“I must be willing to give up what I am, in order to become what I will be.” A. Einstein

for M.W.

Like everyone else, it seems, I’ve come down with this year’s bug: sore throat, coughs and contagious as hell! You don’t want to be around me.

However, I may be one of the few people who doesn’t mind being home sick. I make it a luxurious excuse for down time, drinking elderberry juice and daydreaming. I have a penchant for laziness, as well as for considering the positive aspects of much of the bad news we receive day after day. The way I am amuses some, and drives others nuts!

I’m sure I learned this insistence on positivity from Misha, the Czech refugee I fell in love with hitch-hiking in France when I was a student, those many years ago. He is the one who told me that when you did not know if you would be alive tomorrow, you made sure you had a good time today.

After our first time setting out on the roads together, we were hooked and carried on our wild adventuring for many years, even though we lived on different continents. In both his country and mine – even after I was married – we met in various out-of-the-way places for adventures, both having a taste for the far-out. We were rather indomitable.

We were also very young.

That didn’t mean our trips were always easy – like our last time together, a madcap meet-up on the Scilly Isles off the coast of Cornwall in the dead of winter.

We both had winter colds and the last place to be was on a dank island in the North Sea, but we braved it and had a perfectly awful time. I had no idea he could be so irritable; he had never seen me so pushy. “What happened to our magic?” he complained, sniffling. I wondered why I had ever loved such a big baby.

So, on our last day of a too-long vacation, back on the mainland with no taste for one another, we chose to each spend the day alone, to go in opposite directions and meet back in St. Ives for our last dinner together.

I took off at a run, braving wind and rain to get as far away from him as possible, charging along the coastal cliffs, a lone figure beneath a leaden rain-filled sky and pounding surf below, and I did not look back. In the sere winter landscape not another soul was on the trail, and I passed no village – only brown grass, sleet and wind. I was alone in an unwelcoming world and if I died, nobody would know nor care. I just kept walking.

But after awhile, like magic, I came upon a place out of a storybook!

A clutch of greystone cottages; a Norman church tower; a village Pub, smoke streaming from its ancient chimney. I staggered in, half frozen, and made for the open coal fire.

“My darling, wherever have you come from?” the publican called from the bar, wiping his hands on the towel around his neck. The men in the pub were all eyes. When I replied, “St Ives,” they all started at my accent and exclaimed, “An American!” In a twinkling I was surrounded, patted, handed hot black tea, and gazed at adoringly. The Americans, it seemed, had saved this village in the last war and that made me a special guest!

“You walked all that way, in this cold?” they exclaimed, “but why, my darling?” (In Cornwall, the use of darling for every female is de rigeur.) “You could have taken a bus by the road!” Like this I was gathered in, fed hot soup and brown bread slathered with butter and marmalade. They made me change into a warm robe while my wet clothes tumbled in the dryer, answer all their questions and drink enough hot tea to float an army.

They told me their stories, I sort of told them mine – leaving out why in the world I had been out walking the coastal path in the middle of a winter rainstorm. We were all fascinated by one another.

“Go hear the bell ringers!” the publican urged, “they’ll be practicing in the church soon,” as he handed me back my clothes hot from the dryer and bustled me into the back room to change. “I’ll find you there when I close up, and will bring you back to St. Ives by car. After you meet the Missus, of course – she’ll never forgive me if I let you go!”

It was an old, old church of pitted grey stone, fragrant with eons of incense and candlewax and there I was in its historic midst, spending one of the most unexpected and extraordinary days of my life. And it was just after one of the most painful days of my life!

Here I was called ‘darling’ by strangers and surrounded by their love and gratitude in their holy place as the ancient bells rang and rang above me. The young men of the village pulled hard on their ropes, then jumped into the air with them and hung on, sailing high above the floor as each bell sang its own note! Alternately swinging high and crouching low, they showed off their prowess as the bells pealed like glory and shook the old stones, vibrating every cell of my body!

I was the only congregation there, sitting in the last pew, my eyes closed and my whole being opened by this heavenly pealing of bells that had come as a gift from the universe I knew not how. For the next two hours I was exactly, precisely where I needed to be, happy as a clam.

But as I sat there in thrall, understanding in my bones that trusting the universe and following its lead wherever it took me was a good idea, I also knew that trusting myself was part of it, even when things appeared to be out of my control.

Later that evening back in St. Ives, after waving the gracious publican goodbye and my body still ringing with wonder and gratitude, I strode into the B&B to find Misha waiting for me and looking worried. I started to apologize and explain where I’d been, but he put a finger over my lips and unsmiling, said,

“No, we needed this! To get free, the only way was to get mad enough to hate each other! Do you see?”

Did I see?

“We had to break this crazy habit of longing for each other! We’ve been children! Every day of my life I walk with you by my side, telling you, showing you… But you are not there!

We both began to cry. “We have to detest each other to break this bond, or we’ll always be just wanting each other across the big ocean, like crazy people. Our whole lives!”

He was breathing hard and would not let me touch him.

“So, tomorrow we part – no, don’t talk. It is the only way. I will go in the night – don’t follow me.” He turned away.

Later, we managed to swallow down some dinner and say a few more difficult things to each other, and when I awoke at dawn he was gone.

Only one time since then have I again heard his voice, his deep Slavic voice, and that was many years later on the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern California, when he phoned from Basel to make sure I was alright. By that time Herb and I were married, we had three children and life was good – and very different from what it might have been with Misha, who had made the hard, but correct choice.

He did not stay long on the line, but hung up shortly after making sure I was alive and unhurt, unwilling to tell me more about himself.

Misha. The love of my life, perhaps, but not the partner to build a life with. For me, letting go was agony – not only the guy, but also the youth and the freedom, the spirit of life and adventure we shared. But when it is time, you have to let go and grow up – just as we collectively have to let go now and grow up from a dysfunctional and immature belief system that rewards irresponsibility and greed, injustice and institutional cruelty; that considers the natural world a commodity and sex a sin; that permits people to go hungry and wars to be fought for profit!

Nobody ever said growing up was easy, but I believe it has to begin with grieving our losses until we feel drained of our tears, and then grieving some more. Then our task is to take stock of our lives and be willing to leave the past behind before pulling around to face in a new direction.

Mind you, the shifting of consciousness may not be a walk in the park, but raising our collective consciousness is indeed what is required of us now. The tantrums of our dear Blumpsky may be just the kick in the pants we need to finally make the change – each and every one of us.

It is bigger, by far, than resistance and politics. It’s bigger than fighting the good fight, about you being right and the others being wrong. It’s not about fixing a worn-out system, nor giving more money to this party or that.

It’s about change from the very bottom up, from the very heart of things, where the world is infinitely vaster and the rules way more subtle than you think; where our bodies are brilliant, and listening includes feeling; where the word ‘love’ barely begins to describe the enormity of what is waiting for us in the great unknown.

It’s about letting go of what does not work and creating a world that does work according to a very different set of rules. And listening to those bells that ring true.

Give it a try. I think you’ll like it.