My relationship with Rufus began early fall 1981 in Washington, DC. I was spellbound by Prince Charming’s wit, charisma, athleticism, and twinkling blue eyes. The world seemed perfect.
Can you remember the magic when you found “the one?” Did you hear the music and see the fireworks? Everything changed.
I embraced this new beginning, along with the promise of new friendships, new interests, and new rituals. Getting acquainted meant learning each other’s strong suits and even quirky nuances. Sports became a major piece of our world. Rufus went for the gold in everything athletic event he attempted. I was content in the spectator role, at least initially. My physical acumen was meager at best. I welcomed this relationship as an opportunity to reframe my life, alter the script, and rewrite the music. I joined his neighborhood soccer team, a type of farm league with friendly competition its goal. My teammates welcomed me and my new life had the potential for much more. Could this fantasy endure?
Soon winter winds blustered ushering in new activities to explore with Rufus. He loved skiing and the thrill of racing with the wind. This created a relationship pause for me. Did I mention my fear of height and speed? Skiing is the ultimate insult. Should I flirt with this alpine sport? Could I subjugate my fears long enough to derive the same pleasure that Rufus did when he had the wind at his back? Or, would this become the roadblock to halt me in my transformational tracks? I could taste my dread just thinking about attaching smooth boards onto boots and navigating a slick downhill slope. Dare I cross my line in the sand?
“Bonnie, would you like to go to Ski Roundtop,” he asked one day.
“Sure,” I said without hesitation and my heart skipped a beat.
We shopped for ski gear the next week and I was outfitted to the nines. I was ready to challenge my adversary. Ski Roundtop, a short drive away in nearby Pennsylvania, was my chance to face demons and rise triumphant. Roundtop was no infamous Vail or Breckenridge ski resort. It boasted only paltry hills. Doubt seeped into my pores. Any snowcapped hill seemed like a treacherous black diamond slope to me.
The easy part, riding the J-bar lift to the top of the hill created no problem. Jumping off and looking down the slope. Now that was cause for concern. I developed vertigo in my body, mind, and spirit. My legs became lead and made doing the simple scissor dance that skiers do prior to the downhill drive an impossibility. Rufus noted my reaction and realized I was paralyzed by fear. In short, we made it to the bottom only when he and I skied in tandem.
“Bonnie, if you really don’t like skiing, it’s okay,” he offered.
That wasn’t the point. I really wanted to like it because it was important to him and besides this was my relationship makeover journey. Quickly, my mind flooded with images of other things I had never mastered over the years, such as driving over bridges, riding a Ferris wheel, and dare I mention a roller coaster ride? The source of my dread was unknown, but my fear was real.
The next week while at lunch with a work colleague, a licensed psychologist, I discussed my predicament. He suggested a potential solution. I could try regressive hypnosis if I wanted to explore what blocked me from being all that I could be. Under this type of hypnosis technique you answer a series of questions hoping to trigger the memories that were the genesis for my feelings of trepidation. Once those were revealed then it was possible to tackle the fears.
I was game. I had everything to gain in my estimation. I focused on a positive outcome. Love can conquer all, can’t it?
Rob and I met at the clinic. After a few exercises I easily succumbed and settled into a hypnotic state. He began asking a retinue of questions probing my feelings related to my life at various ages and milestones beginning with my current age and progressing back in time. Initially no memories elicited negative responses. I began to question the potency of this practice. I saw hope slipping from my grasp, but Rob persisted in this jog down my memory lane.
“You are five now, Bonnie, is anything going on,” he asked.
Tears poured from my face like a wide-open spigot. It was spontaneous; it was visceral. My memories, so vivid! It was as though I could again feel the cold bars of the crib in the quarantine ward where I’d felt imprisoned secondary to contracting a terrible virus. I had been ripped from my family and found myself in a sterile, stark room with fifty other kids. Each of us wore a similar mask of bewilderment and fright. Our conditions meant limited opportunities for human touch and no visitors were allowed at our bedsides as that could put them at risk for contracting the contagious germ. We had to settle for isolation and despair as our playmates.
“It’s okay. Tell me what is happening,” Rob asked evicting me from my reverie.
Between sobs I emptied my heart, describing my experiences as a hospitalized polio victim in rich detail. In the retelling I began to realize that I had believed my demise was my fault as only I five year old can. I determined that I must have done something terribly wrong to warrant my banishment to this chamber of misery. At some point, this immobile tiny tot vowed to remain “in control” of my circumstances no matter the cost. I would not allow myself to experience these feelings of abandonment, desolation, and disbelief again if at all possible. These overwhelming states would never cross my path again. Loss of control and any activity that hinted of it, such as falling from heights or whipping down snowy slopes would be avoided at every turn. This perpetual bargain of bargains was locked in my memory. Whenever I strayed from the contract, a persistent, unnerving voice rattled my being.
This cathartic moment resolved, and with Rob’s help I took painstaking steps back to the present. The recommendation for solidifying the benefits of this discovery meant immediate or near term participation in an activity that elicited my fears. A ski slope not readily available meant searching for an alternate in my smorgasbord of dread. Diving off the side of the pool was an appropriate candidate that fit the bill. I sought out the nearest pool, stood steadfast on the solid concrete platform. I defied the mental and physical grips on my composure and let gravity have its way with me. Lukewarm water surrounded me in a comforting cocoon of solace putting my fears into a state of suspension. I savored my victory and could not resist voluntarily diving into the pool sixteen more times. It was transformational.
In January 1982, Rufus and I skied our hearts out during an excursion to Montreal. It was glorious. My fairytale continued. I had tempered my demons and my relationship with Rufus and skiing flourished.
It is amazing how a new relationship unlocks a bounty of possibilities. New personal interpersonal chemistries change the order of things. It is a time of renewal, a time to cast away old ways and invite new challenges, discover hope, erase old patterns and strike out down new paths. My relationship with Rufus ended differently than it began. But that’s another story. Being with him did change my life in remarkable ways. It was the impetus to experience the joy of participation in a myriad of new activities. I created a new relationship with fear and loss of control. I reveled in my relationship with happiness ever after.