I’m 61 years old now and happily married, but throughout most of my life, before I met my current wife, I had many difficult and painful–traumatic even–relationships with women. Most of the women I have known have had serious emotional problems, some of which were quite severe. My life has been haunted for a long time by these many failed loves. For a while I was obsessed with trying to figure out “why me?” Is there something about me that drives these women nuts, or do I for some reason have some mysterious predisposition to getting involved with deeply troubled women? These questions bedeviled me for a long time.

Eventually I got tired of carrying this burden around with me, the burden of all those failed loves, and I started to learn to let it go. And then after meeting Heidi, who has been such a positive influence in my life, I began to get quite a bit more clarity about my own situation, and about people in general. I think of my own experience much differently now. Instead of thinking of all those people, and myself, as individuals each suffering their own peculiar individual emotional afflictions, and wondering “why is this person (or why am I) so screwed up?” I now see that emotional turmoil is the natural state of humanity. It is something we are all embedded in, that comes about naturally just from being human, from being mortal, from being our naturally vulnerable and needy selves. We can’t escape it but we can learn to live in it with love, to exercise skill and sensitivity in our lives so as to help to bring out what is best in us and others, despite the ever-present human crap in which we find ourselves. It is the fundamental challenge of being human. Italo Calvino, at the end of Invisible Cities, put it very eloquently:

“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live everyday, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”