To engage with all that I am

Goodness is a bad thing. Goodness is weak.

Why would you want to be “good”? To curry favour, perhaps, to be safe by fitting the rules. For goodness is an external standard, goodness according to someone else. It does not fit reality, your situation or what is the ethical or truthful in that situation. Goodness is slavery.

When I was a solicitor, we acted for a debt collection agency with Scots and English clients. 90% of the debts were recovered without court action, and 90% of the court actions were undefended. I, a second year trainee then a newly qualified solicitor, dealt with the defended actions.

I have some sympathy with the clients. They felt they had fulfilled an order and were entitled to be paid, and I wrote to them saying I needed several senior staff in Inverness or Perth on a particular day to prove it, or I asked them about a defence they thought spurious. I put the defence to them, and some complained to the debt collection agency. The English office wrote to me and said I should not write to their clients direct, but to them, and they would write to their client. They rewrote my questions in their own words, sometimes misunderstanding the point of the question. Getting the letter dictated and typed took days. Then they did the same with the client’s response. I would wait weeks and get a response that was little more use than “They tell us the debtors owe them the money”.

There are risks in this. You might be able to settle the day before a hearing, but you might not. The creditor might not accept half the debt in full and final settlement. The debtor might sense weakness and not make an offer- one defender’s solicitor refused to negotiate, saying I had attempted to bully him. I am a careful soul, I like to dot all the ts and cross all the is, and found this stressful. The partner could have backed me up, but he was a chancer. Later he was sent to prison.

I joked to him Responsibility without power- the plight of the cuckold through the ages. But I did not analyse it clearly enough: we should have warned the agency, our client, of the risks of their policy. I don’t know whether we did. Instead, I tried to make it work, pursuing a claim without enough information. In the end I got sacked over some other error, but I am sure the stress of this contributed to that error. And now I notice the hindsight: I was not good enough to make that work. I should have done something else. Or Alistair should have. It is my bad qualities, such as lack of resilience, and even my agreeableness, not wanting to confront, was weakness in that situation.

At this point a sign comes up on the screen that there is an internet connection problem and Skype will try to restore the connection- but I can still see her movements, and we can hear each other, so that appears untrue. We carry on talking, hoping we will continue to be able to. Eventually the sign goes away.

Is agreeableness a bad thing? I should have more self-respect, more care for my own rights and well-being. Whether the problem is my neither making that system work, nor changing it, the problem is my failure and my inability to see, my bad qualities. Hindsight is a curse unless mixed with forgiveness.

I have told of that man before. He was a pitiable creature, but I felt disgust first. Before I saw him Andy told me he was a paedophile, and when I met him he put on the table a key ring with two or three keys and about five fobs, each with a picture of a child in it. I could not take my eyes off the keyring. I had to ask him to put it away, it revolted me so much. He said it was his grandchildren. What had he been in prison for? “USI”, he said, as if that were an abbreviation everyone would understand- underage sexual intercourse.

Later he phoned me and complained about various things, but I could not find what had gone on. Security guards had ejected him from the hospital, and he wanted to complain, but I could not find out what had happened. After twenty minutes, I asked him what he thought I could do for him, and he said,

“I want you to make it so I don’t have to fear any more.”

My heart went out to him. I wanted that too. Others would see him as a paedophile, and the important thing to prevent him from being a threat to vulnerable children. I saw him as a vulnerable human, lonely and frightened. For the avoidance of doubt, I would want to protect children from him- but not by destroying him.

Soft-heartedness is a bad thing? It is Love. Love is not a bad thing. Love is me, and I am Love. I would not be other than I am. But caring can make life difficult.

Soft-heartedness can be a bad thing, but when people lost their benefits they wanted someone to sympathise, and did not want to answer my questions until I showed I did. And they wanted to tell me the problem the way they saw it. I had strict time limits imposed by the Legal Services Commission, but my attempts at robotic time-limiting, insisting on my own questions, did not actually save time. Sympathy oiled the wheels.

I might slough off “goodness” for integrity. I was inadequate to the challenges.

-Being a person of great intellect and deep emotion is a bugger, she says.

As usual at this time in the session, my intellect seems to be bringing it all together, just one piece missing or one piece too many, and I change it slightly then desperately and my incipient Great Understanding all falls to pieces again. How could I either bring together that Intellect and Feeling, or separate them?

-I see you as a person of honour, integrity, intellect, deep feelings and distress, she says. What steps can you take, so that you can engage with all that you are?

Confidence, acceptance, belief? Trust?

2 thoughts on “To engage with all that I am

  1. When I was a child, my mother would say to me (it seemed, at least, daily): You are an intelligent, articulate, good looking (young man). Why can’t you do anything with your life? She was not one for placing much importance on the emotional, and, in fact, thought of it as not so great an attribute to be included with the others she said I had. Even if she had, though, the question she posed negated everything. I do wonder how things may have been different in my life, had she asked, instead, “What steps can you take, so that you can engage with all that you are?”

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