(This is the first of nine posts relative to some spiritual insights I have received while on the road and on the trails.)
All relationships have three aspects: The regard one has for self, the regard one has for the other person and the regard the pair have for those around them. I have thought a lot about these aspects, for the past five or six days.
Over the course of my life, I have had lots of “crushes” on girls and women, starting with when I was four, and thought a girl in the neighbourhood was cute, and most recently when I attended a Slow-Food USA regional meeting and was distracted by a tall, long-haired brunette with a very engaging personality. The thing about crushes- most of you know the drill- is that sooner, rather than later, reality sets in, in the form of the receiver’s father, boyfriend or, in the most ambiguous situations, her husband. I also have lots of friends, of both genders and sexual orientations, whom I love dearly, in a platonic or paternal way.
I have moved on from crushes, with no harm done to anyone. My regard for myself stayed intact, I usually ended up with two friends, instead of one, and the Universe chuckled at Gary being at it again.
I have been really, seriously, in deep love only twice in my life. Most of you know a fair amount about the first time. Penny is still with me in my heart, and on my shoulder- advising me to be “dry in the ocean”- unaffected by the “oceans” of temporary poverty, fatigue, being misunderstood, getting lost on a trail, or being devoid of human company. Our marriage thrived, despite extreme adversity on occasion. Most marriages undergo such challenges. Ours were getting bad financial advice, her falling ill, our bankruptcy and our eventually having to put our house on the short-sale market. I managed to keep her in the home, until the end of her earthly days. It was a matter of dignity, as was our working together, consulting on almost everything, getting over disagreements almost as soon as we had them, and affirming our love for one another at least twice a day. Terms of endearment flew back and forth between us, constantly each day, right up until the end. I will see her again some day, in a far better world.
I did not set out, that windy, wet and cold night of December 6, 1980, in Zuni, NM, to meet the first love of my life. It just happened. It ran the course of initial attraction, casual dating, the building of a solid friendship, her working through a crush on a wealthier, more glamourous man, our getting back together, her realizing that she loved me, our wedding, some tempestuousness in the early years of wedlock, parenthood and my being her caretaker, for nearly eight years.
I did not set out, either, a year after Penny’s passing, to meet and be enamoured of yet another person. Indeed, for the first year I knew the woman I now regard as my best friend in the world, I was not conscious of any strong feelings for her, other than that I was very, very happy when we were briefly together, and it was she whom i wanted to be the first to know when I hiked Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River and back, on the same day. She was in a good place, emotionally and in terms of her relationship with her significant other.
I was raised by loving parents, who taught me the sanctity of marriage and the need for both partners to do their absolute best, way beyond any concept of comfort zone. The spouse’s feelings came first, then the welfare of the children, and the status of the family in the larger community. My Mom and Dad loved us, one equally as much as the others. They loved each other best of all.
That was what brought my buried feelings to the surface, not long ago. I had a fairly long talk with my friend, and learned she was not being treated with dignity and consideration. My tendency with Penny, when she was disrespected by anyone, was to come to her defense. It worked for her, because while she was incredibly intelligent and articulate, she was used to her father’s ferocious defense of her and her sisters.
The situation this time is far different. For one thing, while I recognize that my feelings for my best friend are deep, indelible and that they are never going away, I have had to be more careful. She is the second woman I have ever loved totally and completely, outside of my biological family, and yet romance is a minor factor, if it is a factor at all. There are, at present, other goals that concern us both, but which she, first and foremost, has to be the one to promulgate. I can, and will, defend my best friend, if push comes to shove. For the present, though, it’s her dignity and self-worth that need to be front and center. I want, above all else, for this beautiful and powerful woman to realize her dreams.
As I was wandering among the sacred precincts of Medicine Wheel, Bear Lodge/Devils Tower, Harney Peak and Pipestone Quarries, over the past four days, I kept getting the message that the Universe was not done with me yet, in terms of my relationships with women- that there could be as many as nine people, from Penny onward, who would be part of some sort of inner circle of spirit friends, between now and the day I pass to the next realm. These women could be very old or very young. Most would already have spouses or significant others, whose dignity and personal challenges would also require my due consideration. Our relationships would be deep, and primarily spiritual, with physical attraction only a fleeting impulse. Maybe that’s the larger lesson from the events of the past week or so. I may very well never see my best friend again in this life, though I hope that’s not the case. I know, however, that I will never be the same person I was before I met her, and that in itself is a comfort.
This brings me to redemption. Christians take it on faith that Christ took care of the redemption of humanity, by His own sacrifice. Baha’is believe that a Messenger of God offers His followers a path to redemption. I have had to redeem my worth countless times, over the years. I have had plenty of help in that regard, from family members, real time friends, online friends and from my soul mate in the spirit world. Ultimately, though, I have to be the one achieving redemption. So does each other person, in his or her own space. My best friend needs to be away from me for the time being, so I am hoping she doesn’t see this until she is ready to read it. Still, I needed to share my insights, and will continue to share them, regarding other aspects of my journey. Until I see you again, if ever, I pray all the forces of the universe to light your way, my blessed and irreplaceable fellow traveler.