Recently, I supported my dearest friend of 20 years as she was dying of breast cancer. I watched as she dwindled away to nothing, skeletal at best, and finally took her last breath. She is not the first person I have lost, but it certainly hit me in a very different way. My coping with and processing of her death has been interesting and, five days later, turned philosophical.
Over the years I have read many different interpretations of reality. So many different concepts to choose from: Christianity, Buddhism, Sufi, Judaism, Muslim, Existentialism, Atheism – so many “isms” and ways of thinking about the same thing.
Her death inspired me to think about life and death, as well as love and hate, in a different way — things we typically think about as being opposites. I wanted to feel what I was experiencing. I deliberately “sat with” all of my emotions concerning death and also reflected on what my dear friend had gone through. When you take away the drama of emotion and just feel the energy, it occurred to me that life and death felt the same. It’s like different notes in the same chord, in harmony, working together, different, but the same. Then I felt love and hate and had the same experience. I kept thinking that the two are one, that there is a balance.
The difficult thing for us is to just feel emotion as energy. It’s a very neutral experience to just feel the energy. When you realize that they are the same, and you feel them as one … as the chord … in that instant you are released from the world of duality. It no longer can hold you and you do not experience the ups and downs associated with “normal” life. Now, this does take attention and management. So many things happen in a day that can toss you into the drama, into the emotions, and you are back in the world of duality. This all sounds very Zen.
As I sit here contemplating this, I wonder: Am I saying that unconditional love requires unconditional hate to exist? Maybe. But I don’t think so. Something about the word unconditional changes the application of duality. Christianity sees God as good and the Devil as evil. Newton’s Third law of motion: When two bodies interact by exerting force on each other, these action and reaction forces are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction. Hmmm – this concerns matter and how matter interacts. Okay, what about Yin and Yang, which is Taoist and not really dualism but the concept of balance? Does that mean I am being more Taoist in my thinking? Maybe it’s a little bit of each one.
When I was younger and on my world travels, people kept asking me what religion I was. One day I answered Maloufism – taking my last name and adding an “ism” to it. The person excitedly told me that he had heard of that which, of course, instantly caused an internal chuckle. Perhaps I am coming full circle at this point. I take a little bit of this, a dash of that, and a pinch from here to make sense of our reality. All human beings want, at their core: peace, love and joy. So the parting gift from my dear friend is that she is with me, a part of me, and I know that death cannot separate us. She lives on in my heart and soul, palpably present in every moment.
This takes me back to the title of this little narrative ending with: Emotional Intelligence Revisited. A common definition of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to handle your own and others’ strong emotions. Handling emotions means, you step back, don’t react, and don’t get consumed by emotion. But you still have them, and they can consume you. So how about a new definition of Emotional Intelligence? It is the ability to feel the “chord,” to be in balance between the positive and the negative.
Does this strike a “chord” in you?
Written by Sherri Malouf
President of Situation Management Systems, Inc.