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Under The Bloated Banyan: Our Sacred Union Journey From False Light To True Love
By Raphael and Jelelle Awen

" Our story is offered in the hope that it helps to awaken you to the magic and wonder of your own story, and eventually to share in the greatest ongoing and unfolding of all reunions, our reunion with love itself - the one true story from which all stories are anchored."

Raphael and Jelelle Awen


True love often requires making difficult choices and giving up anything false that gets in the way. 


Marvin Vriend (Raphael Awen) and Jillian Tydeman (Jelelle Awen) seemingly come from two different worlds. Marvin is a conservative, decades-long, dedicated Christian in what he feels to be a lifelong marriage commitment to his first wife with two daughters. Jillian is a professional business coach manager, divorced, single mother, and much more alternative in her approach to spirituality and life.

Their worlds begin to intersect through E-Myth, the coaching business where Jillian works and Marvin is a client in the coaching program. They are both introduced by Nathan, Jillian’s co-worker and Marvin’s coach, to an alternative spirituality and emotional healing group based in Ashland, Oregon led by a charismatic leader named Daniel.

Their worlds begin to collide as they both join the dynamic, exclusive, and transformative world of the group. Jillian finds healing traction with the ‘parts work’ aspects of the work, newly discovered connection with ‘Maker’ or God, community connections, and sessions. She gets drawn in deeper and deeper to the inner circle once she moves to Ashland to be near Daniel and become a facilitator of the group’s process.

As Marvin leaves his long-term marriage, he has already broken off with the Christian Church and has thinning bonds with his daughters, Christian friends, and family. He becomes more deeply engaged in the group’s process of emotional body enlightenment (EBE) through monthly travels to Ashland from his home in Canada to attend individual sessions, seminars (including in Germany), and men’s groups. 

Both remain in the group over the next few years with Marvin bringing unrequited attractions to Jillian a couple of times, even when she is serving as his facilitator. He eventually enters into a meaningful romantic connection with one of Jillian’s close friends and Jillian undergoes a few, ultimately difficult relationships with men in the group as well.

Over time and many circumstances, both of them become more and more disillusioned with what increasingly feels like an unowned and abusive shadow in the group and share a growing concern over Daniel’s tough-love style of leadership. They also can’t ignore his years-long legacy of leaving broken hearts and devastation in former members of three previous versions of the groups that he has led, then collapsed in other cities.

Once the two finally find their way to each other in a powerful mutual attraction and desire for a relationship they are now ready to fully claim, they are faced with a painful ultimatum brought by Daniel of breaking up with each other or leaving the group.

What follows is a brave and tender journey of claiming their own sovereignty, each other, and their relationship with the Divine.

Under The Bloated Banyan is the true story of Jillian and Marvin’s experiences of falling in love within a cult, where they are forced to choose the false light ‘bloat’ of the group or choose their attraction and love for each other. Told in visceral, emotional and transparent memoir form from both of their perspectives, Marvin and Jillian share their journey over several years of giving up anything that was false in order to find and keep true love.

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Photo on the left is from 2009; photo on the right is from 2024


From co-author Jelelle (who goes by her birth name Jillian/Jill in the book) as she shared about the release of the book  -

“Today is the day our book baby is born! As we waited for final approval from amazon, we thought it might be on our 15th wedding anniversary on Thursday, and then on Good Friday, yet, it turned out to be Holy Saturday, the day in between Yeshua's 'crucifixion' and resurrection....which feels perfect somehow!

And today is also perfect to release it as Raphael and I are having a sacred marriage vow renewal ceremony together with our name our intentions in deepening commitment to each other and to our commission (co-mission) of continuing to bring our Divine Self Embodiment consciousness offering to the Earth Plane/Gaia ascending for those soul family members who are resonant with it.

Under The Bloated Banyan: Our Sacred Union Journey From False Light to True Love is now my fifth self-published book and my first co-written with my beloved Raphael. This book has had quite a journey to being born in its current form! I first published it with just my writing/my side of the story in 2013, still feeling in some deeper trauma processing around what I share in it about the former cult-like spiritual group and teacher I/we were involved with (for me nearly five years and I was a facilitator of the work as well). It felt just too vulnerable at the time for parts of me while the group was still active and there was still so much controversy and energectic push back going on about speaking out against it from former friends/followers and my former I ended up unpublishing it.

Then, I published my story again in 2018, feeling more settled inside with parts of me around the release of it, as the group had been collapsed for three years at that point after members FINALLY woke up to the abuses going on and fired the teacher/leader of it and collapsed the non-profit altogether. I had been able to process the completion with a couple of my former friends at that time, which seemed to help as well.

Yet, again, it didn't feel quite right timing and easy inside to have my story (which is mostly from actual journals that I kept at the time) 'out there' so I retracted it again from public purchase. Both times I felt a sadness inside too as I had received feedback from people that sharing my story in such a vulnerable way touched them deeply and helped them in their own recovery from similar toxic, yet enlightening experiences with narcissistic groups/relationships.

So, then, about five months ago, Raphael and I were guided by Yeshua and Mary Magdalene to write the story of our sacred union journey over the last 18 years, including the time before we 'officially' came together while we were in the group. They offered that it would be a deep service to do this for others, the Christ-Magdalene lineage, and for ourselves/parts of us as well, to share it as a template for what is possible for those who have signed up for the Divine union marriage alchemical journey.

Raphael tuned into the parts of him (Marvin and Wayne) who had been through the several year journey shared about in this book, and wrote about leaving a long-term marriage and Christianity for which he received some pushback and his bravery in choosing his emotional healing and his soul awakening over duty and obligation. He also shares about holding the conscious memory of attraction to me and our Divine Union (as sometimes the masculine partner does) and he brought a few attractions to me before I was finally ready to respond to them (lots of emotional maturing to do on my side to be ready of it and him!).

Now, it feels time finally to share this story, which really hasn't ever been just MY story I realize, which is why parts of me were uncomfortable to share it alone. Now, it includes Raphael's parallel experiences in tandem with mine. It is so interesting to see how the choices and challenges we faced as individuals seem to constantly mirror each other, overlap and coincide, often entering and dissolving relationships with others at the same time.......until finally we are ready to choose a shared relationship and timeline together.

And, it is still stunning to feel, once we did, how our true and deep and Divinely guided/supported love dissolved ANYTHING false in our world right away. Within three weeks of our first date. We were accused by our former teachers of 'faking a sacred union' and of 'going too fast', 'being codependent'...all of which we probably were in the beginning. Still, it was easy in another way to say 'yes' to being together and 'no more' to the ultimatum thrust on us of breaking up or staying in the group, which we were increasingly feeling had unnamed abuses and toxicity going on.

It is still shocking to parts of me, literally takes my breath away, to feel how quickly and completely our previous worlds (including my home geography eventually!) fell apart and away once we came together. This is often a signature of a Divine Union counterpart bond and also is the good will and genuine care/love/support for each other (absence of abuse, inability to lie to each other) that has been there between us from the very beginnings of our friendship turned romance. This kind of union calls you to be completely devoted to it, inside and out, as you feel how it is your means of expressing service and your soul purpose in the world.

I so hope you enjoy this first chapter/book of our sacred union journey, which we are now feeling to continue into what feels like two more books offered over the next three years. A sacred union trilogy capturing the phases, the ups and downs, the letting ins and letting gos, of what has truly been a bliss mess ride, yet always feeling held in a bubble of Divine love protection and marked absence of traumatic experiences (after the initial ones!)

Under The Bloated Banyan is a title that came through many years ago and represents the 'bloat' of these false light/false God groups and offerings that are shared under the banyan tree of New Age spirituality (the sacred tree where Buddha found his enlightenment.) So many of which offer deep teachings/gifts in their own ways and esp. in the beginning honeymoon stages, and yet are inevitability hijacked by the leader's unfelt shadow motivations/aspects and the Matrix agenda/karmic field. These false light offerings/teachers are being exposed, disclosed and collapsing more and more as we outgrow the need for them...esp when we dedicate ourselves to healing our birth family/generational/incarnational trauma and engage in integrative shadow work with parts/aspects of ourselves.

Although, truly, this is not a story about 'surviving a cult experience'...yet, really, it is and has always been, a love story. A love story about two counterparts reuniting again. A love story about discovering our deep devotional love for and with the Divine beloved. A love story about truly coming to love all parts of ourselves and soul aspects too.


It is a story of eventually trusting that ALL of what I experienced (even the most painful) was for my own growth. I feel such gratitude and blessings for this journey that we share in this book. I am proud of it…. even of the times where parts of me were distrustful, frustrated, envious, competitive, petty, and showing my shadow and small sides.


Thank you for taking it into your heart and soul, Jelelle”



From co-author Raphael (who goes by his birth name Marvin Wayne in the book) -

“I am one proud papa to have this heart and soul baby born in the world!

Our story begins in a group that we were eventually ‘kicked out of’, but in truth, it was life, love and the divine itself that ‘kicked’ us out.

What we left with, largely unbeknownst to us at the time, was a Christ child, in embryonic form gestating in our bond. We took it from the light side of the egregore/usness of the beloved group we were a part of. It was like a baton that was passed on to us. We also took a great wound with us that would challenge us and lay our hearts bare, and eventually reveal a much deeper calling.

This story is a great revealing for me of a much deeper heart and soul calling to own and inhabit my own calling. I was allowed to feel and experience so much during these four years covered in this book, that I believe will be part of a key awakening for the men and women who resonate, who share this same calling, who share this same soul family lineage.

I truly hope my story and our story stirs deep within you, a recognition of the specialness and uniqueness of your own sacred calling that begins right from where you are right now. It couldn’t be more divinely appointed. That’s how I feel your and my life story.

It would touch me deeply not only to have you read it, but to hear how it landed and what it stirred for you, even better if you could share it publicly, (even anonymously if it’s understandably too much of a coming out for parts of you).

What a gift it is that this baby was born on this day as Jelelle and I had also planned this day many weeks ago as a day to gather with our current closest beloveds for a wedding vow renewal ceremony!


There are ways that each of our stories are each other's stories. My story, if I can call it that, is one of leaving behind what I had thought for decades was a dedicated and lifelong marriage as well as Christian faith, to go in search of something that was missing inside. My journey took me through letting go of two precious daughters, extended family, and an entire social circle to embrace something so completely different, where I hoped to make new friends, regain soul purpose expression in the world, and find my beloved.

For three years, that seemed like so many more, I immersed myself into a world that was a country and a ten hour drive away, where I came to face all the pieces missing inside. There were many moments of deep tears, at times in sorrow, and at other times in profound joy as I made my way from one discovery to the next. I became reunited with parts of myself, my sexuality, and most importantly, my authentic desire to truly give myself to a life lived no longer from duty and obligation, but instead to one of play, awe, reverence and wonder.

Those three years came to an abrupt end when I made my next big choice, which was to leave yet again, what was most precious to me, in favor of finding and entering the bigger Sacred Union yet that was unfolding, often unbeknownst to me, yet dancing in the background all the while. ‘My story’ is offered in the hope that it helps to awaken to the magic and wonder of your own story, and eventually to share in the greatest ongoing and unfolding of all reunions, our reunion with love itself - the one true story from which all stories are anchored.



Under The Bloated Banyan Excerpt

Chapter One 

It Starts With Chocolate and A Contrary View…Losing My Religion and Gaining Something Bigger


“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi




Jill - December, 2003 - April, 2004


It starts with chocolate and a contrary view. I’m not trying to eavesdrop, but there aren’t any walls and the cubicle ones provide separation but no real sound proofing. I’m in between client calls, typing up notes and pretending to study the next module before I have to deliver it. Melissa’s desk is right across from mine and he comes over there to talk with her often. His voice is powerful, deep, filling the space, and it draws me in just like it does his clients.

“I really couldn’t believe it,” he says to Melissa. “Such a powerful movement. And, in that moment, then I really got what a de-med really is about. Because I was feeling Sarah, you know, and then Elijah put chocolate in front of her and she just burst into tears. So much pain. And I held her and Elijah felt her and she didn’t want the chocolate anymore. She wanted us. She wanted me.”

I can’t hear Melissa’s response because she knows to talk more softly (being a manager). But Nathan doesn’t seem to know or care that everyone around them can hear him. He certainly doesn’t seem to mind that I can hear him.

I wonder who Sarah is. I find myself jealous of her, even though I’ve only exchanged a few sentences with Nathan over the six months that I’ve been a business coach.

“It’s just so powerful. This work. And it’s really changing how I feel about my relationship with Naomi. We both are getting so much from it, but I think I’m feeling more drawn to it than she is and that’s a problem. I mean, that’s going to be a problem for our relationship, right?”

He sounds concerned but, again, I can’t hear Melissa’s response. I know that Naomi is his fiancée and that they both are involved in some healing group. I got an email at work about attending an introduction to the group meeting, but I deleted it quickly. I didn’t think that my current boyfriend, who I’ll call Rodin because of our fondness for the tragic story of French sculpture artists Rodin and Camille, would be interested. Also, I didn’t feel ‘emotionally wounded and deeply unhappy’ as the email said I should, to be able to get something out of the group. 

Also, I am intimidated by the other people in the group and Nathan, to be honest, and I can’t imagine being in an intimate therapy group with them. But, I am also becoming more drawn to Nathan and find myself listening intently during his client calls. He likes to stand up and pace inside his little cubicle with his voice booming across the space; his one-sided advice and responses ringing in the air. 

Most days, he wears this wool hat over his closely shaven head, giving a rebel edge to his business suit. We are all required to wear business suits, even though we work with clients over the telephone. It is uncomfortable, unnecessary, and an outdated carry over from E-Myth’s vision of an ultra-professional business environment being projected out at all times, even if our clients can’t see what we are wearing.

I can only afford to own two suits that I switch up over and over. I feel like a man in them and none of my personal style or femininity seems to come through, especially since I like to slick my hair back into a tight ponytail everyday as well to save time in my hectic mornings. But, I also like it because it feels like an armor around me that protects me when I am feeling overwhelmed by the steep learning curve and performance requirements of the job.

At first, I was just a newbie coach, part of a class of three. The two new guys and I clung to each other, did everything together, and I wasn’t much discernible from them. I had been a supervisor/assistant editor/reporter at my previous job at a small business newspaper. It was humbling to know so little and have so much to learn. 

The senior coaches seemed so brilliant, referencing processes and systems that I worried I will never be able to track. As the training weeks continue, I became more terrified and excited for my first client call. The other coaches were supportive, but they also were very busy. We newbies didn’t register much for them, especially since there tended to be a fallout after “boot camp” training, with two out of three coaches usually leaving.

Things started to change for me when I began to work with clients. At first, I was so nervous that I could barely engage; terrified they’d ask me how experienced I am and ask for another coach. I worried that I wouldn’t remember the process numbers or that the clients would know more about the E-Myth point of view than I did!

Then, I had a really powerful call with a client who was extremely vulnerable with me about the state of his business and his life. He felt hopeless and ready to give it all up. We talked tenderly together and I found myself intuitively asking the right questions to get him to see new possibilities and ways to keep going. It was a powerful call and as I hung up the phone, I noticed that Melissa had been listening. 

She came immediately over, gave me a big hug, and said, “Welcome to the breakthrough club.” 

It was a big moment for me and I finally felt like the weeks of training were coming to something. Nathan passed by my cubicle at that moment and said, “I heard some of your call. Good work. Powerful stuff.” He said it casually, sort of tossed over his shoulder, but it meant a lot to me that he had noticed.

After that day, I started to be bolder with my clients. I discovered that I could ask them almost anything as long as I was caring and it was connected to what they had previously said. I became a master at repeating their words back to them and guiding them in digging deeper based on their own responses. This was much more comfortable to me than being a teacher and teaching lessons or lecturing them, which many coaches fell into and struggled to ‘ask, not tell.’  After a few months, both of the guys in my beginning class quit the job and yet I took more and more deeply to being a coach.

After his client calls, Nathan liked to walk right past my cubicle on his way to the break room. There are other ways to go but he would glide past and look at me, smiling and making eye contact only if I am on the phone. His smile often suggested that we shared a secret with each other, one that the client didn’t know.

And, today, I am listening to him talking about chocolate triggering “Sarah” and all his tears and I’m interested to know who or what he means by that. Nathan is so different from the man I am living with. I am drawn to the difference; moth to flame intrigued by his confidence, his worldliness, his articulateness, and his brilliance in connecting the processes to his client’s issues. 

At first, the draw is a growing curiosity mixed with shyness that is content to eavesdrop into his world, be an audience to his show. At first. Yet, it doesn’t take long before he is noticing that I am noticing.

We move to a new building: a brand-new building with Swedish design and modern architecture. I also move, from being a coach to being a coach manager. This happens fast for me, after less than a year, and surprises me at the pace of it. I feel like I am barely understanding the most basic business systems that we offer clients (there is about three years’ worth of curriculum). I am a major rookie compared to the other coaches, not to mention that I am younger than them all (except Nathan.) 

My managers feel that I’ll do a good job, that I’ll be able to encourage the coaches and hold them accountable at the same time. They seem to be more confident in my abilities than I am because, honestly, most of the time I still feel intimidated and out of my depth around them.

“Treat them like you do your clients,” Melissa advises and during my mentoring meetings with new and senior coaches this is what I do. I can’t match them in expertise about the coaching program, so I help “hold up a mirror” so they can see where they are struggling and why. I help them “bust their ideas” about certain clients and also support them when a client truly needs to be let go. 

This is never an easy decision because they are tracked by client retention and the monthly fee we collect from every client ($995 for three meetings) is essential for paying the salaries for themselves, everyone else, and the back-end operations. The coaching department is the workhorse of the company with most coaches holding four one-hour long meetings a day, in addition to telephone group trainings and senior coaches training new coaches.

Nathan has also been offered a management position, but turns it down because, as he explains to me when I ask why, his ‘process’ is now about deconstructing his self-image around positions of authority and also his arrogance. He also is seriously thinking about quitting the company and moving to Oregon to be near the founder of the group, his teacher Daniel, and to start training to be a facilitator of the work.

He tells me this during lunch break. We’ve started having lunch together out on the company’s new patio area, by the sand-filled volleyball court. As shy and intimidated as I had been by him for months, it turns out that Nathan is easy to talk to, we laugh together easily, and notice the same things about our co-workers. He very much likes to talk. Especially about the process and also about Daniel, the founder and leader of the work called Emotive Subself Healing or ESH.

Nathan can be a bit of a lecturer, some coaches find him arrogant and a know-it-all, but I find that I just like to hear him talk. The tone and timbre of his voice is soothing to me and our easy rapport together is in huge contrast to the constant arguing I am doing with Rodin. It started after I accepted the job at E-Myth, and began to expand my perspective, my income, and my confidence after recovery from my divorce a couple of years earlier. Rodin is also threatened by Nathan’s presence in my life and, turns out, he has reason to be.

I’d met my boyfriend Rodin through an online writing community: drawn to his writing ‘persona’, his wit, his way with words, his cynicism, his lack of worldly experience and devotion to his home state on the East Coast. He was an enticing challenge to me. He became a conquest for me and something to fantasize about and pursue for a year after I was separated/divorced from Chris, my ex-husband, living with a roommate in Sebastopol, smoking too much, and so, so lonely. 

Rodin became an idealized projection of devotion; somehow his lack of experience would mean that he would never leave me. He resisted me for a long time, using his cynicism and unrequited crush on another member of the online community to keep me as a friend for much longer than I wanted. Oh, we were united in our suffering and feelings of general darkness about the world! I was more optimistic than he was, more romantic, yet I fancied the Edgar Allen Poe in him, the edge and the wit.

I persisted and used all my seductive, creative, and insightful gifts to overcome all of his doubts one by one. Over the phone and over instant message. He was concerned that we’d never met, that he had never left his home state...and as I came to learn later: never been sexually intimate with a woman, never lived with anyone besides his mother, never held down a steady job, and lied about his age. As would become a pattern with me, my need (obsession) to be with him lost me friendships with people who didn’t approve of the relationship and, yet, I dropped them easily to move on to something new.

I finally convinced him to visit me and after a week of sex (he got better with practice and I enjoyed being his teacher), talking, and showing him around Northern California, he moved out from his home state to be with me and my daughter, Raianna, who I had custody of half the time. This was big for him, really huge on so many levels and I didn’t want to process or feel that much. I just wanted what I wanted and I was convinced that his presence in my daily life would ease my suffering, help with my overwhelmed feelings around raising an eight-year-old girl half the time, and inspire me to write great works of fiction. Also, I was with Chris, my ex-husband, for eleven years and I was used to being in a long-term monogamous relationship.

I’ve never been a casual dater, preferring to fall in (and out) of love. A steady relationship made me feel safe and yet also, eventually and inevitably, the very safety that I craved would become a noose, tightening on the neck of my liberation, creativity, and risk. So far, I was only able to be truly creative when I was in crisis. During the time of my separation and eventual divorce, I was writing a poem a day, many short stories, in addition to articles for the newspaper I worked for.

I imagined that Rodin and I would create works of masterful fiction together, that the three-to-four-hour long conversations we were having on the phone would happen in person so easily, that I would cook for him and expose him to all of the mind and soul-altering aspects of California. I imagined that he really was the Rodin to my Camille, only hopefully without the tragic outcome.

It didn’t really work out that way, as the realities of finances required that he get a night shift job at a local pizza place right away, while going full-time to bookkeeping school during the day. After the first month or so of glow and goodness, we fell into a pattern of hardly seeing each other. We’d go all week with different work schedules and then try to connect again on Sundays, finding that there were few common interests that we shared. He wanted to watch basketball while I enjoyed strange Indie and foreign films. The most concerning thing (that we didn’t directly talk about) was that we both stopped writing once we were living together. 

We’d both been leadership figures in the online writing community but we both dropped it and with it, the audience for our writing. The creative fuel that flowed into our words when we were apart, all that long distance longing, courtship, and foreplay expressed through cleverly arranged syllables, seemed to dry up when the source was readily available any time we wanted it. Truth was that we were both too tired to write most days and it didn’t help that we slept in separate bedrooms due to his very loud snoring.

I moved away from writing and early on, with growing devotion and dedication, to E-Myth, but Rodin was more frustrated than I realized. I didn’t want to feel how much he missed his home state, his mother, his collection of rare old books, and also his writing. How much he missed me. I didn’t want to feel how little we had in common and how my growing drive and passion for transformation and change wasn’t one that he shared. He had changed greatly during the year and a half in California (including losing more than 30 pounds) but he didn’t want to talk about it, understand it, or put it into a bigger context.

After I become a manager and get a raise (putting the differences between our incomes even more in disparity), he starts accusing me of ‘coaching and trying to manage’ him, which is true to a certain extent. This is a difficult energy for me to let go of when I am doing it every day with people whom I spend much more time with than him. His stubbornness, which I once saw as a hearty challenge that possessed much of my waking hours, is now frustrating and distracting to me. He tells me that I have changed, that I have ‘drunk the E-Myth Kool-Aid’ and that I am not a person that he knows any longer.

He is hurting; he is more sensitive to the end coming than I am; he is more invested and has left everything in his known world for us to be together, which I never fully appreciate. I am his world in that way, my daughter, and me, and yet there are many people that occupy me, including Nathan and my ex-husband Chris, who I still talk with often.

Rodin hurts and lashes out at me to try to save our relationship, which seems to be the one sure way to lose my interest. I grew up with an angry, controlling, and often cruel stepfather (and at times mother) who personally insulted me at every opportunity, and was highly critical of me. This is the last thing I want in a mate, so I fiercely defend myself against his verbal attacks, not daring to be vulnerable with him or putting in effort to save the relationship. I’m not mature enough to own when he is right about something or to feel how it feels for him to be with a woman who he doesn’t feel close to any more.


I ask Nathan if he believes in past lives. He says to me that, according to his teacher, Daniel, you don’t believe in past lives; you feel them. So, if you feel them to be true, he says, then they are true. Belief has nothing to do with it. 

I still don’t understand what the difference is between believing something and feeling something. I still think that my feelings are less important than my mind. That they are a sign that I am too sensitive or that it is just ‘that time of the month’ or that I am in a ‘bad/depressed/irritated mood’. I judge my emotional mood swings and try hard to suppress them most of the time, especially at my job. 

Nathan says this is because our modern, Western culture has made feelings wrong and put more emphasis and importance on our mental capacities. He says that one of Daniel’s key premises is that the human architecture is actually comprised of our emotional body first, mental body second, and physical body last in terms of how we actually process reality.

I ask him the question about past lives as he is sharing one with me one day while we are taking a break at work. On the surface, it sounds like a kid’s story - a story that one kid would boast to another on the playground, “Guess what? I used to be a pirate in another life. I killed all kinds of people and I had a big ship and a big sword. That’s why I love water so much in this life. And, that’s why I like collecting knives.” What Nathan is telling me sounds like a kid’s story, on the surface anyway.

And then, we are lying down in the conference room. I’m lying down flat on the conference room table and he is lying down on the carpet. There is no one else there, even though it is the middle of the workday, and the door is closed. We are staring at each other in that way he likes to do, the way he says that Daniel does, the way that seems to see right through me and out the other side. 

His face starts to change while I am staring at it. His nose gets broader, expanding at the bridge to the right and to the left. His eyebrows grow more hair, become bushier, and his sprinkle of stubble melts into a long beard.

So, then, his story about this life starts showing on his face and I can see this life emerge from his face. I feel crazy and I don’t like seeing this face come out. Most of all, I don’t like the feeling that I have inside as I watch it emerge. How I am sure that he’s been this person, that I had known him, that what he is telling me about this past life is true.

The feeling is like the urge-to-jump feeling that I have when I am up in a tall place and look over the railing. Or the feeling to jump I would get when I rode ski lifts in Colorado growing up…nothing stopping me from plunging to my death other than my own will, my own desire to keep on going.

Seeing his past life face emerge is like that…guess it is in the knowing that things won’t be the same and that I will eventually choose to jump, that (in some ways) I already am jumping. And that everything is going to be different, as much as I am scared of it changing, it is going to anyway; it is inevitable.

I am going to jump.

I already am.


My feelings for Nathan are changing from curiosity to more, growing into something beyond friendship. I recognize the symptoms as I’ve been prone all my life to crushes on men. I catch them like colds and can’t and don’t want to shake them off, preferring to go all in, getting deathly sick, if need be, ill with the possibilities and the idealized pictures of romance. This impulse, this desire and need for someone else, contributed to the end of my marriage as I contracted a nasty case of co-worker infatuation flu. I recovered eventually, but my marriage didn’t.

I’m recognizing the symptoms related to Nathan. I’m starting to look forward to seeing him at work, eager for our lunchtime talks, hoping (secretly) that he and Naomi will just break up already. I start to share about my relationship with Rodin and Nathan frames it related to Daniel’s picture of romance, which is that all relationships are based in co-dependence unless both partners have greatly healed their subconscious wounding through working with parts of themselves. 

Nathan offers that perhaps my ‘leading edge’ of being (my highest, biggest self) has outgrown Rodin’s leading edge and that where we previously connected in some co-dependent places, some ‘trailing edges’ (our most wounded selves) that we no longer are. He also offers that Rodin is denser than I am; not intellectually, but spiritually and emotionally. He says that I am a more porous soul than I realize and own, also much more psychically gifted than I have embodied and expressed.

Some of these words are new to me; some of these offerings make me uncomfortable because they feel true and yet painful somehow to remember, like when blood rushes back to a sleeping limb.

Psychology was my major in college and I had planned for years to be a psychiatrist. I wanted to work with the hardest cases, manic depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, finding some way to reach them beyond drugs and mental institutions. But even two years of college proved to be too much for my party-prone, socially-obsessed version of me and, instead, I dropped out. I did start a psychic training program once Chris and I were married, acknowledging that I had some psychic gifts and soul access that needed developing.

Yet then, at the age of twenty-two, I found out I was pregnant. I dropped the psychic course as I felt it would be too much while pregnant and even though we were so young, both Chris and I really felt that we wanted to have the baby.

By that point, going back to college for years was unrealistic, impossible really, so I played it practical and got my medical assistant certification instead. I worked in the medical field for five years, even at a challenging job at a radiation oncology practice for a few years. I became burnt out emotionally from the ongoing cycles of death and loss in the medical field, which eventually led to being a reporter and then to my current job at E-Myth.

I have retained my interest in psychology though, have been to a few therapists in my time, and am eager to analyze any situation (when I’m ready to feel it, that is.) This is what draws me to coaching. 

I listen carefully to Nathan, not only because I’m feeling the beginning flushes of crushitis, but also because what he is saying makes sense. It just feels right.

My relationship with Rodin is in a highly tender and tentative place as I finally sign up for my first group weekend with my new facilitators, Elijah and his wife Luna, which Nathan will be hosting at his home with Naomi.


April, 2004 -

It’s a blur; it’s crystal clear. It’s a familiar landscape; it makes my skin crawl at times with discomfort. I’m looking for how to fit in, how to be/what to say/how to feel the right thing at the right moment to belong.

Oh god, I don’t know how to belong here.

Quickly I figure out that I can’t use my mind to think my way through this: the mind that carries me through my coaching manager day, intellectually lifts me up like a buoy when the waters are way over my head.

This won’t work here. That’s clear.

First of all, there’s taking in Elijah. Tall, young, handsome, earthy, and seemingly so easy inside of his own skin for his age. Intensely blue and piercing eyes like Nathan’s (oh damn, if I only had blue eyes like that instead of brown!) rugged cheekbones, and he gives me a big hug right away. 

I’ve committed $175 and two precious weekend days to him and his wife Luna and I haven’t even met them before. Everything I know about them comes from conversations with Nathan. Some of what I know about them I’m not really supposed to as it “might feed my sentinel”, or give my defenses fuel against them as a reason to not be vulnerable.

We are in the home of Nathan and Naomi, whose relationship is so near collapsing that everyone knows this will most likely be the last time they will host a group in their home. Their home is nice, spacious, and yet simple too. A home that anywhere else but in Northern California would be affordable rather than the probably crazy high price that it is. The yard is amazing and I already know that Nathan resents all the work they’ve done on it with the real possibility that they’ll have to sell it now.

I’m eager to show Nathan that I’m here, for him to notice me like he does at work, but, from the first moment, it’s clear that his attention is all on Elijah. They speak about people and situations that I don’t know about, using the process language in ways that I don’t understand. I feel like a newbie coach again, struggling to keep up with the senior ones. 

They are standing close together; they touch a lot, and stare into each other’s eyes like Nathan did with me in the conference room. They all do that a lot and I don’t really like it; it makes me feel uncomfortable. Or, as I am prompted to say, it makes a “part of me” feel uncomfortable.

Luna is earthy, pregnant, German, and young. She’s naturally pretty in a way that I’ve never felt true for me, makeup free she looks fresh, freckled, blond, and comfortable in her own body. I imagine that they all must be judging my problem skin, my cheap and synthetic clothes, my dyed hair, and my extra ten pounds. I am instantly self-conscious around them, which just adds to my feeling of being completely out of my depth.

Naomi surprises me and, rather than being jealous of her, she’s the only one I feel comfortable around. She is broader and bigger than Nathan, with dark eyes like mine. She doesn’t follow Elijah around or try to dress and act like Luna. She’s warm to me and yet it’s clear by her red-rimmed eyes that she is going through a personal crisis in letting go of her relationship with Nathan. And, again, I know so much about her from Nathan. 

I know so many personal things that I probably shouldn’t, that I again feel self-conscious around her and also guilty about my growing feelings for Nathan when they haven’t even broken up yet! I realize, with a pang of shame, that she reminds me of my own boyfriend, Rodin, like a deer caught in the headlights of a partner who is quickly losing interest, about to crash the car of the relationship without their permission.

There are two other people at the group who are also new and have been drawn by talking with Nathan. I’m surprised to see one of our coach co-workers in the group, feeling immediately how the two worlds aren’t as separate as I’ve been trying to keep them. The group is primarily for us three as Nathan and Naomi are more hosts. It’s clear from the beginning that they are going to need time to share and digest the collapse of their relationship that is happening between them.

It takes me time to adjust to Nathan essentially ignoring me. I begin to wonder if he’s been using me as another person to draw people to the process and to impress the sources of his deep admiration, Daniel and Elijah, or if I’m only interesting to him when I’m at work and there’s no one else to talk to. 

But eventually, I start to become compelled by what is being shared, the feelings that come up inside of me and others, and how Elijah and Luna respond to our feelings. Rather than trying to analyze us, reflect back what we’ve said, or ask us a bunch of questions, they actually feel us. It’s difficult to describe, it’s the deepest form of empathy and beyond. I feel myself “land” as Nathan calls it, and the tears that come are matched in their hearts, owned in their hearts somehow and, in that letting in, made OK, and also able to be released at the same time.

I drop my need to perform and fit in and just lead with the real pain and confusion I am feeling about my relationship with Rodin. I leave out my confusing feelings for Nathan, yet do describe the catalyst that he has been for me and how my friendship with him is illuminating my gap with Rodin. Elijah describes ESH’s picture of relationship for me, similar to what Nathan has offered, yet he applies it to me with deep feeling and seeming heart awareness about what this relationship has meant to me. I read my beginning sentence completion exercises to them and they are touched by the emergence of my emotionality and my parts.

They both feel that I will be a good candidate for the work and that, in terms of identifying and differentiating parts, it should be easy for me to feel them. This is a bit surprising to me because since being with Rodin, I haven’t been very emotional or feeling of myself. Yet, this awakens in me again and to have it celebrated rather than judged as “too emotional” or “too much” is a huge relief. By the end of the second day something opens up for me that has nothing to do with Nathan, with impressing him, or with anyone else.

The difficult aspect, offers Elijah, will be for me to maintain a centered self during the process of the six young parts coming out. The six initial parts (which come out in random order) are depression, anxiety, hurt, shame, rage, and control. I buy Daniel’s book, No Such Thing As A Negative Emotion, which Nathan has been talking about a lot. I am looking forward to reading much more about the ESH process that is increasingly feeling like the one for me.

They also explain that after working with the younger parts, the core defense called a Sentinel will arise, usually after about a year and that it also has three forms: the Punisher, the Provider, and the Premier sentinel. I feel a desire to work with my Premier Sentinel immediately, to move ahead, and to at least be caught up to where Nathan is after a year in the process.

The three of us are to join the regular Bay Area group that meets one weekend a month, starting next month. It seems likely that Nathan will not be in that group since he is probably leaving Naomi and moving to Oregon. I am taking that in as the group ends and we all say goodbye.

My original reason for coming to the group, to impress Nathan, is fading and now it will be about me claiming my own desire toward the process and getting to know parts of myself.


He’s so reasonably bitter, spitting words as ugly accusations at me. My callousness lies limp between us, my inability to feel sad or upset at the approaching end of our relationship in such sharp contrast to his authentic anguish.

“You’re in love with that guy. That Nathan guy. How can I compete with him?”

And, I can’t deny it. I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with Nathan, but yes, my feelings are growing for him. We are spending more and more time together, especially now that he has moved out of his home with Naomi, given his notice at E-Myth and is preparing to leave for Oregon in less than a month. Nathan is tender with me, shares much with me, and yet seems to be keeping a tight boundary around us being just good friends.

I haven’t directly shared with him my growing feelings, content to accept what is and unable to digest any more than that with what is happening in my splintering relationship with Rodin. And, it’s not about Nathan really at all: he is a catalyst, he represents the type of man that I want to be with, spiritually and emotionally porous, and, increasingly, one who does this ESH process with me. Rodin is not willing to meet with Elijah, attend a group, or even to discuss anything with Nathan, who has offered to speak with him. I understand his refusal, his resistance, and yet it makes me feel even more distant from him.

Rodin begs me to feel the love that was so strong between us once, that led him to move all the way to California, that brought us together beyond geographic and any other boundaries. He writes bitter and resentful poetry that he leaves for me to find. His pain and rejection fill our home and our divergent work schedule that caused us unrest before is a relief to us both now.

Yet, when I search for my feelings for him, when I journal with myself about it, all I can find is guilt and a sense of obligation. The obligation is around that he has a few months left to finish his bookkeeping certification at a local trade school. He has nowhere else to stay, no car, and no one else to stay with. His only options are to continue living with me until the end of the semester or to move back to his home state and abandon school before it’s complete.

I’ve started attending the ESH group for one weekend a month, so I am beginning to fill up with that and my own process. I immediately felt my hurt part come up and through the standard journaling questions, which ask for a part’s name, age, place they live in your body, etc. Her name is Evie and I have felt such tender places inside of me that she represents. ESH offers that hurt actually expresses as vulnerability once it has been felt and the wounding can be healed. I discover that this hurt part of me, Evie, is stuck in the time when my mom and her second husband told me that they were getting a divorce when I was ten years old.

Her tears about this are so present, so real, and it doesn’t matter to her that this happened many years ago. The adult me talks to her, asks her questions, sits in her bedroom with her, buys her stuffed animals, and comforts her. I try to tell Rodin about the tenderness of this process, yet all he can focus on is how it threatens our relationship. He doesn’t get how I can have parts inside of me and not be considered as having a multiple personality or dissociative identity disorder. 

I explain that this is a tool, a healing tool that Daniel, the founder of ESH, developed to heal the emotional body architecture that he saw in people once he reached sagely enlightenment. A tool that leads to eventual integration, not dissociation, through development of a growing centered mature self in the person that responds to these parts called HOH or Head Of Household.

Rodin doesn’t like the idea of a teacher or enlightenment or anything and anyone that offers a path or truth about life. When I share this conflict-heavy back-and-forth that he and I are having with Nathan, he says that it feels like Rodin’s defenses are doing everything they can to keep the old ground of the relationship, to preserve the drugged out and numb aspect of it because he feels safe in it. I can’t help but agree as it does feel like Rodin is unwilling to compromise or meet me halfway. He doesn’t seem to have any respect for my experience at the groups or while I am journaling with a part. Rodin won’t listen to any of my journaling or let me read passages to him from Daniel’s book.

This is a tortuous time for us both. I cannot pretend to have romantic feelings for him, so I advocate for us to no longer be romantically involved (we don’t sleep in the same room anyway due to his snoring). I also feel that he should finish his schooling before heading back home, especially since I was the one who encouraged him to sign up for the program and accept the student loan debt that came with it. I tell myself that with our different work schedules it will be fine, that we’ll figure it out and that it’s only temporary.

But, once the veil has been pierced, neither of us really wants to remain blind. I’m boldly insensitive, subconsciously perhaps wanting him to just reach the end of his rope and leave. I show him poems I’ve written about Nathan; obscure, cloaked phrases praising his angelic qualities and how it feels to be around him. 

I foolishly believe that Rodin won’t be able to tell that they are about another man. Of course, the fact he was once the biggest fan of my writing (and me of his), he can easily decipher what my meanings are and where my literary longings were once focused on him, it’s clear that they have now shifted to someone else. I can tell that he is touched that I am writing again, but heartbroken that he is no longer my muse.

I come home from work one day to find that he is packing.

I’m surprised, relieved, and sad. He tells me that after a long talk with his mom, he’s decided to leave school and to go back home. He can’t handle being around me anymore, feeling our relationship die, watching me fall for another man. He feels like I am becoming a person that he no longer knows.

He’s strangely soft spoken about it, resigned and remote, permanently unreachable to me now. I half-heartedly argue with him to stay and finish out his school year, but he won’t even look at me. I ask him what he’ll do about his certification and his student debt.

“It’s not your problem anymore,” his answers, his voice flat, again resigned, and yet, also, showing that I’ve hurt him by parts of me being so controlling, so needing him to be a project that I can fix and improve. I don’t get to invest in him anymore hoping for something more, something of him to arise out of my making and molding.

I want to tell him sorry and, at the same time, parts of me want to defend myself. Instead, I say nothing and let him finish packing. Startlingly, after months of conflict and hashing it out, he is gone in a matter of days after deciding to leave. No drama and no more accusations. I drive him to the same airport where, eighteen months earlier, we were filled with dreams, desires, and intense feelings for each other. Now we are resigned and polite to each other as he heads back to his home.

I’m left in my country house with rusty well water, alone, with my already filling up journals, creative bursts again in response to a crisis, nursing an unrequited crush on my best friend, and, also, oddly feeling a new sense of purpose and hope.


Marvin - Late 2004 - May, 2005


It’s one of the strangest things about me. There are others, to be sure, but this one is high on the list. I’m sitting in a Tim Horton’s coffee shop at five in the morning. I have the whole place to myself where my favorite bench seat and table is always free. The staff and I know each other by first names. I do this almost every day. I’ve done it for years. I can’t recall when or just what prompted this habit.

How is it that I find my calm while sitting in what is essentially a stimulant factory?

Is it something in my home, with my wife and two daughters that I need space from? Is it needing to feel the world in its resting state before I dive into it, in all of its cacophony for the rest of my day in the painting contractor world? I don’t really know. I only know that I don’t like starting my day without this ritual.

I take with me the latest book that I’ve found compelling and inspiring. Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits Of Highly Successful People is one that has been read and reread here. Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited is another. I also like to write in a journal here. It’s great to plan my day here too, as the phone doesn’t ever ring at this hour. 

If someone I know happens to walk in and is too talkative, I sit through it and am polite, once. But when it happens a second time, I simply choose another one of these coffee shop hallmarks of Canadian culture. There’s plenty to pick from. I’m only here to be social with myself.

It is here, with my beloved ‘double-double, extra-large’ coffees, muffins and sometimes donuts, where I take space from all that’s in my life, and get wired to go back at it again. 

It’s late 2004. I’m 43. My wife, Marilyn and I, have been married now for 22 years, with two daughters, aged 16 and 19. Our relationship is in a place though where our compatibility has long taken the lead over our romance, and I don’t know what to do about that. 

I have a painting contracting business, here in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. 

I was all excited when I moved with my family here when I was nine years old. It ended up feeling so different though, from the wild nature I knew as a boy in the tiny northern town of Houston, BC, where we came from. There, it was a land of many landscapes and deep winters, forests, wildlife and streams, right outside my door. Here in Abbotsford, it is a city of bullies and abbots and smelly cow poop, crammed up against the US border, with no place to go. 

In time, however, Abbotsford became a place which I adapted to and called home. 

This early morning habit of mine to spend the early hours at Tim Horton’s has come to be accepted for the most part by my wife, Marilyn. She also reminds me that it would be nice to wake up together, especially on weekends.  

I put it on my list to make up for it somehow. Much of my life in fact is managed quite effectively by lists. Lists that I make here in these copy-and-paste Tim Horton’s sugar and caffeine sanctuaries that dot the landscape from one end of Canada to the other. 

There’s one more big thing. 

I’ve almost left Christianity. This big part of my entire life has mostly unraveled, yet it still hangs onto me by some big threads. The lists I run much of my life by don’t seem to be of any use though in detangling these threads. 

Marilyn and I met in 1981 at the Bible School that was hosted in our feisty little church in Abbotsford. Marilyn had moved here to be a part of the excited group of Christians from the larger ‘Word Of Faith’ movement. 

Just before choosing Bible School, I had been on a post-secondary school path to prep for tech school to become a drafting technician. But as I felt drawn more and more to be ‘employed for God,’ I gave it all up mid-stream and changed course. 

Marilyn had left behind a path where she almost became a Sister associated with her family’s Catholic faith. I had joined this church after I had recently left my family’s Dutch Reformed denomination that I grew up in. We both were drawn to the aliveness and freedom of a church that practiced faith healing, believed in miracles, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that wasn’t boring. 

I so wanted a life of having influence. I wanted to be anything but ordinary and to make my life count for God. Marilyn felt like part of the ticket into those dreams. She had a palpable Divine connection, and often prophesied in church, and sang powerful solos. There was a lot to be attracted to about her. 

During that year in Bible School, we dated for a month, then we were engaged for five months and then we were married. The night of my stag with a few guy friends from church and relatives, was also my last night of living in my parent’s home. 

Marilyn and I were both excited about missions work overseas along with the kind of church community life that was involved, engaging, and passionate. I was a bit worked up about not messing with what I had come to believe was “God’s order for relationships.” We talked about our sexual urges and agreed to save them for marriage. Not only that, but we agreed that kissing would only happen if we got engaged. 

A previous relationship breakup, that was still sore in my heart, I attributed to ‘not doing it God’s way.’ 

I really wanted to ensure God’s blessing this time around, by keeping everything according to God’s will. I didn’t feel I could endure another loss like the last one. The one that got away. 

After a few weeks of being together, and abiding by this convoluted plan, Marilyn and I were saying goodbye one evening in the car and it was clearly the moment any normal couple would kiss. 

I knew, however, that this would be crossing the line, putting us into the engagement category. This was all so strangely mechanical. While this is going on in my mind, Marilyn says to me, “Kiss me…” I paused, and then I kissed her. 

When we finished kissing a few minutes later, I looked at her and said, “Marilyn, will you marry me?”

The next morning, I told my parents. They tried to look happy about it, having only met Marilyn on one occasion prior. My dad stopped me at the bottom of the stairs in passing later that day and said, “You know, your mom and I, we really liked that girl from down south.”

“Had he forgotten her name?” I thought to myself. I sure hadn’t. Did he even know the first thing about me? I would’ve done anything to have Sheryl back, but the feelings weren’t mutual. I had to move on. 

As weird as Marilyn and I’s agreement was for how to have God’s blessing on our relationship, I was also excited about it at the same time. I also felt relief from the loneliness of being single.

Our wedding night. Oh, My God - SEX! I guess it was worth waiting for. Our honeymoon had beautiful adventures on Vancouver Island as well as a cabin in the mountains in Washington State. Then we settled into waiting for our missionary dreams to come true. In the meantime, we took jobs and made do with church life. 

Marilyn also came with two sisters and four brothers, along with their mates, and a host of nieces and nephews. Most of whom were not so Christian, but so grounded, quite different in their life orientation to mine and another welcome expansion to my world.

Little more than a half a year before meeting Marilyn, I was feeling lonely, a virgin, riding my bicycle daily to Bible School, living at home, working at night catching chickens in smelly barns that made my eyes burn to help pay the tuition that I was behind on. From there to all this in such a short time. Who’d have guessed? 

Marilyn and I went on to take several mission trips together to places like the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Mexico, some for extended times, and some with our two daughters, both as young girls and as teens. We also lived a year in a neighboring province to be a part of another smaller, but exciting new church that some friends were connected to. 

The sudden turn-around of my life when I met Marilyn reminded me of when Sheryl showed up in my life so unexpectedly two years prior.

Sheryl was my first real girlfriend, not counting the two awkward attempts that happened when I was 15 and 16. When we met, I was 18 and fresh out of high school. I had been working at a car sales lot washing cars daily after school and full time during the summer. She was 22 and heading into her second year of a Christian college in Michigan. 

We met a long way from home on a summer camp youth volunteer church program in Michigan. It was held at a large care center for the mentally handicapped and people in psychiatric care that was sponsored by the Dutch Reformed denomination that we had each been raised in. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she lived only minutes away from me, also close to the US border, but just over on the other side. 

My life felt like it went from two to ten in terms of fulfillment and putting behind me a mixed and not so fulfilling teenage experience. 

When I found a new job as a draftsman working for an engineering firm, Sheryl sent me a greeting card with her bold handwriting inside, “I’m Impressed! Congratulations on the new job.” Impressing women and hearing about it stirs something deep in me. 

I loved the adventure with her, the togetherness, the kissing, and dreaming of our future together. To my total surprise, at the end of another sweet evening together, eleven months in, she said she wanted to take a break, without explaining much further. 

I drove back home in the dark across the border in shock. The next morning, the house was as empty as I felt inside. My family was away camping. I was sitting in my dad’s Lazy Boy recliner staring into space. I felt tears well up inside and a clear voice came up saying, “Don’t go there, you’ll never get out!”

I called a friend and arranged to go for coffee that evening instead of crying those tears, an attempt to turn back the clock somehow as if all this had never happened. 

I thought about her a lot as the weeks ahead turned into months. I had dreams about her at night. But the tears remained buried a long way down. 

The last time I cried was at nine years old when I saw my dog got run over and killed by a car right in front of our house. As I ran toward the house to get my mom’s help, I burst into tears. That same voice popped up and said, “Pull yourself together! Don’t embarrass yourself in front of your mom.” I actually paused there for a moment while I waited for the tears to subside before going inside to tell her. 

I only saw my mom cry once. Something was said at the dinner table and she began to cry. She quickly ran into the bedroom and dad followed her to make things better. They came out minutes later and whatever it was, it was all better. 

Likewise, I only saw my dad cry once. That was the morning when Marilyn and I were about to leave indefinitely to start a new life two provinces over. He grabbed his lunch pail and quickly headed out the door for work to escape being seen crying. Tears were definitely something to avoid at all costs in my family.

When the attraction between Marilyn and I began to unfold, I shared with her my pain about Sheryl. I had to. I didn’t know if I was ready to begin a new relationship. A miracle had come into my life and disappeared and no one had been able to feel this with me. Marilyn shared that it made her feel awkward that I still felt these feelings for someone else while something was unfolding between us.

I got the message and thought to myself, “Why am I pining for the one who got away, who’s not coming back, when there’s one here who wants to be with me now?” 

Six months after Sheryl and I had broken up, I contacted her and asked her if I could meet her for coffee. She agreed and we had a sweet conversation together. I hinted at my missing of her. I shared with her how I had pursued the experience of speaking in tongues and had received a gift of prayer language. She listened and said she celebrated all that with me. She wished me well, but also shared that she didn’t feel the same as I did.

She was going back to her next year of university in Michigan. It was clearly over between us and we had our final goodbye that day. I watched her pedal off on her bicycle as she rode away. She was wearing white shorts and a summer top. The slight extra weight that she had when we were together was no longer there. She looked really beautiful and sexy. That was the last I ever saw her except in my dreams and in my thoughts.

Going into married life, I felt guilty and that it was a sin when my mind would still drift onto Sheryl. It was five years into married life before these feelings finally evaporated. The daydreams, the night dreams, and even the memories seemed to finally fade. I didn’t know where the feelings went. I was just relieved that they let me go. 

It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy with Marilyn and our life. I was. She helped me get unstuck from routines and patterns, which opened the door to so many new adventures. She would come up with ideas that seemed crazy to me at first, but after I finished protesting and she finished persisting, we were usually off to new adventures. I always ended up excited soon after. 

This was usually how all of our missionary travels happened. She would lead the dream, get me on board, and then golden paint jobs would pop out of the woodwork to pay for it all (once the woodwork was painted that is!).

I fell in love all over again when each of our daughters came along. It never felt like a duty to spend time with them, but rather the opposite. Their young lives kept my inner child alive, who really wanted another run at childhood. 

Friends, family, customers and employees saw me as someone with a happy disposition. I saw myself the same way. 


I watched some friends and relatives go through depression from time to time, and while I felt bad for them, I really didn’t get it.

“There must be something wrong with them,” is what I felt inside, while trying to be encouraging and supportive on the outside. 

Then, for no obvious reason, now eighteen years into our marriage, something shifted inside of me and I felt myself being noticeably depressed. I hadn’t felt this way since I was a teenager when I called on God and a miracle happened and all of my inferiority and depression seemed to vanish. 

This time, I was ready to be much more honest and caring with myself. Fears of my own feelings had subsided to the point where I knew that this depression was somehow, some kind of positive change trying to occur. The doctor prescribed anti-depression medication and I turned that down. I knew this wasn’t to be medicated over.

On some work days, I left the jobsite to my employees early if I needed to go home and just sit with the feelings. But still, no tears came to release. 

I shared with my family and friends that I was experiencing depression that summer. Many were surprised that I was so open about it. One sister-in-law shared that her husband was in tears of depression on many days for years, but refused to let anyone other than her know about it. I knew it was a healing moving through me and much of that healing depended simply on me not hiding it. 

One evening during that summer, Marilyn and I watched a movie entitled, A Message In A Bottle. The movie portrayed a man in deep grief over the death of his wife, whom he loved with all of his heart. As I watched, I was drawn into the feelings of it all and everything that I had suppressed with Sheryl from those nineteen years prior came flooding back as if it were the day before. 

I was finally beginning to feel again.

After ensuring Marilyn was safely asleep that night, I cried myself to sleep quietly. In the morning, I knew I needed to be honest. I told her about what was happening for me. She encouraged me to make space for these feelings. This movie contained a message that popped the cork on my bottled-up tears.

In the days and weeks after that movie experience, I took time to physically revisit a couple of places that I had been to with Sheryl. At each place, I found private spaces to have tears, to write letters to her and to God, and then burn them. The grief came in waves and then receded, till the next wave came. With each step of that over a number of weeks, a new joy and reverence for myself and all of life emerged.

I felt noticeably more alive. “I’m human. I gain. I lose. I get to grieve,” I said aloud to myself. 

That one experience was pivotal to my desire and willingness to feel. It also marked an increasing disinterest in relationship dynamics that I could sense were centered around hiding one’s real feelings. 

I began to see in myself and others how much of our beliefs and lifestyle was rooted in the need to avoid feelings. I knew I needed to feel if I was to continue to find my way back to joy and real love. My life depended on it. 

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