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.

Chapter 15: Experiencing the Happy Dreams the Holy Spirit Brings

An entry that says diversity is good:  “Nobody is any more ‘special’ than another.”  What are the values that people have which reflect different choices and are just as good as my choices?”

When we are doing the wrong kinds of things, or (more aptly) not enough of the “right” things—the things truly meant for our doing—we sometimes think our existence needs justifying.  So we try, at first, doing more and more of the same.  But, finally reaching an impasse, we learn that it is the way we are spending our life that is at fault.  We take a look at what we really want to do (i.e., the true pathway is found in our real will), and take the first faltering steps toward accomplishing the right “new goals,” and peace reigns again.  We realize that maybe we need to do some different kinds of things—not “more,” but “what.”  And finding peace may be the whole answer.

Even love (with a little “l”) is not enough. Karen Goldman says, “If we were to find our truest loves and define ourselves by them, we would not find Peace. . . Peace lives beyond the point of earthly happiness.  It is the very fabric of the great Beyond that exists within us all.”  In short, we need a pathway that has a heart.  What pathway is that except those things done in peace?

My great-grandmother didn’t need to understand psychologically why it is wrong to attack others.  She just kept on loving, and others learned from her example.  But there was more rebellion in me.  If I were attacked, I felt justified in attacking back—a state of mind that made me ripe for the psychology of A Course in Miracles.

An attack is always distress based on error.  An interpretation that leads easily to forgiving the illusory bad dream that one is witnessing.  A sane interpretation, leading to sane behavior–finally.

A very wise, though not well-educated, woman once told me, “We have to learn to see Christ in everyone.”

An instructive day could be had by anyone who imagined that Christ was merging with the various personalities that she met.  Even an impossibly cranky person could be seen as Jesus having a bad day.  Would we not quickly forgive, knowing that this person truly in deepest heart means us well?

If I have had a very busy (“busy” equals stressful) day, I am likely to awaken that night with a coward’s heart.  We experience God in quietness—not frantic activity.  And so the fears come back, drowning out the love, when we have followed the way of the world too closely.

There is a longing for Hestia in me.  Hestia was the Greek goddess of the home and hearth, the one who felt centered in the inner rather than the outer, the now rather than the past or future.

What does “home” represent to me?  I’ve identified several aspects:  safety, refuge from the world; the warmth of love and companionship; being taken care of (whether by myself, David, or the safety of the environment).  A large indefinable component is a sense of unconditional love, i.e., being loved regardless of achievement in the world.  It is the same safety that I felt in my grand-parents’ home as a child.

I never had any schoolwork to do there (often being on vacation or celebrating a holiday), so the impetus to make good grades could be forgotten for awhile.  It has been hard for me to realize that salvation is not something you do, so deep does the impetus to achieve reside in me.  Hence the desire for Hestia, at home with one’s center, where God Himself resides—where no earthly de-mands are made upon me and I can live in the eternal present.

On wanting God alone or, conversely, wanting things of the material world:  “As I read A Course in Miracles, I see that wanting a husband and home and profession are things that the world offered that I wanted.”  And I see these wonderful blessings that have come my way as part of the happy dreams that the Holy Spirit is able to provide when we are ready to walk more closely with Him.
Yet the Course also says, “The world I see holds nothing that I want.”  It is the intangibles made possible in and through material blessings that I want and feel I have a right to have.  It is not the materialism per se that beckons me.

Will this truth about my inner motivation be what saves me from finding security in the things of the world—saves me to find security in God alone?

There is a call to art and joy in us that won’t be stilled.  In college, I remember hearing Rubenstein in one of his last piano concerts.  While sitting there in the balcony, utterly enthralled, I decided, “This was what I was born to do!”  Hearing the best classical music played by a virtuoso is art at its best, but it was the joy instilled by the experience that brought on my internal remark.

In looking back to the time when I was in my first job, I thought I had found in my private wonderings a greater purpose worth sacrificing happiness.  But the central myth was all a mirage.

Like everybody else, maybe I really did have a “greater purpose,” but it would have been better carried out if I had never lost sight of my happiness.

Then, though, I remember being quite judgmental about a student who professed (unabashedly) to seek happiness as her greatest good.  Maybe the problem is that we simply, in our madness, don’t know how to seek in the right places and in the right ways.

In the midst of everyday life, that tap on one’s shoulder signifying happiness always comes from the Holy Spirit.

Blaming another for one’s unhappiness is a dead end street.  Saints have remained serene under the most adverse conditions.  It is what is within a person that ultimately determines one’s state of mind.

The Course unabashedly counsels that happiness, being that which we all seek anyway, is worth seeking as an end in itself.  If this is true, why does seeking “happiness” as a veritable good seem fraudulent to me?  Is it because many people invariably look for pleasure instead (and usually in all the wrong places)?  If more of us found happiness in the intangibles of the Spirit, wouldn’t happiness seem worthwhile after all and therefore valuable to be pursued for its own sake?

Yet happiness does seem to be elicited as a byproduct of right living and right thinking (indeed, this too is a premise of the Course).  It is true that students of the Course (like everyone else) frequently find happiness elusive and just waiting over the next hill for its full fruition.

In actuality, though, perhaps only the truly happy can help other people learn how to live.

“My way” may be gratitude.  From my favorite biblical passage as a child:  “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and unto His courts with praise.”  God doesn’t need my praise, but I do:  I need to acknowledge that all this goodness doesn’t originate with my all-too-often ego-oriented self.  Indeed, the ego fades in the presence of thankfulness.

I’ve come to feel that it has been better to have the good years follow the lean.  Now I know how to appreciate these blessed “happy dreams” that the Holy Spirit weaves.

A Course in Miracles says, “There is no need to learn through pain.”  My prayer for the last several years:  not to learn through pain!  But somehow I had overlooked that promise in my favorite book.

The Course means that to follow the Holy Spirit is to be absolved of pain because His gui- dance knows all the outcomes that any given action would bring and He chooses the painless route.

Does this mean that we will know no suffering?  That depends entirely upon how close a walk with the Spirit one can endure.  It takes a particular kind of courage to give up one’s own, im-perfect, judgment and follow guidance that may be impossible to scrutinize.  We have to be very flexible, able and willing to change directions at an instant’s notice.  Most of us can’t do this con-sistently.  But when we do, we are blessed with joyful living, able to overlook pain entirely.
Overlooking is, of course, not the same as never experiencing.  But from my life I know that the pain lessens dramatically when one is following the footprints of guidance.

A Course in Miracles says, “Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you, and will do so.  Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion, and made it real.”

Constantly I am pulled back to realize that better living comes with doing less rather than more:  “My bronchitis slowed me down and showed me that more happiness may be in relaxing, doing less, slowing down to read, etc.”

One of the affirmations of the Course reads, “Above all else I want to see.”  This very strong statement is then elucidated twice more:  “Vision has no cost to anyone.”  “It can only bless.”

Having true vision would mean, like the female character in the movie, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” that I had “gotten the madness out.”  (The Course says that this world is actually a place of madness–madness borne of guilt.)  Sometimes I think I really want to be well and think rightly so I can be of real help to others—even more than I want it for myself alone.

This sounds laudatory, but is it really evidence of ambiguity about the goal?  Is there still attraction in me for the forbidden, the “sin”?  If so, I need to see “sin” as only a mistake, and every-one wants mistakes rectified.  Maybe the best thing that I can do in this life is get my act together–get “well” in a karmic sense.

Several years ago, in one of my more self-centered moments, I listed nine answers to the question, “What do I really want?”  I am chagrined to notice now that there is nothing directly said about love and service to others, except for my husband (who heads the list).

But the Holy Spirit takes us where we are and leads us as best He can, given our blindness.  Just as Maslow said that safety must precede satisfaction of higher goals, maybe I needed these nine prayers answered before I could turn outward.  And they have been answered–all nine–gloriously:

What do I really want?  This is my list:  (1) love and companionship with David; (2) peace of mind and tranquility; (3) satisfying daily work; (4) contentment, happiness, and gentle joy; (5)  good emotional and physical health; (6) a “centering” that leads me to the goals of A Course in Miracles; (7) satisfaction in the present; (8) strength to cope with any and all changes in my
life; and (9) good sense of style and attractiveness.

I have been in a bad mood because I have been stressed out.  I never get mad unless I am stressed.  Since I know this about myself, I ought to reduce stress so that anger just doesn’t happen.  After all, learning how to live in the “real world” is what we are here for.

Basically, I think I know enough from the Course to live well (i.e., appropriately).  Now I just need to put its great principles into practice.

On how to live peaceably:  “I realized recently that maybe I am trying too hard in regard to living by the Course.  My best teaching and my best speeches have come when I am at ease, relax-ed, and poised.  Isn’t it quite likely that living well demands (i.e., requires, asks) the same?”

I think the Course, at its heart, is only structuring the dream so that we can awaken.  “Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play.”

A favorite biblical quotation:  “Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.”

I accepted that Scripture as a promise years ago.  Now I am deeply aware that Jesus’ words are true.  But my questions have found answers only in a gradual unfolding.  As Catherine Marshall says, “Waiting works.  It is a joining of man and God to achieve an end, and the end is always a form of the Easter story.”

From my journal, the obvious but maybe not so obvious:  “The Holy Spirit is very good at working out everything so that it is a win-win for everybody.”

Joseph Campbell’s dictum, “Follow your bliss,” is not unlike the New Age thought of Ruth Montgomery’s “Walk-Ins”:  “Go with the flow.”

There are very few times that one must go through life (as Hugh Prather describes) “being pulled through it kicking and screaming,” and for many that better way to live is delineated in A Course in Miracles.  The key point, forgiveness of others, sets aright one’s relationships and leads one to Michael Drury’s dictum, a “settled good will toward humanity.”

Following the Holy Spirit’s direction, as advocated in the Course, creates the flow described by Montgomery and leads inexorably to a proliferation of life possibilities, unique and perfect for oneself, that Campbell believes will ensue from following one’s bliss.

The ideas shift and turn with each writer, befitting his or her unique inspiration, but the process of learning how to live well is a universal experience.