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Jul 22 2014

How love writes its truths on your soul, and how you can read what it has written.

Published by at 12:19 pm under Knowing Relationships BLOG


I was at a funeral. This woman who died was one of those heroically wonderful women one meets only some times.  She was beautiful and brilliant and a great mother and an athlete and light-hearted and friendly and dearly loved her husband and her life with him.  He was handsome, successful, good-hearted and very much in love with her. They were generous people. They had three children and adopted a fourth. It was a picture too good to be true, it seemed, and in her late forties when she went for her yearly check-up, they discovered a brain tumor.

“We will remove it,” they said, “But when it comes back, and it will because it’s that kind of cancer, you will only have months to live. So prepare yourself.”  Brain cancer.  I remember speaking to her in her final months. She was all puffed up from her medications.  She said to me, “Well, I’ve lost my ability to listen to classical music. My brain can’t handle it. Dying is so weird.”

I share all this with you because, at her funeral, her husband, who wanted us to understand who they were to each other and why he loved her so, shared the story of the moment he knew that he was going to fall in love with her. It’s an amazing story and it is the perfect example of what I wish to share with you in this writing.

It is so difficult to capture love in words. Love is bigger than language. We have to be poetic. We have to use metaphors. The poet, T.S. Eliot, said, “Every attempt is a raid on the inarticulate with shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mess.” Still, we try.  It’s important to find ways to think about what is that so captures us and nourishes us and seems, at times, to be the most important thing in our lives. It’s a form of worship, a spiritual activity

But at the funeral, her husband shared a story, one story, and it was about the moment he knew that the she would be The One he would marry and love. This story, which had etched itself in his heart, which he remembered without ever deciding to remember, said so much. Before I go into why this particular story is so important, how every one has such a story, let me tell you their story.

He is a physician, very hard working and with very high standards for himself. The story was set many years ago, when he was still doing his hospital internship, ten hours a day, eleven days in a row and three days off, and then again for another two weeks. Each time  he had free time, he hiked the mountains nearby. Specifically, there was one mountain and it took him all moring to get to the top and then all afternoon to get back down. The view was, and is, spectacular. You could look east through several valleys to a distant city and beyond it, you could see the East Coast of New England and the Atlantic Ocean.  He says he used the mountain climb as a screening device for possible girlfriends.  If they didn’t want to make the climb or couldn’t make the climb, he’d know that he was with a woman who could not keep up with him and who would not be a good match.  He told us all this from the stage in the church at the funeral.  I seem to remember that the casket of his dear departed wife was behind him as he spoke.

When he met the woman who would be his wife, they liked each other immediately and so after the second or third coffee date, he told her about how he enjoyed hiking the mountain on his weekend off.  He wondered how she’d respond. Would she she’d be interested in joining him on the 12-hour hike, or would this be another addition to his reject pile?  He told her about the beautiful view and the ocean in the distance.

As if to compose himself, he paused in his story-telling for a moment and went on. She gave him an answer he wasn’t expecting.

“I have an idea,” she’d said, “Why don’t we start the hike at midnight with flashlights? Then we’ll be up top in time for the sunrise. We’ll eat our breakfast there and then head back and we’ll be back in time for dinner somewhere.”

That was it. The story said it all. It summarized their life together, how it was going to be and then how it was.  Whatever he was up for, she’d be with him 150%.  For him it was a glimpse of their destiny.

This  story is my favorite example of something I’d written about in my Master’s Thesis back in 1978. I’d said then that the memory people hold onto of that particular moment at the beginning of their relationship, that moment when they catch a glimpse of their relationship’s destiny is a moment of “knowing.” In other words, it is a profound intuition.  I called the story the F.E.C.K. story, meaning the First-Encounter-of-the-Close-Kind story. (The movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” was in theatres.)

It because a diagnostic technique for people doing marital therapy.  By listening to the memories couples hold on to about their first connection a therapist could make some pretty good guesses about what was challenging – and pleasing – them right now. Now, some 35 years later, I see that it is also a wonderful way to enrich a relationship.  Follow-up research done by Nicole Alea and Stephanie C. Vick has shown that the clearer, more vivid and warmer these memories are, the more often they are told and shared, and the happier couples are with their relationship..

In workshops, in therapy, and also in our book Rabbis in Love, (done with Collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein) we ask people to share their FECK stories and to share them with each other.  Sometimes sharing the stories is more than enough.  If you’ve ever had your loved one share his/her story of the first time he, or she, saw the relationship’s possibilities, you’ll know that it’s a stangely moving experience. It was like having something named that I’d sort of suspected and yet it is also surprising and enlightening. Taking about those stories seems to be fascinating for the people whose heart is captured by those moments.  It’s one of the ways love writes its truths on our souls.

Collecting these stories and sharing them is a spiritual experience.

This is a tricky point to make but an important one. We do spontaneously collect and share these stories and this is a spontaneous spiritual practice. (And I happen to think those are the best kind.) There is some deep, and obvious, connection between the story of someone’s life and the meaning they find in their life, between their story and their spirituality, between their past and their future, between their history and their destiny.  Our spirituality is our sense of destiny, what we are called to. A relationship also has a sense of where it is going.  In a certain complex way, if we’re in the relationship, this relationship’s destiny alters our sense of our individual destiny.  We can read our own tea leaves, we do share psychic readings by sharing and listening to and telling and re-telling these early memories.

Finally, there is some finesse required in reading these tea leaves. They are profound metaphors.  It’s like interpreting dreams. So take your time with them. It’s your (or your partner’s) intuition speaking. So make sure your reading of the image passes the common sense test. You are listening to the language of your heart, which speaks in poetry. When you translate what is being said to prose, you’re going to lose something.


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