(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now in my late seventies, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Living My Nightmare

I called Aunty Ev my second Mum. She understood that we had been through trauma. She didn't dwell on it, but gave us positive feedback and support. She was like a cross between a mother, a sister and a pal to me. I could talk to her about clothes and boys, books and movies, moral values and politics, and the way our stepmother had treated us. 

She didn’t say about that last – as the girls at school had, the only time I tried to tell them – ‘You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?’ She accepted my word, listened with understanding, and took my side. 

She had opinions and firm values, and expressed them. They didn't always agree with mine, but she wasn't attached to being right. She could allow for different points of view without surrendering her principles. She didn’t tell me how to be, but she did give me advice if I asked. She presented me with options. I found it amazing.

It wasn't surprising that my school friends didn't believe me. My experiences with the Wicked Stepmother were bizarre. 

Dad married her not so much on the rebound as to get away from a small place where everyone knew that my mother had fallen in love with someone else, and almost certainly knew that she had good reason after many years of serial infidelities on my father's part. 

It was the old, 'But they didn't mean anything!' – to which I now wonder, ‘Then why do it?’ But he is not here any more to answer that.

Many years later, Mum said to me, 'If only he hadn't always felt obliged to confess!' Back in those days it wasn't widely understood that confession (followed by some form of forgiveness, absolution or self-punishment) is a way of giving oneself permission to sin again.

It was different when she finally turned the tables and it did mean something. (Not one for light affairs, it had to mean a lot or she would never have done it, even with all the excuses she had.) Ironically, Dad gave her an ultimatum: give up the other man, or it's divorce. Like her daughter decades in the future (facing a husband who said, in effect, 'Do as I want or it's over') she threw his ultimatum back in his teeth. 

Her lover's history was much the same: a wife who embarrassed him with her notorious affairs for many years while he tried to keep things together for the sake of the children, and then – by the time his children were grown up and married themselves – falling in love with Mum and finally straying in his turn.

Then, for the divorce laws of the time, these two had to be the guilty parties, caught in the act. It was a big scandal, written up in Truth, the local gutter press of the day. Then there was a quick divorce.  

After which – Mum told me many years  later, when she confided the whole saga – Dad said privately to her, and her lover's ex-wife said separately to him, 'Don't rush to get married. You can do better.' 

'I don't know what they thought we went through all that for, if not to marry each other!' she said.

My Dad demanded custody of my brother and me during school term, and my mother didn't fight it. Whatever his faults as a husband (and really there weren't that many, except for the big one) he had always been a great, and adored, father. 

Visiting his family interstate to break the news of the impending divorce, he met a rich widow. She was holidaying with her daughter, who was eighteen months older than me. They got chatting on a train journey, and spent time together at their destination. (I found out the details later from the girl who became my stepsister.) 

When he returned home to Tasmania, they followed, putting up in a hotel for appearances' sake. They arranged outings that included her daughter, Merrie, and me. They expressed the hope that we would become great friends. And in fact, innocent of any agenda (Australian teenagers were a lot more naive in the fifties) we did get on well. 

He then proceeded to introduce Merrie's mother to all his friends. The cover story was that she and her daughter were on holiday, and Merrie and Rosemary had chummed up. His friends weren't fooled. Polite for his sake (he was well-loved) and with initial goodwill, they didn't really take to this woman. One who had regular business in the hotel where she stayed remarked years later that he used to see her waiting for Dad in the foyer, 'like a big black widow spider'. 

Also, she seemed to expect that Dad's old friends would side with him against Mum instead of still counting her as a friend and being 'civilised' about the whole thing. She held it against them forever after. Well, perhaps she had heard a one-sided view of events. Come to think of it, he very likely didn't confide in his intended that he had been a serial philanderer! However, her adversarial attitude didn't endear her to anyone.

My Mum was a pretty woman and a good conversationalist, with nice manners. She had humour and sweetness. People were fond of her too. She and Dad had been a popular couple. The Wicked Stepmother (not yet in that role) was probably slightly older than him, stout of stomach, with a finely wrinkled face, and she reeked of heavy perfume. As far as one could gather, she didn't even seem to share Dad's values or political leanings. Everyone thought he was marrying her for her money, and I still think so. 

But that was only part of the story. He couldn't stand the loss of face at his wife having left him for another man. And, to be fair, despite all the infidelities he did actually love my mother. She was truly the love of his life. Only I believe he was one of those men who had women separated into sexy bad girls to have a good time with, and the good girls to marry and have kids with. At any rate, he couldn't bear to stay in a small town on a small island, where everyone knew what had happened and where he could not avoid seeing Mum with her new husband – where, in fact, they would have continued to move in the same circles because the town wasn't big enough for it to be otherwise. He resigned his job and prepared to leave.

Though it wasn't what Mum had expected, and she didn't warm to her replacement at their one meeting, she put a good face on it. 

'We'll have you for the holidays,' she said.

My brother knew nothing of all this, except that Mum and Dad had separated. When Dad went interstate to tell his mother and siblings, he took my brother with him and, as it was the long school holidays, left him with a sister and her family on a farm, 'to get to know his cousins'.

Eventually Merrie and her mother went back home. Dad followed with me, making a detour to the farm to leave me there with my brother for a week or so. That bit was good; we had fun with our cousins. Then he arranged for us to take a train to our new home.

He asked me not to tell my brother about our mother's remarriage. He would explain it later, he said. What he did explain, when he picked us up after our train journey, was that he himself had just got married. It was a shock to me, and devastating for my 11-year-old brother, who had had no idea and got the whole lot landed on him at once.

We had grown up in a temperate climate, in a hilly, tree-lined town on an island with mountains, lakes, rushing rivers, forests, and of course the sea. We arrived to a flat inland region of low scrub and one large, sluggish river. It was a place of harsh, dry heat. The countryside was so parched that many irrigation channels had been made to water the grapes and oranges which were the major crops and livelihood. There was not a hill in sight, let alone a mountain. Except along the river bank, trees were also in short supply.

We had been part of a neighbourhood and community where we and our family had a place, where our parents’ adult friends treated us warmly, and we went to school with their children. We had an extended family of my mother’s relatives whom we saw often. In our new home we didn't even have my father’s relatives, whom we at least knew of. During our childhood my Dad’s brothers and sisters and of course his mother, my Grandma, kept in touch with Dad and Mum often via letters and photos. Some cousins, and some aunts and uncles, we met in person when they visited us in Tasmania. Grandma visited a number of times. But they all lived in and around Melbourne, in the south of the State of Victoria. Stepmother had a home and thriving business (a general store) in a very different kind of place, a tiny village outside the town of Mildura in the north of the State.

My stepmother's way of life and house rules were different from what we were used to. Things were much more formal in some ways. But it was the country, not the suburbs, and life was in other ways more rough and ready than we were used to. We didn't have the practical self-reliance of country kids.

We were presented with a 19-year-old step-brother who clearly resented both us and our father. He was barely polite at the dinner table and not at all anywhere else. He mostly ignored my brother and me as if beneath contempt. He had left school and was working in the family business, which had been his father’s. His mother was keeping it going until he could step in and take over. (It occurs to me now, so very belatedly, that this was admirable on her part, and quite something for a woman unexpectedly widowed to take on.)

Merrie and I were glad to see each other. We had some whispered discussions about the surprising fact of our parents' marriage, working out with hindsight that it must have been planned soon after they first met. We didn't at that stage realise the Stepmother had an agenda too. She wasn't likely to find a new husband in a community where she was well-known and not much liked. 

Her late husband had been very well liked – had grown up there, taken over in his turn the family business started by his grandfather, and was admired as a local sportsman in his youth. She was the daughter of a wealthy grazier (Australian landed gentry) far south, and they fell in love when she arrived as a new teacher at the tiny local school. She was attractive when young (I saw the photos) and must have seemed a glamorous, even exotic stranger. He was handsome and well-to-do, and I gather quite a dynamic personality. Apparently it was a passionate, devoted match. But then he had a heart attack, or stroke or something (I’m hazy on the details) and died suddenly, much too young.

The fact that she was a snob probably wasn't enough to cause her to be disliked, as she was mingling with the local upper crust anyway; but I overheard gossip from people who had no idea the schoolgirl within earshot was connected to her – she was considered vain and conceited by many. I expect there was resentment, too, that he had married a newcomer instead of one of the local girls. And then, after being widowed, she took to drink. I have some sympathy for that, but what it turned her into wasn't nice.

We, her new family, took a little while to realise that the heavy perfume was to cover up the smell of alcohol, and that when she was drunk by the end of the day, she would become irrationally angry and make strange, unfair accusations. My brother and I would try to be polite, and as inoffensive as possible, while she subjected us to long tirades. She would impose penalties such as extra chores for things we had not actually done. There was no reasoning with her.

At first we tried to talk to our Dad. His response wounded us deeply: ‘I’ve had one broken marriage and I won't have you kids wrecking another!’ 

(Years later, my psychiatrist, hearing this, exclaimed, "Why didn’t he say to her, 'Leave my bloody kids alone!'?"  [Yes, this experience was a huge factor in a full-scale nervous breakdown that happened when I was in my twenties. I’ll get to that.] I didn't have an answer then, but I have one now: my father was a weak man.)

She soon realised my father had not married her for love but was in truth still pining for my Mum. Her jealousy, taken out on my brother and me, was fierce. I've said that what drink turned her into wasn't nice – but in truth she wasn't very nice in the first place.

In some ways her behaviour was quite funny, even to us then, intimidated as we were (we wouldn’t have dared laugh openly). She had a way of playing favourites, being charming to most of the family alongside addressing foul remarks in a hideous tone of voice to whoever was out of favour at the time. I still remember one day when everyone was in her bad books, and she turned to her crabby old orange cat, saying in her sweetest voice, ‘Oh, you’re such a beautiful lad, Fritz!’ Funny as in pathetic, ridiculous, obvious and silly!

It wasn’t funny at all when my little brother, traumatised, started wetting the bed, and rather than receiving any understanding was treated as ‘naughty’, required to cart his heavy sheets to an outdoor laundry trough and wash them by hand in cold water, even in the middle of winter.

It wasn’t funny one night when she gave us a dinner with small pieces of broken glass in it. No, we didn't eat it; it wasn't ground too fine to detect, and we weren’t stupid. Neither did we complain. As I said, we were not stupid. We disposed of it quietly and went hungry. I expect we snuck into the kitchen later and got ourselves a piece of fresh fruit, hoping she wasn’t counting what was in the fruit bowl.

It wasn't funny when some of my best books went missing, and some days later my stepmother led me to where they lay under a hedge, damaged by rain and mud. 

‘That naughty little boy!’ she said, oozing fake sympathy. I knew who had done it, and it wasn't my brother. He claimed, of course, to know nothing about it; I believed him, my father didn’t. There was some punishment, I forget what.

It was even less amusing when I accepted an invitation to spend a long weekend with my godmother in Melbourne, and came back to find that in my absence my athletic 19-year-old stepbrother had decided to inflict on my small, skinny 11-year-old brother some tortures he’d learned at his posh boarding school. Why? My brother had wet the bed again, or been accused of disobedience or ‘cheek’ or something. I forget; and in any case I think the ‘reason’ was an excuse. When I was there, I was able to stand up for him a bit despite being intimidated myself. I was a good talker and, combining that with a meek, placating manner, could often talk our way out of trouble, or at least mitigate the punishments.

Nor was it funny when my mother bought me a beautiful party dress after I turned 16, which I wore to a couple of parties on a school holiday visit home (Tasmania was of course our real home, in our minds and hearts) only to have it disappear after I took it back to that other home. Some time later, my stepsister spotted it on a stall of used clothing, at a fair to raise money for charity. (My stepsister was allowed to go to the fair, and on other outings; Cinderella and her little brother were of course not.) It was a very distinctive dress, easily recognised. But my stepsister was not brave enough to make an issue of it. She wasn't game to arouse her mother's anger either.

She was not an ‘ugly’ stepsister but an ally as much as she could be. She confided in me that soon after their father died, she and her brother (13 and 15 then) sat down and plotted as to how they could murder their mother and get away with it, as her treatment of them became ever more crazy and horrible. They couldn’t work out a foolproof murder, so they abandoned the idea. (I can tell this secret now, as all parties are long deceased.) So you see, it wasn't just my brother and me being upset and super-sensitive; our reaction was not exaggerated. I feel obliged to say this, even now, as our few attempts to talk about it at the time were not believed. 

I don't remember us fantasising about murder; not as a serious possibility anyway. But we did dream of getting away. Because the divorce court had decide the custody arrangements, I didn't think that was possible. I was 15. It didn't occur to me that I might ask for the ruling to be reconsidered. And when I went home for holidays, I had such a good time with my mother and a stepfather who turned out to be sensible, kind and fun, that I put the horror of school terms behind me. I was living my nightmare most of the year, treading on eggshells, utterly unable to be spontaneous or authentic while under Stepmother's roof. Certainly not free! When I went home, I could be me again. I could have a life like a normal teenager. I revelled in it. In that normality, I wanted to forget the nightmare while I could. I never even mentioned what was going on. 

My brother told me many years later that he mentioned it, as hard and often as he could. I asked Mum about that, and she explained that because I said nothing, and the stories seemed so preposterous, they thought he must be exaggerating because he was upset by the divorce. They could not believe my father would tolerate such things if they were true. (I am sure no-one else who knew him earlier could possibly have believed it either. But I witnessed him being mentally castrated, bit by bit, over the two years I was there.) By the time my mother and stepfather understood what had been happening, we had escaped. Meanwhile, the nightmare wasn't completely unrelieved.

My stepsister had finished secondary school and was sent to a ‘finishing school’ in Melbourne – a place where daughters of the wealthy went to learn domestic arts that would enable them to manage a household with servants – so I only saw her when she was briefly home for long weekends and holidays. Even so, because her holidays were not identical with ours (when we went to Tasmania) we had some time to cement our friendship. It was one alleviation of the situation, for me if not for my brother. 

My brother and I both made friends at our respective new schools, so that helped a bit too. Our days were not entirely Dickensian. And my mother had insisted that my brother continue his music lessons, at her expense, so a teacher was found. That got him out of the house regularly, which must have been some relief.

The one thing my Dad did in my brother’s defence was to arrange for him to leave for Melbourne with me when I left to take up my University place. He told me long afterwards that he could see that, without me as a buffer, my brother wouldn’t have survived emotionally. This did not make me feel better towards my father; rather I blamed him more, that he had that much awareness yet did so little. However, I remain very thankful for his decision, as I believe it was indeed a matter of my brother's survival. 

I still recall vividly my stepmother’s goodbye. My brother and I were waiting with our luggage for Dad to get the car. As soon as he was out of sight and earshot, she leaned down to my little brother, and right in his face said venomously, ‘Don’t you ever think you can come back here to see your father!’ Then she stood up, turned to me, and said in a voice dripping honey,’Rosemary dear, you’re welcome here any time.’

No, I didn't spit in her eye; still much too intimidated. If I remember rightly I made no response, and next minute Dad was there with the car. But I made a silent vow never to set foot in her house again.'Where my brother is not welcome,' I said in my mind, 'I will not go.' And I never did. I never had anything more to do with her, despite some letters from her at first, which I ignored. She soon gave up. My Dad said tentatively, once, that she was hurt I didn't answer her letters. I can't remember how I responded to that, but I'm sure I made my position very clear. He never broached the subject again.

When my brother was a young man living in Melbourne, my father and stepmother came for a visit. They stayed with Merrie. (No chance of my brother or me offering HER any hospitality.) My stepmother had appointments to which, for some reason, neither my father nor Merrie was available to drive her. Dad asked my brother, as a great favour, if he would. He decided to do it, solely for my Dad. I was amazed and admiring. I wouldn’t have done it. 

Later my stepsister said to me, as one puzzled and looking for clarification: ‘Mum said that when he drove her around that day, he was really strange – he didn't address one word to her the whole time!’

‘What did she bloody expect?’ I said (thinking: Have you forgotten???). ‘She should have gone down on her knees in gratitude that he took her at all! She wanted conversation as WELL?’ 

My stepsister took one startled look at my face, and wisely shut up.


Aftermath

I hated my stepmother implacably for decades – until finally, in my late forties, I noticed that the hatred was poisoning me, not her: I was beginning to experience physical symptoms which I could trace directly to that. By then I had met and worked with Ridge and Jenette, and experienced both The Forum and the Andronicus Foundation group. I had powerful techniques which enabled me to finally let go of the hatred and move on. But it was only when I did my Reiki Master training that my initiating Master, Ann, helped me see that my stepmother had been one of my greatest teachers and, on the soul level, had perhaps even incarnated with that purpose. 

It was in large part thanks to my stepmother that I was eventually able to overcome the softness and timidity I had as a child, and become better able to stand up for myself. 

It was thanks to her that I got very clear on who I was and am, and confirmed for myself the vital importance of both freedom and authenticity. Conversely, I learned how to read people and tread carefully when necessary. 

I honed the gift of the gab which has got me out of some very sticky situations at times, including one potential rape. 

And, in the end, after many years of hanging on to it, I learned how and why to let go of hatred.

It was thanks to her, too (though not to her alone) that at the age of 25 I went temporarily crazy and ended up in six years of psychotherapy – which turned out to be one of the most positive things I ever did, and almost certainly the reason I am happily alive at the age of 77 instead of dead or incarcerated in my twenties or thirties.

You may ask: What place does all this have in a magical memoir? I see now that my experience in those nightmare years, particularly the time I wasn't there to protect my brother from our stepbrother, was the motivation behind a successful piece of magic I did in my sixties. A close relative, a divorced mother of a seven-year-old son, found a new partner and the three of them were very happy together until his ex-wife died suddenly and his children, who were in their late teens, came to live full-time with him instead of only at weekends as it had been.

They were, naturally, very upset by their mother's death. They resented my relative and her little boy, were rude and aggressive to her and started bullying her son physically. Their father refused to intervene. I was furious when I heard. They were seventeen and nineteen; he was seven.


'This isn't on,' I said to myself. The young mother had been urging her partner to set up his children in a house of their own close by, where he could visit them often but they wouldn't be disrupting his new family. Seemed like a good idea to me. I did a spell of banishing, to move them out into a separate house. It worked almost immediately – but the father went with them. That was the end of his relationship with my relative, which was very upsetting for her and her son.

A long time later, I asked her, 'Was it better that they all went, or would it have been better if they'd all stayed?' She thought about it a while, then said, 'It was much better that they all went than it would have been if they had all stayed'.  Then I told her what I had done. She forgave me and still loves me. She found a more satisfactory partner in due course, and her son is now grown up and in a happy relationship of his own.

It was only in writing this part of my memoir that I realised – my experience with my 'steps' accounts for times in my life that I have been moved to assist young people in need, in various ways. It is surely what lay behind my fury at a young boy being tortured by much older people on the brink of adulthood, and my taking action in his behalf.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

My Deepest Fear

(Before I go on with my story, it’s necessary to back-track.)

My greatest fear through childhood and for much of my adult life was that I would not be free to be myself – my authenticity would be stolen from me, or forced into suppression. I can see two sources for this. 

My mother wanted me to be sweet, lady-like, well-mannered, always spotlessly clean. I must think before I spoke. If I laughed, it must not be heartily – that was ‘coarse’. It was a mystery to my mother how I could play outside and come back in dirty, or with scabby knees. She once told me that when she was a little girl, if she got the tiniest bit of dirt on her finger, she would be holding it up and crying for someone to clean it. This comparison was not meant to be in my favour! 

‘Yeah, Mum,’ my 77-year-old self growls now ‘You had an Ayah [an Indian nursemaid, a servant] whose job was to run to wipe the dirt from your finger if you held it up and cried.’ However the differences were deeper than that. I didn't notice or mind getting dirty. I wanted to climb trees, and on to the roof of the trellis summerhouse in the back yard. I wanted to crawl in amongst the shrubs and berries to watch the insects going about their lives. I wanted to go for walks in the bush.

When she had ladies over for afternoon tea, she would be sending me little signals across the room to sit straighter, uncross my legs, keep my hands still…. I became very self-conscious.

I also became quite ‘split’. Sometimes I’d scramble with my book up into a comfortable nook in the black wattle tree above the garage, and pretend not to hear when Mum called me. At other times I became fearful, inept, awkward. That side won; I became more and more timid, gauche and withdrawn. Instead of climbing a tree with my book, I’d lie reading on my bed for hours.

‘Where is she?’I’d hear my parents say. ‘Is she in her room? Why doesn’t she get out into the good fresh air?’ (Well perhaps because, when I did, I wasn't supposed to get dirty or risk a scraped knee.)

The other thread, of course, was the suppression of my natural psychic tendencies. I never could completely suppress them. I would still get little hunches that would turn out to be right. I would have what seemed to be idle daydreams about something happening, and then it would. I had dreams which were prophetic; the flavour of them was quite different from ordinary dreams, and I remembered them clearly after waking. Somehow I rationalised all these things to myself as not being crazy. I also kept very, very quiet about them. For many years I was completely secretive about my inner life. 

So the fear of losing my true self meant that I buried it deep. In effect, I did lose it, at least in all practical ways. I kept a stubborn, secret core which I never lost. I think it was my saving. But I lost conscious sight of it. I created, I now realise, a persona which served quite well. It could interact with people adequately, despite some shyness and anxiety. It could do my studies, pass my exams and so forth. (Being successful academically was not only allowed but very much approved of by my elders. And particularly for a girl like me. The family story about me was that I was not pretty but at least I was clever.) Later I could hold down a job, and even shine.

The two years from 15 to 17, living with my mad, sadistic stepmother and always walking on eggshells, had me retreat even further to the inner realms and display an even more opaque mask.

At least I wasn't ambivalent about her. She wasn't my beautiful mother whom I adored and wanted to please, at the same time as feeling that I would always be a failure in her eyes – yet knowing, resentfully, that my way of being was valid too.  No, I could hate my stepmother without any ambivalence whatsoever. 

They say our enemies are our greatest teachers. She reinforced my belief in myself and my views, because her example of how to be was so obviously flawed and her opinions so opprobrious. (Snobbish, racist, gossipy, devious, unkind … and that’s putting it mildly.) She was also an example of everything my mother had (however unwittingly) been teaching me – how to be a fake: gracious and charming in company, behaving with perfect decorum and social nous, and none of it genuine. Definitely not what I wanted to be!

What a breath of freedom, after two years, when my brother and I moved from there to my dear Aunty Ev in Pascoe Vale, a suburb of Melbourne. Her down-to-earth commonsense and warm heart redressed some of the harm that had been done. 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Explaining Myself

(Editorial aside)

‘What drew you to things like Reiki and Tarot?’ I am asked.

I thought I would be answering this question later on, when I reach a place in my memoir where I become more fully myself. But then I realised that what I have in mind will be more the ‘how’ than the ‘why’.

When I reflect on the why, I realise that I am not a person who does things for reasons. (Not the most important things, and not rational reasons.) I never have been. Instead I operate by intuition and follow the guidance I receive. 

I had thought the ‘why’ was apparent in what I have written. In a way, the how IS the why: for me indistinguishable, as the ‘why’ is so much a given. I was assuming – as one does – that my personal experiences must be common and widespread. Perhaps, after all, not everyone is conscious of guidance from birth, and trusts it?

It’s not a blind trust. I’m consciously aware of energy, and of different energies. I don't know that I could always describe it in words that would give anyone else an accurate impression, but I ‘get’ the particular flavour of any energy. They don't shout at me; it’s a background consciousness, like an extra sense. 

We don't usually stop to think about how amazing it is to be able to see, touch, etc.; we just see and touch. And so I just apprehend energy, as a matter of course. It’s easy to know who and what to trust. Even during the growing-up years when I was ‘shut down' as I’ve described, I had this inner knowing. Sometimes, when I was younger, I ignored the inner voice – from wishful thinking, or from having been taught to be extremely polite – but it was still there.

Impossible to explain to others!

‘My dead friend came to be beside me while I was waiting for my train. He was happy and loving. He was in the shape of a small, square, tightly compressed brown box….’  

And then there are the ones – most of the time – with no visuals at all.

(I admit, the small brown box was startling, and I have no idea what it signified; but the feeling of his distinctive energy was the same as it had been in life, and that’s how I knew.)

My personal guides, guardians and angels have their own energy signatures, which include the quality of being trustworthy. So I seldom question my guidance. 

It can come in the form of sudden impulses. I don't always discover why it suddenly becomes imperative to use this street instead of that (the one I had planned to use). Sometimes it does become apparent – I bump into someone special just when I or they need to connect, or I come across a shop with an item I’ve been wanting. When it’s not apparent, I think it must be protective, to avoid some accident or mishap I was headed towards.

There are times when I double-check by kinesiology testing, or with a pendulum (usually when the guidance contradicts my wishful thinking). There are other times when it’s essential to act NOW, without hesitation. Luckily I can feel the difference.

I’ve described how various Tarot readers came into my life, and how a Major Arcana deck was given to me by Spirit. So I started playing with the cards. I think I also explained that a Tarot reader I knew did a reading for me in which she predicted that I myself would become highly psychic.

As for the Reiki, that too was a natural-seeming progression, from experiencing Reiki treatments to seeing an ad for Beth Gray’s classes and getting a huge, irrational conviction that this was for me.

When I was guided to do both these things professionally after we moved to Three Bridges, it felt daring but also right.

My personal development work with Landmark Education and my spiritual work with the Andronicus Foundation enhanced my intuitive faculties and my clarity in knowing what was right for me, but life had always been inherently magical even when I tried to suppress that aspect.

My passion is poetry and that has been my vocation since the age of seven. Katherine (the friend I met in the New Age shop at Elsternwick) once said to me, about me, 'Poetry is what you do. Reiki is what you are.' At the time I didn't get it, thinking she incorrectly devalued the poetry by comparison, but now I see what she was trying to convey. Psychic abilities and magic and other-worldly, other-dimensional realities have always been part of the fabric of my life, and of me. 

Healing and metaphysical counselling have become secondary vocations. (I have certificates of Mastery in both, including a number of healing modalities in addition to the Reiki which I first learned.) I've always had an innate impetus to heal whatever I could; to ’save the world’ not in a preachy but an energetic / magical / healing kind of way (including of course practical / material / physical ways of looking after the environment). I’ve always experienced the planet as alive and sentient, as much as everything on it. 

With such a background, I could almost say there was no ’why’ when I answered the call to learn both Reiki and Tarot – or that this background itself was the why. At the time they were the next things to do, and were quite emphatically put in my way, in a manner I instinctively trusted.

I guess I live my life taking leaps of faith.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Romance!

Predictions

Peter, the Tarot reader, wasn't the only one to foresee a new romance for me. My Reiki Master, Ann, was a seer. At one of her seminars, while we were on a lunch break, she suddenly got a flash and said, 'Oh! Nice man coming for Rosemary soon.' That was exciting, but there were no details.

The Tarot Student

Katherine and Peter broke up. Katherine, heavily pregnant with the babe who was to become my fourth god-daughter, Jasmine, kept the shop going. With even more learning and practice under my belt, I advertised Tarot classes of my own there, and conducted several, each consisting of a number of weekly sessions. 

One class attracted only one student, but I told him I was happy to run a class of one. Max was tall and rangy, a few years younger than me. He was doing outdoor work of some kind (I forget what) so he was fit-looking with nice lean muscles, not the horrible 'Mr Universe' kind. He was basically a hippy in his attitude to the natural world and living free, but he was starting to adopt a more materialistic point of view. He said he wanted a comfortable old age, and was looking to marry a rich business-woman. He meant it too, and we both knew I didn't fit the bill.

We enjoyed the lessons, and fell into an easy friendship. Knowledgable and experienced in things esoteric, he was basically a very nice bloke. We really liked each other. In the course of the lessons we opened up a lot about our personal histories, finding it easy to confide in each other.

He had an intriguing black-and-white Tarot deck I'd not seen before, the Hermetic Tarot. One day he came to class and presented me with my own copy. He said he had been driving past a little Tarot shop he knew, when suddenly was impelled to pull over and go into the shop. Like me, he was in the habit of following his intuitive guidance. He didn't know what he was looking for, so browsed the shelves until this copy of the Hermetic Tarot practically jumped out and hit him in the face. 

He thought, ‘But I’ve already got that one.’ A voice said into his mind, ‘These are for Rosemary.’

He thought, ‘Why would I buy Rosemary a Tarot deck?’ 

Perhaps he’d misunderstood? He put the cards to his forehead, his personal method of checking the accuracy of his messages, and tuned in. The voice repeated, more firmly and somewhat testily, ‘These are ROSEMARY’S cards,’ So he obeyed.

I’d been using the Thoth deck for a few years, but it was starting to feel a bit tired and stale, which can happen when you use the same deck constantly over a long period. I gave it some Reiki, told it to have a good rest, wrapped it in its silk scarf and put it away in its velveteen bag. Then I started using the Hermetic Tarot, which looked very different but interpreted the cards in a similar way. I found it great to use, and it became my professional deck for a long time.

Max and I sort of knew we were attracted to each other, but we were tentative. In particular, I was. He did start to indicate his interest, in ways that left me free to respond accordingly or not – such as finding an excuse to rip his shirt off one day and display his very desirable torso. It was just the kind of body I liked, but I was as awkward as a teenager when it came to the dating game – I’d been married 27 years – so I addressed whatever the excuse was, and he put his shirt on again. I went home to think about my options. For one thing, while I was sure this would be a very nice affair indeed, I was not what he was looking for long-term and I didn't want to risk getting my heart broken again. 

Then something else that was playing out took a turn which interrupted these developments anyway.

Master Connections

After getting settled in my new life, I found I missed the Andronicus Foundation meditation group. While Reiki was a spiritual path too, it was a different kind of practice. I had done Jenette's six-week 'Master Connections', the post-graduate course of The Master Game, and that had filled the gap for a while. It included meditation, exercises to develop our spiritual / energetic muscles, and connecting to high-level other-dimensional beings for wisdom and guidance. 

The Reiki Master training and Jenette's courses between them further enhanced my psychic abilities, such as clairvoyance. I remember one Master Connections session when Jenette channelled a magnificent extra-terrestrial. I know he was magnificent, because I saw him with my physical eyes, as if superimposed on her. I used to send Jenette a zap of Reiki across the room, invisibly, to support her when she was channelling, as she had requested from me when I signed up. This time, just as I did so, this being appeared, looked me straight in the eyes and intentionally flashed a zap straight back to me, in a way that I could recognise. It was a private exchange; what he spoke through her included no reference to it.

When I told Jenette later, she said, 'That proves it wasn't me. I wouldn't have a clue how to send Reiki across a room.' She hadn't even learned Reiki at that point, though she did seek out a teacher several years later.

So, missing the meditation group, I asked her if I could perhaps attend further Master Connections sessions. She said, 'You never had to leave! I ask people to commit to six weeks as a minimum.' 

Andrew

When I resumed attending, there were various people I already knew among both participants and assistants; and it was the night of a new intake of people from the latest Master Game, which had recently finished. We sat around the walls of a big carpeted room, on cushions. We would share around the circle what had been going on in our lives the past week, before moving on to our other activities. 

One of the new people was a little white-haired bloke called Andrew. (I feel I should give a trumpet-blast here, but neither he nor I heard any at that point.)

Andrew's recollection afterwards was that I sat in the corner and said nothing – which surprised me as I thought I was quite vocal. As for him, I was thoroughly put off one night when he shared that an ex-girlfriend had phoned and invited him to dinner. Half lying back on his cushion, with one open shirt button revealing his fat little tummy and hairy navel, he punched the air and crowed, 'I got laid!'

'Ewww!' I thought. 'How gross!'

Jenette explained to those of us who hadn't been through The Master Game with him that a little while ago he had broken up with this lady, whom he was very keen on. So I guessed I could understand his jubilation. But two weeks later he reported that she'd called it off again. 

One evening at supper he came up to me and said abruptly, 'I hear you're a poet. I'm doing a course. Could give me some - er - tips or something?' 

I went straight into ego, and thought (but didn't say), 'Don't you know I get PAID for that?' Out loud I muttered something dismissive and he turned away. Jenette caught this exchange. When she hugged me goodbye a little later, she whispered in my ear, 

'He needs a counter-balance to the dry, factual journalism he's been writing. He needs to get more into his heart.' 

Then I felt remorseful, so the following week I took some books and magazines to lend him, and invited him to phone me if anything needed clarifying. He seemed pleasantly surprised. 

One night a few people couldn't come, so the seating was re-arranged to make a smaller circle. I was across from Andrew. I had some good news to share that night and was quite animated. He told me much later that he thought, ‘Oh, she's quite pretty. I should ask her out. At least we've got writing in common.' But when Jennie told me that an Andrew Wade had called while I was out, I assumed he wanted to ask me something about poetry. I was very surprised when I phoned back, to hear, 'I was wondering if you'd like to go out to dinner tomorrow night?'

By this time I had decided that it would be ages before I'd be ready to go out on a date, even in the unlikely event that anyone should ask me. And I resolved that if another relationship ever did happen, I would not move in with the man but keep my independence. As for marriage, forget it. I'd done it twice and it hadn't worked out. Never  again! So, at Andrew's surprising request, I opened my mouth to say politely, 'Thank you for the compliment, but I'm not ready to start dating yet after my recent separation.' Instead, what fell out of my mouth was, 'Thanks, I'd love to.'  (It was the same when he asked me those other leading questions later on.)

He told me afterwards that he used to take women to nightclubs and fancy restaurants to try and impress them, but decided he wasn't going to do that with me. He would just be himself and not try to impress. He’d take me to a pub. So I found myself being ushered into the Argo pub at Toorak, which I knew by reputation as the coolest place in town. I was incredibly impressed! ‘Boy,’ I thought. ‘This bloke’s really got it.’ (He of course knew nothing of its reputation, and had no idea how impressed I was.)

We hardly stopped talking all night, discovering  we had so much in common that when the waitress asked if we wanted Tabasco sauce and I said yes please and he said no thanks, I exclaimed, ‘Thank goodness there’s something we haven’t got in common. It was getting ridiculous.’  

We found we had so many mutual friends and acquaintances, we couldn't believe our paths had never crossed before. Much later we realised they had. There was the Andronicus Foundation weekend in the country, which I’ve mentioned. And we uncovered another event, connected with one of our other interests, which Bill and I had attended and so had Andrew. Bill and I had each had some interaction with him on that occasion, but we’d all promptly forgotten it, having no particular interest in each other then.

More significant, perhaps, was the fact that he had attended a session of The Master Game at Three Bridges one Sunday. He’d gone by the time I got home from assisting Ann that day, but it was the same day I walked into my house and thought, ‘I can’t be here any more’ and promptly moved out. I thought afterwards that it was as if, once Andrew’s energy had come into that space, I couldn’t maintain even a semblance of the marriage to Bill. But these things we worked out later. 

After our very successful dinner, he delivered me to my doorstep. I said something stilted that I’m embarrassed to remember, about how I was newly separated and not ready for goodnight kisses yet. He took it in good part and Jennie’s teenage baby-sitter opened the door just then, so no pash session was going to happen anyway. 

‘Do you like movies?’ he asked.’Would you like to see a movie next Saturday afternoon?’ I said I loved movies, and we arranged to see the new hit, ‘The Power of One’.

As soon as he’d gone, Jennie’s baby-sitter said to me, ‘He’s VERY pretty!’ (This didn’t imply effeminate; it was just the lingo at the time.) I was surprised. I hadn’t thought of him like that. He wasn’t my physical type. I didn't really see things going anywhere deep and meaningful for us.

He held my hand in the movie, which we enjoyed companionably. As we strolled around town afterwards to find a cafĂ©, he took my hand again. It felt easy and comfortable to be walking hand-in-hand with him – except that I was obsessed with the thought, ‘What if we bump into one of my sons?’ Luckily this embarrassing prospect didn’t come to pass.

Over coffee we wondered what we were going to say at Master Connections. Group discussions were strictly confidential, but within the group participants were expected to disclose anything relevant that was going on with them. Andrew usually arrived later than me, so he asked me not to say anything until he got there.

When he did, he started by telling the story of how he’d had a ‘win’ at work and felt like celebrating, so he’d phoned a ‘young lady’ he knew and invited her to dinner, they’d had a really nice time, then they’d been to a movie on Saturday and that went well too…. He paused, then said, ‘And it was Rosemary!’ 

Everyone burst into cries of delight. Jenette’s husband, who was of course an old friend of mine, said, ‘That’s why she’s looking so radiant.’

I didn't know why I looked and felt radiant. It was nice to be going out on dates – lovely and carefree – but I wasn't sure how I felt about Andrew beyond enjoying his company. 

I told him I couldn’t go out with him the following weekend as Jennie and I were having a garage sale. He asked what time it would be. I explained that it was starting in the morning but could go on most of the day. I was pleased that he seemed quite accepting.

I expected he'd phone me some time later for another date, but he turned up on the morning of the garage sale, wearing a Blues Brothers T-shirt which announced that he was on a mission from God, and quietly pitched in to help with the setting up and the selling.

So we continued going out, and he became a visitor to our house sometimes. He was presentable, he knew how to behave in company, he was good with Jennie’s kids, and of course he was a very pleasant companion. But I was in no way committed to a relationship with him. I was amazed one day, after a tiff, when he told me: 

'I want you to know I'm absolutely committed to this relationship!' 

'What relationship?' I thought. 'We hardly know each other.' But I mumbled something which I hoped sounded appreciative.

I started feeling a bit crowded by him. He seemed to want to be involved in everything I was doing. I had a bit of a whinge to Jennie about this. She rounded on me and said, 

‘Rosemary Nissen, you are disgusting! He’s trying to SUPPORT you!’

That was a revelation to me. I digested it a while and realised: yes, it was like that; and he was simply offering, he wasn't trying take over my life.

Then a friend who was visiting asked me, ‘What’s this Andrew like?’ Before I could answer, Jennie said emphatically, 

‘He’s a VERY nice man!’ I did a double-take and thought, ‘Oh yes, so he is.’

(I still thank both Jenette and Jennie for providing some of the impetus for my happiest marriage.)

How did we take it to the next level? He thought it would be nice to go for a lovely, romantic weekend away. I told him I didn't want to rush things, so he suggested I choose the timing. By then I’d received my Master initiation from Anne but was still very busy assisting on her Reiki seminars most weekends. When I looked at my schedule, I realised I was booked up for months ahead.

‘The only weekend I’ve got is next weekend,’ I told him.

‘I thought you didn't want to rush things?’ he said.

A recent poem explains what happened next:

Prelude to a Romantic Weekend

Arriving on my doorstep suddenly
he thrust at me a bunch of roses, red
for passion, offered awkwardly,
suggesting now would be the time for bed.
My house-mate and her children, luckily,
were going out. I whispered what he’d said,
that he’d decided we should ‘break the ice’.
She winked and said she’d stay out longer. Nice!

We’d planned a beautiful weekend away
to change our new romance to an affair:
a seaside venue meant for holiday
where we could play, let down our hair …
but that was some time hence, he said – and hey,
we’d want to be relaxed then, free of care
about performance, revelation, trust,
and all those issues that might hinder lust.

And so we had our first time then and there
inside my double bed, too long unshared.
Now, understand, we were not young; we were
the later end of middle age. We bared
imperfect bodies to each other’s stare
and moved like adolescents newly paired –
like clumsy virgins! But we worked it out
quite soon. And yes, his bright idea was right.

                                ******

In twenty years of happy marriage, till
he left me when the angels called him home,
we loved each other thoroughly and well.
Reality was sweeter than a dream.
And memories can sweeten my heart still,
as if he never left – so it can seem.
He loved to give me roses. In my head
I still hear: ‘Get yourself some roses – red!’

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2017

After that, I was a little more formal in my manner towards Max, so as not to encourage any vain hopes. Being the open person he was, he asked me straight out if there was something wrong. I was less frank. Nothing had ever been said between us. I felt I couldn't officially rebuff an advance that had not actually been made. So I handled it by saying, with some truth, that I was a bit preoccupied because my gentleman friend had a touch of flu and I was concerned about him.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Yes I suppose that would explain it.’ Lovely man, he wasn't being snide, just thinking aloud and seeing my point of view. If he was surprised to learn about the ‘gentleman friend’, he didn't say so, but he didn't flirt with me any more either. With my position clear, I relaxed and we still enjoyed the classes and conversations for their own sake.

I did have some regrets. 

‘Why did I have to order the happy, lasting one to be next?’ I chided myself. A fling with Max would have been lovely, and if Andrew was just around the corner anyway…. But after all, neither Andrew nor I was getting any younger. I decided it was still better not to have deferred getting together with him for the sake of a brief fling, however delightful.

Just for the record, Ann’s message about ‘a lovely man coming for Rosemary’ happened when Max was already my student but I hadn't yet met Andrew at Master Connections – so it must have been Andrew she was seeing, as the one still to come.

I started spending most of my nights at Andrew’s place. He would pick me up on his way home from work and drop me back in Elsternwick on his way to work next morning. I was still based there in terms of my own working life; besides, I had a commitment to share with Jennie for a year.

I thought I’d better tell Bill before someone else told him, so I invited myself to dinner. 

‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ I said.  He said,

‘No, don't tell me; I’ll tell you. There’s a new man your life. He’s a business-man. I “saw” him taking you out to dinner. He was wearing a suit.’

Andrew did in fact have his own business at that time, creating newsletters for all kinds of other businesses.

Bill, as I mentioned earlier, had developed clairvoyance quite suddenly, shortly before we moved to Three Bridges, as a result of some dramatic experiences which unexpectedly opened him up.  His gift was genuine – as this incident confirms.

He was sincerely happy for me. 

Then I felt free to let my children and my friends know. Andrew and I started meeting each other’s friends.

After dinner at his flat one night, he asked me if I’d be willing to move in with him eventually. I opened my mouth to say that I wanted to keep my own residence and maintain my independence, and heard myself agreeing instead. We had a talk about it, and decided to wait until early in the new year, when Jennie and I would both have to find new accommodation anyway.

Then, when he was driving home, as we were waiting at a red traffic light, he suddenly said, 

‘Would you marry me?’

Again I opened my mouth to say the mentally well-rehearsed line about choosing not to marry again, having done it twice already. And again I opened my mouth and ‘yes’ fell out.

Then I realised he had not said ‘Will you’ but ‘Would you’.

‘Er, was that a hypothetical question?’ I asked. He smiled. 

‘No, it wasn't a hypothetical question.’