Epilogue

Continued from Commitment

“A hard life is not a punishment, but rather an opportunity.” ― Brian L. Weiss

Harlan and I continue to love one another. In the eight years since we were in Vieques, we have shared incredible joys, learned more valuable lessons, and built modestly successful businesses; and we’ve done it together. We’ve been partners, lovers, and friends.

I finished grad school and opened a private counseling practice. It’s now funny to think that I started with one client – just one person sitting on my proverbial couch – and then two… and today I often have a waiting list of people who need to get in that week. I love what I do and find that I am happy to go to work most days. I work in the same building where the Print Shop is located and so Harlan and I get to see one another sporadically throughout the day – creating moments that we fill with a hug or a brief injection of love and appreciation although he is better at that than I am. When I get focused, I often have tunnel vision.

I do not believe that Harlan’s presence in my life is a coincidence. As we grew in our discoveries of one another we realized that throughout much of our adult life we had been dancing together in the Universe. His brother got married at the church where we (ex-Hubby and I) were members in the early nineties. He worked in the building across the street from the first house ex-Hubby and I owned together, although not at the same time. He and his ex-wife traveled across the country the same year that I traveled with my family – visiting many of the same national parks – only two months apart. And, when I road tripped with my mom and the kids, we stayed overnight in the town where he owned a business in New England. There were too many incidents to believe that it is all coincidence or happenstance. We were waiting for one another – for the time when our souls could come reunite and continue whatever journey had previously been started.

Harlan has become a bold presence in the life of my son and daughters, helping them to see a different perspective of masculine energy. They have grown to love and respect him not only as my partner but as a personal friend. In fact, they have all grown into incredible people. I don’t go one day without being in wonder at one of them; their work ethic, their commitment to success, their compassion, and their fearlessness. They inspire me to be a better person and they challenge me to learn the art of ‘letting go’. I could not be more proud. Frank got married a few years ago and I adopted another daughter as a result. Almost daily I count my blessings that he chose a woman I could so easily love. She embodies the spirit of our family and bolsters him in the way that a mother hopes for her son. Their partnering is a wonderful example for the girls.

I’ve continued to grow in my faith, my ability to be introspective, and in my esteem. I am stronger today than ever before and yet I don’t feel it is over. Indeed – it may be only beginning again. I think that perhaps we are allowed growth plateaus – times in our life that feel like we are coasting… nothing much happens – it feels comfortable and easy. And then, the learning begins anew.

When Emily left for college, Harlan and I were finally able to live together. We bought a home and moved into a perfectly downsized house that would allow us to comfortably grow old together. Late last year, just as we were settling into the long-awaited period of ‘empty-nesting’, Harlan began to feel sick. After months of frustrating and grueling testing and doctors’ visits, he was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. We sat together in the small windowless office of our first oncology appointment and listened as the doctor said: “at some point, we will be discussing comfort care”. The prognosis was approximate – an average, they said – of two years.

 

This is where I must leave the story – the irony of his illness is not lost on us. In fact, we are each deeply challenged by it. We have taught one another so much… I have learned more about myself in the last eight years than perhaps in all the time prior and Harlan too. We know we came together to learn. This cancer is impacting both of us significantly. Obviously, Harlan is the body that is suffering from the disease – and the treatments. We both are afflicted with emotional challenges; not only the ones existing in the present but also the ones that have come washing over us from the past. We have noticed triggers we both thought were rusted and locked; renewing themselves with old – unwanted energy.

We arguably are doing the best that we can. Every day we confront the current hurdle and attempt to jump. Most of the time we make it. My imperfection is highlighted almost constantly and I have become accustomed to facing the fact that I am only human – although I don’t like it. The ugliness of cancer doesn’t always bring out the best in us and at other times it highlights everything good. The dichotomy of it can be exhausting.

 

I’m not sure where the words or energy for this story actually came from. It’s only been ninety days. They flowed easily each day as I sat with my laptop and opened the evolving word document. I can only imagine that they are a gift from God. That the Universe has allowed me to see myself in entirety so that I can use the accumulated knowledge now in perhaps the most difficult challenge yet. I feel fortified and open to the next set of lessons although I hate the idea of them coming. Perhaps there is another story unfolding.

 

I do believe that this amazing life – with all of the pain, lessons, joy, and exhilaration is worth living. Even though I get intensely tired from time to time, I am eager to walk the path that will lead me into pure love, into peace. I remind myself of that destination and it motivates me to take the next step. The existential veil that lies atop each experience does not go unnoticed and I am deeply grateful for each day as it draws to a close; regardless of its impact.

Thank you for walking with me as I dared greatly.

Proven Prophecy

Continued from Soul Theory and Chances

“When you stop trying to find the right man and start becoming the right woman, the right man will find his way to you.” ~ Unknown Author

It started simple enough, a sentence here, a paragraph there. I vacillated between acknowledging the flirtation and hesitating to make a move back. He was persistent and quick. If I returned an email in the morning, there was another comment or question within an hour usually. I learned a bit through email at first. His name, his work, and his family were all introduced in electronic format; simple words that were announced by my good old AOL pronouncement of “you’ve got mail”.  And then he asked if we could talk.

Talking made him real. And I had to think about whether or not I truly wanted him to be real … wanting something and having it are two very different things and as much as I claimed to want companionship – it came with other things – like real telephone conversations. I gave him my phone number and told him that I would be driving up to get my older daughters the next day and we could talk then.

My girls were with their girl scout troop, on an annual trip that at one point turned into something fun for the mom’s too. They went ahead of me and so I had an hour’s drive to chat on the phone with this new guy. He had a great voice and I found myself enjoying the sound of it. I recall asking him if he had any bad habits to which he replied: “I slurp my coffee”. I decided if that was as bad as it got, I was in luck. We realized that we had a lot in common, daughters, challenging lives, childhood scars… and he seemed to be interested in talking beyond the surface – to be introspective. I liked that a lot.

We talked for the entire hour and then some as I sat in the parking lot outside the hotel for a bit. I tore myself away from the conversation by promising to talk with him again the next day. Cell phones made connecting so much easier and more immediate. The girls had a blast with their friends and I had fun with my mom friends – consuming a nice amount – perhaps more – of wine that evening. We ‘bunked’ in the hotel room, sharing queen beds so that we were all four to a room. Cozy and thrifty! I don’t sleep well under those conditions and it was a long night. At just after six am, my cell phone rang. Thinking it was one of the girls, of course, I scrambled to answer it as we all woke up – a couple of us a little worse for wear. “Hello”, I whispered… “Did I wake you??” a sobering masculine voice asked? Wait… what time was it? I looked at my watch again and double checked it against the LED readout on the nightstand between all those sleeping moms… “who is this?” I uttered in a hushed tone.

“It’s Harlan”, he said. Mr. Match.com guy. I learned right off that he woke up with the cows and accelerated with the sunrise. He claimed it was the ‘Mainer’ in him – after living in snow country for more than twenty years, he had a habit of getting up to add wood to the stove before anyone else attempted to move. He took care of people by keeping them warm – and apparently, talking to them at the crack of dawn.

Since I was in a room full of sleeping women, I had to hang up but promised to call him back quickly. I had the sense he was sitting somewhere, near a computer, probably slurping a cup of coffee while I groped around for my clothing and a hairbrush in an effort to get out of the room and down into the lobby.

Coffee has always made my morning better and so I grabbed a cup before I sat down to redial my phone, gathering some energy, and shoring up my mood so that I could at least sound, intelligent, and entertaining. Does anyone sound like that this early in the morning? I tried to imagine. We talked and talked. We talked so long that one by one, the moms and girls walked through the lobby on their way to breakfast, noticing that each time they passed by, I was still there in a chair gazing past the people, through the window, and into the sunshine that was coming back in through the plate glass. I learned all about his prowess at golf and football; about his art and farm animals; about his jeep and his dog. With him, I shared my children and my ex; my academic career and my goals; as well as my current thoughts about reincarnation and spiritual development.

He was a good listener and I began to feel a little giddy. Talking on the phone was better than email. I felt safe and comfortable. He wanted to meet.

Just the thought of it made my hands sweat. Now I was imagining that all the things I had begun to like about him would be overshadowed by things that could be wrong with him. Geez… I was a coward at heart. I realized that I wanted all kinds of things but had very little grit when it came time to go get them. I was risk adverse. I forced myself to work through those feelings; to push past them and I managed to agree to meet him but…  it would have to be on my turf.

There was a Starbucks close to home, far enough away so that it couldn’t identify my neighborhood but close enough that people I knew may be there or could – at a moment’s notice. I had read up on how to be a good ‘internet dater’.  We agreed on Monday night after dinner, that way I could use the excuse that I had to make it home to make sure all the girls got to bed in case the date wasn’t going well.

I got there early – better for the satisfaction of my control issues – and took a seat in the back so that I had a view of the entire café. He told me that he would be wearing a cream sweater with khaki pants. I hadn’t been there long when I saw him walk into the store. He was tall, and I recognized the combination of height, mustache, and cargo pants that he had promoted as ‘his style’ from his online profile. I watched as he walked in and stood at the register to place an order and had a minute or two to observe before he glanced around and our eyes met.

He had nice eyes and I noticed how trim and muscular he was, I could tell even through the winter clothing he was wearing that he had been an athlete. I also noticed how straight and tall he stood. It was something that my mother always commented upon. She used to tell us that posture was necessary and always noticeable. I believed her now. He came over and sat down next to me, smiling – I smiled back and we sat there for a second or two not saying anything; it felt like minutes before one of us spoke. He was funny. His sense of humor was a bit sarcastic but it was quick witted and I found myself laughing.

I was having fun. It felt good to sit there with a man, laughing and enjoying myself. I was glad I took the risk and the longer I sat there, the more interested I became. We identified a number of times in our life that had been ‘almost meetings’ as if we had danced around the country after one another at various times but the timing was never right. I suddenly remembered the prophecies I received on the mountain from my roommate and from Michael… this was it – Harlan was the one they were talking about. It was near the end of the year and almost Christmas in fact, Harlan’s birthday was on Christmas. It was too coincidental … no – there are no coincidences… I had just met ‘my man’. It was Monday, December 10, 2007.

NOTE  *As I finish writing this and get ready to post I realize that I am writing about a day EXACTLY nine years ago. I’ve been writing now for 83 consecutive days and there is no way that I could have mapped this out to coincide with exact dates. I am tickled that the Universe is allowing me this trick, providing affirmation that it is leading me, honoring me with words and memories as I need them. I am humbled and grateful.

Spiritual Seeds

“Loving and energizing others is the best possible thing we can do for ourselves.”      ― James Redfield

There were some genuinely good times in the next couple of years. I loved being a mother and watching my children grow. Francis started swimming for the high school and I would drag all three girls to each meet let them run around as I watched the few minutes (seconds really) each hour that he would be in the water. I remember being at a swim meet where people were cheering for some kid named Frank and I asked which boy that was. They looked back at me with a strange face, “um, yours?” I felt dumb. My little Francis had grown into a Frank. Today, when any of us talk about him, the time frame is clearly referenced by our use of Frank or Francis. In the context of this writing – they are one in the same. He grew tall (standing at 6’8” today) and would intimidate all the other swimmers on the block. As a freshman, he would come in last every. single. time. By his senior year, he would place first in every event. It was an amazing transition and I was a proud mama.

They all grew too fast as any parent knows and I attempted to enjoy every minute. Some of my fondest memories come from this time period as I experienced their perfect inquisitiveness and joyful exploration of the world. Each one of them occupied a special part of my heart and there were times I thought it would explode with love. There were times too – being perfectly honest – that I thought I would go crazy with the noise and occasional chaos that four children can generate in one household.

Hubby and I were on cruise control. In an effort to meet people and make local friends, I used my entrepreneurial energy to begin a chapter of MOMS Club in the area. It’s a national organization but there wasn’t anything like it regionally. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needed friends; over 75 women showed up to that first meeting (with their kids) – it was mayhem!! It turned out to be a wonderful venue for many of the things that were important to me. We organized play groups, mom’s night out, a book club, and outings for our kiddos. Some of the best friends I’ve had were people I met through my affiliation there. As the girls started school, I became active in the PTA and coupled with continued church responsibilities, I was a busy gal. I was unmindful of the demands pulling my attention away from Hubby. He was better at gently prodding me back into awareness most of the time but I was still challenged at how to balance my life in a way that satisfied both of our needs.

It seemed to me that whenever something took my attention away from him as a direct focus, he would become very needy sexually. It was as if that was the only way he could communicate with me and I was unaware. All I experienced was another requirement, another ‘thing’ on my list that had to be completed before I could end my day. I never felt there was a consideration for me or of me, sexually speaking – not in the context of pleasure – but of desire or need. It didn’t matter what I wanted in this regard. I developed the understanding that if I wanted to do what satisfied my needs ‘outside’ of home (i.e., Mom’s Club, friendships, etc.), then I first had to satisfy HIS needs in the bedroom. It became a negotiation for me. If I came home after a book club meeting or a girls’ night out I knew he would be waiting and wanting – expecting. It was easier for me to simply accommodate him; he got what he wanted and I got what I wanted. Cruise Control.

Someone introduced me to a new book, a novel that presented an existential tenet that reminded me of the teachings of SAGE two decades prior. There was something there that I empirically understood as truth somewhere in my soul. It was The Celestine Prophecy, a novel by James Redfield. It’s a story – a work of fiction based on Eastern & New Age philosophies that highlight ideas about coincidence, energy, and love in ways that make complete sense in my mind and fill gaps of my traditional religious teaching. Its spiritual ideology spoke to me in such a way that I became aware of a profound hunger for a richer understanding of the nontraditional.

I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my one of my brothers’ years back… an esoteric discussion of ‘what if’. What if our conventional understanding of biblical teachings is too literal? What if customary beliefs about God are actually too restrictive and confining? What if science and faith can truly coexist without contradiction? I became curious and began questioning everything I had been taught. I partitioned off other parts of my heart where things didn’t make sense and focused my mental energy on thinking about my faith and how it manifested in my worldview.

I began to look at and understand coincidences – those things that seem happenstance but may indeed offer clues or knowledge about our lives, our future. I recognized a series of experiences that I had interpreted as serendipity or randomness but when I looked closer, I could see purpose, and even perhaps – glances into my future. Of course, those were in retrospect but it was impressive when considered across a broad spectrum. It spoke to the -then new- science which is immensely intriguing to me. In fact, I once decided I could teach myself quantum physics, at least enough so that I could hold an intelligent conversation. After all – isn’t that part of the beauty of the internet??  I researched a good place to start and began to read. After the introduction, the only words I could comprehend were … of, than, why, and how.  My academic inquiry into particle theory lasted all of five minutes. Regardless, I was piqued and captivated with these alternative spiritual avenues and continued to pursue my curiosities.

I began to look at my life in new ways – seeking to honor and accept all the challenges I faced. I embraced the people in my world, including Hubby. I tried to merge my religious teachings with the broader spiritual information that I was being introduced to. I conceded that he was in my life for a reason and that I needed to make the best of it. I vowed again, to be my best self, a better wife and mother, a more conscientious friend, sibling, and daughter.