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Friendship & Spiritual Literature

Judith & Dawn Skiing

In 1978, Mike and I moved into a home on a little canal in  Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was there that I met Judith, the next woman to have a life-changing impact on my life. Judith lived across the street from  me, and as our friendship blossomed we began to meet several mornings each week at 5:30 a.m. With coffee in hand, we drove to the beach just in time to watch the sunrise, jog, and discuss various spiritual literatures.

If it was EST that cracked opened my armor-plated heart, it was Judith’s influence that replaced the confused and punitive worldview I held with one of infinite spirituality. When I learned that she was studying to be a minister, I was deeply intrigued. Spiritually, I felt like a babe just awakening and ravenously hungry.

While jogging on one of those glorious, sun-filled mornings, I was suddenly struck with a profound knowledge: that the God of my childhood understanding was not the God I was awakening to. That long-held image of a jealous, judgmental, controlling God who lived in a far-away sky could never again be the God of my understanding. On that hallmark morning, I came to believe that God, as Mystery, lived within each of us, inviting our participation in a direct relationship. The beauty of that moment was stunning.

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Cause and effect

First AnniverseryDuring the first three months after my participation in the EST weekends, something deep inside of me was incubating, growing— changing. Words and the concepts those words symbolized kept breaking through into my consciousness in moments of solitude and contemplation.

One day, as I was driving on the Florida Turnpike, I found myself reflecting on how often the EST trainer had used the terms “cause” and “effect.” Cause and effect.  Cause  and effect.  I kept saying the words over and over in my head as I drove—just as perplexed as ever at what in the world they meant—then, suddenly,  I knew. Out of nowhere, my whole life flashed through my mind.

I saw with unmistakable clarity that I was in charge  of my attitude and responses.  I was in charge of how I interpreted each and every one of my life’s experiences.  While it was true that I had not necessarily chosen the actual circumstances I was exposed to,  I was the one who held onto lifelong beliefs about every experience. They were my interpretation of the experiences.  In the light of this awakening,  I first saw that  it was my core belief that  I was hopelessly stupid which naturally ensured  that I would meet and marry men who affirmed and reinforced that very self-imposed  estimation of myself.

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EST, The First Weekend of Personal Growth

In the years since the 1970s, when  it was widely popuWarnerlar, Erhard Seminar Training (EST) has often been cited as a hallmark example of the “human potential” movement fostered by the “me” generation that inspired Tom Wolfe’s article, mentioned earlier.

During a ten-year span, over one million people participated in EST training, including such celebrities as Diana Ross, Valerie Harper, and John Denver. I am aware that EST has been defined as nothing more than a self-indulgent, cult-like movement. I totally understand that perspective, because there were indeed many annoying aspects of the program: the four-day seminars (two weekends) did use a lot of extreme measures such as keeping participants in back-to-back sessions for hours without allowing the use of the bathroom. Such measures were used to break down a person’s ego-defenses, though, and to open us to self examination. I know that our marriage would not have lasted had it not been for how I was affected by those weekends. My exposure to the intense self-searching eventually led to what I refer to as my first conscious moment. A defining moment, indeed!

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After Enlightenment, Self Responsibility

dawn by car 2IT  WAS IN August 1976 that Tom Wolfe, writing for  New York Magazine, first used the expression “the ‘me’ decade” to describe the new prevailing attitude of Americans towards self-awareness and the need of fairness in the conduct of human relationships.  At that time I was struggling with what I saw as a woman’s dependence on men for her sense of empowerment or worth. Feelings ranging from bitter helplessness to seething anger were elicited as I became obsessed with the need to be self-supporting. Determined to never again be dependent on a man for my financial well-being became my number one goal.

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He Calls Me High-Pockets

DSCF2426DSCF2424As the holidays neared, I fretted over where to spend them. This was the first Christmas that my children had lived with their father, and I was torn between wanting  to be with them and with Mike. Carol, knowing that I had no family, invited me and my children to her home for Christmas. This was the beginning of Carol’s kindhearted generosity. Her goodwill would be extended to me and my children over many years to come.

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My Best Life Choice Ever

My nervousness disappeared immediately as a beautiful woman opened the door with a hug for Mike and a most welcoming smile and an extended  hand. I knew immediately that this was Carol.  She was blond, slender, and abundantly gracious. Her fair skin and piercing blue eyes were stunning.  As Mike headed toward the bedroom to visit with Poppa, Carol said, “Come, let me fix you a drink and introduce you to my husband, Bobby. Mike very seldom brings a friend for us to meet, so you must already be special to him.”

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My Best Life Choice

PERHAPS IT WAS because of the embarrassment brought on by my long-ago decayed teeth Mike & Dawn bahamas (5)that I was obsessive about the care of my children’s teeth.  When the twins were two and my daughter four, I brought them for their first dental checkup. Dr. Mike was recommended by my next door neighbor, and was considered one of the best dentists in the area.

Mike was forty-three when we met, divorced once, and had a ten- year-old daughter.  I was twenty-eight, and divorced twice. Several fillings later, Mike walked me to the door and said, “Would you like to go to dinner, or are you involved?” I explained that I was involved, but thanked him for his offer. He said, “You have an open invitation.”

One year later, after my breakup with Bo, I called him to see if the invitation was still open. We agreed upon a time for our first date, but it was our third date that changed my life forever.

Promptly at 6:00 p.m., Mike rang the doorbell for our date. I knew by now that he would open the door of his older but sensible car for me, which I appreciated.  I was not used to such gentlemanly behavior, and it really made me feel like a lady. The radio was playing soft music as we drove toward the interstate.  I thought back to our second date, when we’d had a flat tire during a horrific thunderstorm. Fear knotted my stomach as I waited for the customary onslaught of anger and cursing, as was the case in all three of my past significant relationships.  Instead, Mike calmly navigated the car to the side of the road, looked at me, and said, “We are so lucky to not have been on the interstate  when this happened.” He got out during a break in the rain and changed the tire. To my delight, his calm attitude under fire has remained consistent. He has always been easy on my mind.

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“Your Mother Was a Loose Woman, and You’re not My Daughter”

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After sharing a large pitcher of beer, my father said as delicately as he could, “Your mother was a loose woman, and you’re not my daughter, but after spending time with you tonight, I will always wish that you were.” I was neither surprised, nor upset, that he had denied paternity. In my heart, I knew that he was my father.

As I got up to use the restroom, I looked under the table for my other shoe, and I saw that this man—this stranger who had adamantly denied paternity—was also barefoot under the table. As I lifted my head from beneath the table, I teasingly observed aloud, “Well, I see neither of us is into wearing shoes.”

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Meeting My Father For the First Time

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I had met my grandparents one time, briefly, when I was nineteen. Bill and I had driven up to New England to see his parents, and I persuaded him to make a side trip to “the grandparents’.” While my grandmother was cold and aloof, my grandfather was warm and kind. The first words out of his mouth to me were, “You have eyes just like your father’s.” I would hang onto to those words for years to come because that matched exactly what my mother had said years prior.  I would close my eyes and think about what the rest of my real father’s face looked like. Did it look like mine? Did he have my hair color? Was his nose like mine?

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Meeting My Father

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“DON’T EVER  CALL  me  again!” my paternal grandmother warned harshly as she hung up the phone.  This abrupt conversation, actually just an answer to my greeting of “Hello,” left me bewildered. She and I had been having long-distance phone conversations for at least fifteen years. Sure, the conversations were brief, stiff, and unwelcome on her part, but many years ago, we had made a deal: if she would talk with me occasionally by phone, then I would not pursue the search for my father. I had kept my end of the bargain, so what in the world was the matter with her? I immediately called her back.