Recently a friend – almost an old friend – sent me a link to a podcast, “Dying for Sex.”
Usually on point with his recommendations for film and subscription viewing (and an upcoming screenwriter and producer himself) I decided to listen on a road trip from Canberra to Sydney, on a morning where I could not have felt more alive.
I had awoken at 2am (having packed the night before) to make a quick espresso before hitting the road for the three hour drive to make it to a 6am yoga class with my favourite teacher at my favourite studio in Sydney, coffee at my Paddington local Orchard Street, working from home for the morning, a lunch visit to my chiropractor who had seen me through better and worse over the past seven years, working from shared living space that afternoon, before a deluxe vegan gluten free degustation and show in Marrickville. It was 24 hours and I was living life on my terms, as I had always and working toward serving my higher purpose.
As I set out on my morning drive, I tuned into the first episode of podcast honoured in the 2021 Ambie awards for podcasts – the content must be worth a listen. The podcast recounted the journey of a 30 something woman diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, leaving an unhappy marriage to embark on a series of sexcapades to make her feel more alive. I was not sure if it was just me – I did not consider myself promiscuous but her “adventures” sounded very vanilla in light of my own experiences for a similar age category.
I thought that the best person to test my judgement on this matter was a dear, seventy five year old friend, whom I admired for a number of reasons, the main one keeping his marriage alive for fifty years. He and his darling wife shared an adventurous life, always finding a reason to celebrate they confided in my in my recent visit where we celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. And of course he delivered with his own review, a former army officer – having served in Vietnam and come of age in the era of sex, drugs and rock and roll – he reminded me that there was nothing he had not done by the age of 25. His comments were that [the podcast] was “Sad in some ways that her diagnosis set her on the sexual path she decided to explore.” And that, “at her age you would have thought that she would have experimented, most of us as late teens early twenties do that sort of thing.”
He agreed she must have had a very vanilla, bland initial relationship.
It started me thinking about the different paths that people take in their lives, and the week that had been since I had embarked on my 24 hour adventure to Sydney. The night that I returned, a former colleague had confided in me that he was about to leave his marriage – and faced an ethical choice – where, in his faith he believed the union of marriage to be for better or worse, yet that his wife had suffered a workplace incident causing her post traumatic stress disorder, leaving her heavily medicated and lacking the capacity to contribute what he needed from the relationship. Despite his high performance at work, a quality that was perhaps the reason that I admired him – he had carried this emotional and mental load as a father for the past six or seven years.
“What if I became a paraplegic and she left me ” he asked – questioning his decision to leave.
I am not sure whether it is my strong faith in God, my work as a business consultant or as a lawyer that makes people feel comfortable in confiding in me – the same friend who recommended the podcast tells me it is because of my capacity to listen without judgement – maybe he is correct on this occasion – to his defence, he later confessed that he had not listened to the podcast. Surprised to learn of my colleague’s personal circumstances, the first time he had mentioned it in the almost eighteen months that I had been chatting to him, I felt at a loss as to what to advise – so I did simply listen and try to understand what his life must have been like for those years – not only being a husband supporting his wife, but a father to a young daughter. All of this while being the organisation’s golden boy.
It reminded me that everyone is walking a path, carrying a cross and that love is really the only thing that matters.
As a junior lawyer I had worked in mental health law – at a time that I had broken up with a great, older love. It was the kind of love that probably would have endured, but at a sacrifice of my own dreams and aspirations. At that time, I felt like I could not continue – that I would never recover from the heart break, however, seeing mental health patients – many of whom had experienced their own heart break, often triggering their condition, wanted only that someone listen – something that their treating psychiatrists, psychologists or general practitioners did not have time to do. I realised that they needed me to show up for them, and that I was ultimately free (and blessed with an incredible support network) – even if heart broken – and that I could choose whether to let love destroy me or to use it to serve a higher purpose.
Ultimately, this was the only experience that I could share with my former colleague, now a friend.
That sometimes, God does not want us to sacrifice ourselves for another – he wants us to continue to walk our path, in order that we may serve our higher purpose.
I was in my twenties at the time, my lover was older and wiser – and loved me enough to let me go and pursue my dreams – all of which, I am pleased to say that I realised. He showed me the experiential side – that marriage could maintain its passion and intensity, if two lovers communicate openly, and without judgement, and so that I also would not be trapped, or search in curiosity, of the adventures (not only travel….!!) that we had shared together. Something that I will always love and admire about him.
When have you made a choice to keep walking, to serve your higher purpose?