His mother had never suggested we participate in anything before. Since she was studying to be a minister, I listened closely. “I think this experience would be good for you and Thom,” she said. I’d never met anyone like her. She was the quintessential mother and wife that stereotypes are made of. She was soft spoken, kind, and polite. Her husband was a senior engineer with the Department of Defense. They lived in a perfectly suburban house outside Washington, DC. Her four children, three girls and a boy,ranged in age from 13 - 25. I was in a relationship with Thom, her oldest. He was five years younger than me and had lived a much more sheltered existence than my chaotic journey up until then.
She didn’t seem like the new age type at all. If I didn't know anything about her, I would have prematurely pegged her as a submissive Christian wife, Stepford Style. But I'd have pegged her wrong. Her quiet, gentle spirit did probably get translated as submissive, but her choices were based more in her spiritual understanding than in a need to make others better than her, or passively submit to them. She saw God in everyone.
There was a deep connection between us right from the start. Love radiated from her.
If she was recommending we do this shaman thing, how bad could it be? Carole went to church, was studying to be a minister. She was Christian through and through.
I bit the bait, and said I'd check it out. So did Thom. It would entail a great deal of physical strength because we'd meet up with 15-30 people from around the country a few times a year in places like the back country of the Grand Tetons, or the Canyonlands of Utah, Death Valley in the California desert, and sometimes in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains.
I hired a personal trainer to prepare for these journeys. Something I should do now too. Just to get through the day.
(Lissa Rankin: I showed up in the yurt in the middle of a meadow, expecting to encounter a long-bearded Inca decked out in tribal robes, maybe smoking a peace pipe. I didn’t expect what I found—a handsome Kiefer Sutherland look alike sitting cross-legged in blue jeans. Ten of us crowded into the yurt and formed a circle, while the shaman began chanting to the four winds, invoking the spirits of nature and honoring Pachamama (Mother Earth). Inhaling a floral essence from a bottle, he exhaled misty puffs of fragrance to the north, east, south, and west, calling in the ancestors and the totem animals, before asking us to lie on our backs on padded mats. We listened and closed our eyes, while he beat a drum like a collective heartbeat. His voice intoned over the drumbeat, lulling us into a sort of tribal trance)
At one time in our life, each of us wonders what we'd choose if we could do something over again in life. Thom is what I'd do over again. I hurt him more than I ever intended. And I did it more impulsively than I should have. I didn't mean to do that, I just did. I was so full of dreams and desire for the future, and on a fast ride upward in my career. Plus, Thom wasn't my perfect partner, but I wasn't quite sure why. He was a good guy, and he loved me. But, much more importantly, he loved Kyle. He loved Kyle as much as any man could love a boy. It brings me to tears right now just thinking about it.
From the moment he was born, the two of them were inseparable. It's hard to describe because Thom was the strong, silent type and hard to read emotionally. Except when he was around Kyle. He softened. You could see his heart and his most honest intention of love and goodness. It was beautiful. Together, we'd made an excellent investment in DC to renovate a house on 2nd street, and I had a great job to help make it happen. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I fell in love with someone else. I knew Thom wasn't the right person, but we had a good friendship - even though I struggled with how to deal with his anger issues and ongoing depression. I didn't know what to do about it. I couldn't change his mood, and I couldn't live with it. It was incredibly difficult....and I bailed.
I wish I hadn't. For Thom's sake, Carole's sake, and most of all, for Kyle's sake. In the long run, it would've been much better for Kyle to have been raised in that family - and I shorted him the experience. Just as I shorted Thom the experience of being his dad. I still can't forgive myself for that.
My love affair with Phil was exciting. We had a good working relationship - we worked for the same company. We traveled together around the country and we were a corporate team managing the east coast hospitals for a corporate chain. We were good together. But he wasn't my perfect partner either...but I fell crazy in love with him anyway. I was completely out of my mind. I couldn't think of anything but him. Total obsession. Totally like a drug.
We packed up our east coast lives and moved to Sun Valley,Idaho to start a new life. A small,independently owned treatment center there had recruited us, and it seemed like a great opportunity and a different kind of life. It looked like a great adventure. If I couldn't go to Africa with the Peace Corps, why not Idaho?
Instead of turning into a life that dreams are made of, it was incredibly painful. Looking back,these years tested everything in me. I'm not really sure why I stayed in Idaho so long...I'm not sure if I was ever really happy there. Except for the early years with Okie - they were learning years.