Four years after Tom was born and died, my first husband and I decided to end our marriage. The year was 1969. We had fallen in love when I was 18 and he was 24. I had had misgivings about marrying him because I, intuitively, felt that all was not as it should be for a marriage, but I knew that he was the one person who understood my inner spirit more than any other. I simply could not let him walk out of my life forever. And he had not planned on marrying so young – he had once said – but he could not leave me “out there so alone.” So we married. We had Tom. We grew together and, then, we grew apart in New York City, but we remained the dearest and deepest of friends from 1961 until his death in 2006. He visited in my home with my daughter, my second husband, and myself for the week of Christmas in 2002. Three years later my first husband, and dearest friend of 45 years, would be dead of cancer. That last visit was a God-given visit of grace.
Grace has been a theme that has played out in my life many times. When my first husband and I separated, I sought a psychologist. I knew I could become whole if I could find the person with whom I could connect in my core. On the third try, I found him. I was 27 and he was 41 – in his prime as a therapist. He almost did not take me. He said his style of therapy, of learning through experiencing, may not be best for me because I had had too many experiences in a short time already – of going from South Georgia to the East Village of New York City, of losing Tom, and then my marriage. But he was wise enough, even at 41, to trust his instincts more than simple logic. He knew that we connected at the core and he knew that I was hungry to become whole. He knew he was the one person who could get me there. And he was right.
We worked together for a year, until I graduated from The City College of New York in 1970 and returned to Georgia to begin teaching. My psychologist had become my dear friend and he has remained my friend for 40 years. I cannot conceive of anyone who could have helped me work through my sexual brokenness and apprehensions about my future more than he. I feared that I had been too crippled, psychologically, ever to have a child and family – which I so much wanted – and, yet, there was so much work to be done to get me there.
As he astutely said to me in one session, “You feel like you have a male’s body without a penis.” And I said yes. He had nailed it. Yet, inside, I felt so completely feminine and female, and I wanted so much for the exterior to match the interior. Some people found me attractive, even pretty, but I felt that that was only because they could not view me naked and see how very small my breasts were. The endocrinologist had told my parents, “Do you want her to have breasts or a child one day?” So I took those pills for seven years, and my breasts did not develop after the age of 13. I was tall, medium in bone structure, and slim. One stereotypical New Yorker was compelled to stick his head out of the taxi window, as he rode by me, to yell, “You ain’t got nothin.’ ” But I knew inside I had a lot going for me – not only in my ability to understand and change, but in knowing myself to be inherently feminine at my core. Mine was a deeper problem than simply having very small breasts, of course, but I believed in my therapist and I trusted him. My therapist is 81, now, and is still writing in NYC. There is no time for holding back words of love. They must be expressed while there is still time. You cannot help but love someone who has altered the course of your life for the better by his commitment to you and his belief in you. Last week I wrote my friend and former therapist an e-mail that said simply, “I just love you – and that is all that needs to be said.” He knew exactly what I meant. Love defies labels.
That chance encounter in finding my therapist was another God-given moment of grace in my life. I was able to lift myself to wholeness – like the phoenix rising from the ashes of brokenness – because of that grace.
Perhaps through my revelations in this post, you can, now, understand why I do not “see” others through externals, such as through their bodies, or their races, or through their simple, self-identified labels, but instead through their inner spirits, which is their core.
Listen to this Cherokee version of “Amazing Grace” and hear the consistent beat of the drums. You should recall a similar beat within Bob Marley’s song, “One Love,” which I posted in my second entry. I said that the beat in that song was a heartbeat, the beat of the rhythm of life. It is organic, I said. It does not need labels. So it is here, within “Amazing Grace.”