I hadn’t expected to find myself divorced and childless at 47. Nor could I have anticipated that my 85 year-old stepfather’s devotion to my mother over the past twenty-one years would encourage me to review my choices and the men that had led me to this barren impasse. I counted how often Bob extolled my mother’s beauty and sex appeal. During our visits he told me how he missed holding her since his recent move to the Paramus Veteran’s Home and I thought that my profusion of golden red hair and curvy Italo-American frame commanded at least as much admiration as my attractive 82-year-old petite blonde mother. However, instead of collecting verbal poems, I was cuddling my Himalayan cat who recently abandoned me and decided to sleep in the living room during the languid summer months.
I went to a hypnotist. “ Please,” I said, “purge my negative thoughts.” I particularly enjoyed the session where he told my subconscious mind that I was intelligent, creative and beautiful. I deserved love, intimacy and fulfillment. His words were such a shock to my battered ego that I went home and vomited 7 times and then burned with a 102-degree fever. Still, I thought that I had gotten something, other than nausea, from the session. I needed to hear that. I listened to Louise Hay, downloaded pod casts from hayhouseradio.com. I adopted her affirmation, “I’m beautiful and everyone loves me.” I complained to an artist friend whose personal freedom inspired and frightened me that the last man with whom I shared a combustible chemistry lived in Ireland and was I feared, still married, though he had told me he was separated.
My hypnotherapist was also a medium. I asked him if I’d hear from my Irish, almost boyfriend.
“I’m getting that there’s some deception there. I think he’s still married.” I went to Peter to break the pattern of deception in relationships. I did not want to hear that he thought there was deception yet again at work, wrecking my romantic fantasies.
“Are you sure? Check again.” I explained that he felt like the man that I was meant to be with. If not him then who and when? I asked.
“Have you put out the call for your soul mate?” Peter asked.
Like some kind of cosmic email? “How do you do that?” I asked. Somehow I wasn’t aligning my energies with the cosmic vibration that resonated with love and happiness. That was hard to do when my friends were basically on a suicide watch for me.
“Believe in your heart. When you’re ready, put out the call to him. But you have to be ready.”
I went under hypnosis again at which time Peter asked me to imagine a fire. I would use this flame to burn the negative memories, emotions and situations that no longer served me. I watched the flames sizzle as I mentally tossed in my childhood — that covered a lot but could basically be summed up in one word– horror. Next I tossed my marriage, ex- in laws, bad work situations and relationships that didn’t serve me. I watched the burning columns reach 10 feet, 20 feet and blot out the moon. Eventually they expended their fury and lay sooty ashes on the cool midnight sand. Peter prompted and I agreed that my past was gone. He then asked me to open a beautiful new book. That was my new life. He asked me to name and describe my new book of life. “A Life of Service, Purpose and Love,” I answered further describing the violet cover and glinting, iridescent colors.
After twenty sessions at $220 per, my hypnotist declared me resistant to change. I told my friends that I was demoted to the class for the spiritually challenged. He reduced his rate to $150. He said that we needed to eradicate my fear of change and erase the programming that I needed to earn my family’s love before I could accept a man’s love. So in another hypnotic state, Peter struggled to remove the ties that kept me single. He employed neurolinguistic programming. He asked me if I was ready to let go of my fear of changing. Was I ready to release the expectation that I could only find love once I experienced familial support and nurturing? My conscious self was down with the plan but my subconscious was attached to my misery. Peter asked me to remember a time when I’d felt loved and happy. When he patted my right hand the feelings would intensify. He then told me to remember the panic associated with chasing people who couldn’t love me. This time, as he patted my left hand, the feelings intensified. Eventually he was rapidly tapping my left, then my right hand. My overloaded synapses began to reel. Peter ended each segment with a series of tapings on my right hand, as I focused on feeling content and loved. I would remember these feelings each time I tapped my hand. I felt literally tapped out.
I questioned whether I was resistant to change. A desultory review of my romantic liaisons confirmed that I was a serial monogamist – with myself. Like my parent’s marriage, I found that I participated exclusively in relationships that were mired in deceit. I believed that my family didn’t want me and perhaps I was recreating these experiences with men as a way to heal or learn. Peter regressed me to the in utero state. He asked me what I was experiencing. I said that it was dark and inhospitable. I felt movement, tumultuous upheavals. I thought that someone was trying rather diligently to dislodge me.
I’d been told that my mom became aware of my father’s illness after he collapsed from congestive heart failure when I was ten. But the recent hypnotic memories prompted me to ask my mom again when she realized that my dad was critically ill. Then the truth was laid between us as we sat dining at Nicks, an Upper East Side local family-style restaurant. My mom discovered that my father was seriously ill when she was pregnant with me, her third child.
“How dare you saddle me with another child when you’re a sick man? When were you going to tell me? I never would have married you…” my mom told me about her reaction to the news. I forgave her honesty, and realized that her cognitive impairment allowed her to speak the truth after so many years. Her unhappiness made it almost impossible to nurture me. But she did meet Bob after my father died and he was able to love her in ways she couldn’t love herself or her children.
Their courtship was defined by their mutual love of poetry and a political battleground that subsided as my mom, a Republican, confessed – years-too-late, that she was sorry that she had voted for W in the last two elections. Bob had fought in WWII and regaled her with his battle stories and reminisces about the day the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. They took long drives from my mom’s comfortable home in Marlboro, New Jersey, where Bob remarked that he knew all of the back roads – a result of his training in recon. He greeted the farms that were their local landmarks. They stopped for lunch. They regularly visited a local pond to feed the ducks. Their pleasures were simple – their situation more complicated. Bob, who had been born to a wealthy family and who had called One Fifth Avenue his childhood home, had developed a severe gambling problem. He came to my mother with a full heart but an empty bank balance. She weighed her options and his 6’2” frame and opened herself to his courtly ways and manners. He provided the emotional balance and ballast that she craved. My mom supported him and took him to the top New York oncologists when he was diagnosed with cancer weeks after I separated from my then husband. They sustained and nurtured each other. They shared a love for poetry and music – fragments of poetry and Cole Porter provided the accompaniment to their unique duet. The last time I visited him, he quoted Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din, and cradled his teddy bear.
My fear of abandonment, carefully nurtured during my disruptive childhood had prepared me for – well – abandonment. I learned to abandon myself by ignoring the gnawing intuitive flashes that warned against my pattern of involvement with unavailable men. I trampled my urge to cancel my wedding two weeks before the scheduled nuptials. I also convinced myself that my last companion was a probable life partner. Even though I had initially decided that he was engaging, talented and would be a good entrée to the dating scene but not, husband material. My hypnotist patiently told me that I wasn’t ready to meet my partner before I learned to live with and trust myself.
“You won’t trust him because you’ll be too afraid that he’ll abandon you and you’ll ruin it,” he said.
Peter told me to enter a room where there were two seats. I would occupy one and facing me would be people who had wounded and hurt me. He assured me that they would be restrained. I was free to experience the closure and emotional release that I had been denied. Peter encouraged me to demonstrate physically, verbally and emotionally what I felt. My conscious mind initially balked but I was soon thrashing, smashing and socking my ex-husband’s face. Peter asked me what he wanted to tell me. I was surprised when he said that he was sorry and felt a mournful sort of closure for the two young twenty-three year old’s that we’d been. I continued this exercise with my parents, sisters, and a boss or two. At the end of each session with my chosen loved one, Peter asked me to repeat, I release you and set you free. I release you and free myself. I felt drained but also lighter.
I thought that he could cosmically reprogram me – through a hypnotic speed-reading kind of plan. I realized that I alone had to embrace different choices. I met a handsome blonde at the Brooklyn Shore Road pier after a recent session. He told me that he was fighting a lawsuit for a work related injury and hadn’t worked in two years. I looked into his clear blue eyes, admired his 6”1’ build and said that it had been nice chatting and sped towards my Toyota Corolla.
My idea of love has been tempered over the years. I no longer refer to the flickering monochromatic images of movies from the 30’s and 40’s. Smoky voices, penetrating stares and forbidden kisses were, I thought, okay for the movies. But I decided that I was ready for my life. Two faltering octogenarians reminded me of what I had been missing