February 9, 2012

Remember the Platinum Rule. ~ Joe Elliott

The golden rule states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The platinum rule states, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” ~ Harville Hendrix

It was 2006 and I came down with a serious case of food poisoning that turned out to be salmonella. That fall there was a terrible outbreak that was traced back to spinach greens and it caused a number of deaths nationwide.

As I suffered the effects of a bacterial infection, my body rejected anything that I tried to feed it. I was awake at all hours of the night with an intense fever and cold chills. I endured severe dehydration and every muscle in my body ached for lack of nourishment. Eventually, I became so dehydrated that I started having delusions. In the confines of my bed, the room began spinning; sounds from the outside became louder, and I was in so much pain that I felt totally dissociated from my body. At the peak of my illness, I felt like I was going to die and called for an ambulance to take me to the hospital.

Painting: J. B. Francisco

Just a few months prior, I had made the decision to pursue a divorce from my partner of eight years. In the depths of my sickness, I felt a fear and an aloneness that was unlike any I had ever experienced. I was in a place that was much more vulnerable than I was ever prepared to be and had to rely on the kindness of friends and family to get medical treatment.
When my mom found out about how I was doing, she told me that she could catch a flight out from the East Coast and take care of me. I struggled with the notion of letting my mom see me in such a vulnerable state. I had chosen to marry someone very different from her. At times it emboldened me to criticize her about the way that I was raised. These criticisms put some distance between my mother and I and gave me a sense of safety that was dissolved by my current state.

When my mom came to visit, she showed that she knew me better than anyone else in the world. All that she did was offer me kindness. She saw the dirty drain rack in my kitchen and cleaned it, she organized my cabinets, did laundry, and fed me. She laughed wholeheartedly when a sales rep made fun of me at the mattress store because I didn’t want to explain why I needed a new bed.

She could have asked me why I pursued a partner that was so different from her and why I became more distant from my family during that period of time, but she didn’t. It would have been fair for her to give me her point of view or ask me to give her an explanation, but she didn’t.

My mom showed me what love is. Just like she had a thousand times before. She has been my first and foremost teacher on how to treat other people. When I think the transformation that is possible by treating others the way they want to be treated, I will always have this memory to reflect on.

Prepared for elephant journal by Lorin Arnold

Joe Elliott has been working to help families for the past thirteen years. His specialties are in couples counseling, family therapy, death and dying, parenting, financial management, and adoption. Joe received his undergraduate degree from Naropa University in Psychology and Religious Studies and his Masters in Counseling from Regis University in Denver. Joe completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from The Denver Family Institute. Joe has also taught Family Therapy to students at Metro State Community College. Find out more here.

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