On the way back from lunch I saw the walking dead guy. He looked the same, different clothes, but same hat and look of not giving a toss about anything. I say to him “hi, is this making anymore sense to you?” and he replies “no, not really.” He wasn’t dead, he was actually very engaging in his 3 word reply so I asked him if he wanted to chat a little because it was making some sense to me. To my surprise he said “yeah, that’d be cool.” We’ve got about 20 minutes before the next session begins so we head upstairs to chat.
I had no idea what was about to happen, I had little concept of what was capable of coming out of my mouth or my mind or that I was about to be changed. Friendly small talk on the way up in the elevator and we go into one of the big conference rooms were a lot of people are talking, eating and being all LandMarky.
“So, what’s going on” I say as I turn my chair to face him. He turns his to face me – this is odd, no one else this weekend had done this. I have a way of leaning into people when I’m trying to open them up and they almost end-up wearing me like a bulky Irish sweater. He did almost the same thing and begins to talk. He was born in a different country and moved to Canada when he was 9 with his mom. At 13 he gets HIV from blood because of an illness and the lack of appropriate testing at the time. His mom dies a few months before they would have become Canadians citizen (I believe they were refuges), he goes to live with is uncle who make the decision to not adopt him. The principle of his school outs his HIV status with gets him effectively kicked out of school. Not being a citizen or permanent resident the government denies his health care but allows him to stay in the country because is HIV wasn’t his fault. The doctors tell him that, without treatment, he will be dead in a few years and that there’s no way he’ll see 30.
I can hardly believe what I’m hearing and ask “how old are you?” “37″ and he continues. He didn’t know what else to do so he got a job, an apartment, some junky friends and got wickedly high to ride out life. Not point in doing anything because the doctors have told him he’s going to be dead before he can make something of himself.
Well, I don’t know what else to do but listen, analyze and try to figure-out when I can do my thing. Keep him talking is my first notion. He’s still alive so that’s something.
“That’s fu(ked-up.” Not my shining moment in coaching, but honestly, I couldn’t say “check please” and walk away so I went blue. “Yeah, but then I turned 30 and I wasn’t dead and I didn’t seem like I was going to die so I stopped getting high and just sort of wondered what do to next.”
“Well, I met a girl, we feel in love and, not having a problem with my status she married me.” They moved to BC to get away from his junky friends and to get him the chance to clean-up. But his immune system was beginning to dip and when he ended-up in hospital with pneumonia, it looked like HIV was going to take him down. But it didn’t, and was he was recovering, a doctor asked him about ARV medication stating that he was “the one in 100000″ that caught a break and lived long enough to get a chance to get them.” His viral load is non-existent, he and his wife had a child and they moved back to Ontario.
This is my opening so I launch, “can I say something?” “Sure.”
“I’m talking to a corpse. You are dead and this is overtime. The doctors gave you till 30 and you lived until 30. But your body wouldn’t die so here you are. You are a god damn miracle, except you didn’t plan on being here and you have no idea how to enjoy life. You moved from a different country, had your mom died, got poisoned by the government, neglected by your uncle, outed by the school and lied to my the very institution that killed you when they said you would be dead a decade ago. Your so messed-up because you’ve started act two of your life and never learned how to live at all.”
Pause, it was registering, but not enough for him to break the silence so I re-up and go again. “You did the very thing that anyone would do in your situation, you packed in as much fun as you could because it didn’t matter, you were dead anyway. But you didn’t die and when it got boring you stopped. But what skills do you have, what method for enjoying live did you find other than getting high?”
“So that’s why you are here. You are here to learn that you have lived a perfect live, done the perfect things based on the information you had. Created the perfect future based on what you knew. But it was all bullshit because your body didn’t do what it was supposed to do in-spite of the fact that you worked it over. You have no purpose because you are dead. This is all screwed-up because you were supposed to be gone a long time ago and your brain hasn’t been able to figure stuff out.” This got him, there was a change in everything about him. It started with a smile, then his posture changed, then he became excited. “You just need to figure-out what you want to do with your life and then do it. Do you cook, exercise, have you hiked, can you start a support group, can you have this conversation that we have just had with other people, …”
It was on him now. He was awake and alive again and, frankly, I had a hand in it and for that I took out of it that I am special. Not because I am particularly amazing, I am, but that’s not what it is. I am special because I see the possibilities in a way that most other people won’t aggressive attack people with. I didn’t give him sympathy, I didn’t set out to make him feel better, I set out to make this Landmark Forum weekend work. I didn’t have an idea what I was going to get into and, if I had, I don’t think I would had started the conversation. I was scared to death once it got going because it was scary. I wasn’t afraid of HIV, I was afraid of the conversation. Frankly, he is a bigger person than I am, he is a greater person than will ever be. I am a simple general in the battle for human potential who is naked, bold and fearlessly authentic in their quest.
We hugged, he thanked me for his rebirth, I thanked him because he had let me run my game and been open enough to the coaching, feedback, and thought and emotional manipulation that seems to come very easily to me. We parted ways and I felt pretty good about the universe. There was a moment when I thought to myself “you need to leave now, this weekend is complete. Performance coaching is something you have been doing for a long time.”
I stayed, stuff continued, and when I went out to my car for dinner, I noticed glass around on of the tires and it looked like it was going flat. This was a pisser that I couldn’t shake as I went back for the final couple of hours. Thoughts of me leaving at 10 to a car with a flat tire stayed with me until about 9:15 when my world got vaporized.