Something that went unpublished from 2011. Judith Soley passed away in 2011.
Sometimes synchronicities just dot the horizons, and I begin to wonder whats going on. I suppose this is the phase of death and dying in my life….
Judith Soley, one of Fresno‘s leading attorney, is dead. She died yesterday, at Duceys, an upmarket restaurant at an upmarket resort in Bass Lake – about 45 minutes from Fresno in North Fork. She was there for lunch after a day at the Madera Courthouse, accompanied by her client. The client’s husband followed them, and shot them both.
I don’t watch TV. I haven’t watched TV in over 9 years. But last night, I kept reminding myself to see the 11:00 pm news on ABC Channel 30. They had interviewed me for my opinion on bullies and told me my piece would be on the 11:00 o’clock news. A small piece that included a spotlight on cyber bullying. After 9 years, I finally plonked myself in front of the TV, trying to keep myself awake, resigned to glaring noises, and images, and sensationalistic news items that either bore me to death or make me cringe. My psyche rebelled to return to the safety of my study, and the comfort of a book, or to the company of my friends on facebook, but I decided to sit thru it and see and hear myself.
They opened with a breaking news on two women killed by a man in Bass Lake. More drama – I told myself. The world is going to the dogs, I thought. The good looking women were in their sixties, and I idly wondered what their lives were like, and how they touched mine. I wasn’t really interested, nor was I listening, and just hoped that the news would finish, so I could go to bed. I felt sadness for lost lives, but only just so much. We have so much suffering in our own lives that external tragedies do not touch the inner core. Human psyche has become desensitised to the horrors of the world. My psyche defends against the atrocious world. Death, and dying, has become an innate property of places like Afghanistan, and Iraq. What difference do one or two more deaths make to the sum total of the dying on a particular day ? And is the cost of an American life more than the cost of an Iraqi or African life? In my psyche it isn’t. Its just more unquantified human suffering, these are all unknown faces, there lives do not touch mine! How self oriented we humans are. They said one of the women was a notable lawyer and I idly wondered again if it was anyone I knew, for Fresno is but a small, incestuous town. And then I heard the name – Judith Soley. HOLY SHIT ! She was my attorney, even though given the problems of the last two weeks I hadn’t been so sure of her anymore. Now I was attentive and glued to the TV. The trauma of everyday life had touched my own life. The death wasn’t a potentiality anymore, it was a manifested reality in my own life. I was affected by it now, and hence attentive. I forgot about my own TV appearance, it hadn’t been so important to start with. My brain was wired, almost like a sponge, I felt blank, emotionally numb. All I could do was soak it all in almost with a relentless fervor. I remember the irony of it all. I had a 30 second long spot on bullying in schools at the same time the news about her demise was being aired, and the words I had used with Judy two weeks ago were something like – that as a matter of principle, I refused to be bullied by anyone.
A scene from two weeks ago flashed before my eyes. One of her employees had come to my house to deliver some documents. Judy had been less than pleasant with me in the last month or so. I had had some billing concerns, which weren’t resolved to my satisfaction. She was awfully expensive and had refused to explain how and where the money was being spent! I should have been mad, but wasn’t. It didn’t matter much to me, it didn’t bother me. Very little does. I remember telling the girl that came to drop off some cheques, that I believed in the law of Karma, and the power of intentionality. I told her if Judy’s intentions were noble, she would be rewarded, if not, then the universe would find a way for me, and for her. I could let it go at that.
As I remembered that conversation, the news item made me feel guilty, as if I had somehow contributed to her death thru my mistrust. I struggled to calm myself, knowing it wasn’t me, it was just what it was. A strange coincidence that she and I had been thinking of parting, for I could no longer afford her services anymore. Perhaps we had already parted and were going thru the motions. And now she had departed. It felt eerie and this little voice remained inside of me, nagging me about my own ignoble thoughts, my momentary spike of anger against her two weeks ago. I had so wanted her to understand me. I had wished for her to accept me, and my questioning attitude. This is who I am, was. But she had talked about wanting to be trusted absolutely, completely. She hadn’t been willing to share what she was doing for me, where my hard earned dollars were disappearing. I had been unwilling to trust blindly. We had been at cross roads, and I remember trying to figure out why it was important for her to be trusted so, what developmental correlate could have caused it, and why it was impossible for me to trust so blindly. Even though I had faith in her work, what was it in my experiences, in my past that made it impossible for me to remain under a blindfold any longer than I had been. Sometimes my shadow breaks thru into the consciousness and is more powerful than the idealism of my personna. But I am human, after all. Regretfully. Thankfully. I was afraid of being manipulated. I was in awe of her power over me, and my future, my children, and I was unwilling to cede total control over to her. And it is this absolute control over my destiny thru my finances she had wanted.
Then, my grandfather passed away, in Dec 2010, and I was quite….unavailable….for over two months, attempting to find myself. He had been a father to me. And since I did not get back to Judith during the two years, it made her believe I was not serious. She had gotten even madder at me.
Now, looking back, I can readily see what was going on. We were both playing out our developmental templates, repeating our early interactions with the world, against each other. She had been struck by polio early in life, and had been wheelchair bound since childhood. I am willing to bet she had projected some early replationship onto me, someone, something who/what was out of her control, someone, something that made her feel helpless. And on my part I had transferenced some overbearing members of my family, who always manipulated me into situations which I later found distateful and distressful. I wasn’t fighting her, I was fighting them, all over again. And she wasn’t fighting me, she was fighting the ghosts from her past, the phantoms that dogged her. For both of us, absolute trust was a dirty word. She would win, of course. Hers was not the material of loss. And the words “Trust has to be earned, not demanded” swirled around me. In our interaction, I remained a therapist, and she remained an attorney. These contradictory professions seemed irreconciliable. She had mastered her developmental trauma thru force, control, competence and knowledge about the justice system. She adjusted by participating in the construction of a justice system – an effort to undo or mitigate some of the injustices that the universe had heaped on her – probably in the form of childhood polio. I had mastered my developmental trauma thru introspection, introversion and insights. I accepted the fact that the universe was amoral. That there was no inherent justice in the system of life. She believed in it, and I paid her, and challenged her to prove it to me. So far she wasn’t able to prove, and hence my distress. Our modes of healing were as mismatched as our respective professions.
So what was Judith Soley to me? Can I paint her in a black and white? Did I like her, or was I afraid of her? Was she a friend, or a foe? This is what I have been struggling with for the most of the day today, being pushed from one end of the continuum, to the other end of the continuum. Feelings quite diverse, from rage, to compassion, to kindness, to nurturance fan my emotions. I realise that as soon I approach the vulnerable emotions about her, feelings that made me sorrowful about her wheelchair existence, about the violence of her death, about the life that was unexpectdly wrenched away from her, a competing emotion of anger, and self love would usurp them and hold them hostage.
I saw her as a human being – frail, vulnerable, fallable. I saw her as a hero – brave, competent, leader. I saw her as a ruthless woman who made recalcitrant spouses of the clients cringe in fear, and think of death, dying or killing in abject hopelessness. I experienced her attempts t making me cringe too, and getting angry when I refused to do so. I saw her as someone who was professionally materialistic, to the point of ruthlessness. It was her vocation, of course, but we always define ourself thru our vocation.
On a personal level, I saw her as being cut off from her own emotions, her own vulnerability, her own helplessness. I experienced her need for power, control, money and hegemony, and bore the brunt of her expectations of the same from me. She wanted me to have the same priorities as hers, the same resiliance, the same hardened approach towards life. There was no room for failure in her own life, and she projected that on others, refusing to accept that I could be content in my toned down pace of life, that I would not introject her definitions of excellence and success . To me success and excellence meant something totally different. These embodied ethics, and morality. I could not sacrifice my innate standards of ethics at the alter of financial gains. My morality, my innate feelings of altruism and compassion were far more important to me in my profession. I knew Judith Soley as a client. I admired her resilience and tenacity but am accepting of – proud of – my own vulnerability. I even tried to make her experience her own vulnerability at times, I spent the free hours at courtroom helping her analyse her vocation, and her need for success. She defended herself from it all by negating everything I could come up with. The resistance and the need to remain grounded in logic and rationality was extremely strong. The mind body disconnect, her refusal to own her pain was her workable defence and though I could, but I chose not to crmble her defenses. She disagreed with my wonderings. I knew better than to argue. She pointed out the differences between her thinking style and mine, she shot me down repeatedly, and found my altruism, my spirituality my vulnerability, and my comfort with all those almost reprehensible, worthy of disregard, and disrespect. But I respect the ways of my psyche, I have faith in my own ways, and so I did not care to change myself. I think that bothered her, because she was used to being followed.
However, she tried to represent me in ways she could. With detailed explorations. Perhaps her feelings got in the way, because the outcome had never been really meaingful. Perhaps her unconscious processes governed her representation of me. So if you asked me what Judith Soley meant to me I would be confused. She touched me in various places. She interacted in different ways. Every place she touched, had a property associated with it. It became a feeling state. And each feeling state was different. I admired her in some ways, but I did not want to be like her. I appreciated her dedication and detail oriented style, I would rather have died than become as detailed oriented myself, for I quite like my own intellectual and philosophical bent of mind. Her practicality – I knew – would make us successful, but I myself am not practical, and I love my own creativity. Her materiality and her focus on finances, and not the philosophy of law, bothered me to no end. It was great that she was so financially oriented, me – I don’t care about money, just the principle and the ethics of it all (and perhaps that is where we clashed the most, for she could never understand my motivations in pursuing my case, and I could not figure out how everything collapsed into the dollar amount for her !). She was of hard, cold, logical facts, I am of warm, fuzzy, emotional relationships. She didn’t want relationships, I could not do without them. We were opposites. I needed her, and if she had been the self aware, she would have seen that the mind body disconnect she carried would be bridged thru her understanding of me, for we come in contact with people because, and only because we need some of their energy, we need to be influenced by their way of being.
The psyche is a process, a process of becoming. It is an amorphous entity, something that is constantly being shaped and misshaped, and reshaped thru every situation, action, interaction and relationship. These are not always ideal. Not every situation is perfect, not every action on our part, or on the part of others, is perfectly executed, neither are our interactions and relationships all perfect. Perfection is one end of the duality, the other being imperfection. So every action, interaction, situation and relationship falls somewhere between these two extremes and touches us in different places. This is how I feel about Judith Soley. She touched me differently in different places. It was the same with Judith Soley. Her own experiences touched her in many places, and made her what she was. Her rage at the universe, at god, was transformed to her rage against the spouses of her clients. I hear she chewed them out with methodical rigorousness of a hungry beast. In the external reality, she was helping her clients. In her own psyche, I think she was engaged in a repetitive compulsive defense mechanism. Adler would say that a sense of mastery over her environment was her goal. Perhaps that is why she sought mastery over me as well, but I had my own woundedness, and needed the same – a sense of control over my own environment, my own destiny.
So I cannot universalise mt experiences about her, there is no ultimate emotion that I – or anyone else – can have of another human being. Our emotions and our feelings about others do not – cannot – have a mathematically resolvable emotional vector that is a resultant of various feelings. It just doesn’t work that way. And yet, I think it is a social norm to almost split a person into black and white. To either say “She was great” or to demonise a person and say “she was evil.” What we are talking about, are aspects of interactions, of personalities. But look around and we see people either portraying her as a god, or a demon. Her pictures are beautiful. She could look beautiful. Often did. But that wasn’t her all the time. And yet, we humans have this need to seek perfections – especially in the departed. In my own mind, she was neither great, nor less. She was just human in her day to day roles. Like the rest of us. Struggling to stay in the 80% bell curve defined between the opposites of perfect and imperfect. And that is how I experience her. There are parts of me that are fond of her, parts that admire her, parts that look upto her, parts that are sorrfowful, parts that were upset with her, and still are, although the intensity of those heated emotions had long since left my heart, much before yesterday. I am accepting of her reality, in all her totality. I do not provide a conditional acceptance as in “she was great, because if she hadn’t been, I would not have liked her.” Like everyone else, she was a bundle of contradictions and and an experience of her could only have been in context to a person’s place in her life at any given moment. And some of those places were great to be in, some were not so great.
And so, Judith Soley, unlike those people on TV, I will not say you were great. Neither will I demonize you like your “victims” and your opponents do. You possessed qualities I would have liked to claim, and you possessed qualities I would shy away from. You were simply as human as myself. And with those mixed emotions in my heart, Judith Leslie Soley, I wish you bon voyage. You have transformed into a butterfly and can fly faster than any of us. I hope in that flight of the soul, you compensate for all the confinements this life had imposed on you. Rest in peace, and fly with the angels. Transcending all, beyond conflict, beyond the opposites, beyond materiality, one with the universe. Fondly remebered with mixed emotions !
Meanwhile, I have to process and come to term with the fact that I invested more than $50,000 in a false dream that she painted for me. Being a witness to a death is, as I had discussed in my last blog, is more debilitating than dying itself.