TRANSITIONS- Experience Past & Experience Present

16 05 2009

BE & William E. Schulenberg

The photo uploaded with this post is of William E. Schulenberg (WES) and me. Over dinner last evening–candle lit, of course–WES and I discussed “stages” of our respective transitions through this life. The topic is particularly poignant for us because we re-connected 28 March 2008 after not having seen or heard from each other since March 1979.

Late in December of 1978 Ruth Bombet, a very close friend of mine and a business associate of WES’s, decided he and I should meet after he spoke with her about his life. He told Ruth he felt as if he were in a raging river, in a tiny boat that was filling with water, paddling as fast as he could but was sinking slowly. He added, “No member of my family or any friend gives damn.”

Being a most sensitive soul, Ruth took WES by the hand and dragged him to my apartment. Ruth used the key I’d given her to unlock my door and then bounded in with her usual enthusiasm. In the midst of hugs and happy babbling, Ruth pointed to the entrance door to my apartment while telling me she’d brought a friend who needed a sympathetic ear.

I noticed WES then.

He was standing in the doorway. His eyes were downcast and his expression was hauntingly sad. I felt as if I’d taken a hard hit in the solar plexus from a big fist.

Ruth introduced me to WES as a full-time writer and a sometime-psychic.

He did not seem to hear a word she said. He did allow her to lead him into the living room and he managed a nod of agreement when Ruth told me again that he needed a sympathetic ear.

I said, “Hello,” and asked if I could get something for the three of us. Ruth demurred, saying she had to get home to her kids. WES had plopped down on my sofa and was already talking as Ruth quietly left my apartment.

He talked for more than two hours, pouring out the anguish he felt.

He’d given up some time earlier his high-visibility job with a big corporation because he and his wife had decided not to accept an offer of transfer. The evening we met, WES was struggling in the second job he’d had since. The company he worked for was in trouble and would be closing in about four months. His mother had died recently and a daughter, one of five, had gotten into trouble that caused upset in the family home. He was, WES lamented, caught in a transition that he feared was never going to end.

He asked, “Is ‘transition’ just another word for hell?”

We discussed that idea on the night of 23 December 1978 in my Baton Rouge, Louisiana, apartment. And we discussed it again last evening in Bill’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana, apartment. Both WES and I are “in transition” now. But this time, I am the one who feels trapped in a raging river, in a tiny boat that is taking on water even as I paddle as fast as I can. But I am far luckier than WES was when he found himself in a similar situation three decades ago.

While he felt back then that he had no one who cared, I am blessed with a daughter and a son who care very much, a sister who cares, too, a large circle of caring friends, and WES–who finally realized in March of 2008 that there had been more of a connection between the two of us  than he had realized at the time. He said, “I decided to find you and tell you so.”

WES made many searches. He says he tried every known search engine. But found no trace of me. Feeling dejected, he said he feared that I might have died. That fear prompted him to consider making one more search.

“I felt compelled to find out what had happened to you, how you could have just disappeared,” he said over dinner last evening. I wanted to talk to you again, even if it meant trekking off to some Mississippi cemetery. I decided I would go there if I found you, would place a bouquet of roses on your grave, and apologize for not recognizing the connection between us in 1978.”

WES made a new search. He included the word “obituary” and VOILA! Up popped my name followed by an e-mail address.

I wasn’t dead, obviously.

The “obituary” tag found me because of my involvement with genealogy. WES wrote to me. I answered. And six weeks later, he moved into a guest house at Acropolita, the property in Costa Rica where I have lived for almost a decade.

WES and I have found many areas of common interest. We are still in transition. But we feel an incredibly strong connection that we intend to explore to the fullest. For us, now, being “in transition” is to Lost as Sadness is to Euphoria: The Absolute Opposite!”

WES and I have laid what we believe is a strong foundation. We have begun building a personal relationship on it. And we expect to share many, many candle-lit dinners. But, beginning next week, the dinners will end–for awhile.

I must return to Costa Rica, where I will phase out a decade of residency. Am I scared? Yes! Do I fear defeat? No, because I have learned during more than six decades of a very exciting life that defeat is a concept that I do not accept.

My return to Costa Rica will be a challenge, and that’s fine. I’ve faced lots of those and I expect experience to guide me so that I will not just meet the new challenges that await me, but will triumph over them because I now have a tremendous advantage.

I have an incredible group of people pulling for me, cheering me on. The leader of this remarkable group is WES. He is backed up by my children, sister, and a whole bunch of fabulously supportive friends.

Transition forces the person experiencing it to struggle with difficult, painful and confusing events.

Transition is … just another word for journey, and I expect to return to the US from this trip in triumph. I even have a plan for keeping my spirits high.

My plan is to begin ending my time in Costa Rica, at Acropolita. I will shut finish one more chapter of my life. And when I finish that daunting work, I expect to come back to my native country and find another “permanent” address–which will be my 33rd!

Dr. Tony Hu explained something about me to me long ago. He told me, “I have figured out the secret of Betty Eppes. You were born under a famous Oriental Curse. It is, ‘May your life be an exciting one.’”

It has been, so far.

I will celebrate my 69th birthday on 13 April 2009. I have embraced life with gusto, traveled much, and am looking forward now to a 7th decade that will be quieter, more stable.

Maybe, just maybe, I will find a way to escape from that Oriental curse and make my next “permanent address” truly permanent.

Please, wish me luck!

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