Identity: Role, Activity, Love

Three of us colleagues have met monthly now for over 12 years.  We have seen a lot of each other’s life in these times of challenge, growth, and even transformation.  Our most recent meeting, this past Thursday, was particularly special for me, and it seemed for them as well. The three: Isabelle, Jean, and I.

We covered a lot of ground in our two-and-a-half-hour gathering at Panera — running a half-an-hour over our scheduled time without any of us even noticing. Toward the end of our conversation I talked about inquiring inside to see what motivates me to spend so much time involved with Sevenoaks Pathwork Center. As an Enneagram THREE, I spoke about perhaps identifying with the various roles I was playing in leadership and teaching at Sevenoaks. Jean listened reflectively during my sharing, and then asked, “Gary, do you identify with roles or with the activities you do in those roles?”

Quite insightful and helpful.  In point of fact I do not identify so much with the roles or titles, but with the activities that go with them. Involvement in leadership in the Pathwork School allows me to explore and help guide how we are called to offer Pathwork in the context of all the spiritual programs available these days. I get to work with organization of workshops, development of curricula, and interaction with peers who are also passionate about such matters. And my role in Sevenoaks finance work taps into my passion for organization and clarity of numbers and what they mean. Yes, these activities are what I identify with and enjoy. And, again as a THREE, I am driven, sometimes compulsively so, to stay productive in these activities that I so enjoy. I am aware how my life can get out of balance this way. Yes, Jean had opened a beautiful clarifying insight for me. I expressed my appreciation.

Isabelle listened quietly to Jean’s and my conversation and then shared her experience, “It is a real pleasure to watch you two engage with each other.  Gary, you receive Jean’s wisdom for your life as if he were a father figure for you.” While Jean seemed happy in being seen as the wise father in this dyad, and I felt a twinge of pain in being seen as the “needy” kid, I could appreciate Isabelle’s observation. Of course “needy kid” is my phrase, not Isabelle’s, and is just that part of me that is growing up. I can smile as I watch this process within and without on all fronts.

But there was more.  Isabelle went on to say, “And Gary, you offer Jean so much love from your heart.” This took my breath away.  Could this be true? She went on to say that she sees this love in my engagement with Jean when we three are together and, when Jean is not there, how I speak of him with her.  Jean nodded in agreement and smiled with appreciation.

Isabelle then asked, “Gary, how do you feel?” “Vulnerable, a little shaky, maybe even afraid.” We talked a bit more before ending our time together. I was aware of how special this experience was for me.  Yes, I am aware that my passion is tied up with activities and productivity. I see my creativity coming out in these. But can I open to the love that I hold for others, and perhaps for myself? The Heart space is also part of being a THREE, I acknowledge. Can I allow myself to experience this core part of me?

Sharing this experience with Pat the next morning at coffee brought tears to both of our eyes. Just sit with this, Gary. And remember the biblical phrase from 1 Corinthians 13: “The greatest of these is love.”