No kidding. Getting married was a big mistake I really needed to make. It's what drove me to finally begin waking up after decades of pretending to by relying on external authority to tell me how. Getting married was a wrong path Leela nudged me down at just the right moment in my life to force me to make progress by getting so miserable I created an opportunity for Leela to speak to me. I managed to miss the marriage mistake with Liz, Sally, and Ruby. Those all would have been full blown 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 real 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 the girl I would end up marrying at a zydeco dance on Mercer Island in the mid-nineties. A guy friend I'd known since Boulder days introduced us. She was an enthusiastic zydeco dancer and had put on some dance parties at her house that he'd been to. She and I ended up dancing together a lot that night. Before she left I got her phone number. She later assured me she did not give out her number to anyone but good friends, never some guy she just met. There was a definite spark between us. I called her and we ended up arranging to meet at a number of dances over the next month or so. We got along well and were enjoying each other's company. Then, without saying anything to her about it, I went on a trip to Santa Fe I'd been planning for months, to visit a friend I'd met in Subud. She was a Santa Fe native who had moved back home from Seattle. In those days I was still very much under the influence of a longing to return to the Southwest that Leela successfully fended off when I was choosing where to go next after I escaped Harmonizing. This trip was just an opportunity to revel in Southwestern culture with a native guide, a genuine Santa Fe girl (and somewhat worn down mother of five; we were never romantic). When I returned to Seattle two or three weeks later my Southwestern fantasies were given the lie by one breath of cool, moist PNW air. Ah, so good to be home. When I called my zydeco girl to pick up where we left off she read me the riot act. She had very strong ideas about how things should be done. When you start dating someone, even just to go dancing together, you don't just ghost like that. It's terribly rude. I found her fit of jealousy or whatever it was rather charming, and quickly soothed her ruffled feathers, and our relationship was now more serious. We started having sex. In retrospect that fight and making up was her first move in reeling me in. She successfully booted us from dance friendship to full on relationship.
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. It seemed odd to me, a little distasteful. The words wife and husband always seemed unpleasantly presumptuous. A little too close to declaring ownership. I never wanted children. The thought made me wince. I didn't have an alternative I thought would be better. I just knew getting married and settling down was not the right 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 need to become something greater.
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. Now almost thirty years after my arrival I've reinvented myself here 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 all possibilities.
Writing as a hired gun. Here in Seattle I wanted to try something other than writing as a hired gun. That had been my career path since 1973, right out of school. I did other kinds of work in Boulder, most notably at The Fez, but I was still writing for TH as an unhired gun. Ever since I graduated I found myself getting drawn back to writing for other people. It was easy for me, and good money, so I kept going back to it. Now I can see that going back to it was a mistake, but it was an inevitable mistake. Like marriage, it was a mistake I needed to make.
Caving in to success. I got successful at writing again. This time success overwhelmed me. I blame the success. Something made me lose my sense of adventure. Something made me go soft. Maybe it was the fear of old age. Here in Seattle, in my late forties, I finally caved and thought well maybe they were right all along. Maybe I should settle down and get married. I'm not getting any younger, after all. What'll I do when I get old? Who's gonna take care of me? So I got married.
Flutter. I had my first cardiac arrhythmia in 1971, spring term of my sophomore year at FPC. I'd been running on campus, partly because I had a bunch of stuff to get done and partly for the joy of running, an old addiction. I was done with my errands and cooling off when suddenly my pulse started speeding up. I was freaked out, to put it mildly, but I didn't go to the clinic or anything because it went away pretty fast. But then I started having more episodes, and they got worse, and I started going to the emergency room. It was always the same story. I had an ongoing anomaly they called an extra beat, a cardiac hiccup. I also had an abnormally low resting pulse that set off bradycardia alarms when I had an EKG. As for the episodes, they told me not to worry, these things happen, I was in no danger. Try telling yourself that when your pulse suddenly goes from its normal high 40s (I timed my resting pulse at 37 once) to 140 or so, waking you up sweating in the middle of the night. The episodes always went away, though sometimes they got pretty bad. Like when I passed out at the wheel driving for the Chili Olympics, and at Heart Lake. Finally, in 2002, I had an episode that didn't go away. And I finally got a diagnosis, thirty years later: atrial flutter. After consulting with my cardiologist I elected to have an ablation versus cardioversion. Leela nudged me until I saw that cardioversion didn't fix anything. It just propped me back up. Ablation worked like a dream. Wisdom overcame a genetic flaw that had plagued me for countless lifetimes. Thank you Leela.
Jealousy was a huge issue for us right from the start. At first I didn't notice it because I was in the throes of new love. But jealous fits and rages started soon, long before our implosive marriage. They reached a crescendo in the first few weeks and months 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 if it were as aspect of our dance business: I could dance with students, or if I were clearly just being a gracious host. But even then I couldn't appear to enjoy it too much; best I kept 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 giving her the idea that I might like or, heaven forbid, be friends with another woman would set her off. She knew I would never actually cheat. She once said to me, rather boastfully, that she knew I could never keep a secret from her. And that was true, thanks in large part to the painfully mixed blessing I got from isa in Tallahassee. Confession can be a powerful medicine, but like most medicines it can really fuck you over 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 comfortable, a miserable ease. I worked in the yard and put money in the bank. For the first time in my life I traveled as a tourist. I got into alcohol big time, literally: I got a CO2 tap and had my own keg of fresh beer from Big Time Brewery and elsewhere down in my beer cellar. I also brewed my own beer down at Gallagher's. I hosted wine tasting dinners for friends. I bought high-end scotch. I got so comfortable that for the second time in my life I quit growing. As I stopped growing I started dying. 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, the people around me. I gained weight, drank excessively, became dull and listless. I was circling the drain. My life was over.
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; I was a loser. 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. Guided by the strong inner voice of wisdom I reformed my meditation, meditating more and better. Wisdom guided me to make other changes, most critically a new diet. Over the course of a year I lost over 50 pounds and kept it off. My blood pressure went down, my blood chemistry got clean and my knees stopped hurting. Amazing what a little weight loss can do.
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. The camping trips were just what I needed.
TV. I was never particularly interested in watching television. Sure, I had my favorite shows as a kid, but once we moved to Kenya I lost interest. Television seemed irrelevant, a dubious habit other people had. I much preferred a good book. But the woman who became my wife was an avid TV watcher. 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 disoriented me with its nonstop fast pacing. But I trained myself to watch TV. I desensitized myself to the point where I could watch something as depraved as The Sopranos with relish. It was not until 2007, well after Leela spoke to me, that television started feeling like a useless time suck. In one of my first moves away from my marriage I gathered my courage and stopped watching. Watching television together had been a way of bonding. The only way I could bond with her was to enter her world; she was not interested in mine. I used the evening hours while she was watching TV to meditate, reclaiming a bit of my own world. 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, listening as carefully as I could for guidance on what to do or not do next. Leela was preparing me to leave my marriage.
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. Years later I got to know that feeling well, the subtle pleasure of making progress with love.
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 bedroom from a dance friend. My little monk's cell, as I called it. I'm so very grateful I made it out alive.