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

This Is Inspiration!

Peet's Coffee, Bel Aire Plaza, Napa, California, USA

March 7, 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, This Is Inspiration!, is the companion piece to Applause Of Angels.

It is also the prequel to
  1. Body Heat, Radiant Health
  2. The Five Of Us
  3. This Is Inspiration! II: Out Of The Crucible
in that order.

It is also the sequel to The Girl In The Pork Pie Hat.

I am indebted to Jolin Beth Halstead who inspired this conversation and contributed material, and to Kenneth Cline "KC" Denham who requested I write this account.

For me the process of divorce, both the emotional and the legal maelstrom of it, was (for the most part) like being swept over Niagara Falls without the benefit of being inside a barrel. Once the process began, during it, and for years afterwards, I could only pretend to have even a semblance of control over how it took over my life. It had a momentum all of its own, a momentum which was waaay  stronger than me. It overcame me in every way imaginable. And when I finally broke the surface and took my first full gulp of air many years later, I was left with some insightful if not rueful truths.

There was a time when we could have gotten ourselves out of that current which swept us over those falls, a time when we could have done something about it ie like swum over to a bank (so to speak). But beyond a certain point in that swept-up  momentum, even a change of heart is too late. Divorce is expensive. It's very  expensive. You each say what you want. You each say what you're willing to give. Then you fight over it (which, during the peak of the most agonizing emotional distress imaginable, is hopeless). You eventually go to court, which you quickly discover is a disenchanting arena in which only the lawyers and the system profit, and the children are the big losers. When it was finally over and the smoke had cleared, my galling realization was: had I agreed to everything initially demanded of me, no matter how unfair it was, no matter how gross a sense of entitlement  I deemed it to have, without fighting it, without taking it to court, and instead just bit the bullet and wrote a god-damned  check, we would all  be considerably better off financially today, "we" being myself, my then wife Jolin Beth, and our three children.

In hindsight (and hindsight is always  20/20 vision) it was all  interpretation. However the "he said she said"  soap opera played out, however convincing it all sounded, it simply wasn't true. None of it was. It was all  made up. But in the midst of the painful confrontations leading to divorce, we get righteous and defensive and we make it all look  and sound  true. We enroll  people in our stories that it's true. But it isn't. None of it is. It's all interpretation. So did it all just happen  like the inevitable unfolding of circumstance? or was there actual malice? What's true is it all just happened. And as for whether or not there was actual malice, listen: it doesn't matter. If it's any consolation, nobody gets away with anything. Not you. Not me (ie especially  not me). Nobody. With anything. Ever. Life itself is constantly clearing the slate, evening the odds, settling all debts. I don't need to usurp that function. I've let all that go. Look: Werner's smart, very  smart: it's intelligent to forgive.

There was no reason to not be in contact with Jolin after our divorce, except that I chose not to. Divorce was never my idea. I loved Jolin. I loved our children. I loved our family and our home and our life together. Contacting her was just too much of a painful reminder. And so I didn't. And ten years went by - just ... like ... that. It's said "Time heals all wounds", and the pain eventually dissipated. By then my three children and I had developed truly great relationships. By then I was once again fighting fit and in the best shape of my life physically, creatively, in all ways imaginable, debt free and solvent again with an enviable credit score again. And one morning I woke up, and I knew  it was OK to see her again - and so I intended to. Whatever was once in my way, I simply wasn't going to stand for it anymore. Or it had simply disappeared. Or it had run its due course and naturally completed. Or all of the above. It's not that I wanted to be an item with her again. About that, I just don't know. That's changed between us. Rather it was I flat-footed, stone cold sober recognized she's the mother of our three extraordinary children, a bond the two of us (regardless of whatever we've become individually today) will share forever. That can never change between us. The universe has ensured that.

The first thing I knew I had to do was share with my children what had happened for me, what I intended to do, and to request their approval. I assured them if each one of them didn't approve, I wouldn't do it. I also cautioned them that even though they  may approve, Jolin might not be interested. However even with that possibility hanging in the space for the four of us, we each knew our lives had been forever altered by virtue of the fact that we were even having this once impossible conversation at all. My children were uniformly great about it. They were moved and inspired by the idea (dare I say relieved?). They supported me completely ("Yay Dad! That's awesome!"). At that point I knew it was full steam ahead. We had nothing to lose.

Photograph courtesy Jolin Beth Halstead

Whole Foods Market, Napa, California, USA

2:46:12pm Tuesday March 7, 2017
with Jolin Beth Halstead
And then, after ten years ... there she was, standing at the counter of the coffee shop where, after an e-mail exchange which stretched over six weeks, we'd agreed to meet, ordering something, her back to me. I stopped and just stared at her, standing there. She didn't notice me staring. I was ecstatic  it had come to this. I walked up to her, put my right hand on her left shoulder and, for the first time in ten years, spoke to the mother of my children: "Hello Jolin.".

She turned, smiling, greeting me without a shred of effort or tension. In that instant, ten years had become a mere second, and we were Jo and Lar again (our erstwhile terms of endearment for each other). The same space, yet completely new. In an instant I got a glimpse of her as if the past had never happened. There was nothing in the way. I knew I loved her. Still.

It was easy talking with her. I said I wasn't wanting or looking for apologies from her or even explanations. None were necessary. What I was interested in was mapping out a new future in which we, whatever it may look like and however it could be constructed, were simply honoring being parents of three extraordinary children. I also made it clear it would be OK if she declined (I would honor that too). She was never any good at hiding it when things touched her (it's one of her most endearing qualities), and I could tell this touched her deeply.

Coffee stretched into lunch. Lunch stretched into shopping for groceries at Whole Foods Market until it was time to go. I looked at her and said "I love you Jo.". No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It's true. The way she is. The way she isn't. She doesn't have to change. Unless she wants to.

It wasn't yet clear to me whether it was OK to hug her (or even whether I had her permission to). Then she opened her arms, and so I knew it was OK to hug, and we did. It was like holding soft warm melting butter. Not a trace of resistance, not one iota of inauthenticity. And then we got into our cars and drove away in similar yet different directions, and that was it: one of the most remarkable meetings of my life (with one of the most remarkable women I've ever known) was over. I can never be the same person again as I was before we met. This is inspiration! And I'm inspired.

So what now? What's next? The beauty of it is I don't know. I've no idea. It's empty. It's marvelous. It's pregnant with possibility. It could be something. It may be nothing. It allows for a new space of transformed family, a new possibility of relationship in which there's no resisting, no avoiding, mutual respect, and communication, none of which was possible five hours ago, none of which has been possible for the previous ten years. What a difference a few hours make. What a difference language and communication make.

Since our meeting, I've had a chance to look at things newly. And I'm clear, really clear about one thing: when I stayed stuck in what happened, it never did me any good. The analysis caused the paralysis. Instead, I want Jolin to be successful. I want her to win. I want her to be awesome. I want her to have a great life. I want her to be happy. I want her to have love. And listen: whether she gets love from me or from someone else, is actually beside the point.

I notice I'm calmest, healthiest, and happiest, not when I'm picking at what happened like a scab, but rather when I'm standing in the empty space of possibility of what could happen next. OK, what does that mean  Laurence? It means I have no expectations. I'm just looking at what's possible. We have three children together. If we didn't have children, we may not be having this conversation today. But we do. So we are. And in this  conversation, God stops me in my tracks, forces me to my knees, and says (ie reminds me) "Laurence, you must  look at this possibility.".

I am the possibility of something awesome, something off the charts  emerging for Jolin and me, for our children, for our respective families, for everyone who knows us, for everyone who reads this. As I said, I don't know what that will look like. But whatever it may look like, it's an idea whose time has come.

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