I was a junior in college at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1964 when I saw Anthony Quinn in the movie Zorba the Greek. I went to college to fulfill my parents dream that they never achieved, but really to learn the mysteries of life—in other words, sex, surfing, and what it meant to be a guy who could attract a girl who would be willing to have wild sex in the surf with him. Zorba was my role model. Let me confess at the outset, I failed at finding a girl who would have wild sex with me (that would come much later), but I never forgot what I learned from Zorba.
There are four things Zorba loved more than anything: Life, women, music, and his latest scheme to succeed against all odds. At a time when most film heroes were characters like James Bond who killed bad guys and was only interested in women for one thing (his love interest in Goldfinger was named Pussy Galore. How did that get past the censors?). Zorba was refreshingly different.
James Bond was one dimensional, Zorba was complex. He was the kind of man all women wanted, young, old, and in between. But he was also a man’s man, and genuinely wanted to help his stiff, young, English boss. Zorba (the character based on the book from Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis) offers wonderful bits of advice that have stuck with me for almost sixty years:
- “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes that see reality.”
- “The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing.”
And the one that still guides my life:
- “A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.”
Becoming the Man You Always Wanted to Be
I fell in love and got engaged during my last year in college (I was 21, she was 18). We were both naïve (how could we not be?) believing that we had found everlasting happiness. Without thinking about it consciously, we assuming there were two stages for a successful relationship:
1. Fall in love.
2. Build a wonderful life together.
There was no need for more stages. We just assumed we would live happily ever after. Life had other ideas for me.
We had two children and got divorced just before our tenth anniversary following three years of conflict and recriminations. I quickly remarried and was soon divorced again. Divorce is painful for everyone. Our hopes and dreams of love everlasting are dashed. For me, who had become a successful marriage and family counselor, it was devastating. How could I expect anyone who pay me for counseling when I couldn’t even keep my own relationship together? How could I keep saying I was a therapist if my own love live wasn’t working?
I made a decision that changed my life. I decided to quit my job as a professional counselor, go back to basics and see if I could figure out what it really meant to be a man and to have the kind of relationship that I had dreamed of having. I needed to make a living while I was figuring it out, so I got a job at Howard Johnson’s restaurant doing the early morning shift that no one wanted.
I stopped looking for women. What woman would be interested in having a man whose job was serving coffee and serving food to travelers who were still asleep when they stumbled in? I also went into therapy myself and read everything I could find from experts who actually were practicing what they preached to others.
I also reflected on what Zorba taught me. After a lot of dark and depressing times feeling like a failure at the two things that Sigmund Freud said were the cornerstones of our humanness, “Love and Work,” I got back in touch with Life. I went for long walks on the beach and learned to meditate. I read “The Course in Miracles” and joined a weekly group of people who sang together. All of these things were a bit crazy for me.
I was a city kid who was uncomfortable in nature. I thought meditation was boring and couldn’t keep my eyes closed for more than a few seconds, a racing mind, I believed, would somehow get me someplace worthwhile. I didn’t believe in miracles or God. My parents were Jewish by birth and culture, but political activists by inclination and atheists by training. If you can’t see him, touch him, prove him—believing in God or Goddess is unscientific and a waste of time.
I began writing my thoughts and feelings in a journal, which really seemed crazy to me. It eventually turned into a book, my first, called Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man. Instead of going out looking for women, I joined a men’s group, which was really crazy. What heterosexual man would rather be in a men’s group than chase women? Being in the group changed my life and we’ve continued to meet regularly since we began in 1979.
Finding My Soul Mate Instead of a Playmate
I was ten years old in 1953 when a twenty-seven-year-old nerdy sociology student at Northwestern University named Hugh Hefner started Playboy magazine. He put a racy picture of Marilyn Monroe on the cover and added some philosophy about sexual freedom. The first printing of 50,000 copies sold out overnight. Playboy bunnies and Playmates of the Month became the dream lovers of boys and Peter-Pan men who never wanted to grow up.
By the time I met Carlin, I had gone through two marriages and divorces (Check out my “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor” at MenAlive.com). I had given up the search for the perfect partner, but I retained my vision of the kind of girl who had the right chemistry to turn me on—younger than me, shorter than me, if not a Playmate of the Month, at least one of the cute bunnies (I mean, if a nerd like Hugh Marston Hefner could spend his adult life surrounded by bunnies, I could find at least one for myself, I hoped).
Carlin and I met at the dojo in Mill Valley. I had begun practicing the non-violent martial art of Aikido (most of my macho friends went in for more kick ass practices like karate or Kung Fu). She was introduced to me by a mutual friend. I was friendly, but clearly she wasn’t my type. She wasn’t cute or bunny-like. She was pretty in an exotic kind of way that was attractive, but confusing. But she had one quality that was clearly a deal-breaker. She was a few inches taller than me (and I found out later that she was also a few years older than me).
But a very strange thing happened. We ended up going to the same retreat (turned out the friend who introduced us, knew I was going to this retreat and suggested it to Carlin). We kept running into each other and some crazy magic began happening. I put my conscious mind to sleep (really a crazy thing to do for me), quit ruminating, comparing her to others, comparing myself to some ideal, and just lived in the moment and enjoyed being alive.
Without judgement about her or about me, whether she was sexy enough or if she was my type, or mine hers, we just got to know each other (and in the process ourselves). We even talked about our judgements and the stereotypes that told us who we should be attracted to and how we should feel. We stopped trying to be the people we were supposed to be and started enjoying being ourselves.
We’ve been married now for 43 wonderful years. We’ve had our ups and downs, like all couples, and we are still learning about love. I wrote a book about our continuing journey. The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come.
If you are a man, or know a man, who has been through a relationship breakup (or more than one) and is ready to explore and learn what it really means to become a man who can attract a true soul-partner, I will be leading a 4-day retreat in March, along with two colleagues, I’ve known for years. If you are interested in learning more, let me know. It will be limited to a small group of men who are ready for real lasting love. It is for a few good men who aren’t afraid to explore their little bit of madness. If this sounds like it might be you, drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Soul-Mate Man” in the subject line. I’ll send you all the details.
You might also enjoy my recent article, “Are You a Master and Work, But a Disaster at Love?” If you’d like to receive my regular weekly newsletter (Its free), you can do so here.
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