Chapter 10: Learning from Relationships Passing Through

My great-grandmother, when widowed at age 37 after 20 years of marriage, looked forward to bedtime because she would dream of being with her beloved Asa again.  I have the idea that there are specific feelings, usually that go unnoticed, associated with each person that we know.

That is why, when we dream of an old friend not seen for a long time, we experience anew the same feelings that we knew when in his presence.  I think this sense of tone in relationships also gives us the subtle good or bad “vibes” when we approach the people in a new environment. Per-haps, after all, the emotion remains throughout life here and on the other side; the content of experi-ence only is lost in the river of forgetfulness.

The right kind of Love mitigates against temptation more than anything else.  Indeed, it is the solution itself.  (On the other hand, love with a little “l” ensnares more quickly than virtually anything else.)

Did I alienate in another lifetime by my critical attitude?  Or, even worse, was I totally rejecting because I didn’t understand that attack/temper is a cry for help, expressed in the only terms that insanity knows?  Maybe this soul memory is why I don’t want to lose anybody this time around.

My cat taught me persistence.  I am allergic to Sylvester and all his kin, but David didn’t know that when he gave him to me for Christmas, six months after we started dating.  I almost gave Sylvester away once, but my friend’s husband objected, and so my cat won a reprieve.

Eventually, after much sneezing and many teary eyes, I found an allergist who knew the right treatment for me.

So Sylvester lived out his 17 years as the recipient of cat chow with treats of “people tuna” prepared by me.  He seemed contented with my cuisine and my various maid chores for him, but he showed his limited appreciation by mostly giving his attention to my husband, who brushed him.  (Any cat lover will understand.)

Contradictory signals:  I once knew a man, a homeowner, who tried to get his beloved to buy a condominium for herself just at the point when he was getting serious.

Sometimes we crave change for the sake of change.  But it is usually better to rearrange your furniture than to discard any relationship, however fragile, from your life.

Being immediately there for people is a powerful trait possessed by those who have charisma.  In women, it is the aspect of charm that attracts most surely.  Yet it is also most likely the secret for many men whom women find sexually attractive.  If genuine, it is a tool for great mo-ments of empathy.  If selfishly manipulative, the ending will be painful for both parties.

People do show love in different ways.  A friend who has been somewhat estranged from his family spends hours picking out the perfect Christmas gifts for them.  On the other hand, I have never been estranged from mine, and I am not a shopper—hence my gift selections are made with insufficient care.  I have come to understand that love wherever it is found is worthwhile and good.

I once “asserted” myself with an auto repairman after waiting an hour and 15 minutes without a prior consultation (before the work would even be “started).  This after seeing several men arrive and then leave with their cars repaired.  So why do I feel I failed?  My feminist defen-siveness came to the forefront, and I thought the worst.  Why does our current ethos pit men against women in a struggled competition that does no good for anybody?

I have a friend who creates trouble for herself out of boredom; she explained to me once that all of that turmoil makes life more interesting.  Certainly we need a certain level of stimulation to stay connected to our environment.  Maybe the drama we seek is truly because we are merely actors in a playhouse–Shakespeare’s character Jacques’s idea, “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players.”

If so, this act seems to be a morality play, and it is unlikely even if all is maya (illusion) that playing a villain doesn’t have bad repercussions for the whole play itself (as well as the character himself and the others on the stage at the time).

So my friend (mentioned above) is part of us all, and can’t really make trouble only for herself; we are “in it” with her.

There is very little in this world worth getting upset about in personal interactions.  And by “upset,” I mean “angry.”  This learned from the experience of following A Course in Miracles, which says:  “Anger is never justified.”  But you may have to read the book to understand that the madness that is this world is fully forgivable—fully possible of being overlooked.

I used to have outbursts of temper from time to time.  I would go along placidly until I felt attacked; then with some effort I would suppress it.  This dynamic might happen repeatedly until I would defensively push the offender back in an attack of my own.

And we in this world actually think this is justifiable behavior:  acting out of “self-defense” to put the other in “his place.”  But when one points a finger at another, there is no way around the fact that three remaining fingers are pointed back at one’s self.

Compliance is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, it may make one more eager to follow the inclinations of another (not always a good thing).  On the other hand, it may readily open one to guidance from within, guidance that may be (falsely) perceived as an “other.”

In my own case, it made me willing to follow the lead of my parents while growing up.  Now, out of their sphere, I do fall in line with my husband’s wishes often, while at the same time retaining a good bit of autonomy for following the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit does not often put me at odds with the others in my life; more likely He draws a circle around all of us, a circle drawn by Love.

Angry outbursts don’t cause positive changes, although there is short-term “benefit” from venting hostility.  (The guilt comes later.)  Not a pretty picture.

As one reduces attack as a reflexive action, one’s super-sensitivity to criticism is correspondingly reduced.  It’s the truth of projection making perception.  If one doesn’t lash out at another in offense or defense, she will reinterpret in a more benign light anything that might follow.

Only one fact keeps attack alive in a relationship—that it “works” by getting the other to back down.  If the other doesn’t respond in this way, the dynamic is removed from the interaction.

Either the other can respond very negatively, leading to bad consequences not sought; or (better) the other does not respond at all, in light of the fact that the attack is all illusion anyway.

But the very best response is to rush to the offender’s side with help,  knowing that the attack has veiled a call for love.

If someone acts badly, it is decidedly not my job to set her straight.  No one likes to be chastised.  To deliver such a blow would be creating and meeting attack and defense at every turn.

Instead, recognize, as A Course in Miracles says, that the poor behavior is actually “distress that rests on error, and thus calls for help.”  Then rush to her side with that help.  You will always receive a blessing from this sequence of events, and it is quite probable that the person herself will be the deliverer.

It is sheer arrogance of the ego to think that I shouldn’t have to abide poor behavior from another.  Many wives’ attempts to talk out problems with their husbands never get off the ground because the men resist, believing that their wives are starting an argument.  When I am affected by a negative act or word from another, I think:  “I have done this thing in the past.  Am I ready to for-
give it in myself as well as the other?  This is perhaps my chance to eliminate it from my life forever.”

Certainly, until I do forgive it, the circumstance will revisit me, begging all the while for me to look kindly upon this wrong.

Some of the men closest to me over the years have had bad tempers.  I probably have a problem with anger; the men express what I repress.

But until David came along, I condemned them for it.  (In David’s moments of pique, I just call it madness and let it pass–as the Course suggests.)   I condemned because I projected my own “unacceptable” impulses.  In effect, they were expressing my rage for me—my unresolved, rejected rage—and that is why it angered me so.  I lost my respect for another in his display of temper, but it was really my own interior that I was chastising.

The less one shows anger, the less one will find anger in surrounding people.  Peace is infinitely reinforcing.

The more I view life as a laboratory, the less I need to please others, but the more I am willing to do so.  Some disagreements seem so very unimportant.  But the desire to please another is at base neurotic if the desire makes us in any way less than true to ourselves.

When the same pattern recurs, it is surely trying to teach us something.  The latest example:  When I’ve gone out on a limb enthusiastically to recommend someone, I’ve realized later that I didn’t know her well enough to be so enthusiastic.  For the person’s part, not only has she tried to gain advantage through me, but even by the attempt to do so has sought to “do me in.”  Yet this unsavory attempt against me has never worked.  My attitude:  I have needed to respond not in attack or retaliation, but just as a wiser person for the experience.
Yet my forgiveness may not be complete, because I have not really wanted to have much else to do with this false “friend.”

My lesson?  Don’t be so quick to praise lavishly on incomplete evidence.  It’s a good way to get burned.  As the Course says, “Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and then escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you.”

Wanting to be “loved” by everybody is not a very laudatory goal.  After all, in this world we are all insane to one degree or another, so it follows that people in general are not going to “love” the right attributes.  People don’t know what it is that is best to admire, and so the adulation of the crowd is virtually meaningless as a measure of value.

Certainly we see this repeatedly in our near-worship of physical beauty, a phenomenon which passes for romantic love, at least in the beginning of many significant relationships.

Comparisons are the utmost folly.  There will always be those who have more and those who have less.  If “having” mattered in any genuine sense, only the upper class would be happy.  Who really believes that?  Yet we still chase economic security as the elixir of life.

Better to walk in a field of grain on a sunny day.  Cost:  nothing.  Lesson:  even the grain can’t grow without rainy days.

When we are treated badly, there is most commonly something within that cries, “I don’t deserve this!”  It is the true inner Self, reasserting preeminence over an ego–yours or his—that indeed may have transgressed.  This dynamic is particularly pronounced in people in trouble, who always believe that there is something “special” that makes their situation unique.  And they are right, for there are always mitigating circumstances prompting any false behavior by an ego-dominated personality.

In a vulnerable state of mind some years ago, I realized that one of my greatest neuroses was my desire to “please” others.  Other people may actually like this part of my personality, making the dynamic insidiously reinforcing.

By extension, I have come to realize that I’ve wanted to “please God” also by doing “His will” (all that I imagine He might want in my life script).  Yet, does all of this make me a more loving person?  I think not; it is actually on another level entirely.  It is even a way of trying to coerce love from another, i.e., if I please you (make you happy), you will “have” to love me for what I have done for you.  One ought not to have to “do” anything to be loved; it is our birthright as children of God.

But is it any wonder in this flawed world of ours that we twist ourselves about in madness trying to get more love?

Negative behavior or words on the part of you or another are just so much insanity.  And you wouldn’t get angry about a true psychosis, although you might wish mightily that it were healed.

Written a little over a year before getting the “green light” to write this book:  “I’m very conscious that what I do now is real living, but I don’t feel that I’m doing anything much for people.

I have some understandings, but I’m not doing anything to share them.  Should I write?  My guidance is not to start “that book” (based on my journal) yet.  My life is “very pleasant, at home and with all my friends at work.  And I enjoy what I do.  I know enough to know how to live well (non-neurotically, happily).  But shouldn’t I be doing more?  What am I doing to help other people live well?”

We live out dramas every day—individually and on a mass scale as a nation and a world.  Surely Shakespeare was right:  “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players.”

Is an unseen world learning from our triumphs and our tragedies?  Is this the real reason that paranoia afflicts those souls for whom the unconscious mind becomes available?  Not finding support for a reality beyond the obvious one in their philosophical or religious beliefs, they think the FBI is after them.

Ancient shamans knew more—and knew better—than do we now.

A psychic warning of a crisis in the making:  In the early morning hours before my dad suffered the medical crisis that led, five weeks later, to his death, I dreamed of the upcoming sad time.  I dreamed that David and I had a daughter and son, both old enough to go off on their own.  The daughter was going on a “trip,” but she would be alright.  The son was taking a sailboat across the ocean solo, and I wasn’t sure he could handle it.  But he was very eager to go, and I realized this attitude was part of the male spirit of courage and adventure.  I realized that I shouldn’t be overly protective of either my daughter or son.

This dream was quite comforting during my dad’s illness, though I did not know the dream’s full import.  Several years later, I find that the sailboat motif is reminiscent of an anonymous parable of death, in which those on the opposite shore are welcoming, just as the sailboat goes out of sight on this shore.

When someone treats me badly, especially for no apparent reason, I think, “I did this to someone once.”  And it brings me ever closer to forgiveness.

In Italy, I smile more, and my eyes light up when I greet people.  I am as friendly as the wonderful Italians.  Is that why I feel so welcomed and positively received?  Or is my physical appearance more attracting to an Italian (men and women) than to a typical American?

Twice on our vacation I was mistaken for an Italian woman by Italian people.  Maybe my “type” is seen very favorably there.

That night, cuddled with my head on David’s shoulder, I felt that in Fiesole, overlooking San Domenico, I had come “home”–maybe even Home.

Yes, this place, overlooking Florence, is for me a little bit of Heaven presaged.  Bene!

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