Chapter 7: An Old Dream Revisited

Know that the impulse to love comes from the spirit.  When one is “crazy in love,” the feeling partakes more of what is within than what is without.  The person being idealized is somehow more yourself than him.  The best part is that the experience points to the Love at the center of one’s being.  At base one is seeking God, and it is not really fair to one’s beloved to make of him an idol in one’s journey back Home.

Some very idealistic people mix inappropriately the sacred with the profane.  Living out our being first of all as human may show    much about how to love God.  We can’t always repress the human, or we will be denying the very arena in which we have been placed.  And the human “ideal” may lead inexorably toward the heavenly ideal.  Much romantic love, in the beginning at least, manifests a kind of imperfect love for God that needs a concrete object.

Sometimes after a great shock (especially if high in negatives), we feel an almost supernatural calm and a certitude that all will be well.

I remember only two arguments with my college roommate in three years, probably because arguing with her was so rare as to be both shocking and threatening.

One argument ensured when she came in from class enthusing about O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh.  She argued quite energetically for the positive value of pipe dreams, “if people don’t have anything else.”  I hadn’t heard the class discussion (nor yet read the play), but I vehemently declared with all the might I could summon that people should know the “truth”!

How was I to know that the next act in my own play would be years of clinging to a pipe dream and avoiding the truth?  Of course, on some level I did know, and so when I was railing at Betty, I was actually railing against my own life script.  Be careful of overreaction; it may tell you more than you’re yet ready to know.

I think my ideal for this life was Romantic love, in the sense of medieval chivalry or the great English Nineteenth-Century Romantic poets (Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge).

But then I went on a 15-year odyssey of self-denial.  Before birth, was I influenced by the good that Dante’s love of Beatrice wrought?

For a long time, there was a split in my life—a private dream that could not be assimilated except as spiritual growth.  I have come to think that any lengthy non-resolution is an example of Rainer Maria Rilke’s oft-quoted passage:  “I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms
and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.”

We can create randomness in our personal dramas, or we can create metaphor.  The great figures of history mostly created metaphor, which is why we remember them so well—we see ourselves reflected therein.  A drama formed from Jungian archetypes is normally the best teaching tool, and we are all, as a first priority, here to learn.  Why create our own metaphors out of whole cloth when we have the better option of learning from others?

There have been three periods in my life when I was especially attractive to men.  I was functioning at a very high level each time—very “up,” not depressed at all, and quite passionate. Most of my life, though, I have repressed my feelings and attracted men who didn’t want to get serious.  It was always a mistake in those situations to let my neediness show.

From a mind slant of another time and place:  “I was a different person, at once more akin to other people and sensitive to their needs, but also caring almost not at all what they thought of me.”

How liberating!  Is it too iconoclastic for life in our time?  Or, if practiced consistently, would it be the way to true freedom?

I once went through a very strange time when I realized that it was neurotic to care so much what other people thought or to try to please them so much.

But people developed ambivalent feelings toward me because by not caring what they thought of me, I sometimes attacked them.  I could see through their ego defenses and did not have nearly enough patience with these foibles.

Yet simultaneously I was truly loving people as children of God.  It was a contradictory time.  I was ready for Awakening, but not saintly enough to sustain it.

The well-worn rejection record entitled “Abandoned by Love” plays only when you put the record on the turntable.  And you can stop going around and around like that.

Was I brought low because sometime, somewhere, I had been too proud to love?

I once knew a young woman who made virtually no decisions without consulting God first.  By nature radiating happiness, Anna appeared supremely well-adjusted, sure in her knowledge of God’s watchful care.  In her presence, my own obsessions seemed very far away and very delusional.

One who truly knows God on a day-in, day-out basis invites sanity into every interaction. Such a person serves as a conduit to God for all others who may be less sure of His actions in everyday life.  And this achieved with no preaching at all.

People often come together to work out emotional problems that are mirror images to one another.  Then they part, sometimes to reencounter again, if the matter is very central to both.  Yet there remains no true resolution if the meeting point is especially impassioned.  God’s real will is found in a peaceful ending.

Living an ideal is good for the soul, but it won’t keep your feet warm at night.

Chapter 8: David: a REAL Relationship

Written three months before I met my husband-to-be:  “I want to find a man who is self-aware, emotionally stable, and sensitive to some of the deeper issues that I find important.  I want a clear-eyed self-assurance and sense of appropriateness about life.  Someone free to love without neurosis.”

All true in my experience of my husband.

I am reminded of a thought from a favorite narrative told by Michael Drury:  “. . .the spirit has a deeper knowledge, so translucent that one may not know it exists until some slant of light or storm reveals it. . .’Being begun so late, there was no time to lose.'”

The comment, “It’s a small world,” is not only misleading but actually dead wrong.  The world isn’t small, and there are millions of people in it.  The encounters that seem strikingly fortunate are most certainly karmic interrelationships being exemplified.  There is a higher plan at work.

Is “self-containment” a negative concept?

An old friend once thought so, believing perhaps that I was criticizing him, or that it led to holding one’s self aloof from other people.  But I think otherwise.  How many women, wishing to be married, find that their knight appears once they have learned to be happy within themselves?

I read once that a long-time mistress said, “If there is a secret to being loved, it lies in ‘not having to have it.’”

Written in my journal later in the evening after meeting my husband-to-be:  “I am worth love.  Everybody is.”  I had immediately intuited what would yet come to me through him.

We intuit love before it arrives.  One month after meeting David:  “I am developing a deep happiness. . . .  Something clicked as I walked across campus yesterday, and I realized I was quite happy.”

Is there an “old maid” syndrome?  These days, it’s more likely to be a love of work rather than fear of sex.

In the early months of my courtship with David, I questioned whether marriage to anybody would ever be right for me.

My analysis:  “I need to see myself as a desirable woman outside my work interests. Otherwise, my profession will be all my identity, and I am less likely to make the adjustments that ensuing marriage would entail.”

Three weeks later, a good sign:  The question, “Would I be happy married?”  The response, “I find myself wanting to spend more time with David.”

Journal writing can be a great, non-medical, antidepressant.  I used to be alone a lot, and as everyone knows, solitude can bring on brooding.  Writing tempered this by reassessment of who I was, where I was headed.  After my real, human connection with David developed, the impetus to write very long letters to myself just faded away.

Romantic advice:  “I don’t know how to act to move a cautious man to greater seriousness except to give him plenty of room and wait.”

Love on earth is always partial—less true than I would want.  Breaking up with a boyfriend as a “test” can be quite self-destructive.  Love can’t always be as strong as I would like it to be.  I’ve made this mistake twice; the first time, in college, quite disastrously.  The second time, though, my love came back—and he is the one I married six months later.

But I don’t recommend brinksmanship in romance.

On my primary relationship:  “Do I affirm David enough in the image that he has of himself?”

A prayer written mostly for myself three months to the day before David and I were married (and six weeks before we became engaged):  “Help me to take each day in order, not acting precipitously, learning how to wait for the proper timing.  Help me to know that all events–even the inconvenient ones—work together for good.”

In looking back, it seems to me that I have been alone a great deal in this lifetime.  My greatest truly human desire was to experience the love of a good man.  I have found that boon with David, but I waited a long time–37 years—before God was ready to grant the prayer.

Surely there must have been something negative in my past to create this long delay.  I suspect that I have been rejecting of men in earlier periods; I had not treasured the love that was offered me.

God grant that I will not err in this way ever again.  The karma entailed therein is simply too distressing.

Most never-married people who see marriage as making them one-half a person are badly misguided.  Marriage is best when two whole people meet, and by their relationship create a matrix that is larger than the sum of its parts.  Anything less is at least partially symbiotic.

Growing pains on moving from the single life to the partnered one:  “Basically I am very happy.  I need a little more time to reflect, time to enjoy being solitary.  I need to settle down and enjoy all my moments.  We are on the go so much, but that too is good.”

A prayer for David shortly after our second anniversary:  “David has changed so much since we have gotten married.  More and more he seems happier and happier.  He seems to respond to my romantic gestures.  What can I do to make our life together ever richer?”

A paradox of marriage:  I have frequently wanted some “alone” time since our marriage.  But if David is anywhere around, I even want to be in the same room.

On being receptive:  “Help me to live my life so that I accept the love that comes to me.”

By the way that I make decisions, buying the Porsche (even though it was six years old) was the wrong way to go.  I was reading the signs, and they all seemed to be negative.  But David would have felt thwarted if I had opposed it.  And, ironically, he wanted me to make the decision.  So I said “yes” against my better judgment.

And I joined David in driving it, enjoying the ride and trying not to be ego-driven behind the wheel of this luxury car.

My friend Pat said that, after all, this wasn’t a decision involving somebody’s life; it was just a material object.

But what if it had been a life decision?  What if someone close to me planned a life in ways that I thought wrong?  I could refuse to participate at all, losing him forever (perhaps ) or abandoning him to (possibly bad) fate.  Or I could take the risk with him, joining at pivotal points to do my part to make the drama work.  I would have to be convinced of a benign Overseer capable of righting every mistake.

Not unlike the Porsche, really.  This tiny mini-drama seemed a metaphor for other decisions, other times.

On what I needed in a mate:  “David says that I have a tendency to add 2 + 2 and get 5.  Part of my attraction to him has been his rational mind.”

You can sometimes get clues as to what is important to other people by what they do for you.

When I planned to work my usual, once-a-week, evening reference desk slot on David’s birthday, I hurt his feelings.  (Of course, he didn’t tell me this.)  David is one of those darling people who shows his love by the great effort that goes into doing things for their loved ones.  I realized that he had always gone to great lengths to celebrate my birthday.

Quickly I regrouped and made some extraordinary gestures to celebrate, with him, his special day.

That was all that he needed.  And what joy it gave both of us!

I used to look, rather pathologically, for hidden meanings, i.e., What was he really meaning to say?

My husband has reduced this tendency in me by a very rational pattern of interaction.

He always says what is on his mind when he is ready to say it.

And this is what a real relationship is all about.

I never get angry unless I am stressed.  This realization has eased many attack thoughts.  When I shift from feeling the anger to evaluating the source of stress, I find the discomfort quickly abating.  This dynamic is particularly pronounced in close personal interactions.  David never does anything that upsets me when I am at peace with the world.

When I don’t fuss back, David always rewards me (usually soon).   By catching himself up smartly and offering an apology.  Then he lets me know that he knows I’m right for him.

A commonly recognized problem, particularly for women:  “I have been trying to please incessantly, and that is because pleasing and being loved have been linked in my mind. . . .Actually, I read that a man might not want his wife just to ‘go along’ with his wishes because she might react that way to just anybody.  She should do something because she wants to.”

On the folly of non-assertion in relationships:  “Lately I have realized that I am resisting being compliant.  David doesn’t seem bothered by that.  If anything, it is just the reverse.”

Temper, temper!  When is it ever permissible to lose my temper?  I’ve already decided that it’s never OK at work, and now I’m beginning to feel the same with David.  He loses his temper and says something angrily to me, and I get furious.

What bothers me is that it feels good to blow off steam, but then I always regret it.  A Course in Miracles counsels against anger.  What are my options?

Update:  “A year’s end for my resolution of not to fuss with David.  I broke it only [X] times!  Trying to keep this resolution has made a real difference in our relationship.  And I have learned ways of coping that don’t include attack.”

David and I both get impatient when we can’t understand each other’s verbal shorthand.  Perhaps we have not always had, in our many lifetimes, the close relationship that we have now?    Maybe we didn’t have eons together in the past, but maybe we will have in the future.

When my husband teases me mercilessly, does he really just need more attention at the moment than he is getting?  That’s what he says about my childhood tormentors on the playground, my little friends who pulled my pigtails.

A life can be seen as one giant jigsaw puzzle.  I just saw anew the fact that my husband David has a large number of the most important pieces.  We had to change our morning routine for a month due to an early-morning class that he was teaching.  No more leisurely breakfasts at Perkins, where we would sit across from each other and have some of our best conversations.

Back at Perkins one Saturday morning, I just exploded with unsaid thoughts—a grab bag of tiny, insignificant little work-related problems.  I said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  All these little things are bothering me.”  He replied, calmly and quite to the point, “You haven’t had therapy in a week.”

Yes, we had been at Perkins the previous Saturday, and not since.

I recounted this at work to a colleague, herself a wife.  She was much amused and said, “Yes, it takes just that little bit every day.”

And I thought my increased understanding from reading when what seemed to be freeing me to know better how to live.  David modestly says there are many factors—a statement which led me to the jigsaw motif.

Going it alone for so many years may have taught me some independence, but David has fulfilled unmet needs in my life that were there for years.

You’d better believe I’ve thanked him profusely in the last week and apologized for my own whiff of personal attribution for what he actually does for me.

As I wrote later on, “David has changed me so much since we have gotten married.  Mostly, I have tried to follow A Course in Miracles, but I am also freed just to love.”  My personal prayer for David:  to love him ever more deeply.  The prayer the Holy Spirit bade me pray for David:  that he be blessed–that blessings reign down upon him.  And both prayers are being answered far more gloriously than I could ever have anticipated.

On the efficacy of silent interaction:      “David has been particularly sweet the last few hours.  I have been loving him silently.”

On surviving the busy life:  “If David and I are going to lead such busy lives, it’s very important to take moments out throughout the day to enjoy each other and what the day brings.

We need many moments of truly enjoying daily life.”

Most people don’t like advice even when it is well-intentioned.  Examples from life prove the point much better, and I certainly don’t have “the truth” (whatever that might be).  If David makes mistakes based on what I say, not only will he probably not learn very much, but he will blame me.  If he makes mistakes from his own decisions, he is far more likely to learn (even though learning from something more positive “takes” better).

How much “hands-off” should I be?  I do care, and it is hard to see what may be real problems play themselves out.  But David is very reticent to change anything major in his life situation; after all, he stayed in Atlanta for ten years.  On the other hand, before I met him, I moved about far too often rather than stay to work out a situation in a familiar setting.

Who is to say which way was better?  Certainly it seems to have worked well for David simply to ride out the storm, rooted in place.

I once dreamed, “Basic changes are necessary,” and I knew that this admonition had to do with my tendency to attack.  I wrote in my journal, “I realized in my sleep last night that I absolutely must basically make some changes in my attitude toward David.  I cannot attack him; the Course makes very plain the ramifications of that.  I must just quietly assert myself if I can’t go along with his direction.  If I communicate (really communicate) what I am feeling, we will develop an even better relationship.”

These words show that I have already undergone a great transformation from the Hera-like creature that I have imagined I once was.  I know in my bones that I am capable of a very raw rage that would alienate the bravest man.  Surely the world has split in a million pieces, like broken pottery, that dastardly part of me.  I hope now that I have become a vessel ready to receive refreshing water.

When I was a little girl, I heard my mother and father remark from time to time that we would do (blank) “when our ship comes in.”  I thought it was an actual ship, most likely loaded with gold and silver.

That image has stayed with me into my adult years, where it became attached to intangibles like the romantic love I so longed to enjoy.  Now David, just like my parents, makes the “ship” analogy from time to time.  I tell him that he is my “ship”—the one I waited 37 years to find.  This doesn’t fully satisfy him, but he does give me all I truly want in this world.  I have told David that the most important thing that I do is to interact with him.
This is the way of A Course in Miracles, played out in my life.

Perhaps the most important thing I’m doing now is interacting with David.  He is the spouse God gave me to love, as I am his. Human love at its best is a two-way street, and David and I are each other’s ticket back Home.