Love, Part Two
A Heart in Hibernation
Send me Brad Pitt
The 7-Year Cycle of Consciousness
practiced my daily yoga and meditation, worked out at the gym, met with Ken Klee to clear my energy, and regularly saw my friends and my Bardwil family. My dog Beau continued to heal my heart. My job kept me busy and active – my schedule was packed with entertaining clients and attending industry events.
I had learned to live with loss and was grateful for all of the good in my life. Minus having Jim back at my side, there was nothing more that I could want.
But life will always present us with opportunities. I would soon be face-to-face with the events in that pivotal 7th year that would result in that profound change.
The Kindness of Strangers
Thanks to the help from a stranger who spoke English, we got my mother to a private room at first aid station. The pain intensified over the next hour, and my mother was moaning and delirious from the unbearable pain. I ran down the deserted hallways pounding on locked doors until I found a room with two workers taking a lunch break. I explained in my broken Japanese that my mother was very sick; we ran back to the room where we found my mother screaming in agony.
They quickly arranged for an ambulance to take us to a local hospital; my mother continued to shriek in pain during the wild ride through Sendai's main streets. Meanwhile, I was in the throes of full-on panic and high-octane energy.
A staff member at the hospital could speak some English; she explained that they would run tests on my mother and asked me to sit in a drafty hallway. I called my father to share more details; I also called my aunt, who lived near my parents and asked her to contact family members to see if they could help. Two ambulance rides and two hospitals later, I was told that my mother would die without emergency surgery.
Die? Die From What?
I still wasn't quite sure what was wrong with my mother and stared powerlessly at the stack of Japanese consent forms to approve the emergency surgery.
I blindly signed all of the documents, including the one waiving my right to watch the operation. Yes. Unless I signed that form, I would have to watch the surgeons operate on my mother. This was not how I wanted to remember what could be the last hours of my mother's life.
Your Father Cannot Take Care of Himself
I was escorted back to a room where my mother was lying on a bed, sedated but communicative. My mother's cousin, whom we had just seen that morning, her husband, my mother's younger sister, and another cousin had arrived and were standing in the small room looking scared and solemn. None of them spoke English.
An attractively dressed woman walked into the room and explained that she would be one of the surgeons (she must have been called in from an elegant dinner). She spoke some English and explained that my mother had an intestinal blockage from an internal appendectomy scar that had expanded and cut off the blood supply to her intestines. So they needed to surgically remove the dead intestines and sew the healthy intestines back together.
I looked down at my tiny 85-pound mother lying on the hospital bed and thought, "there is no way that she is going to make it."
I sat next to my mother's bedside and held her hand. Then, with tears streaming down my face, I thanked her for being a good mother, for teaching me to be independent, and that I was proud to be her daughter. I also told her that this was a major operation and that she might not live through the surgery, but she would be with her father, mother, brother, and Jim.
My mother looked at me, rolled her eyes, and responded, "Oh, June. I'll be fine. Your father cannot take care of himself. I will make it."
And she did.
I Can't Unsee This
The surgeons cut a 10-inch incision into my 84-year-old mother's abdomen, removed 2 feet of dead intestine, and sewed the healthy intestines back together. At 1:00 am, I was informed that she was out of surgery and I could visit her. I walked towards the ICU and noticed that a table had been set up in front of the double doors. A man in a white coat stood behind the table and motioned to me to stop.
He began explaining the surgery to me in halting English, but I was barely listening because I was staring at what was pinned to the board placed on the table. Similar to how a frog is dissected in high school biology class, my mother's dead intestines were pinned to the board. Since I had waived my right to watch the surgery, I guess they wanted me to view the end result.
Shopping for Beer
Everyone Will Be OK
Back at home in Los Angeles, I took care of my own medical needs and saw my doctor to biopsy potentially cancerous cells in my uterus.
I contemplated the potential of facing uterine cancer and reflected on the night that my mother went into surgery. She fought for her life and wanted to live for my father. What or who did I have to fight for?
At that point, I felt that if I had to choose between treatment to stay alive or die with no treatment, I would choose death. The voice in my head assured me that everyone would be OK.
The world without me didn't look too bad. No one would suffer and grieve for long. My stepdaughters would be fine without me. My friends would continue without me. My parents would be devastated, but they were old and didn't have many years left. My brother would be sad, but he had a family and would be OK. One of my friends would take care of Beau. My company would carry on.
My mind told me that I had no one to live for, and nothing was compelling enough to make me want to fight for my life. I recognized that I was intensely lonely; this loneliness felt like a continuous low-level white noise that canceled out any feelings of hope or joy.
If you have ever faced this degree of despondency, then you know that at that time, hope seems like an elusive dream. I knew this was a temporary state of being, but I was unsure how to short-circuit this feeling.
I Accept my Aloneness. With Gratitude.
One day, I drove to the gym, ruminating on my condition, and decided to accept my aloneness. So I quickly created an affirmation and stated out loud while I drove:
"I accept that I am alone. I am comfortable being alone. I know and trust that I am loved."
I repeated this affirmation all day. Finally, I was no longer struggling with my reality. By the end of that day, I actually felt lighter.
I had started to turn a corner. I had been interpreting my feelings as loneliness. Once I accepted that I lived alone and was alone, I began to open myself to a feeling of openness instead of concentrating on loneliness.
One evening, I listened to a TED Talk about gratitude, and the speaker compared our lives to a vessel that carries gratitude. He spoke about writing down one thing every day for which we are grateful – and it had to be something different every day. No repeats.
I journaled my gratitude every day for over three months, during which the white noise of loneliness faded to an intermittent sputter. I no longer felt despondent. Instead, I felt lighter and livelier.
If my therapist of long ago had asked me what I was feeling, I would have replied, "Joy."
Falling Down. Staying Alive.
Then I fell. Literally.
I was attending an early morning business event at a hotel when I started walking on a downward sloping floor. My foot shot out from underneath me at the exact second that the heel of my shoe made contact with the shiny hardwood floor. I came down in a half split, and my left leg was hyperextended in front of me. Stars spun out in front of my eyes, and agonizing pain rendered me speechless. I tried to get up, but my leg didn't have the strength to support me.
The X-rays indicated that my left hamstring was torn from my pelvic bone. My only option to return to my previously functioning body was to surgically reattach my hamstring to the bone. The alternative, to do nothing, would limit my physical activities for the rest of my life.
But unlike a few months earlier, I wanted to fully live my life. Had I not been journaling my daily thoughts of gratitude, I might have felt differently.
Paying the Consequences
The surgery was a success. I left the surgery center with my entire left leg encased in a brace that was locked at a 60-degree angle for the next three weeks.
I hired a caretaker to live with me and do all of the things that I couldn't do for myself, which was pretty much everything. Modesty went out the window; it was a humbling experience to be emotionally and physically exposed to another human being.
In the next few weeks, I fell backward on a small flight of stairs onto a hardwood floor, had a horrid skin reaction to the foam inside of the leg brace, and the incision became infected. Finally, four weeks after the surgery – hallelujah! - I was cautiously walking without the brace and crutches.
And I was alive.
Following surgery, my daily routines had gone to the wayside: my yoga practice had become nonexistent, and my meditations had become spotty. I wasn't journaling gratitude. I was aware of this, yet I didn't reinstate this daily exercise once I could get around.
Ignoring my healthy routine would come to bite me later.
During this time of emotional and physical vulnerability, an acquaintance began checking in on me. He knew my family, he had known Jim, and there was built-in familiarity.
Bob and I began spending more time together. He was excellent at making plans and took care of everything. I was worn out from taking care of everything, and it felt like a spa day to have another person take care of me. Bob had shown up on my front doorstep, and although he was no Brad Pitt, I felt like I had been rescued.
He was excited to introduce me to his friends and family. Likewise, my family was thrilled that I was with someone who had some history with us and was trustworthy.
Ignoring the Red Flags
The red flags began to emerge. I chose to ignore them.
Bob was good at making reservations, but his life was frenzied, and he was late for nearly every activity with me. That, coupled with his forgetfulness, made me feel overlooked and insignificant. His apologies were meaningless because his behavior never changed.
There were other unsettling actions as well. I sometimes suspected that he was hiding something.
Every time I had my feet on the ground and began questioning the foundation and strength of this relationship, I would get caught up in his whirlwind. And I was still disengaged from my healthy daily practices of yoga, meditation, and journaling. I was too busy dealing with Bob.
Your Intuition Always Knows
Thankfully, all tests came back negative.
The weeks following our breakup, Bob called and emailed every day, professing his love for me and begging for another chance. Seriously? Another chance to give me gonorrhea or chlamydia? I don't think so.
I was thankful that I had dodged a bullet. Every doubt that I had about him was correct. At some level, we always know, don't we? Sadly, we are all capable of wishful blindness when it comes to love.
I admit that for weeks the overriding emotion that I felt was anger . . . How dare he treat my family and me with such disregard?
I was also angry at myself.
I went back to see Sharma Bennett, the therapist who had provided great insight and compassion after Jim's passing seven years earlier.
I questioned why I had allowed myself to get involved with Bob in the first place. I kicked myself for not having better judgment. Sharma gently reminded me of the trauma that I had experienced in the few months leading up to him showing up on my doorstep: I had watched my mother nearly lose her life and nursed her through her recovery. I had faced the prospect of uterine cancer. I had experienced a severe injury and challenging surgery.
Bob had sensed my emotional and physical vulnerability and made his move. I had been susceptible and grabbed onto what felt like a lifeline.
Sharma gave me the perspective to have compassion for myself and to not feel victimized.
Holding Onto Anger Is Like Drinking Poison
and Expecting the Other Person to Die
Dating, Bad Manners and Hope
I didn't date for many months after the split from Bob. But, over time, I came to see how the relationship had served a purpose in my life and had been like a defibrillator bringing me back to life. I began to feel like I was capable of being in Love again.
I met someone in the new year and dated for a few months. I was shocked when he ghosted me. I knew that this was a "thing," but shouldn't we know better at a certain age? I'm not sure what has happened to decency and good manners, but it is dispiriting.
When I told Guru Singh what had happened, he didn't seem surprised. Then he said that he was convinced . . . that he actually knew that I would be in a genuinely loving relationship.
When he saw me roll my eyes, he leaned forward with a wry smile on his face and said, "OK, you go ahead and continue to fulfill your prophecy that love won't happen."
Creating My Reality
That woke me up. There was truth in that statement. What kind of reality did I want to create? One with Love in my life or one without?
The fears that I had harbored about being in a post-Jim relationship had come true: I had been lied to. I had been abandoned. Yes, I had experienced a couple of crappy relationships, but they didn't tarnish what Jim and I had. On the contrary, I felt stronger and more confident.
That night I scribbled in my journal, "The next man I'm involved with will appreciate me for all of my qualities. He will adore me. He will work to be a better man. He will be physically and emotionally strong."
Ok Cupid, Where are You?
approachable, 3) Include one photo where you are with friends, 4) Don't focus on your job or career in your profile, and 5) Have fun.
I shared what I was doing with Guru Singh, and he was truly excited and a strong advocate for online dating. I dismissed my foray into online dating by declaring, "I really don't expect anything to come of this."
As he had before, he leaned forward, paused, looked straight into my eyes, and said, "OK, you go ahead and live that self-fulfilling prophecy."
Rats. Busted again by Guru Singh.
I went home and resurrected my earlier journal scribbling and created an affirmation that felt absolutely right for this time in my life:
"I am in a loving, romantic (I had to plant that specific word in there – I have plenty of friends with whom I have a loving relationship and I wanted more than friendship) relationship with a man of this world (our physical world here, not some metaphysical realm) that is mutually trusting and fulfilling on every level, including mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and financial. This Man, my Partner, consistently displays his Love and affection for me, as I do for him."
I repeated my affirmation aloud at least once a day and wrote it down in my journal several times a week.
What Just Happened?
Barb had been right about online dating. I met a lot of nice men and went on numerous first dates. Some called back, and some didn't. I was fine either way. This was more about the journey than the end game.
Stephen was one of the first to reach out, and our texts and subsequent conversations were easy and engaging. He was consistently respectful of my time and never pressured me. Several weeks passed before we met in person for a quick coffee date downtown after my client lunch. I immediately recognized Stephen when he walked into the restaurant because he looked exactly like, if not better, than his photos!
Afterward, we walked out to the garage together, and when the valet pulled up my car, I turned to give Stephen a polite good-bye semi-hug. I was stunned when he stepped in for a real hug and gave me a sweet longish kiss.
I plopped down behind the wheel of my car and put my fingertips to my mouth, and thought, "What just happened?"
A Virtual Date in Tokyo
I was not to see Stephen for another few weeks as I was departing for one of my twice-yearly visits to Tokyo to check in on my parents. Their lives had significantly deteriorated since my last visit. The combination of my mother's dementia, my father's inertia, and his inability to read or converse in Japanese had them hanging on by a thread.
I waded through stacks of mail and unearthed a notice that their electricity would be shut down for nonpayment. Their air conditioning unit wasn't working because pigeons had roosted in the hoses. Moldy food sat lurking in different areas of their apartment (I turned a deaf ear to their objections and immediately hired a weekly cleaning service).
I was overwhelmed with cramming five months' worth of caretaking into my two-week visit.
Stephen and I texted every few days while I was away, and as always, he was respectful of my time and responsibilities. One day when I was able to get away for a few hours on my own and took the train to Roppongi for a bit of shopping. Afterward, I lunched in a calm, simply appointed sushi restaurant. I was seated at a table between two bamboo screens enjoying the serenity and beautiful presentation, when a text popped up from Stephen.
Our virtual lunch date was an oasis during my hectic and demanding visit.
Being on Vacation Without Leaving the House
When I returned, Stephen and I met for a follow-up date. He was funny, intelligent, attractive, interesting, respectful . . . and in my age group. What a score!
A few weeks after our post-Tokyo date, we agreed not to see other people and deactivated our dating profiles.
He was romantic and sincerely endearing. I felt special and cherished when he said, "Being with you is like being on vacation without leaving the house."
Four months after our coffee date, Stephen turned to me and said, "I love you." He followed with, "I knew you weren't going to say it first because of your father."
He knew me. My father, God bless him, had not been an emotive man. I knew that my Dad loved me, but I had never heard those three words uttered from his lips, and as a result, I often hesitated to say them as well. Stephen filled me with Love in his words and actions.
Enter the Dragon
Dragons or Ryū (Ri-yoo) have existed in Japanese culture for over a thousand years and are a symbol of a protector of the Buddha and the Buddhist law. This legendary creature has been embedded in my life since I was a young girl, and I've always associated the dragon with strength and protection. Even my high school mascot on Okinawa was known as the mighty "Kubasaki Dragons."
I like to follow the Japanese Zodiac Calendar, where a different animal represents each year. I believe that it is no coincidence that Stephen was born in the Year of the Dragon.
I was born in the Year of the Monkey, and it is believed that the Dragon and Monkey are a perfect match.
Two years after we met, Stephen proposed on my birthday. So, of course, I accepted. I would be crazy not to want to spend the rest of my life with this fascinating, insightful, thoughtful, hunky guy.
Our later in life love is very precious to us – we both know how seemingly impossible it is to meet "the one." However, Stephen was relentless in his belief that he would someday meet the right woman and summed up the search for the seemingly impossible when he said, "I never gave up on love."
For many years following Jim's death, I had no interest in dating. I continued to wear my engagement and wedding rings – the precious symbols of marriage and my identity as a wife. Every so often, a thoughtless person would inquire, "Why are you still holding on?"
My heart was in suspension . . . waiting for something. Having a heart in hibernation was better than opening my heart and having it ripped to shreds again.
Even if I were to have another partner, I didn't want to work at it. I wanted my perfect match just magically to appear on my front doorstep. And while we're at it, let's make him the more spiritual, more mature version of Brad Pitt (apologies to Brad – who is most likely quite spiritual and mature).
There was one other thing: I was fearful that getting into a relationship that didn't work out would somehow contaminate what Jim and I had shared.
One thing had nothing to do with the other, but I had convinced myself that the only scenario that would work for me was one where I could slide into a relationship that mystically worked out. This was the only way that I could hold on to the integrity of my marriage; a relationship that resulted in a breakup would somehow denigrate my marriage. Irrational? Beyond superstitious? A barrier to happiness? Yes, Yes, and Yes.
Just send my version of Brad to my front doorstep, please.
The year was 2014, and I was entering the 7th year of Jim's passing. I was trying to be open to a new relationship and had stopped wearing my engagement and wedding rings – a monumental step.
Kundalini Yoga teaches that our consciousness changes every seven years, and our identity evolves and deepens, building on the wisdom of past experiences. The 7-year cycle is a time of profound change and a chance for reassessment and checking our compass to ensure we are proceeding to our fulfillment.
My life had a good hum. I had my monthly meetings with Guru Singh,
I treasured my trips to Tokyo and the precious visits with my parents, who were in their mid-80s. They were slowing down a bit, but were independent and still doing well. Dad was still driving (a most harrowing experience for me as a passenger), and Mom was active with her friends, cooking her favorite foods and playing slot machines, as well as the stock market.
During my visit in May of 2014, my mother and I traveled to Matsushima, north of Tokyo, for a short visit with her favorite cousin.
After our visit, we stopped at Sendai Station to catch the shinkansen (bullet train) for the 2-hour trip back to Tokyo. My mother began experiencing stomach pains shortly after our light lunch at the station, and her pain quickly worsened to the point where she was crying in pain. I felt helpless; my Japanese was terrible, and I couldn't properly explain the urgency of what was happening.
I spent the next seven days at my mother's bedside, monitoring her progress and well-being. I was on constant alert and felt the same high tension as I did during Jim's 3-week hospitalization for chemotherapy treatment, constantly stuffing down a paralyzing panic that my mother would develop an infection or some catastrophe would occur.
I ran a hot bath at my hotel room every night and sat in the ofuro (deep soaking tub) sobbing with fear and anxiety. I was not ready to say good-bye to my mother.
I need not have made myself sick with worry. Seven days after the surgery, my father and I brought my mother home to Tokyo. The day after our homecoming, she was cheerfully walking, climbing stairs, and grocery shopping for her favorite Asahi beer.
After months of circling the drain and one disastrous trip to Italy, we finally split up.
I felt tremendous relief, but there was still something nagging at the back of my mind that I couldn't let go of. So I began asking questions of the people who knew him.
I uncovered solid evidence that he had been cheating on me for the past months, if not the entire time we had been dating. It was no wonder that I had felt like a prop and the lowest rung on the ladder – that was precisely where he had placed me in his life. My gynecologist was horrified when I shared my story with her and tested me for every STD known to humankind with a rush on the results.
Some situations call for confrontation. Some situations justify retaliation. Some situations warrant prosecution. After much reflection, I decided that this situation called for compassion not just for myself, but for Bob as well.
Why? Because no one who is emotionally healthy would treat another person in the way that Bob had treated me. His actions had to be borne of fear and insecurity. I wanted to tap into that and have compassion for someone who was suffering that deeply.
The Buddha is credited with saying, "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the
Like seeds hiding underground, I had been dormant for nearly ten years since Jim passed away. I wanted to shine a light on those seeds and allow myself to grow strong and tall so that my next partner, the man who was searching for me, could find me.
I had been adamant that online dating was not for me. My friend Barb, a dating app sage, probed me about my reluctance, and I shared my concern that men in my age group (early 60s) would bypass me for much younger women.
She shook her head and said, "Nope, that's not going to happen to you."
With some friendly persuasion from my new dating coach, I created a profile on OKCupid and followed Barb's tips: 1) Don't lie about your age, 2) Choose photos where you look friendly and
other person to die." My anger would make no difference to Bob. So instead, I reached inside for compassion. Compassion for a person who most likely had never felt loved, who had never experienced love, and may likely never will.
No More Lessons in Love
In the summer of that same year, my dog Beau was hospitalized for heatstroke and nearly lost his life.
Several weeks after Beau's near-death experience, I met with Guru Singh and did something I've rarely done: I broke down and cried.
When he asked me who was giving me emotional support, I had no answer.
Guru Singh leaned forward and said, "You are done with lessons in Love. It's time for fulfillment and joy."
He was telling me to open my heart. OK great. So how do I meet that man to experience fulfillment and joy?
Love, Part II: Lessons Learned – Filling the Cracks with Gold
1. Acceptance is a direct path to Moving Forward.
At the time when I faced a potential cancer diagnosis, I was profoundly lonely and despondent and felt that I had no reason to fight for my life. By ruminating on my sadness and aloneness, I was, in a sense, resisting reality. The moment I accepted my aloneness - my present state - I felt a lightness and feeling of peace enter my being. This didn't mean that I was OK with being alone, but I accepted it. This conscious acceptance was the first step in moving forward from my loneliness. "I accept that I am alone. I am comfortable being alone. I know and trust that I am loved."
2. Trauma distorts the ability to make balanced decisions.
I didn't realize that I was in a state of emotional weakness when Bob stepped in to "save" me. I knew that I was physically weak because of my surgery. Still, I didn't realize the extreme emotional effects of witnessing my mother's brush with death and my own possible cancer diagnosis. Thanks to Sharma's insight, I understood that my emotionally vulnerable state clouded my judgment. Additionally, I had blocked my intuition by setting aside my daily meditation, yoga, and journaling practices. Instead of feeling guilt and shame, I could forgive myself for getting involved with a man who was wrong for me.
3. "What Is to Be, Already Is"
I firmly believe that a thoughtfully scripted affirmation pulled from our heart's deepest longing is the first step to living the life that we desire. Guru Singh taught me to write an affirmation specific to my needs and in the present tense – meaning it is happening real-time, right now. A Sanskrit mantra that translates to "what is to be, already is' is a perfect description of this type of affirmation. So I went "all in" with the dating app and embraced my affirmation to live in my ideal state and attract the man searching for me. I still repeat this same affirmation every day.
4. Step Out of the Comfort Zone.
Had I stuck with my belief that online dating wasn't for me, the odds of meeting Stephen would have been low to nonexistent. Allowing my friend Barb to nudge me out of my comfort zone was one of the best decisions of my life - the key was to keep an open mind. I nearly sabotaged myself by declaring, "I really don't expect anything to come of this." Equipping myself with my sincere affirmation allowed me to be aware but not fixated on the outcome. The Law of Attraction never works if we are too fixated on the result.
5. Don't give up on Love (credit to Stephen).
Stephen said he always knew that he would meet the right woman. He never wavered from this belief, and he kept actively searching. Stephen didn't need to write an affirmation; his steadfast faith and focus made his desires a reality. He never gave up on Love.