “squandering” them. But there is no one way to use the gifts we possess. And—even if it’s coming from a place of consummate love—who the hell were we to try and choose a way for him?
Every one of us eulogizing him had a different idea, because we were all different. We are each a unique constellation of attributes, of neuro-pathways, of childhoods, of triggers, of circumstances. The hopes, wishes, desires, being expressed had come from our perspectives—and even as close as we had been to him, they still were external to that of his own internal perspective, his own inner knowledge, desires. They were our desires for him, our expectations for him, our hopes that he realize so that he may have changed his path to live up to our vision of his potential, in our—rather selfish—version of his future. They were ours, from our perspective, not his. Had we been air-dropped into his life, we might have done things differently…But that’s the rub, we are we, and he was he. Who were we to say that he wasn’t living his life perfectly? And why not let it…him...be?
It happens quite often, I’ve noticed. We can get frustrated when we perceive the beauty and gifts innate to those closest to us, about whom we care deeply, as “untapped.” We get angry when we witness them “stifling" their brilliant abilities out of fear, unworthiness, insecurity. We get angry because we see their genius so clearly, we see all that they could be doing with it so sharply, and we see the distance between the two as negligible, surmountable, so obviously. We can get agitated about them ignoring the path to a “better” life that we have carved out for them in our minds. We get angry that they ignore what seems so simple to do, to overcome, to follow for the sure-fire “success” mapped out by those who love them most. We get indignant with those we love: Why don’t they just do what has worked for us, what we know can work, what our life experience has told us will work?
But guess what? That “path” that could seem so clear, those steps that could seem so doable, they have nothing to do with them. That is our own opinion. Even when we have taken a similar journey, even when we know it to be viable, tried, tested and true for our own lives, it is just that: For our own lives, our own personalities with our own backstory, our own insecurities, our own idiosyncrasies, chemical make up, and thus our own opinion of what “works.”
We are not in control of anyone else’s life. We are not in control of how they feel about themselves, of how fearful they are of letting their light shine, of what they truly want for their existence. We are not in control of anyone but ourselves. And as much as we “lead a horse to water” we cannot create in anyone else’s reality, we cannot change anyone unless they want to change. No matter how many moments of dissatisfaction, depression or even pain we witness.
And that is okay.
In fact, it is all in perfect order, in perfect keeping with what we each came here to experience. Each of our journeys, our intentions whilst having this earthly experience is different. We each came here to take different paths and stay for different periods of time. Each of us are learning, getting, gleaning different things from life.
Showering others with frustration and anger does not make them change. In fact, it only compounds the probable fear and anxiety, insecurity, unworthiness that may already be in their own minds; it only adds to their feelings of not enoughness; it only multiplies exponentially the dissatisfaction with who, where and how they are. That energetic equation is scientific law. Negative emotion only elicits more negative emotion. Anger, fear only elicits more anger, fear.
What if, instead, we chose to love…?
What if, instead, we chose to recognize that our opinion of how someone else’s life should be is just that—our opinion? What if we owned, processed and released our feelings of frustration, sadness, wistfulness for a life not lived up to our arbitrary “potential” for their life? What if we, instead, saw all of the talents, gifts, brilliance innate to those we love, acknowledged these superpowers, and loved them? Instead of begrudging the opinion that they are not utilizing their talents for success…instead of wishing they were living their life differently, what if we just celebrated every genius aspect of them right then, as they were, where they stood, for who they truly are, instead of needing them to do a single thing more for that love.
What would happen if we chose to love…UNCONDITIONALLY?
I don’t know…but I’m game to find out.
One thing is for sure: I loved my friend, just as he was, for exactly who he was, superpowers, warts and all. He lived each day exactly how he wanted to, he consumed life in every way, he experienced it to the fullest. And I love him deeply, I miss him dearly.
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]