Monday, March 15, 2010
Michael Amos Hall, d. 3/15/90
Michael Amos Hall, my father, as Judge Hawthorne in the Crucible at MIT, 1955.
Today is the 20th anniversary of his death. He died when I was 12.
I don't remember when I picked up a copy of Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward. I know at some point, in Florida, early in my Miksang teaching days, a student asked me if Miksang is related to, or could be related to, Gestalt studies. I didn't honestly know what Gestalt was, other than a passing knowledge, so asked for more information. I became fascinated, but at the time just looked at what was on the internet, a mere cursory glance.
Then, somewhere in the intervening years of tons of therapy, ample Buddhist reading and psychology reading, and discussions with friends, Gestalt came up again. I went looking at Half Price Books or Avol's or Frugal Muse for what I could find of it, and Born to Win practically leapt off the shelf. I was quite turned off by the title (Ick, eh?) but it was only a dollar and when I looked inside, this other thing, Transactional Analysis, about which I also knew little, also looked really interesting.
The book was perfect timing and I devoured it. I was struggling with the critic inside that would make a fuss of the simplest messes. An example: coming home from doing errands, hungry, I would pass the last place of tasks (Ace Hardware, for instance) and a stern voice inside would say "Miriam, just one more thing to do. Go do it."
A child-like voice would respond "But I'm hungry and worn out. It can wait."
"But we're already here and it won't take but two seconds."
And so on and so forth, until I either went home guilty and did nothing else all day, or did the errand and let the judge "win," going home hungry and off-balance.
Neither way won, really. I could tell there were different voices, but it wasn't until the book and some work with both TA and Gestalt with my therapist at the time that I recognized the judge voice to be my father, years dead, in my head, and the little girl to be me, frozen when he died in some kind of freaked-out, nothing can change, but I feel awful here, place. Recognizing the voices hasn't entirely eliminated them, of course, but it sure has added space and compassion for both "characters" in me, and made for a lot less suffering.
Just recently I felt an impulse to go into some of the boxes in our attic - all boxes of ephemera, paper goods, from all parts of our family. Both my parents and all of my grandparents are dead, and we have all of their lives packed away in Banker's boxes upstairs. The weight finally got to me, so I poked around. The photo above, of my father acting as a judge, was one of the first I found. I didn't think much of it (other than, damn, he was a handsome devil) at the time, but today when I went to find this one (and others, scanned and posted at www.flickr.com/photos/herspiral) I was struck by his sternness. Even though I hadn't had this image in mind, it's clear that that ROLE is one he played a lot in my life, though certainly not the only one. I also remember him as kind and soft, and vulnerable and loving. But now I have a face for my critic, my judge, my un-budging constant companion who makes things too black-and-white, too concrete for reality. It feels good to see that this was (both literally and metaphorically) a role he played - for himself, and for me - and not HIM, entirely.
RIP daddy: the judge and the loving father, for the day. Every moment that I am alive and you are not, our relationship continues to build and burn and renew. Thank you for all you continue to do for me, wherever you are.