Chapter Thirteen

This entry is part 14 of 22 in the series Free Book

Hidden Fears

On my way home I found myself thinking there was now no way I could doubt that John was a mystical being. I was already very convinced of his reality because of the power of his teachings and the internal spiritual feelings he generated. But when you see someone just disappear before your eyes like that it brings home a realization of a higher reality that is just undeniable.

After I arrived home I tried getting into bed without disturbing Elizabeth, but without success.

“Honey, it’s after three. I was worried that you and John ran off together.”

“Not a chance. You’re lucky he had to go. I could have talked to him for days without sleeping. I hope you’ve gotten some sleep since I’ve left.”

She was silent. That meant that she never slept. “I wish you’d listen to me about your rest,” I said. “You’ve been awake all this time, haven’t you?”

“How do you expect me to sleep when you’re out there having high spiritual drama?”

“I’ve got to admit, I couldn’t have slept either.”

“So did you have the right answer? Are we gods or what?”

I replayed to her the dialogue that had occurred between John and me.

“Let me get this right,” she said. “Everything everyone thinks we are is not what we really are because they are just phrases that don’t tell us anything. We are also not our bodies, feelings or thoughts. There doesn’t seem to be much left for us to be. Maybe we are just blobs of nothing.”

“That sounds about as good of an answer as any, the way I feel right now,” I said, somewhat frustrated.

“Let me try out that handkerchief,” she said.

I retrieved it and handed it to her. “He said to rub it on your forehead, and it would give you strength. I know it sounds crazy, but after what I have experienced with John so far I’m willing to try anything.”

She took it and placed it on her forehead. Then she rubbed it back and forth, with her hand seemingly growing steadier. Finally, a smile graced her face as if she were experiencing pleasure. She looked at me and said, “Sweetheart, make love to me.”

I do believe I was more surprised at this request than at John’s disappearance. She hadn’t shown any interest in lovemaking for some time, now, because of her illness. “Are you sure?” I asked.

“Very sure,” she said with a very sensual voice.

We made love immediately, with more feelings of pleasure and sensuality – and, on the other extreme more spiritual feelings — than I had ever felt in lovemaking. The only way I could describe the feeling was as a union that belonged to the gods and not humankind.

Afterwards, we were lying together in silence, contemplating the experience. “If I never get better,” Elizabeth said softly, “this moment is worth a lifetime. How many live a whole lifetime in good health and never have one moment as we have just had?”

“Very well said. But of course, no one else is married to you.”

We embraced and fell asleep in each other’s arms.

We both arose the next morning after just a couple of hours sleep, but we both felt refreshed. Elizabeth seemed to have her strength back again and insisted she make breakfast. After we sat down together, she asked, “So have you done any thinking about who or what you are?”

“A little.”

“So, if we are not just a blob of nothing, what are we?”

“I’ve been thinking of it this way. If my body is taken away, I may still have feelings and thoughts. If my body and emotions were taken away, then I have thoughts, but if all three were taken away I would still be something. I’ve been imagining stepping aside from my vehicles and visualizing what is there. I know and feel there is something there, the driver of the vehicles. Some type of livingness.”

“Maybe you are just life itself,” she said.

“I know what John would say if I said that. He would ask, ‘What is life?'”

“And the answer to that has baffled philosophers for ages,” she said.

“Maybe we ought to start with the easy stuff,” I said. “John told me to ask you if you have discovered the thoughts and fears you have been hiding from yourself, and if you have learned to put them in their right place.

“I must be hiding them well, for I’m not sure what they would be.”

“Have you thought about them at all?”

“What’s there to think about? I think I’m pretty open about my thoughts and fears. Actually, I don’t have many fears outside of becoming incapacitated with this disease.”

“I’ve thought a little about it. If you are hiding certain thoughts and fears, perhaps they are especially hidden from yourself as you said. So if you try to look for them, they are hard to find because you yourself have hidden them from yourself.”

“So you’re saying I’ve hidden them so well that I can’t find them?”

“Maybe it’s something like this: Let’s say you have an extra twenty dollars and hide it in a cookie jar. For some reason, you forget about hiding it there. Then some time later you need the twenty, and it does not occur to you to look anywhere for it because you cannot even remember that it ever existed. Perhaps you haven’t seriously looked for these hidden thoughts and fears because you do not believe they exist. But just as the twenty dollars still exists in the cookie jar whether you believe it or not, so do your hidden thoughts and fears exist, waiting to be found.”

“You’ve been spending too much time with John. You’re sounding just like him.”

“Thanks for the compliment, but I’ve known you a long time, and I sense that you have a reluctance to find these hidden fears.”

“If they are hidden, and I don’t know they exist, then they don’t have power to hurt me. Why should I go looking for trouble?”

“You may not have been looking for trouble. In fact, you have probably been trying to avoid it. Nevertheless, trouble has found you. If John is right, you must realize you have to let down the barriers and find what you have hidden.”

Elizabeth looked like she wanted to hit me. “So if you know me so well, you tell me what I’m hiding.”

“I don’t know if I can find it for you. I think only you can recognize them when found, but maybe I can encourage you and push you in the right direction.”

“So push me then, I’ve drawn a blank here.”

“I have a feeling you have some residual fears that are connected to your early religious upbringing.”

“That’s silly. My religious beliefs have changed drastically over the years. Just like I no longer fear the bogeyman, I also no longer fear the fire and brimstone teachings of the old-time religion.”

“You say that, but is it possible that you almost put too much emphasis on the idea that you’re not afraid of a burning hell, and that guilt is beyond you?”

“I think the idea that God would send you to a burning hell is ridiculous. A loving God would not do that.”

“Logically, that’s true, but things you were taught as a child may have had a much more powerful effect than you may admit. Weren’t your parents very religious fundamentalist Baptists?”

“Yes, I had to go to church every Sunday, no matter what.”

“I remember you said that your dad’s favorite preacher was this hellfire-and-damnation guy who loved to shout out the punishments of God. You said he portrayed all humans as terrible sinners who are going to suffer unimaginable pain and suffering if they don’t follow the Bible and the line of virtue one hundred percent.”

“Yeah, I cringe at the memory of that guy”, Elizabeth replied. “Dad made all of us sit in the front row and listen to that horrible diatribe. At the dinner table during the week, he would talk about the sermon and how it applies in our lives. When I got interested in boys, Dad really hammered virtue into me. He made me feel that if I ever slipped and had sex before marriage I was going to burn in Hell forever.”

I paused a moment and said evenly, “And those old teachings don’t bother you any more?”

Elizabeth sniffed. “Of course not. Like I said, I’ve put them behind me like the bogeyman.”

“I don’t think you’ve put them entirely behind you. For one thing, I can tell the memory of those days still bothers you.”

“Everybody has painful memories they don’t like to think of,” Elizabeth said, wheeling her chair out of the kitchen.

I decided to change the subject for the moment. Elizabeth was getting pretty defensive. I stood in front of her. “Your mother was a perfectionist, wasn’t she? Didn’t she put a lot of pressure on you to be the perfect child?”

Elizabeth lowered her eyes. “When I was little I tried to never do anything to disappoint my folks — like I never misbehaved or talked back to them. I remember even apologizing to them in little notes I wrote for not being better in some way … But when I got older and more independent and started dating, they both seemed disappointed in me.”

“Disappointed how?” I asked.

“I don’t know how to describe it … like, their innocent little girl, their perfect child, grew up and innocence was lost. I did feel sexual guilt, I guess. My mom gave me the third degree after every date and my dad wasn’t comfortable being physically affectionate anymore. I really felt their discomfort with my sexuality. Maybe I was feeling their sexual guilt instead of my own.” Elizabeth added after a pause, “It seemed like I couldn’t do anything right.”

“Did you ever feel like they didn’t love you for who you really were, or that their love was conditional on you conforming to their idea of perfection?”

Elizabeth’s eyes moistened. “Yes” she replied softly. “And I never measured up no matter how hard I tried. They never got to know me as a person, and, after a while, I didn’t want them to. I got a little rebellious — did my share of sowing wild oats — and I’m sure they didn’t want to know about that side of me either. It would have killed them, I think.”

“That may be it!” I exclaimed, kneeling in front of Elizabeth. “If your folks knew who you really were, the real you, you think it would have killed them. So you punished yourself by suppressing the real you … by killing the real you.”

Elizabeth looked a little pale. “You need to get to work. We can talk about this later.”

“Work can wait,” I replied. “Do you see now how there might be some connection between this fear of discovery, your suppression of the truth, your guilt and your disease today?”

“Um-m-m, maybe,” Elizabeth frowned. “I think I’ve worked through my stuff pretty well, though. I’m my own person now; I don’t need my parents’ approval anymore.”

“But you need your own,” I said gently, taking her hand. As I got up, I said, “I think we need to explore it. I’ll go to work now but I want you to promise me something. Promise me that you’ll think about the guilt you may still feel about those days and the fear of not measuring up to your parents’ standards for you.”

“What good does it do?” Elizabeth looked up at me angrily. “It doesn’t change anything.”

“No, but facing your fears can change you,” I said, squeezing her shoulder. “Will you try, please? It may heal your disease.”

“I’ll see what I can do, but I think it will do more harm than good.”

“Trust me on this one. I think this is the right direction.”

I kissed her good-bye and put on my coat, hoping I was right.
Copyright 1997 by J J Dewey

Chapter Fourteen

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