One thing I have noticed about myself lately is that I become very emotional at times and tears mist my eyes as warmth pervades my chest. This feeling occurs at the oddest moments, with little relationship to what seems to be happening around me. This emotion rarely relates to a state of sadness, or depression. Rather it seems to be some sort of self comforting mechanism and I welcome it because we all need to comfort ourselves sometime. Perhaps the greatest gift I received from my many years of Gestalt Therapy, besides a certain equanimity towards life, was to allow myself tears. Tears and the emotions associated with them, are part of our human genetic heritage, serving as a release from tensions roiling our insides. Tensions sometimes middling, sometimes unbearable, need to be discharged lest they overwhelm us and prove destructive.
As I awoke this morning, the thread of a song ran through my consciousness and with that thread of music, memories were evoked of a pivotal time in my life more than 46 years past. For many in America 1969 and 1970 were pivotal years and this was so for me. I had been married right after graduating college. The girl I married was someone whose parents were going through an angry and nasty divorce. Her life was coming apart, at the same time my life was coming apart. I met her four months after my mother died and as it turned out 7 months before my father died.
Although temperamentally and intellectually mismatched, we clung to each other fiercely in a vain attempt to maintain a semblance of stability. Her parents encouraged our romance, I think with the hope that our union would relieve them of the burden of caring for her. My older brother, who became my guardian after our Father’s death, also encouraged the romance for similar reasons. My wise old Paternal Grandmother neither liked the girl, nor approved of my marrying her, but unfortunately I disregarded her advice. We married right after I graduated college and after 3 years of mutual misery tore apart in 1969. I was drawn to the “hippie” life and radical politics and all she wanted was a quiet man with whom to have a children.
At the time I worked for the “Welfare Dept.” in NYC and had become a prominent activist in perhaps the most radical union in the country, the Social Service Employees Union. The various factions in the SSEU encompassed the entire spectrum of Leftist politics, including those on the far left: the Communist Party, Trotskyites, Mao’ists, Anarchists and a variety of socialists. I was on the other hand an ACLU type liberal, whose main issues were Civil Rights and rejection of the Vietnam War. I was a staunch trade unionist and rejected the attempts of those far Leftists to use the Union specifically to advance their own agendas and party lines.
When I first became active and gained some notice in the Union, all of these very Left Wing factions tried to recruit me. I was young, attractive and a fiery speaker able to go on extemporaneously for a long time and people found me charismatic. I rejected all of them and thus became their enemy. In 1969 I ran for President of the Union, a naive 25 year old competing with older, more politically sophisticated people. With the optimism of youth and no small degree of hubris I believed I would win, but came in a distant third. With my marriage falling apart, together with this disillusioning loss, I felt un-moored.
I was also at this time a night Law School student and truth be told barely hanging on because of these other distractions cut into my studies. The Kent State Massacre of anti-Vietnam War protesters allowed us to shut our law school down in 1970 and gave all a pass without taking finals. Rather than providing a comfort to me, it only served to un-tether me further from a sense of stability in my life.
With that introduction here is the song that I awoke thinking of this morning, along with two others from that era that sum up my youthful mindset as my life spun out of control in 1969 and 1970.
This song came after that era somewhat but it sums up the others, especially in this group setting of performers past.