The first time I really noticed Deb was in the spring of 1992. She was wearing a beautiful cotton summer dress with pink, red and blue flowers and she was playing with a little girl in her charge. They were twirling. I was smitten. She was 21 and I was 27.
I had dropped in to play some pool in the upstairs of the Thunderbird Bowling Lanes in North Vancouver just off Lonsdale at 16th. The lower part of the building was 10 pin bowling and the upstairs featured 5 pin bowling on one half and pool tables on the other. Deb was actually working, getting paid to turn heads.
My buddy, Kevin Shoesmith, and I were about to play when Deb twirled her way to our attention. We exchanged a look with each other and were instantly rivals. We agreed to play a set of 9 ball for her. I stomped Kevin 8 games to 1.
I usually beat Kevin at pool having spent several years hanging out in billiard halls, but had he come out on top that day, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have honoured the agreement. Deb, in that dress, with her dark hair, light skin and glossy red lips was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. My attraction to her that spring was overwhelming.
I wrote the words, “How much?” on one side of a yellow post-it-note, sticky side up, and then on the other wrote, “Thank you!”. When I silently presented the “How much?” side up to pay for our games, she looked at me initially with some confusion before telling me the cost. I paid and flipped the note, “Thank you!” stuck to the counter then walked away without saying a word, a man of mystery.
You see, I knew a thing or two about stalking and prey back then. I was the back bartender at Holiday’s Nightclub on 1st near Lonsdale and lived stumbling distance from the club. At the end of the night for woman yet unattached, I was familiar and safe. That was their mistake.
But on this day, the hunt was nearing it’s end and as it turns out, I was the game. Deb had secretly nurtured a crush on me for four years since she was 17 and at that time invisible to me. After four years of frequenting the bowling alley and several close calls according to her where I seemed to notice her, she found the perfect combination of allure and radiance that day. I was a goner before the first rack of pool balls was broken and as she tells it, Kevin never stood a chance.
I was seeing a slightly older woman at the time who by all rights was nearly ideal for me. Deb and I on the other hand seemed to have little in common. She was out of school in grade 10 and I was in my third year at Simon Fraser University studying Canadian English literature on a partial ride of scholarships. By the time we first made love on that uncomfortable circular rattan couch in my good friend, Sean Brown’s living room a week or two later, our future was as certain as a transatlantic crossing during hurricane season. The journey was plotted and we’d either cross together or sink in the storms of the coming years.
Within three months, Deb was pregnant with our son Ezzra who was born in 1993. A year later Raiden arrived in 1994 and Coby, our daughter, was born in 1996. With three children in four years, and the majority of nights spent drinking in my nightclub with wildly divergent educations and seeming destinies, Deb and I were long shots from the beginning.
So what is the secret to our success, 28 years after Deb spun her way into my heart. To be honest, we’ve had an abundance of Grace and good fortune. If you hope to live a long life with the person you love and die in each other’s arms, you should start praying for help now. If you’re anything like Deb and I, you’ll need it.
We’ve always had a momentous sexual chemistry and the force with which we originally came together had the effect of building credit we would need to draw on to survive each other’s unkind acts in the first 15 years. Although in truth, the majority of the unkind acts were mine. They included all the usual acts of abandonment and betrayal that so often destroy marriages. To be honest, Deb’s blind love for me kept us together at a time I could no more feel her pain, than recognize all the ways I was wounding her.
I once read a book that I now agree with completely about the nature of love as enjoyed between people. Love is the feeling of perfect “coincidence” with another. To perfectly “coincide” or to occupy the same space in feeling and being. But love in this sense is incredibly difficult for people because we live our entire lives convinced of our separateness and it’s exceedingly difficult to put aside our separate needs, wants and desires.
And I’ve come to see that the only true acts of love are acts of sacrifice. Acts in which we give up our separate needs, wants and desires in service of the ones we love. In this way, love as sacrifice is God’s lifeline into the human dimension of separateness. This is why people are always drawn to the great realizers like Adi Da. They live as Love in relation to all beings without limitation and when you enjoy their company you feel their state as love-bliss.
But I had very little insight to this way of loving in the first decade of our relationship. Certainly having children created the capacity to live love as sacrifice, but in my relationship to Deb it took a lot longer and required grace.
For one thing, when Deb was hurt or wounded, I found her suffering to be largely invisible. It had become so common a state after years of my carelessness, and I recall her crying and truly collapsed one day while I ate an apple and watched for signs that her hysteria would soon pass.
I mentioned in Bread Crumbs to Beloved how I was able to feel the pain in others directly as a result of the temporary ecstatic experience at that time. While I could feel pain in total strangers, I was somehow barred from this same empathy in my closest relationships, particularly where it concerned Deb.
However, that would change in the first six month after I’d become a devotee of Adi Da Samraj. One day in the summer of 2006, Deb dropped me off at the home of another devotee for our formal weekly gathering during which time we’d typically listen to a recorded talk by Him as well as perform a variety of rituals and devotional activities like meditation and chanting.
During this time, Adi Da’s teachings and communications had begun to build on my growing certainty that there is only God and that our sense of separate self is anything but certain. After the meeting, I waited outside in the sun sitting on a brick wall backed by a garden. I was enjoying a bit of bliss and presence.
Deb had parked nearby and walked to find me. As she approached and I looked up to see her, I felt a discomfort in my solar plexus. To be honest, I felt nauseous and it came over me suddenly and grew as I watched her approaching. Her face showed signs of worry and disorientation as it often did when she was trying to understand who I was becoming in the early days of my new spiritual and religious fervor.
And then I understood, the feeling overcoming me was not mine exclusively. I was feeling her pain and it was so strong and obvious that I was feeling it as my own. We were occupying the same space, coinciding in that shared feeling. We were loving even as we were suffering.
And as we hugged in the summer heat, neither Deb nor I yet understood that our love and relationship had begun a new phase, one in which she would soon be able to safely release the wounds I’d given her in the years up until now.
But before she actually began to unwind that pain, there was one more step necessary for me. I had to visit my Guru in person. I had to travel to Fiji to sit at the feet of my spiritual Master.
Read the next chapter: First, Learn to Love