Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A curse in miracles, Part 2.

Don had told Lesley's boss at the daycare that his wife was "dealing with some personal stuff," and let it go at that. He even alibied for her—"Don't we all have tough times now and then?"—when the boss wondered whether Lesley should take some time off until she found her answers. "She says to me, 'Lesley just zones out sometimes, and I worry that she'll miss something where the kids are concerned.' I wanted to say, tell me about it! Instead I said, 'Lesley is the same wonderful mother she always is, you don't need to have any worries on that score.' I had my own concerns, but when it came down to it, I did what I thought any good husband would do. I defended my wife."

None of which prevented the Grogan household from devolving further into weirdness and confusion. The buzzwords now dominated Lesley's conversation. The talk (that is, when she talked to Don at all, which was becoming increasingly rare) was of entities and chakras; she began substituting ancient Hindu or Sanskrit words like loka and kaya for their everyday American equivalents (world and body* respectively). "Even saying life force apparently wasn't kooky enough for her," says Don, who, like many victims of second-hand self-help, has developed a certain gallows sense of humor about the experience. "She had to say prana."

Don soon learned that Lesley had acquired some local companions on her journey of spiritual growth: a shaman and a healer. By this point she had stopped asking to accompany Don on his trips, and would decline his own invitations to come along when he gave them. Of even greater concern, she seemed to be spending less and less time at home while he was gone. Normally, when he'd leave to do a haul, he could call home, day or night, and find his wife: "If she wasn't there, she was working at the daycare while the kids were in school." That changed as the trees went bare and winter arrived in earnest. Don began to get the impression that the minute Lesley heard him leave for a trip, she was out the door, too.

Then, shortly before Valentine's Day, 1998, Lesley dropped a bombshell. She sat Don down and told him she'd made an important self-discovery. She told her husband of almost 11 years that the entity vibrating harmonically inside her was a lesbian.

"I know this sounds strange," he recalls, "but my first reaction was to laugh. I kid you not, I just broke up. Hysterically. I guess it was just too much, or maybe some kind of delayed stress reaction. I thought she'd totally lost it and had no idea what she the hell was talking about anymore. She'd been saying so many screwy things for all those months, and now she says that!" In fact, he says, one of the first things that crossed his mind was the film Splash, wherein Darryl Hannah spends much of the movie concealing from lover Tom Hanks that she's a mermaid. "I actually said to her, 'Now come on, honey. You're not going to sit me down tomorrow and tell me you're really a fish, are you?' "

But the exchange got less funny, and fast, when Lesley told Don something else. With that same matter-of-fact detachment that by now was so familiar, she told him she was sleeping with a woman she'd met through her shaman. And they were going to move in together. And she was taking the kids.

Don says he never saw it coming. While he's not comfortable discussing the details of their sex life "when it was good," and though he concedes that their intimacy "really took a hit" after California, he says he "saw no signs in how she behaved sexually. If anything, it was like she'd become sex-less." Then again, he allows after a brief pause, "Looking back, I kind of feel like, 'So what was your first clue, Sherlock?' "

Genuinely worried about Lesley's state of mind, Don at first intended to fight her decision to take the kids. But he was coming into an especially busy time of year for him, and knew he'd be on the road a lot. ("And she knew it too.") Having no other local relatives who could reliably act as surrogates for him between trips, and still thinking that Lesley would ultimately "snap out of it," he yielded to what seemed inevitable, insisting only that he have a chance to meet the new light of his wife's life. "We met at a diner and I could size this up right away," he says. "This woman is a very powerful force. It's like when I was in college and we had the Women's Studies classes, there'd be these ring leaders, as we called them—these aggressive, feminist types who controlled the group thinking. They had tremendous influence in getting the others to basically shun men. I think Lesley just got in over her head at a very vulnerable time. She thought she found herself, but I think she really lost herself. And this woman took advantage."

In the ensuing weeks, Lesley found a sympathetic lawyer (recommended, Don assumes, by the shaman, the new lover, or some other spiritual ally) who even inserted the appropriate New Age jargon into the separation and divorce pleadings. "A lot of couples will say they're growing apart, and I could've even accepted that," he says. "But when she starts talking in a legal document about our being on different planes of existence? That's a bit hard to take."

Tomorrow: The final scenes play out, with a surprise—yet still unhappy—ending.

Read part 3.

* though, like most things having to do with spirituality and metaphysics, this is an oversimplification. We don't have the time or space to get into the expanded meanings, and frankly I don't have the inclination.

NOTE: All situations recounted in this series of stories are as described to me by the people who were kind enough to submit their experiences. Where possible and practical, I have made a good-faith effort to verify stories through independent means. I reserve the right to make minor changes to names, dates, and places, in circumstances where such verification was not possible, or where the risk of legal complications looms large. Not a single material fact has been embellished or fabricated. Like all content in this blog, these stories are subject to applicable provisions of U.S. Copyright Law and international treaties on same. All rights reserved. No material is to be reproduced in any form without my written permission, except for usages covered by "fair use" provisions of law.


Rodger said...

This is a twisted story. You mentioned writing a book about this--is it still in the works? What are people saying off blog to you about this stuff?

Anonymous said...

Kudos on the very interesting story. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the next installment - what a cliffhanger!

Cosmic Connie said...

Rodger, the story may sound twisted, but so far it doesn't sound at all atypical to me. This kind of stuff happens more often than most of us would like to think. (It's much the same with more "traditional" religious cults.)

And I would reiterate my opinion that Steve should somehow turn this into a book, but he might accuse me of smoking something again. :-)

BTW, the original "Course In Miracles" material was written by a woman, Helen Schuchman, who claims to have channeled a lot of the material from Jesus Christ.

Cal said...

This is good stuff. It sounds like the stories about Jonestown, or, more recently the Branch Davidians and Heavens Gate cults.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, yes, and supposedly when God/Jesus spoke to her, he said, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes." I think I mention that in SHAM, in fact. Always got a kick out of that; makes Jesus sound kinda like Trump talking to somebody on The Apprentice, or maybe a teacher in shop class.

Cosmic Connie said...

Here's one example of A Course In Miracles wisdom...

When surfing the Web one day not too long ago, I came across a blog by a woman who calls herself a "life purpose coach." She is also obviously a believer in A Course In Miracles, and she presents a daily lesson from ACIM on her blog. The lesson for Day 136 quotes ACIM on illness and its causes. Anyone who's read Rhonda Byrne's thoughts on this matter will find this very familiar (although of course ACIM predated "The Secret" by 30 years or so).

Actually ACIM goes one better than saying we "attract" illness; it seems to be saying we consciously decide to be ill:

"Sickness is a decision. It is not a thing that happens to us, quite unsought, which makes us weak and brings us suffering. It is a choice we make, a plan we lay, when for an instant truth arises in our own deluded minds, and all our world appears to totter and prepare to fall. Now are we sick, that truth may go away and threaten our establishments no more...

"Do not be confused about what must be healed, but tell yourself:
"'I have forgotten what I really am, for I mistook my body for myself. Sickness is a defense against the truth. But I am not a body. And my mind cannot attack. So I can not be sick.'"

For the complete "lesson" go to:

moi said...

Steve, I have no doubt that this unfortunate situation took place, but I am inclined to think that it was a mental imbalance that caused the wife to go off the deep end spiritually and then get involved in an adulterous relationship. I have a similar horror story I could tell about an academic mentor of mine who is an atheist and not at all into self help or spirituality. She had a long, good marriage with an intelligent and kind man and then met one of these types that you describe in your story. The lover turned out to be certifiably crazy and was into the Christian science religion or something like that. My mentor friend ended her marriage because of this woman and almost lost her relationship with her daughter as a result. She finally got out of the relationship when she came to her senses (after being physically and emotionally harassed for a year). In any case, my point is that I think situations like these may be exacerbated by some forms of self help, but are not caused by it.

Stephanie said...

To blame this woman's issues with her sexual orientation on Marianne Williamson is ridiculous.

Steve Salerno said...

Stephanie (and really, also, Moi): You're jumping the gun. We haven't even seen how this resolves itself yet. And nobody is "blaming" Marianne Williamson, per se. However, my argument all along has been that self-help catalyzes many of the problems that can occur in life if we give those problems "enough leash." Especially when the "programs" aren't even really programs, and/or are poorly conceived and insincerely presented. I urge both of you to read Don's summary of all this, as well as mine, in tomorrow's final installment. Read with an open mind, please, and then I'd be more than happy to post anything you wish to say in rebuttal.

But while we're on the subject, Stephanie, have you seen Ms. Williamson's "homeland security plan"? If you have a copy of my book handy--somehow I don't imagine that you do, but--check out page 58. And tell me if that kind of thinking makes you rest easier at night....

moi said...

Steve,to clarify, I agree with you that poorly conceived self help programs can be a catalyst for some of these kinds of situations. I don't, though, think the woman's newfound lesbianism was caused by it. I don't really know anything about programs such as a course in miracles, but I have had an experience with a life coach who tried to overly influence my direction in life. It would have been extremely unfortunate if I had listened to him.
I will wait for next post.

RevRon's Rants said...

I acknowledge that the events were obviously very painful for Don. I have also seen how damaging a misapplied "self-help" can be to a person's psyche (and by extension, their relationships). After reading this story, however, I am left with the clear feeling that the story is incomplete, and that there were pertinent factors not presented, due to the narrative having come from Don's perspective alone.

Looking back at my own sordid past, I recall how sympathetic people were while I was going through my divorce. They knew that my then-wife was an alcoholic, and that she had multiple affairs, while I never drank to excess, and was faithful throughout the marriage. Yet, after a few years of healing the bitterness I felt, I had to acknowledge how emotionally distant I had been throughout the marriage, and that my wife had sought the only kind of support she knew how to seek. Can I blame the booze? I don't believe so. It was a catalyst for behavior that was inevitable, given the circumstances. Can I blame her? Yes, but only to the point that her actions weren't well thought out, and were hurtful - to both of us. It took years, but I finally realized that no matter how angry I had been, and no matter how badly I'd been hurt, I had been an equal participant in the death of the marriage. Realizing that, I had to forgive myself, as well as her. Ultimately, we both realized that we still love each other, and cherish much of what we experienced together. That isn't to say that either of us would want to attempt to rekindle the relationship. We know it wouldn't work, and we've both moved on to more fulfilling relationships. But at least when we think of each other, our thoughts are free of the bitterness that ate at us for so long.

Perhaps Don might one day be able to see that there were factors within his control that contributed to the ending of their marriage. Perhaps he will even get to the point where he will be able to forgive his wife's - and his own - mistakes, and to realize that the cult could not have absorbed his wife, were she not hungry for something she perceived it as offering her. Blame is the manifestation of bitterness, and serves no purpose save to perpetuate that bitterness.

On a lighter note, I have to admit that I got a chuckle out of the notion that his wife might have "caught" lesbianism from a cult.