Rich and I were never to have crossed paths at Purdue University. He was a graduate student in the clinical psychology department and I was an undergraduate who had just returned from a year abroad in Spain. My roommate had seen a notice on the bulletin board about a weekly Encounter Group meeting for grad students beginning in early September and continuing until May. She persuaded me to go with her and the 10 male psychology graduate students were only too happy to have us join their group. There Rich and I met, both of us recently heartbroken from our previous “loves.”
We had our first real date the week of Thanksgiving, were engaged by February, and married on August 16, 1969! Then we really began to get to know one another or, as some might say, “reality set in.” From an ACIM perspective, we enjoyed a holy relationship when we “fell in love” and decided to spend the rest of our lives together. Then came the development of our “special” relationship, complete with the upsets, disappointments, and arguments that were foreshadowed in our wedding ceremony by the priest that officiated. He cautioned us that over time we’d learn how to love better while developing an arsenal of “weapons” that we could use against one another. Interestingly enough both Rich and I remember well this part of our wedding, while many other details have faded.
The first two years were really tough. Five years into our marriage our daughter was born. Two years later came our second daughter and in 1981 our son arrived. Now a whole new set of challenges faced us, and living in Oklahoma City, far from our families, it seemed more lonely and overwhelming than ever. I felt depressed, suicidal at times, and trapped. I remember crying all day Christmas day sometime in the mid- 80s and then vividly recall the day when I simply said, “God help me to see the Christ in Rich.”
Ask and ye shall receive. After three friends on separate occasions asked if I were a student of ACIM, I deduced that perhaps I was to buy and read this book. Well, that didn’t happen! Rich gave me a copy on our anniversary in 1996 and I immediately realized the need for a study group…..which conveniently was meeting on Sunday nights in the home of friends of ours just two blocks from our house. Together we read the text, became familiar with the Workbook, and gradually got more and more familiar with the principles and teachings of a Course. But, it wasn’t until we heard about Jennifer Hadley and began listening to her weekly Unity Radio show that it occurred to me the difference between studying and living ACIM. It was February 2012 when Jennifer was teaching about a holy relationship versus a special relationship, and we had decided to take Finding Freedom. Soon I was identifying more and more all of the negative patterns of judgment and anger I had forged into my daily life with Rich. I recognized how often I sought to “manage, manipulate, and control” his behavior. We already had begun an early morning meditation practice, I had memorized the lessons in the ACIM Workbook, but to really live A Course in Miracles was clearly the next step.
It has been a continuous journey since then of spending hours on our prayer carpet excavating and releasing old grievances and patterns of blaming and shaming. Yet, in preparing for our 50th I felt a new commitment and urgency to be able to stand together and celebrate our life together, in the presence of our adult children, our grandchildren, our extended family, and new friends, by feeling completely congruent and more “in love” than on the day we married. I committed to make our “special” relationship a “holy” one and it’s happening.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in our next Newsletter!