If I’m going to get an unpleasant big Dayenu type hint that my recipe for success wasn’t really working out, why not get it in October? It is my least favorite month. Any hope for a Seattle Indian summer is pretty much gone. It’s cold and usually raining but not yet cold enough for snow in the mountains. The curse of October doesn’t just apply to Seattle climate. It was in October of 1929 that the nation’s booming economy was shown to be an illusion by Black Thursday. In October 2006, my carefully constructed identity of success was also about to be shown to be an illusion. I was an established doctor. I was married to a beautiful wife . We lived in a large renovated home. I had wonderful kids. Our dog had graduated with honors from tricks class at obedience school and was acknowledged by everyone to be a canine genius. I was a month away from my 46th birthday. Rachel and I were sitting in our hot tub, maintained by me at a perfect 104 degrees, with crystal clear water and just enough Chlorine to smell clean but not too much to make your skin itch. If I drank alcohol, I would have been holding a Maitai in my hand, if I smoked, maybe a cigar. I was in the stock market boom of my life. I suppose that in October of 1929, someone must have had the guts to say what people already suspected. In October of 2006, that someone was Rachel. She asked for a divorce.
If all my years of study, yoga, therapy and workshops had been working, I would have known that my identity as successful doctor family guy wasn’t real anyway. I would have felt thankful that Rachel was opening me up to a new and wondrous life of possibility and adventure. I would have had imperturbable joy no matter what the circumstances. I WOULD have. But alas I didn’t.
What I DID do was freak out.
I couldn’t sleep. I would wake the dog up and walk him all over the UW campus at strange hours of the morning. The dog, unlike all of the attorneys, therapists, real-estate agents, contractors and subcontractors who would soon form my personal support team, the dog never sent me a bill. This is why dogs are man’s best friend.
I got disabling panic attacks. I was not the type of person who would ever have a panic attack. Panicky people got panic attacks, not me. Well, I was never going to be dumb enough to hurt my back or give myself carpal tunnel syndrome either, and you know what happened there. I started having episodes of chest pain where my heart would beat so fast that it felt like I was having a heart attack. I was anesthetizing a patient one-day and the thought arose, “I have no family,” and my chest started hurting so much that I asked to be relieved from the case and went home “sick.” I had completed work shifts with migraine headaches and kidney stones, sometimes both at the same time, but that one little thought was too much for me.
Here’s the bottom line to all of this. I believed that I would never have love again in my life. And I knew why. At that point, even at age 46, I was apparently still lagging behind peers in one critical area, sexuality. My interest in men had gotten stronger in my 40’s. That was not supposed to happen. Physical attractions were supposed to have peaked 20 years earlier. I had never acted on those attractions but they were and what they meant was that if my marriage ended, I would never be able to find love with another woman.
At that point, finding love with a man was not going to happen either. I believed that that was the road back to humiliation and failure. I was not going to take even one step down that road. It was the perfect storm of life failure. In it, I was doomed to what I was calling the “squalid apartment scenario.” I had a long beard. I smelled bad. I had scraggly hair (what was left of it). I lived by myself in a dirty apartment with cockroaches and poor quality shampoo … alone… for the rest of my life…. while everyone else, Rachel included, was enjoying the love fest of life on planet earth.
I had used so many methods to combat unhappiness. Financial and career success hadn’t worked. Mystical enlightenment teachings hadn’t worked. Therapy, oh, very expensive therapy, hadn’t worked. And now, even a loving relationship hadn’t worked. But (pause) the relationship had gotten real close. Maybe the Dayenu moment here was that I should have another go at a loving relationship, this time with a man. So, I employed all of my considerable abilities and talents in the search for a new lover, this time, a man.