Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

The Five Of Us

Aroma Indian Cuisine, Benicia, California, USA

November 10, 2017

"The cost to me of not doing so. I'm unwilling to pay the cost of carrying a resentment (or whatever) around, so I draw on the intelligence of forgiving."
...   answering Laurence Platt's question "On what do you draw to forgive people who are hardest to forgive?" in Questions For A Friend II III (Straight Talk) 
"Resenting is like taking poison, hoping the other  guy will die."
... Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Madiba Tata (uBawom)Khulu Mandela
This essay, The Five Of Us, with Body Heat, Radiant Health, is the sequel to This Is Inspiration!.

It is also the prequel to
  1. Happy 64th Birthday To The Mother Of My Children
  2. This Is Inspiration! II: Out Of The Crucible
in that order.

I am indebted to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who contributed material for this conversation.

If you walked into Aroma Indian Cuisine, a nice yet very ordinary restaurant on a tree-lined street in the city of Benicia, California at around 7:30pm on Friday November 10, 2017, the place would have been almost deserted ... almost deserted, that is, except for one table in a corner occupied by a group of five people. Spread out on their table are various Indian dishes (chicken curry, lamb curry, rice, sambals  etc), breads (rotis, chapatis), tea and other drinks, and the obligatory ordinary tableware. The group is animated, laughing, in conversation, stretching across the table to taste-test the fare on each of the many plates, telling jokes, talking story  - in other words just an ordinary group of ordinary people out for an ordinary dinner in an ordinary city in California on a very ordinary Friday evening.

Looking a little closer, you discern they are a family: a mother and father and their three adult children. Again, certainly nothing unusual about that - perhaps not unusual, but extraordinary  nonetheless: this group is my ex-wife Jolin Beth, me Laurence Guy, and our three adult children Alexandra Lindsey, Christian Laurence, and Joshua Nelson. And the thing is this is the first time the five of us ... have all been together ... in the same place  ... at the same time ... in thirteen years.

Left to right:
Joshua, Alexandra, Jolin, Laurence, Christian

Aroma Indian Cuisine, Benicia, California, USA

8:52:07pm Friday November 10, 2017

Click to expand
the five of us together for the first time in thirteen years
This day, this occasion, this extraordinary meal with this extraordinary family, has been a long time coming - that's  for sure. We're together again. We're a family once more. The five of us are a transformed  family now. To be sure, we're a family in which the mother and the father are no longer married to each other. Yet we're still a family. In love. As we always were. As we always will be. What happened  to make this possible?

What happened is I had a breakthrough. I realized in spite of the messy, painful circumstances of our divorce, Jolin is the mother of my children. Period. As the mother of my children, she's altered the physical universe's future with me. She's not going anywhere. Ever. That's how this meeting became possible in a space which previously only heralded pain, upset, sadness, disappointment, and reactivation for me from which I recoiled for thirteen years. Honoring Jolin as the mother of my children created the space for me to get beyond that. And believe me, while I wanted / needed  to get beyond it, I couldn't  get beyond it. I was stuck with it. Stuck with the pain. Stuck with the shame. Stuck with no possibility of ever  moving beyond it. Until now.

Listen (there's no mystery to any of this): here's how you rehabilitate your shattered love for someone whom you once loved enough to want to spend the rest of your life with, whom you later came to associate with intense, aching, heart-breaking pain: you have to surrender the pain. If that sounds overly simple, it is  simple. But it's not easy. But hey! (and I really want you to get this): not  surrendering the pain is even harder ie it's worse  in the long run than surrendering the pain. And to surrender the pain, you first have to stop being right  about that person. To honor Jolin as the mother of my children, I had to stop being right about her. When I did, a dark clammy rank pea-soup fog lifted. I got lighter ie I lightened up. I got healthy  (no surprise there!). Having this meeting was only a matter of time after that.

So here we are, the five of us together for the first time in the same place at the same time in thirteen years. It isn't merely extraordinary: it's breathtaking. It shatters norms. It heralds something that was never going to happen ever  (something impossible)  happening (becoming possible). The very air crackles  with transformation.

What's remarkable (not to mention deeply moving  and inspiring)  is everyone's at ease, relaxed. It's fair to say we've all waited a long  time for this moment. Now it's showing (glowing  actually) on everyone's faces. Christian and Joshua's unique wit and repartee is contagious. Alexandra shares her new life and relationship in Santa Barbara. Jolin recounts when she and I visited Fiji, a butcher's van parked near us. Emblazoned on it was a sign "Lamp  chops" (not lamb  chops - lamp  chops). We laugh about it - just as we laughed about it then. It's good to laugh with her again. I raise my glass of hot tea in a toast: "To our family" I say, and everyone clinks everyone else's glasses, "to our family - this is us"  from which Alexandra later creates a Facebook  post about "the 5 of us"  for which I ask her permission to title this essay "The Five  Of Us" which she grants me. The (so far) seventy eight responses to (and comments on) her post from family and friends confirm their jaw-dropped amazement and respect that it actually happened. I'm clear about the power of standing for family regardless of the circumstances. The five of us have unleashed it.

Photography by Alexandra Lindsey Platt

Aroma Indian Cuisine, Benicia, California, USA

9:02:04pm Friday November 10, 2017

Click to expand
Jolin Beth Halstead,
mother of my children
Now with all that said, I'd like to share something profound I got about the mother of my children. It goes to the heart of the matter of the enormous gift Jolin is in my life, regardless of the fact that we're no longer married, regardless of the fact that our lives are now in different orbits. Since we were divorced, my life has been a series of trials doing what I had to do to get myself back in the game again (divorce is a body blow  - make no mistake). I got my health back on track. I got my finances back on track. I got my creativity back on track. Most important, I got my relationship with each of my precious children back on track. All of the above took thirteen years in total.

Then one day I was shaving, looking at myself in my bathroom mirror, quietly and privately celebrating this turnaround (this impossible  turnaround). I had triumphed  against all odds, and I was feeling pretty good ie I was feeling pretty cocky  as they say in Merrye Olde Englande. And what I was feeling pretty cocky about was how I had triumphed over the seemingly impossible odds alone  ... and that's when I heard a voice saying "Oh, so you think you bore and raised your three incredible children all by yourself  Laurence, do you?".

That's when I got it. That's when it hit me - and I said to the mirror "Oh my God Jolin, I love you! Thank  you! Thank you so much!".

That's how (or at least that's the genesis  of how) the five of us came to be seated in Aroma Indian Cuisine, the nice yet very ordinary restaurant on a tree-lined street in Benicia, California at around 7:30pm on Friday November 10, 2017 eating dinner, together in the same place at the same time for the first time in thirteen years.

What I got is the possibility of the five of us experiencing wholeness, cohesion, and unity - but when the truth is told, that experience has less to do with the legal and institutionalized agreement of marriage than we ordinarily consider. We'd like them to go together. We want them to go together. We expect  they'd go together. And often they don't. We've found out (sometimes to our surprise, oftentimes to our chagrin) that just being married neither guarantees nor safeguards the experience of family wholeness, cohesion, and unity - if it did, all married couples' families would experience it, and the divorce statistics wouldn't be as outrageous as they are.

On the other hand, when each of the five of us are present to the experience of wholeness, cohesion, and unity that's available as a function of who we already really are, something becomes newly possible for being related and for being family which, given our ordinary  experience and consideration, is nothing short of miraculous.

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