I didn’t want a second chance. I liked my first option, the married life I’d worked on and loved for forty years. My husband Vic and I called our relationship “the Path of Marriage.”
In 1967, it had been easy to walk away from graduate school and return to Ithaca where Vic was a graduate student. Love mattered more than career. I never regretted that decision, but after our sons left home, I faced the choice I’d made.
For years, I’d pulled back from the world and ridden on Vic’s achievements. He was a physicist who wrote about science and Jungian Psychology, philosophy, Buddhism, and mysticism. Other than physics, he wrote about interests we shared and studied together. I was the first copy and content editor for his books. As a non-scientist, I helped him make scientific intuitions accessible.
“I don’t get this, Vic.” Or, “This is too abstract and heady. Can you include an example I’ll understand?” Because I wanted his success, he always listened and rewrote. He always thanked me, privately and publicly.
I wrote about women’s health, but I longed to share my inner spiritual and psychological work. I didn’t have the confidence to try. I let Vic take the risks, submit articles and books, and endure rejections along with the acceptances. I was proud to be his wife.
I was also jealous.
Jealousy flared when he taught with my Jungian teacher Marion Woodman at the University of Toronto while I sat in the audience. Why is he on that stage when I’m the one who studied her work for many years? I knew. I didn’t have a Ph.D. or Jungian certification. I hadn’t written a book called Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making. Instead, I’d taken the cautious path and bandaged the wounds he endured from sticking his neck out.
Jealousy was the fruit of my own unrealized longing.
Watching Vic with Marion, there was no doubt. It was time to find my own way.
Three years later, when Vic was diagnosed with incurable cancer, I devoted my life to caring for him. From the beginning, I understood that losing this man I loved might force a second chance. A chance I didn’t want.
“I hope it doesn’t take your death for me to have the courage to share my own work.” I said just months before he died. Our relationship was unflinchingly honest. We trusted each other.
“I just want you to be all right,” he said. He looked up at me from his bed with sorrowful brown eyes. Could I say I’d be all right? I wrestled with the idea that night.
“Vic, I’ll be OK,” I said the next morning. “I’ll find a way to live well without you. I don’t want a life without you, but I promise I’ll find a way to make it work.”
“I’m relieved,” he said. His eyes were sad and wet as he hugged me.
My promise felt impossible in the years after his death. I could only weep, walk in the forest, and write. I didn’t know writing was the beginning of my new trail.
Last weekend at the Jung in the Heartland conference, I remembered the many times I’d accompanied Vic when he gave lectures and workshops for Jungian or Buddhist groups. Now it was my turn.
I’d submitted an article for the competition, “Memories, Dreams, and Sensualities,” before details of the conference content were public. I celebrated when my article “Wild Nights: Grief Dreams, Mythology, and the Inner Marriage” won first prize and an invitation to present the paper at Jung in the Heartland. My presentation was the last of the conference, weaving together ideas that had unfolded for three day. A perfect fit. Vic would have loved the synchronicity. I loved the synchronicity.
Despite deafness, despite vertigo, despite fear, despite self-doubt, I hadn’t given up after Vic’s death in 2008. I’d published a book, given a TEDx talk, won a Jungian writing contest, and presented at Jung in the Heartland. I’d also co-led a workshop with Jean Raffa at the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota in 2016.
“Hey, Vic. I’d choose to be with you any day, but I took my second chance and found my work and a new path. I kept my promise to both of us.”
I imagined him beaming at me.
I’ll share “Wild Nights” and the video of the presentation after it’s published in the C.G. Jung Society of St. Louis newsletter. I loved the conference, the environment, and the featured presenters Lionel Corbet (Jungian analyst and author of many books, including The Soul in Anguish: Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Suffering) and Chelsea Wakefield (therapist and author of In Search of Aphrodite).
For an article about transforming jealousy into longing, see Falling in Love with Marion Woodman. For a recent article about why I decided to attend the conference, see A Dog, A Dream, and A Prize: Jung in the Heartland. For more about Vic’s work (with many photos), see his website.