Nothing unconnected ever happens
As I write this I am having a birthday. On my birthday one year, as I was turning 57, my mother asked me what it felt like to be 60.
I tried to correct her, but she laughed and said she knew how old I was and that I was 60. I said, “I was born in 1947 so, how could I be 60!?”
By that time I was getting quite annoyed. I showed her my driver's licence. It didn't make a dent. That woman could be stubborn. The more I fussed about how old I really was, the more hilarious the whole thing seemed to her, and she just started roaring.
I walked away, and I finally cooled off.
Anyway, that's been several years ago now, and at this writing I am 63. I can prove it too, if you care to look at my driver's licence.
My children wished me a happy birthday. My wife wished me a happy birthday.
The cats crawled all over me in bed to celebrate (well, actually, I think they just wanted to be fed).
I also received good wishes from three different people who mark different periods of my professional life.
Bob Resnick wrote to recognise my birthday, and he told me I was getting too old, because I was supposed to be “one of the young ones”.
I trained in gestalt therapy with Bob (among others). Bob, along with his wife Rita and Todd Burley, heads up Gestalt Associates Training Los Angeles.
They have been training professional psychotherapists all over the world for the last 40 years. Bob learned gestalt therapy directly from one of the founders of gestalt therapy, Frederick Perls.
I have touched in with Bob from time to time ever since meeting him in my training group in Portland, Oregon.
Most recently, my wife Linda and I did a piece of couples work with Bob and his wife demonstrating their approach to couples work in gestalt therapy while at the tenth biennial conference of the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy in Philadelphia.
After becoming fully trained, and after achieving licensure as a clinical psychologist and health services provider in North Carolina, I met a man in the online environment.
He lived and practised in Kyrgyzstan, and he wanted to know if somehow I might be able to help him.
He was interested in training. Alexandr Eremeev was working as a psychotherapist, and he and his colleagues psychologists, psychiatrists, and drug and alcohol counsellors in the Bishkek area had put together a group who wanted to learn gestalt therapy.
They were reading the texts and doing the experiential work, but Alex needed someone who knew gestalt therapy better than he to supervise him.
There began two years of working with that group as a supervisor to the on-site trainer, Alexandr Eremeev.
He would record and translate the group, and then transcribe and send it to me.
I would read and write back my impressions and suggestions, and I would answer any questions he had.
After two years, Bob and Rita Resnick and Todd Burley visited Alexandr and conducted some face-to-face training with him.
He has also since attended their European intensive residential training.
Recently, I sent Alex a copy of the 'Handbook for Theory, Research, and Practice In Gestalt Therapy', which I edited in 2008.
On my birthday, Alex wrote to say that he and the gestalt community there remembered me fondly.
Several years later still I became friends with Seán Gaffney. I had met Seán at one of the big, international gestalt conferences, and we had spoken frequently in the online environment.
I got to know him better at a small gestalt conference in Belgium several years ago.
Seán is an amazing person; he is actively training and teaching in several countries in Europe, and he's on the faculties of several universities.
The more we talked, the more there seemed to be lines of connection intersecting our interests. However, we had a falling out (the details are too convoluted to go into), and we reached the point of no return. He said: “Well, I guess this is it, then.”
And what he meant was that those would be the last words we would have with one another. I wrote to him and said that it seemed so, but that I did not want it to be so.
There must have been a pause in time. Maybe we both just gulped.
He wrote back that as exasperating as he experienced me to be, he didn't want to lose the relationship either.
There began a rebuilding process, and it's become one of the more important learning experiences of my life.
So, Seán recently wrote to say, “Ha! You share a birthday date with my son... now I'll never be able to get rid of you! Happy birthday, Phil.”
People can be the markers that chart our lives. We cannot think of someone who has become significant to us without also thinking of everything that was going on in life when one was with that person.
Memories are contextual and relational.
When we call them back up, we also adapt them by experiencing them within the context of the current moment and whatever is going on at that time.
So, on my birthday this year I think back and reflect on the road I've travelled, marked as it has been by Bob, Alex, and Seán, and I am thankful for a rich life, punctuated by such accomplished and interesting people.
For this I thank God. As one of my esteemed colleagues has said, “Nothing unconnected ever happens.”
For me, it is God who connects up all such dots.
I mark another year in this world, waiting for the next, knowing that nothing unconnected has every happened nor ever will.
Phil is connected to Bob is connected to Alex is connected to Seán.