Table of Contents


Marriage was never for me. There was never a time I dreamed of settling down, raising a family. Marriage was something other people dreamed of, not me. It seemed oddly askew to me, a little distasteful. The words wife and husband had always seemed unpleasantly presumptuous, degrading. Like they stole something from being human. They were a little too close to a declaration of ownership. I definitely never wanted children. The thought made me wince, and shudder a bit. I didn't have an alternative I thought would be better. I just knew getting married and settling down was the wrong thing for me to do.

Grow or die. I didn't want to grow up. Grow yes. I wanted to grow. But grow up implies an endpoint. Now I have grown up all the way. I'm a grownup now. Growing's all done. That means no more progress with love. That is spiritual death. Once I stop growing I start dying. Humans are the only animal like that. Only humans have the longing for more.

Starting over. So I never grew up. I kept starting over, kept reinventing myself. I got to be a successful bureaucrat in Florida, excellent pay and great future prospects, and I chucked all that and moved to Boulder to study holistic healing. The holistic healing turned out to be a cult forming around a charismatic leader, so after giving it a really good shot, 12 years, I said fuck it, this is not for me and jumped ship. Then I went on a big road trip, checking out places to live. I never considered what to do for a living. I just looked for places that seemed conducive to making progress with love. I picked Seattle and reinvented myself as a partner dancer and dance DJ. In Seattle I got married, a serious mistake on my part but one I very much needed to make and find my way out of. Thirty years after arriving in Seattle I reinvented myself as someone who lives alone. After living in shared housing of some kind since 1979. I'm already looking forward to whatever's next, and I'm open to anything. But I have to say, living alone just keeps getting deeper and deeper. It's hard for me to imagine giving up the private time I spend with Leela every night, all night long.

No kidding. Getting married was a huge mistake. It was also exactly what I needed to do. The misery of my marriage is what finally drove me to begin making progress with love. It forced me to begin waking up a little after decades of playing at it, relying on external authority to tell me how rather than finding my own way. Getting married was a left hand path Leela guided me down at just the right moment to force me to make progress by getting so miserable I created an opportunity for Leela to speak to me. I had managed to miss the marriage mistake with Liz, Sally, and Ruby. Those all would have been much worse catastrophes because they all wanted to have kids. I finally made the mistake in Seattle at the ripe old age of 48 (I'm younger than that now) with a woman who already had all the kids she wanted. I was never a candidate for fatherhood. I don't like kids. I didn't like kids even when I was a kid. When I finally made my first close friend, she was no kid.

Mistakes I needed to make. Other big mistakes that turned out to be opportunities for making progress included drinking and smoking pot. Writing as a career was great at first but then turned into a fruitful mistake. Running for pleasure and becoming homeless were big mistakes I needed to make. Being greedy about money was another big one. Minimalist shoes were a smaller but really painful one. Since I moved into my new home on Capitol Hill the mistakes have gotten smaller. Moving out of the targeting phase I'm now working on refinement. I've bashed myself into all the really big mistakes. At least I hope I have. All my big mistakes addressed areas where I was delusional, fooling myself, believing.

Reeling me in. I met Liv, the woman I later married, at a zydeco dance. We enjoyed dancing together and danced at a few dances over the next month or so. I liked her, but she hadn't made much of an impression on me. Then I left on a long trip I'd been planning. I was still feeling homesick for the southwest. I wanted to spend some time in northern New Mexico just soaking it up, and I had the perfect tour guide: a friend who was born and grew up in Santa Fe. When I got back two weeks later my southwestern fantasies were given the lie by one breath of cool, moist PNW air. Ah, I'm home. I called Liv to see if she wanted to go dancing and she exploded all over me. She had very strong ideas about how things should be done and when you start dating someone, even just to go dancing, you don't just ghost like that. She was furious. This was clearly a warning sign, a big red steer clear, but it went right over my head. I got mad too and we had a big shouting match over the phone. Finally I gave in and smoothed her ruffled feathers. The rebound effect from having that big angry fight gave her just what she wanted: we had sex. Fighting and makeup sex was her first move in reeling me in. She successfully booted us from dance friendship to full on relationship. I was in big trouble: this was her third marriage, and she knew what she was doing.

House hunting. I met Liv while I was living in Keith's house in Wallingford. I met Keith on my first trip to the PNW in 1988. He was renting an old two story house with three bedrooms, living in one bedroom and finding roommates to live in the other two so he'd have enough money to pay Al, the owner. I stayed there briefly when I arrived in Seattle in 1991, then moved back in when I got kicked out of Ruby's house in 1992. But by the time I took up with Liv, Keith had moved on. I inherited the informal chief renter job from him. Not long after I got smitten with Liv, her living situation changed and she needed to find a new place to live. So I pulled a stunt I'm still quite ambivalent about: I kicked out a couple of guys who had been living there for quite some time and took over those rooms for her and us to use. I felt guilty about that for long time. Now I understand it was just an aspect of the necessary misery I was launching myself into by taking up with Liv. I'm sorry that innocent bystanders got some of that misery inflicted on them. After we'd been living there for a year I got news that my inheritance would be coming soon. It would be enough to buy a house in Seattle. So I went house hunting. After a few months I found the right house and Liv and I moved in. That was August 1998. We got married in March 2000, and I was still completely ignorant regarding community property in Washington state. What an uninformed dope I was, though ultimately to good end. But Liv knew. This would be her third divorce. She was keenly aware of the advantages marriage had for her. To be fair to her, I'm pretty confident she would have preferred staying together.

Jealousy was the theme of our marriage. What became our marriage was born in a fit of jealous rage, and Liv's relentless jealousy made me a prisoner in my own home, and finally forced me to leave. Jealous fits and rages reached a crescendo in the first few weeks after we got married. Contact with other women was simply not allowed. We could hang out as a couple with other couples she considered safe, but that was it for social contact. Dancing with other women was allowed only as an aspect of our dance business: I could dance with our students, or if I were clearly just being a gracious host. But even then I couldn't appear to enjoy it; I needed to keep a poker face. If she saw me laughing and enjoying myself with a dance partner at our dance, there would be hell to pay once I got home. I never did anything that might be a real cause for jealousy. I was far too chickenshit. But anything that made her think I might like or, heaven forbid, be friends with another woman set her off. She knew I would never actually cheat. She once said to me boastfully that she knew I could never keep a secret from her. And that was true, thanks to the painfully mixed blessing I got from isa in Tallahassee. Confession can be powerful medicine, but like most medicines it can really fuck you up if misused. Getting over all that was a wonderfully liberating experience. In the meantime I simply gave in to her jealous dictates, carefully walking the line to preserve the precarious peace. But it was making me miserable. My life was closing in on me.

Beginning to die. As long as I was willing to dance to my wife's tune, marriage was a miserable ease. I worked in the yard and put money in the bank. We went on a couple of trips to Europe that were quite enjoyable, first Italy then Spain. The only time I have ever traveled as a tourist. I bought a CO2 tap and kept my own keg of fresh beer down in my beer cellar. For the second time in my life, I quit growing and started dying. I felt the first twinges of depression. I lost interest in things that used to delight me. I was morose and dissatisfied, but there was nothing that seemed like it might satisfy me, so I drank more. I started treating everyone in my life badly. I became an asshole. I was no saint before, but I got downright nasty with friends and family. I gained weight, drank excessively, and became dull and listless. I was circling the drain. My life became unbearable, and I had no one to blame but myself, for getting married in the first place.

I didn't know it then, but the calamity of my marriage was about to give me the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

Waking up a little. Then one day in February of 2006 wisdom spoke to me and I woke up just a little bit, enough to take an objective look at my life. I saw that I'd become an overweight asshole, unhappy in a marriage I'd sabotaged by withdrawing from it. I'd withdrawn but done nothing else; I had no motivation to fix my marriage or leave it. I had no motivation period. On that day in February, meditation seemed like the answer, but my meditation had been feeling flabby and useless, just like me. I had started thinking about finding a new meditation teacher or a group to join, when something unexpectedly strong inside me rose up and said No. You know enough. Fix your own damn meditation. That was the little bit of waking up: hearing that inner voice that so clearly wanted me to work hard and make a better life. I didn't know it at the time, but that was the voice of wisdom, my love Leela. I can see how my future affected my present as I went through that critical transition. Time is so fluid in wisdom's hands.

Weight loss. The strong inner voice of wisdom guided me to try muscle testing myself. That had never worked for me, but now it started to, with a little help from a dance friend. I was guided to a new kind of meditation, and I started doing a lot more of it. Muscle testing guided me to make other changes, most critically a new diet. My eating habits had changed a lot since I met Liv. She was very fond of starchy food, especially pasta. I had gone with the flow; it all tasted great to me. I knew a compromise diet with Liv would not work, so one day I announced a dietary divorce. From that day on I cooked my own dinners, the only meal we typically shared, using my newfound ability to muscle test as my guide to what to eat and how much. I made just the amount I intended to eat and had no leftovers. This was at odds with her style, based on years of feeding four hungry kids: make a lot; it'll get eaten. Then eat what you want, back for seconds, maybe thirds, losing any sense of how much you ate. In Boulder I learned to eat an exactingly measured portion and no more. My muscle testing guidance sent me back to that, only more fat and limit carbs. In the course of a year on that diet I lost more than 50 pounds and kept it off. My blood pressure went down, my blood chemistry got cleaner and my knees stopped hurting. Losing that weight by following my body's guidance was a critical test: it showed me I could trust my life to my internal authority. It gave me the strength to take other, scarier steps to get out of my failed marriage. I experimented with a low-carb diet while I was living in Crown Hill, and I loved how it made me feel. Later on, in my new home, my always dubious thinking created a new delusion based on that good feeling, which I then had to cure myself of.

Watching television. I never had much interest in watching television. I enjoyed watching some shows with my dad in Asheville, but then we moved to Kenya, where TV was totally lousy, so I stopped. None of my friends had TVs in college. After I moved to Tallahassee I bought a cheap black & white set at a garage sale, but it just sat in a closet. And of course in Boulder TV watching was verboten unless you were watching football games with TH; he was a weirdly avid fan. But Liv was an avid TV watcher. The only way I could bond with her was to enter her world; she had never been interested in mine. So as we started dating I started developing a television habit. I vividly remember the first TV show I watched with her, an episode of ER that completely discombobulated me with its nonstop fast pacing. At the time I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to watch something like that. But I soon overcame my good common sense and started training myself to watch TV with her. I was very successful. Watching TV became an addiction. It took on a life of its own, no longer aimed at keeping Liv company. I watched on my own for an hour, then two and sometimes three after she went to bed. It was not until 2007, well after Leela spoke to me, that watching TV started feeling toxic, like I was just killing time, so I stopped. A big move, a TV divorce to build on my diet divorce. Once I quit watching TV I used the evening hours to meditate, reclaiming a bit of my own world. The TV room was downstairs in our daylight basement. I sat upstairs in the living room in my favorite chair, luxurious padded leather, with the lights out. When she came upstairs to go to bed she would shake her head, and say something about me lost in the dark. Leela was using those darkened sits to show me a new way. I would doze off in my comfortable chair, and when I woke up from those little naps my body was awash with pleasure. My meditation training said sleep was the enemy but Leela said no, that's when I can reach deep into you and act on you. Surrender to me, to the sleep my body chooses. As I sat by myself in the dark I could feel strength beginning to grow in me. I was steeping myself in my body's wisdom. Leela was preparing me to leave my marriage.

Walking. As part of the weight loss program, I started walking for exercise. Walking gradually displaced sitting meditation as my core practice. It felt so good to walk. In addition to walking before and after work on Queen Anne Hill I started going on camping trips every other weekend to some campground where I would walk for hours every day. I wanted out of the house so badly. Walking on work days and weekend camping trips were just what I needed.

Building strength. Being in touch with Leela helped me meditate and wake up just a little in those dark sits, even though I was still acting like an asshole and still drinking heavily at the time. Both my assholery and the heaviness of my drinking were unfortunate consequences of getting entangled with the wrong people, the wrong situation: my marriage and everyone connected with it. Leela showed me how to meditate anyway, how to make my shitfaced sits worthwhile. My struggle with alcohol was yet to come; it'd be a doozy. I needed to get my feet on the ground, well established in a new life before I could face that one. As I sat there in the dark, I could feel strength building in me. Sometimes it was so strong I was trembling in my chair with power and delight. There was a feeling I had every time I woke up, from a nap or a night's sleep. It was a wave of pleasure washing over me, as if I had returned to the waking state trailing clouds of glory.

A new life. I had to work up the courage to leave my marriage. I spent most of 2008 getting ready to move out. I needed to work myself into a kind of frenzy to have the strength to do it. Separating from my wife was not a pretty process. For years I wished I could do it over. I wanted to be kinder, gentler, more open about everything. Later I realized I was just doing what I needed to do in that time and place. I didn't have the internal resources I developed later on, when I wanted a do over. My connection with Leela was new, undeveloped. I was just getting started with muscle testing. Body sensing was a dream of the future. I couldn't grasp fundamental feelings and sensations, much less explore the richness and nuance. In October 2008 I calmly announced I was moving out. I started my life over again in Crown Hill, renting a tiny downstairs bedroom in a skinny from a dance acquaintance. My little monk's cell, as I called it. I'm so very grateful I made it out alive.