“The last big speech I gave was a year ago this March. What if I’m rusty?”
“I’m terrible at memorizing! I could forget something important.”
“I talk with my hands. People might find that annoying.”
“I don’t notice the physical world around me. I could trip over an extension cord.”
“I don’t want to say ‘Um’ all the time. If I don’t practice, I’ll forget.”
“I’m not worried about talking to a big audience, but technology is really hard. I need to be sure I know how to use the remote to my powerpoint presentation and when to click it.”
“I’m afraid I’ll leave out something important.”
These are just some of the responses I made to my husband when he asked why I was constantly revising, practicing, and generally fretting over my upcoming speech for the annual gathering of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
Fred is a brilliant man with a photographic memory. As a forensic economist, he can read through a 100-page file over breakfast and testify about it in a trial or deposition two hours later without forgetting one detail.
It took me a year to write my dissertation. I needed hours of uninterrupted solitude, usually at night when Fred and the kids were asleep. Even then, selecting and pulling together relevant thoughts from among the myriad impressions flooding my mind, not to mention writing them down in a logical, clear, and organized way, was a constant struggle. The next night I spent half my writing time omitting or revising whole sections of what I wrote the night before. Initially it was hard, but by the end of that year I realized I’d never had so much fun in my life. By then, the revising was as much fun as the creating.
In the early years of our marriage I thought there must be something wrong with him; like maybe he was lazy, or a procrastinator, or had ADD. I mean, how could he possibly be ready to defend his dissertation in a month when he’d only written fifteen pages and was constantly distracted? Later on, I realized 20 minutes at a time was all he needed to do something it took me hours to do. Then I thought there must be something wrong with me.
The truth is in between. There’s nothing wrong with either of us. We just have different ways of thinking about, processing and expressing information. His way is considered far superior to mine in our Western, academically oriented culture. And for many years, I bought into that perspective.
Yet we were both excellent students, which tells me we each had access to both ways. Just as he can think in ways that present difficulties for me, I can think in ways that are difficult for him. My subjective perspective is associated with sensitive, receptive, reflective and inner-directed artists, advisors, sages and Queens. His objective way is associated with with tough, logical, assertive outer-directed scientists, warriors, and Kings. Is one better than the other? Of course not!
That couldn’t have been more clear at last weekend’s IASD conference. Fred took care of our travel arrangements and got us to the hotel easily and efficiently. When I walked out of our hotel room and turned the wrong way, he guided me in the right direction.
He found things I misplaced in our room, remembered what time breakfast was served, where the next presentation was, and when it would start. I had to have a schedule with me at all times. He took pictures of special times with friends when I forgot to bring or use my cell phone.
Having him with me turned what could have been a frustrating ordeal into a joyous experience. Yet, he usually only sees the trees when my ability to see the forest is more helpful. And I often sense underlying currents in situations that need to be addressed when he doesn’t have a clue.
All this is to say that my presentation is over and I couldn’t be more thrilled with it. And I can’t help but compare my new pleasure and confidence in myself with earlier times when I believed his way of being was superior to mine. My months of writing and revising and practicing, plus receiving support, suggestions and assurance from friends who cared, was of infinite value. It eased my concerns, gave me confidence, and turned what could have been an average presentation into one that received a standing ovation and more compliments than I can count.
And here’s the biggest plus: After 51 years of marriage (as of June 15), Fred and I have more understanding, respect, and gratitude for each other than ever before—a true partnership in which we have each learned to value the differences in ourselves and each other.
Thank you, Fred, and thank you to all of you who helped and supported me. I couldn’t have done it without you.