The nature of this project. Anyone reading these stories (if anyone ever does) would be justified in thinking they're my work. I write in first person as much as possible to make it clear this is not teaching. What I've done and how I live is not recommended for anyone else, at least not by me. But I'm not the writer or author as those words are commonly used. The best word I can come up with for me in all this is scribe: I write something that's been given to me to write, using my skills to make it as pretty as I can but always double checking my work with the real artist. I am not the artist here. Leela is.
Reclaiming my past. Writing these stories under Leela's close supervision is a key element in making progress with love. I'm digging deep into my past, inviting the klieg light of wisdom to reveal my life to me in all its beauty and success, misery and failure. I aim for brutal honesty. I write about my past to go deeper and wring every drop of wisdom out of it. I need to go over it all again and dig deeper because I missed out on so much of my life when I was underground: all those years I was under the influence of booze and pot, weak and forgetful. The vast majority of my life. All those memories are still in there. Leela works with to me reclaim them so I can gain wisdom from things I did and things that happened to me decades ago. I can feel my past growing in me now, feel the richness and depth of it increasing. It's an indescribable feeling. I've also begun to feel things about my deep past, about the uncountable number of lives I've lived before, about the addiction and mental illness I endured. Working on my past is opening up my present, and my future.
Juvenilia. Writing is my only well-developed artistic skill. Writing started early and came easy. As a preadolescent I already wrote bad poetry with good bones. With adolescence came prose vignettes that weren't too shabby. Like any good artist I got rid of the early stuff long ago. Collectors and historians want us to keep all that crap to feed their own obsessions. But artists know better. They get rid of the juvenilia and continue to get rid of anything mediocre as they go. Part of what I love about dancing is it disappears as I do it. It leaves no art widgets to clutter my life and distract me from the artistic discipline: go dance.
Musicality. I am not an artist of dance. I started partner dancing too late to become an artist, but my musical background gives me a boost: I dance musically. I took music lessons growing up: piano, saxophone, flute, guitar. I never got past basic proficiency with any of them. But I did learn a lot about music. I was young enough that music formed me. It became part of what I am. Musicality is rare among partner dancers, which seems odd. Isn't dancing supposed to embody the music? Partners who are more skilled than I am are happy to dance with me. They say my dancing has more passion than that of their other partners. Many guys think musicality is simply learning fancy moves and memorizing the songs so they can fit their fancy moves to the musical phrases. That's good as far as it goes. But they do it all mentally. They're not swept along by the music, they're calculating. They're just expert technicians, dancing without musical passion. This is especially true in tango. Tango seems to attract people who are brutally dominated by their thinking, the root of all human misery. Sad.
Tool. Writing always came easy. I was born with an ability to write. I was a preternaturally good student of my one brilliant writing teacher Elaine. I didn't work harder than the other students in that class. I worked more effectively because I had help from Leela. Throughout my life I used writing as a tool, a means to an end. In Tallahassee I used writing as a tool to get a career. That was a theme: writing someone else's material to get what I want. That was a mistake I needed to make.
TH's tool. In Boulder writing paved my way. The theme of my adventure there was TH wanting my writing skills. He wanted me to work on the project of writing up his teachings. I got lots of attention from him. He invited into his inner circle for a while before my fall from grace. Later on he invited me to move to the land on the Arkansas River near Salida. Those eight months were my happiest days in Harmonizing. None of this was conscious and intentional; far from it. That was in Leela's hands. Consciously I was just along for the ride.
New jobs. When I first landed in Seattle I wanted to work at something other than writing. My friend Mark Musick helped me out with that. He introduced me to Jeff Fairhall, and I worked several jobs in Jeff's companies. Mark bequeathed me the job of coordinating the Tilth Organic Harvest Fair. He helped me get jobs working produce at Larry's Market, writing ad and promo copy for both Larry's Markets and PCC, and a volunteer gig writing for In Context. I independently found volunteer work writing for the local Sierra Club chapter.
My one great gift. Didn't I say I wanted to do something other than writing? Writing is my one great gift, a skill I acquired early enough that it helped form me into who I am. I can't possibly keep away from it. The gravity of that gift is far stronger than any thoughts, ideas, or plans I might have in my pretty little head. But is was wrong for me to use that gift as a career, and that includes writing for Harmonizing. That was a mistake I needed to make. Writing for other people is a betrayal of my deepest self. Writing's only right when I write for Leela.
Money. So I proceeded to make that mistake. All those writing gigs were either volunteer or small piece work; not much money in that. Also I was getting up at ungodly hours to drive bread around, and I wanted a more sane schedule. I was talking about all this at a dance one night, and the woman I was dancing with said she had something for me; that's how I hooked up with Sandra.
Sandra was an attorney, and one of her clients was a timber company. A consultant had prepared an environmental study and it needed editing. The only technical editing I'd done before had been health and social service reports in Florida. I quickly discovered editing environmental science reports was just a matter of learning a new vocabulary. No problem.
Leading her on. My edit blossomed in two directions: the consultant hired me because he had reports that needed editing, and Sandra and I became lovers. We met at a dance right after I got hired. Afterward we went to the 74th Street Alehouse. We got looped. We made out in the pub. We headed to her car. She dropped to her knees and gave me a blow job right there in the street. No one had ever been that sexually forward with me, not even Ilse. I followed her home. We became a couple. Sandra was a successful attorney with some fat clients. She was a quietly staunch Republican. That made it hotter. I was sleeping with the enemy. When we went out she always treated. One weekend she took me to her condo in Hood River. She was a windsurfer. I had a good time, but her condo seemed arid and sterile. Lifeless somehow. Her place on Mercer Island wasn't like that. She was constantly battling mold and rot. It felt more like home. We started having friction about dancing. She was an OK dancer, but I was used to a lot better than OK. It got to be an issue between us. There was also the uncomfortable fact that I never fell in love with her, and she was clearly crazy about me. I'd just gone along for the ride. All that finally got to me. I felt like a fraud, a faker leading her on. So I broke it off.
EVS. After my successful stint with the consultant I got on the roster at a temp agency specializing in technical writing and editing. After several placements where I didn't fit in, I got placed with EVS. I hit it off with them, and they hired me away from the temp agency. I became their assistant editor. While I was working at EVS my brother Tim died. That affected my ability to think straight for several months. I flubbed a big assignment I was working on and my boss the editor had to take it on. This soured my relationship with EVS.
Windward Environmental. After a few years, staff from EVS split off to form a new company and I split with them as their editor. I worked at Windward for 10 years. But halfway through that decade I began to tank. Going back to a writing career had been a mistake I needed to make, like recreational drugs and marriage. Editing a report was torture. So just after my tenth anniversary they let me go.
Queen Anne Hill. My decade at Windward was the one from 2000 to 2010, the year I broke up with Cindy and met Ruth. It was an explosive decade for me. I got married at the beginning of it and divorced near the end. Working at Windward gave me a new neighborhood to explore: the south slope of Queen Anne Hill. Windward is on Mercer Street a few blocks west of the Seattle Center. I soon discovered Queen Anne Hill as a walker's paradise. I started spending my lunch hour walking and exploring. Sometimes I came to work early and/or left late so I could have more time to walk and explore. Queen Anne has dozens, maybe hundreds of dead ends where you can continue on foot via staircases and trails. Kinnear Park and the nearby greenbelt were like a home away from home. I made more and more use of it as things started going south at home.
Kinnear Park was the setting for a sweet connection that was an important milestone in my progress with love. I started meeting a dance friend there on some of my lunch breaks. She'd been a favorite dance partner for years and became even moreso as my wife lost interest in dancing. She was a tanguera, and I would try out my clumsy little bits of tango on her. I'd taken one six-week beginning tango class a few years before so I knew enough to be especially clumsy and inept. She was sweet about it. We were waltzing, mostly cross-step waltz, and the tango was more just a flavor rather than real technique. A good thing, as I didn't have any.
Writing as art. Soon after I had my come to Jesus moment in 2006 I started writing websites about my spiritual struggle. It was the first time I'd used my writing skills for myself since childhood. Writing is my only developed artistic skill. When I left Windward I happily continued that writing full time. I've written a half dozen or so websites, starting with one about the simple pleasure of being. I wrote that one while I was still at Windward. Those old websites are gone and good riddance. In them I made the mistake of thinking I was some kind of spiritual teacher. Ha. I write all these websites for me, as part of my spiritual quest. They're not for anyone else. This is the latest one. It's the first one where I tell my own story. Being brutally honest about myself keeps the whole thing more honest. So why a website if it's just for me? Putting this up where anyone can see it is the other element enforcing honesty. I feel it my duty to make it good, clean, honest, complete. The work is a lot more challenging than before. Writing this forces me to surrender to my love Leela because she's the one I'm writing for. Leela tests me and stretches me as I write this, demanding I surrender to her and abandon the ugly sin of pride.
Bogus spiritual teacher. Those websites were my juvenilia. I fancied myself a spiritual teacher. I wasn't one then and I am not one now. There are no good ones. You have to be your own teacher. Back then I was attached to the idea of being a spiritual teacher. Leela arranged for me to get dissuaded from that. In one of those websites I offered my services as a spiritual tutor for free. I said that I would be at a certain place at a certain time on certain days. If anyone wanted to do walking meditation with me they could meet me there. No one ever came. I removed the particulars but left the offer up there in more general terms. I went to a Christmas dance in 2007. It was a country music dance a ways out of Seattle. I met a woman. We kept on dancing together and closed the place down. She invited me to follow her home. I stayed the night. I started hanging out with her. In the course of that I told her about my website. She studied what I had to say. She asked if she could do a meditation walk with me. I agreed. She gave me money. On that website I talked about partner dancing as meditation. She asked if she could hire me as a spiritual dance coach, teaching her to dance as meditation. I was intrigued. This was a new idea to me. So I agreed and we had a couple of dance dates. It was going well. We were both having fun. But on our third date she got drunk and spiraled out of control. Instead of walking away I kept trying to get her attention to aim her back toward dancing and meditation. My ego had gotten tangled up in being a spiritual teacher. So I slapped her. Not a hard slap, just an attention getter. I was just being roshi, smacking my student to wake her up, eh? It sure got her attention. She was outraged. I was mortified. I returned her payment. We went our separate ways. I felt wretched about that for a long time. I was a dreadful excuse for a spiritual teacher, just pathetic. It was a good hard lesson.
The problem with spiritual teachers. There are no good spiritual teachers because the fundamental idea is wrong. Early on I did get help from teachers. But the master/disciple is just plain wrong. It was wrong for me to become TH's disciple, and wrong for me to accept that woman as a disciple. Making progress with love is a puzzle only I can solve. If I become a disciple I'm asking someone to be in charge of my spiritual quest. Only I can be in charge of my quest. Receiving spiritual advice from a teacher robs the disciple of the opportunity for self discovery. Self discovery is what making progress with love is: extracting the wisdom from my own experience, my own life so that I become wiser. My love grows. I can't get that from anyone else. Only directly from my own experience, guided by love.
The real teacher. Those early websites, my juvenilia, helped me process stuff from the past, especially traumas caused by TH. These stories are different. This is well on its way to becoming a mature work of art. That's because I'm getting better at getting out of the way of the real artist and simply assisting in the process. This work is both fabulous and nerve wracking. Leela is exquisitely helpful and relentlessly demanding.