Friday, 8 May 2009

An encounter with Jean the Kerb Crawler - By Dermot Fitzpatrick

I had just left John’s house after a great Voice Dialogue session and was walking towards my car when I saw an elderly woman sitting on the kerb on the opposite side of the road. I was concerned as I thought she might have fallen over and hurt herself. Then I noticed that she was sitting upright on the kerb with her feet on the street as if she was waiting for someone.

Sneaking a glance at her out of the corner of my eye, I had the impression she might not have ‘the full set of cups in her cupboard.’ Not wanting to get into a dialogue with her, I continued walking towards my car. As I got in and looked in my rear view mirror I saw a woman stop and speak to her. I watched as this second woman crossed the road and came up to my car. I lowered the window.

“She wants to speak to you,” said the woman. I replied, “I’m sorry I don’t know her. What did she say?” “She asked me to tell the man in the car she wanted to speak to him.” I hesitated. What was this all about? Was this one of those ‘Oracle’ moments you read about? Was she the one? Did she have a life-changing message for me?

I got out of my car, went back, and asked her what she wanted. She said, “Can you take me in your car to the Spar supermarket?” I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “What?” She repeated that she wanted me to take her to the Spar supermarket. “How far is it?” I asked. “It’s only five minutes up the road,” she answered.

A part of me - perhaps my Carer/Pleaser - prompted me (against my better judgement) to do it. I helped her up, walked with her to my car and off we went to find the supermarket. She started telling me her life story at high speed. She asked me where I lived and how long it would take me to drive there. When I told her it would take about an hour she said, “I suppose you will be getting yourself a sandwich and a drink.” Anticipating I might be buying that order for the two of us, I told her I intended to wait until I got home. It crossed my mind at that point that I might have made a big mistake in offering to help her.

With her giving me directions we eventually found the supermarket. I stopped the car on the opposite side of the road, got out and went around and opened the passenger door to help her out. She said, “I’m not getting out till you give me £20.” I said, “You must be joking.” She said, “No, give me £20 otherwise I won’t get out of your car.” I laughed and said, “Look, I don’t have £20 to give you, now get out of the car.”

We looked at each other for a few minutes and I said again, “I don’t have £20 now get out of the car.” With that she got out and, without as much as a thank you, she waddled across the road to the supermarket. I got back in my car and burst out laughing. It was so funny and so surreal - one of those moments when you have to ask yourself, “Did that really happen?”

Later that day, I wrote what had happened in an e-mail to John. He said that he knew her, that her name was Jean and that she lived in a house on his street. It appears that she does have difficulties in the ‘upstairs department’ and has a reputation for sitting on the kerb waiting to scrounge off unsuspecting passers by. I had been her chosen mark that morning.

I asked John what he thought of it all and he said it was likely that my Carer/Pleaser had responded to what it thought was a woman in need and that Jean might represent my disowned Entitled self that can just ask for/demand what he wants.

Reflecting on it since, I have renamed that primary self my Good Samaritan - the one that likes to help people in need. A tourist looking for directions is a magnet for my Good Samaritan, as is a neighbour locked out of his/her house, a child looking lost in a department store or a woman sitting on the kerb on the side of the road. This is the part of me that helps me to feel good by doing good deeds and gets me the external recognition I need by being seen as someone who ‘does good’.

I can see how Jean represents my disowned Entitled self - the part of me that feels able to ask for what it wants but who does not often get a look in. It or perhaps yet another part tends to get agitated when it sees other people, like Jean, asking for and getting what they want - especially when they get it from my Good Samaritan.

This encounter with Jean has brought to my awareness that I have a disowned Entitled self that longs to ask for what it needs and to be heard and validated - especially by me. And yet even as I write this another voice is saying, “What’s the point of asking, you’ll only be disappointed. People are far too busy looking to have their own needs met to want to take care of yours.”

Is this another piece of work I see before me?

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