My Love and Caring Mea Culpa.
I've always believed that one's purpose in life can often be distilled down to a series of choices we make based on the experiences we've had and the insights we've gained. For the longest stretch of my existence, I’ve lived to serve, to give, to nourish others with unwavering dedication.
In giving so freely, I rarely took the time to understand what it was I sought in return. And while I didn't expect reciprocation, deep down, I realize now, I craved it.
This realization didn't dawn on me in the comfort of a quiet evening or during a reflective walk on the beach. Instead, it came crashing down like a tumultuous wave with the news of my impending mortality. A terminal illness. Words one never wishes to hear or utter.
Faced with this reality, my instinctual response was to protect those I love from the weight of this revelation. Yet, in moments of vulnerability, the truth slipped through, revealing itself to those around me. When it did, I was met not with pity or avoidance, but with a genuine outpouring of love, care, and even gratitude for entrusting them with my raw truth.
It's in these poignant encounters that I've felt a juxtaposition of emotions. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, yet simultaneously besieged by guilt. Were my tears those of appreciation or embarrassment? In these moments, I’d apologize, only to be met with comforting reassurances that my transparency was seen as a gift, not a burden.
As I reflected on this dichotomy, a stark truth dawned on me: perhaps, for all these years, my incessant giving and service to others was a cry - an unconscious call for the same tenderness, care, and love I was so eager to provide. This realization, coupled with the outpouring of affection I’ve recently experienced, filled a void within me, bringing a sense of wholeness I had never known. Yet, this newly discovered wholeness was punctuated with a tinge of shame. Was my lifelong service to others not purely altruistic? Had there been an underlying desire for reciprocation?
It's a humbling thing to confront such a truth, especially when juxtaposed against the backdrop of one's waning days. But in facing it, I've come to an important realization: love, care, and service are intrinsically intertwined, and perhaps it’s human to desire the same kindness and compassion we extend to others.
It's not uncommon for us to quest for purity in our intentions, especially when it comes to love and care. But maybe the real purity lies in the acknowledgment of our innate human desires. Yes, I yearned for the same love and caring I gave to others. But this does not diminish the genuine intent behind my actions; rather, it enriches the depth of the connections I've forged.
So here's my mea culpa to the MEA community: My love and caring might have been intertwined with an unconscious hope to be cared for in return. But isn't that the essence of our shared human experience? To give and hope, maybe even just a little, to receive?
In these twilight moments, I choose compassion - both for others and, crucially, for myself. In looking back, I may see imperfections, but I also see a life filled with profound connections, heartwarming interactions, and the indelible mark of genuine love. At this juncture, I give myself permission to embrace the entirety of my journey, blemishes and all.
We all have our reasons for walking the paths we choose. Mine led me to serve and love wholeheartedly. And while the road was paved with both selflessness and silent yearnings, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A. is co-founder of the Deeper Coaching Institute and co-creator of Deeper Coaching Certification at On Global Leadership