Fifty years ago, when I was 22, I was learning a form of peer counseling called Re-Evaluation Counseling. A big premium in RC was placed on “validation” – saying nice things to each other in ways that would really have an impact on the other person. I will literally never forget the time that Mio Archer, a lovely young woman who had been doing this stuff for a while and was good at it, told me “You’re the handsomest man I’ve ever met.”
Now I honestly think that accurately I’m pretty average-looking – sometimes I think worse than that. And now that I’m 72, there’s a whole extra “old” thing that contaminates the whole picture. But ever since Mio said that amazing thing, there’s one little part of my brain that thinks, “What if? What if I actually am good looking?” It’s pretty cool to think about. Mio changed my relationship with my own appearance for good.
And now my new friend Diana – my favorite person in our whole seniors building – likes to say that she thinks I’m handsome.
I have for fifty years devoted myself to learning how to affirm people in ways that stick – and noticing what it is in affirmations from other people that cause them to go under the radar, to do an end run around my logical brain and land where I live.
Last week i was in the hospital for suicidal depression. My most recent attempt to launch a course that could make me feel like I had value – “Affirmative Poetry”, kinda like this stuff but in some very big ways not (I’ll write about it later) – had been a colossal bust, one person came out. I felt like a complete waste of space. Pair that with the “old” thing and I felt really useless. I said all this to the social worker on the unit. She – a very smart 65 year old who has specialized in studying the spiritual life of seniors, said, “Your mission changes at every stage of your life. It’s not the same in your 70’s as it was in your 60’s. Your challenge is to clarify for yourself what your mission is now.”
The idea that I might still have a mission – and that it would be unique to my 70’s – rocked me back on my heels, shaped my whole experience of my six days in the hospital.
My overall mission – for my whole life – has something to do with validation. The particular spin for my 70’s is stuff I still need to ferret out. Writing this blog – and dialogue with you, my readers – will help. Welcome aboard.