Monday, November 13, 2006

How I Met My Wife, Accidentally on Purpose

A few weeks ago WestBankMomma wrote a beautiful post describing how she met her husband. That evening I told my wife about it and she asked me if I feel like writing down the amazing story of our meeting. I told her then that it seems a bit too personal to be published, but if someone asked me to or given the right context, I would do it. The following morning Karma , in the comments to this post, asked me how I met my wife. Well, I can take a hint from Him as well as the next guy, so here I am, unraveling once again that most providential sequence of events.
Our meeting was definitely part of a spiritual process we had both been undergoing separately, so in order to put things in their proper context I included some details about our lives before we met. I thought that I would be able to do this by myself, but when I wrote my wife’s part I felt that I did not really know enough to do it for her. Therefore I asked her to write the whole story down from her perspective. I translated and condensed it for this post, and the narrative alternates between our two separate viewpoints. It was fascinating for me to do it this way. I hope other people find it interesting too.
Finally, another reason for giving the whole context and the two separate viewpoints was to enable a better understanding of what happened to us as single people before and when we met, especially in the light of a previous post about ImagoTheory for Singles. If you are familiar with that post, or with the theory in general, what happened will be readily understandable.

Me Before I Met Her
Once I had discovered, as a young man, that I had two mostly disconnected personalities, one conscious and the other unconscious, I embarked on a determined journey of discovery - I wanted to know what exactly was in this unconscious part, and I wanted to unite the two parts. This voyage brought me to a kibbutz, which was attempting to solve the typical Kibbutz problems by incorporating Zen practices in daily life. Although I made great personal strides in this environment, the group effort was a complete failure.
At one point, after nearly a decade, I realized that I too was stuck Somehow I knew that if I wanted to continue this personal journey, I needed to get married. I realized intuitively that without a woman in my life all my efforts would be in vain. But I did not know how it would happen. I was living in a very small community in the middle of nowhere (well, by Israeli standards). Most of the time I was on the kibbutz itself, so how was I supposed to meet my bashertess? This is a problem for anyone who lives in a closed community and that’s why we still have a need for the institute of matchmaking. I really hated the idea of going on blind dates though, and I was loath to start. There was also another complication – I wanted to leave the kibbutz, where the situation was getting pretty bad with no end in sight. I knew that if I did find a woman and introduced her to life in this environment and she liked it – then she obviously was not suited for me…
So eventually I left the kibbutz in search of a new life and especially – a new wife.
I returned to Jerusalem where I spent much of my childhood. By this time the city was much changed, and socially it was completely unfamiliar, so it seems I did not improve my situation by much. I had no social network that could introduce me to other people, no known circle of friends and acquaintances that could help me out.
Of course I had a lot of options in the city that were unavailable on the kibbutz – a plethora of matchmaking agencies, and lots of ads put out by singles that I could meet without having to drive an hour each way and coordinating it with everybody else on the kibbutz. But I still felt very uncomfortable going to an agency. To me it felt like I was declaring myself to be a failure. Normal people, I said to myself, don’t need matchmakers they just meet people wherever…and anyway – what was I supposed to say that I want? What could I say about myself that would adequately describe me? I had been scouring the singles ads for weeks trying to make sense of them. Most gave a short physical description and the occupation, like this:
“ 25 year old academic, 1.70 metres tall, brunette seeks academic male for serious relationship” or “good looking 22 year old wishes to raise a family with like-minded”. Like-minded what, I would ask myself, and also, what do I care what kind of degree my spouse has, and why would she care about my education? What does that have to do with anything? What, for God’s sake, is a “serious relationship” – I wondered if that meant no laughing allowed.
It was a very depressing time. I tried to put into words the kind of woman I was looking for. I knew I was searching for an essentially spiritual quality, but for the life of me I could not define it. I imagined myself putting an ad – how would I describe myself? I had no occupation, except “former kibbutznik down on his luck” which, somehow, didn’t seem to me the kind of job description that most women would find attractive. I really did not know what to do, but I did know one thing – I just had to find me a woman. I was really getting desperate.
One very good thing about the city, compared to the countryside, is that you can take a walk or get a cup of coffee and see people and if you want, you can start talking and maybe something will happen. This mode of operation suited me much better than the typical blind date, where I would get nervous and develop that awful “deer in the headlights look”, or else I would be over-eager or manage to be unnatural in so many different, original ways.
I tried this spontaneous thing a few times, but it seems I had a knack for hooking up with some really, how to say this – unusual women. Nothing worked out, and a few months later, after a particularly bad episode, I terminated this experiment. I decided that I had enough. I decided that women are simply insane and that I would be much better off without one at least for the time being. I gave up on them. I stopped looking around; I stopped watching them, yearning for them, daydreaming about them. I stopped talking to them, and I quit picking women up. I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with women.
But God had different plans…

My Wife Before We Met
They say that when the pupil is ready – the teacher arrives. I think that the same thing can be said about miracles. If you want a miracle you must prepare for it. Sometimes the miracle will not be what you planned, but something that you needed very much but didn’t realize it. That’s what happened when I met Joe. Without knowing it, I had been preparing for our meeting, and that is why, when we did actually meet, it worked out.
Before we met I was living alone, in my own apartment, celebrating life and my newfound independence – the past two years were the first time in my life that I was not living at home with my family. This was a great period in my life, full of new experiences and joy of life. But, underneath, there was a lot of tension and sorrow, stemming mostly from one bad relationship with men after another, and also from my family, which was very difficult, sick and toxic. I was living life to it’s fullest, but a storm was brewing, and coming ever closer.
Finally, it broke. I felt like I was being attacked at once on all fronts – family, friends, health and my relationships with men. Everything fell apart in my life; everything seemed, suddenly, unreal, a house of cards, a dream - a pack of lies. I felt that if I was ever going to continue with my life I would have to start from scratch, and rebuild everything single aspect of it.
This crisis in my life resulted in many changes. First of all I slowed down. I started to eat regularly, and quietly. I severed most of my social ties, not because I did not like people, but simply because I felt I could not trust my feelings anymore. That is also why I dedicated a lot of time to finding out what I actually feel about things, especially people. I started to pay attention to my limits. I decided to start saying “No” and asking myself what I want. I decided to severe any connections and not to enter any relationship with men that does not have a chance of getting serious, including not having sex with any man until I am sure that there is a mutual commitment between us. In short – I started a process of cleansing and purification of all the destructive elements in my life.
What has all of this have to do with my meeting Joe? I think that as a result of all of this – I could imagine myself, for the first time, with one man, in a loyal, steadfast relationship. Since I had recognized the lie in my life, I could now seek out the truth.
Indeed I already felt better with myself, more self-assured, and more open to new, positive experiences. In any case it was clear to me that the next thing I needed in my life was a partner, and that without one, life was meaningless.
One incident defined my new life perhaps more than any other – I had met a nice man on the bus to Tel-aviv , we talked and had a nice ride, but in the end , to my surprise and disappointment, he said that he really liked me but that he was already in a relationship, even though he did not behave at all like someone that was committed to another woman. A little later I had a chance to talk about this with my mother. For some reason I always told my mother about the men in my life and she always criticized my behavior. This time was no different, and when I finished telling her she just said, “Really, you’re killing me”.
Nothing much, but the tone was harsh and venomous and said many things that I had heard before from my mother – that I was hopeless, too honest, and too open. That I don’t know how to “”play the game” with men. That I’m not normal. It was then that I understood – no more talking with my mother about men. I made a vow not to do so, and a vow cannot be broken.
Today I know that my success in fencing off one area of my life enabled me to do so again and again until I was able to separate and disengage myself completely from my mother. I also realize, in hindsight, that keeping my relationships with men to myself was something I needed to do in order to pave the way for an intimate relationship with one. Basically, everything I had done since the crisis was preparing myself for such a relationship by starting to choose for myself, by becoming independent in ever-growing areas of my life, and by keeping the faith, by following my inner voice.
And finally that faith paid off.
I have no doubt that the God that led me to all of these insights, is the same one that arranged our meeting, as if He was saying – either follow your mother and find emotional sterility and death, or else follow me and find a connection. And indeed, when I made that choice to follow my inner voice and not allow my mother to interfere or enter that sacred place – the miracle happened.

How we met – Joe’s viewpoint
As I said, I had no circle of friends, no social hub that I was connected to, and that could somehow unite us. We also had no common interests whatsoever – my future wife was an artist, a musician, and I was just starting a new life, studying computers, and social sciences. I had no interest at the time, in art, and I certainly was not interested in contemporary music. I had never in my life been to a concert of classical music. On the other hand, music was her whole life, writing, teaching, listening, and breathing music was her raison d’etre. Objectively speaking there was no way we could meet, and even if we did I doubt that we would have anything to talk about.
In hindsight – this relationship was doomed from the beginning – it could not start, and even if it did, there was no chance it would succeed – we just had nothing in common.
Luckily, it was not up to us.

By this time I was working a bit, and I had begun my studies. I was also studying in Tel-Aviv once a week on Monday afternoons. I would drive or take the bus to Tel-Aviv. My lesson ended around eight o’ clock, so I would be on the bus back to Jerusalem, if I wasn’t driving, around eight thirty.
At this time my future wife had a job teaching in the north of the country. She would take a bus to Tel-Aviv, and from there switch to a bus going to the North. She would depart on Sundays and get back on Monday night, after ten.
There was a window of opportunity here, but obviously, we needed a little more help.
It so happened that one time I had to stay a little late, I forget why, and I ended up going to the bus stop nearly two hours later than my usual time, so that we actually ended up on the same bus. Of course that’s meaningless- after all there are more than fifty people taking the same bus to Jerusalem, so we needed some more assistance, and we got it – on that particular evening I happened to be the last one to get on the bus, and peering into the gloomy interior I saw that the bus was full, or seemed so. I walked the entire length of the bus – passing about fifty drowsy people, until I reached the rear seat. Usually the rear can seat five people, but in this case there were only two – a young guy in the right corner and a young woman on the left. I sat down tiredly in the middle, between them (thus unknowingly disturbing a conversation that they had just begun).
At this time I was three feet away from my bashertess, but like I said I was off women at the time, and I didn’t give her a second glance. I just opened my bag and took out a book I was enthusiastically reading at the time: Neil Postman’s “Teaching As A Subversive Activity”.
I got into the book quickly and within minutes I was chuckling and laughing softly to myself, but not so quietly that the girl on my right didn’t notice. Suddenly the driver doused the light and we began the trip back to Jerusalem. I looked around disappointingly, and this nice girl offered to direct her light towards me (the middle seat doesn’t have a reading light). I told her that wouldn’t work but maybe we can trade places. She said the open space in front intimidated her, to which I replied that the worst that could happen is that she would take a fall off about one foot, which most likely would not hurt her. She laughed, and we switched places. I started reading again but she asked me what I was reading. I told her and she said that she too was a teacher (so, it seemed we did have something in common after all) and we started talking, or rather – she did. I didn’t read any more that evening but I did get to hear an amazing, spontaneous lecture on education.
I liked the girl, but I wasn’t going to stick my head out any more, so, as the bus entered Jerusalem, I wrote my number on a piece of a paper and gave it to her, telling her that if she’s interested to meet again she’s welcome to give me a call.
At the time I didn’t have any notion that anything special was going on, nothing inside me told me that she was the one, no angels were singing, and my stomach wasn’t doing somersaults. We left the bus and stood beside each other. She took out a cigarette and I offered her a light (which surprised and intrigued her – I do not look like a guy who smokes). We smoked together, talked a bit more and then said good night. I did not have her telephone, and I still didn’t care if she called or not.
Would we meet again? Would she call?
If I remember correctly she did call the very next day, and we made a date – our first one, and a date to remember – but that’s another story altogether. God had already done His work, and we pretty much managed to take it from there.

How we met – Her viewpoint
As usual, I was returning home on Monday night on the ten o clock bus from Tel-Aviv. While waiting in the station I noticed a handsome, nice-looking guy. Our eyes talked to each other, and I pretty much intended to sit next to him when we boarded, hoping that maybe something will come out of it. I certainly was looking, yearning for someone, I was attentive and alert, waiting to meet someone because I really needed a partner, a friend, a mate.
He boarded the bus before me and went the full length of the bus before sitting down in the back seat, on the right. The rear seat has five seats, so I sat on the opposite end, on the left side, with three empty seats between us. I was impatient for the driver to start moving because I saw that the bus was full even though normally it is only a quarter full at this hour, and that if anybody else came, that person would have to sit in the back seat between us. To my great disappointment that is exactly what happened. We traded glances, as if saying “ what a pity, another chance got lost”.
Anyway this guy sat between us. He was skinny, boyish, vigorous, and alert and did not seem to me especially attractive. He looked like just another guy in an endless stream of people. Except that he proceeded to take out a book and read it. His reading was very private and vital, as if he was sitting there and actually talking with someone, and I immediately thought to myself – "here is someone who gets along just fine all by himself and doesn’t need anybody else. Oh, how I wished I had that for myself!"
Then the driver turned the lights off. This guy was left in the dark, and he moved his head, openly wondering, as if saying: “what will I do now? I need help.”
My heart opened up to him. I thought that I could point my reading light towards him, even though that may bother me during the ride. I offered this to him, but he said the light is too far away. He suggested that we switch places but I told him I was afraid of falling – the middle seat faces the aisle. He pointed out that I would only fall for about one foot and that’s not so bad. I laughed. I love gallows humor, even if I am the intended target. Anyway, he stayed in his place, and continued to read with my light aimed at him (Joe says – you may notice that our accounts differ here. We talked about this but so many years later we simply cannot remember if we did or did not switch places).
Suddenly I noticed that the cover of the book had the word “Education” on it, and here I was, returning from two very intensive, exciting days of teaching! I asked him what he was reading and he told me that it was a book about subversive education.
“Subversive” I said to myself  “happens to be my middle name!”
Now I was really intrigued. We started talking. I asked what he does, and the conversation developed from there, we talked about education, learning, teaching as a creative endeavor and so on, with me doing most of the talking. Eventually our journey back to Jerusalem ended. I was sure he would ask for my phone number but he didn’t! He gave me his own number and said that I can call him if I wanted to. That disappointed me a bit, but I was so used to being the hunter, not the hunted,  that I shrugged it off .
The next day, I called him, and we talked a bit  - about life, and philosophy, and Albert Camus, and living here and now. I felt that he found me interesting, and we made a date for the following night. Still, throughout all of this I had no distinct feeling that something big was happening. I felt liked a bored fisherman who hooked another fish. Another date. Another guy. Big deal. Still I went on the date, after which I realized that I had caught an especially large fish, one that would suffice me for all my life. I knew then, that I would never have to go fishing again.


mother in israel said...

Terrific story with a happy ending to boot!

westbankmama said...

Not only is this a great story - but told from both of your perspectives! I have never thought of an Egged bus being the spot for matchmaking, but who knows?

Karma said...

Its a beautiful story, and it gives me hope because sometimes I feel when I meet a guy, if we don't have this instanteous connection, that it just isn't there. I need to be more patient....

Thanks for sharing it. I like that you and your wife shared your own memories of the story.

mother in israel said...

my parents supposedly met on the bus or subway in NY, but they wouldn't confirm the story.