Chapter 3: School & Marriage

will you be my valentine?

So I want to talk about “school’s” impact on significant relationships before continuing my story. I am focusing on marriage primarily because my husband is the person closest to me, and I have to come to terms with how my school involvement hurt him. But you could really insert any important relationship in to this scenario.

School spins its students into a special brand of “school-induced” denial. Our illustrious leader likens “school” to the “French Revolution”.  A revolutionary does not blow off the mission due to laziness, or aimlessness — an “I don’t feel like going tonight to the super, secret strategy meeting.” or “I’d rather curl up on the couch with my spouse and watch West Wing than discuss ‘universal truths.’”  Come hell or high water, a revolutionary with “sufficient valuation” shows up for this exclusive, mission-critical calling.

Any man will do

If I am working on myself, Any man will do

If you attend long enough, you buy into this mythology: the “I am WORKING on MYSELF!” “I am a soul AWAKENING, in the world of sleep walking men and women!”. It translates into: My awakening, due to school, can only benefit my family, my friends, my co-workers, my dog, my fish, my neighbors, their fish, Barack Obama, the Police Department, the cashier at the nearby convenient store, etc, because I am radiating fineness! I am a walking light casting shadows on the walls of the cave of darkness! Simply my presence as a woman who is ‘GROWING HER BEING’ will benefit all who come into contact with me.

You find yourself – even when every cell in you would rather stay home watching West Wing and snuggling with your spouse – justifying school’s need for your stellar attendance record and absolute silence and compliance.

Ok, I may be exaggerating somewhat (or not), but it happened to me, and my vanity glossed over the holes in the French Revolution argument; after all I was a spiritual revolutionary, a soldier marching off to war with my comrades!  Really, I was driving in rush hour traffic to an old, restored, mill in Billerica, to attend “class”. The French Revolution is over. There are no enemies hiding behind corners with shotguns waiting to shoot down the heretic seeking enlightenment – thus there is no legitimate reason for the urgent attend-every-class-at-all-costs requirement, high security and secretiveness (illegitimate reasons, a plenty, but that’s another chapter).

As a “school” student, your presence at home will decrease exponentially in correspondence with the increasing, exponentially growing, super-secret, mission-critical school demands. Of course the number of secrets required also expands exponentially; for if you make certain “efforts” for “school” (i.e. recruiting new students) you cannot discuss them with those in “life”. School calls these efforts “third line of work” and touts them essential to “awaken”, to “grow a soul”, to “evolve”. So not only is your physical presence limited, school cleverly hijacks your emotional and psychological presence.

Gradually, the “secrets” required of you will insert and wedge between you and your spouse. The wedge wiggles back and forth, widening the gap with each new demand. You are emotionally and spiritually distracted, physically taxed and sleep deprived; therefore absent even when your body is home.

So, let’s step back further to get some more perspective. One of the first things Robert tells new students is that “sleeping humanity” has a skewed relationship to time. Everybody is “so busy.” He scoffs at this and says, “If you tell me you don’t have time to do this and that, I won’t believe you.”

So let’s outline school’s evolving time requirements: as a new “younger student” you disappear on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 6:30-9 or so. When deemed “ready”, you join with the “older class” which extends to say 9:45, 10:00, sometimes 10:30, 11:00 – after which you “observe the required one hour of silence” to “seal off any leaks”. I don’t know about you, but if I were to go home and “observe an hour of silence” there, my husband would find it odd. Tack on another hour. Often times during that hour I would enlighten my spirit at the McDonald’s drive through, because I’d rushed from work to class without dinner.

After being in school between three to six months, you graduate from “youngest student” to the “been here long enough” phase. One day while sitting in reverent silence awaiting the day’s lesson, a teacher will announce, “ I need to see these people.” S/he will read a list of names, including yours. The anointed will file into another room in silent anticipation and dread. Once there the teacher will say one of three things:

1)    “We’re going to have a party.”

2)     “Robert needs our help to grow the school. You have been chosen to embark on a very special ‘third line of work’ (congratulations!) And it only requires you to go out and make new friends.”

3)    “We’re going to present a lecture/presentation and we need you to ‘invite people’.”

These three items need their own sections to flesh out the amount of “effort” and “work” required to throw a “school party”, or go out and “make new essence friends” without revealing your last name, work, home town, whether you have kids or not, own a dog, floss your teeth daily, etc., or invite friends to a “presentation” that has no title, topic, date or location. Suffice to say that you can expect to see your spouse, and or kids, or your “life” friends far less than you presently do. And guess what – they notice your absence. They feel your absence. And they feel something else — insincerity. You tell a white lie, like I’m going to meet a particular friend for coffee, when in fact you are meeting a potential new recruit, or going to a “school” meeting that falls on a Wednesday. If you know that you are telling a half-truth, or a seemingly innocuous lie, or omitting information, they feel it. The gap between you and your loved one widens some more.

For those readers “not in school”, I can hear the thought, “No shit, Sherlock”. But those of us in (or who were in) need rude awakenings to get this message. Often times we would set “aims” to do something special for our beloved. Does the quality time make up for the quantity of time missed? We begin to believe that we can control our spouse’s disappointment with a special dinner, or trip, or gift. We can’t. When the special gift or event doesn’t work and we ask our “sustainers” or “teachers” why not? We are told that if our “beings were stronger, more evolved,” if our “efforts were more sufficient” then we would soothe the savage beast. We must “work harder on ourselves”. Of course, no body states the obvious: these special and “aim-full” events don’t bring back lost time and don’t sooth the loneliness and worry. The loneliness, the worry and your absence will only increase with each passing year.

Alarms may sound but it often takes screeching sirens to shake us out of our hypnotism-induced stupors. Someone is fired. Someone’s sister, or friend, or children confronts them – “What is this thing you are going to every Tuesday and Thursday night. Are you in some kind of a cult?”

Someone loses his/her marriage.

So let me dial back to the marriages. Guess what, no matter what line you’ve been fed, your spouse is not benefiting, unless you’ve chosen to share some of the real and fine ideas that school does indeed expose one to, albeit in a rather twisted presentation. Of course, you break the code of silence when talking about these “ideas” outside of school, unless sanctioned by school – which certainly would never be the case unless you are specifically recruiting a new sheep into the fold. I’ve yet to meet a colleague who recruited a spouse.

I left school in August, and it is now February.  Just shy of seven months and several hundred miles later (my husband and I drove from Massachusetts to South Carolina this August and the miles between provided a number of “Oh my God” moments) I can only conclude that school “aims” to break up marriages. Of course my post-leaving discovery that many students in the “older class” are married to each other, or married to teachers highlights this conclusion. And the further discovery that Queen Sharon – the New York branches leader and Robert’s “teacher” – arranges these marriages and breaks them up at her whim further confirms it.

When I made my decision to leave school, I didn’t know about “school marriages”. I knew that my marriage, my relationship to my soul mate – which had survived several significant losses already including parents, grandparents, jobs and homes – would not survive school. I knew I was not willing to trade him in for this institution. This realization fell on me, followed by an avalanche of others, the most important one being this:

Robert did me a huge favor when he passed on the instruction TELL YOUR HUSBAND TO MIND HIS OWN BUSINESS (insert Wizard of Oz voice here). It shook me out of my stupor. I thought, “But this is his business. If I have to tell him to ‘mind his own business’ in order to be in school, I can’t be in school.”

Later I read that Robert is (of course) married to another teacher and I kept hearing echoes of his voice saying, “I am trying to put myself in your husband’s shoes.”  When I quit school, we talked on the phone. His voice heavy with disappointment he said, “It’s a terrible thing your husband has done to you.” All theater. It is easy to be “in school” when married to another attendee; you don’t have to explain the unexplainable. There are no lies to tell.

As with so many other ironies that exist within school, suddenly being available to my marriage made me awaken to it. For the last seven months, simply being home to write grocery lists with him without being exhausted or distracted took on new meaning. My gratitude for the man, our union, and the life we work towards together has only grown deeper, along side the love we have for each other.

A healthy marriage needs time and trust. School strips its students of both. Your time becomes its time. Your voice starts becoming a font of school propaganda, allowing it to continue its super, secret, critical mission to keep Sharon and Robert rich. So my hope, dear reader, is that, if nothing else, you come away from this post knowing this: nothing can make up for the time lost, except for time together. Nothing can restore trust but voicing the truth. This time, your time, is far too precious to squander away in “school”. Your truth told in your voice will ring true, thus restoring trust and providing healing.

Chapter 4: How to Stay in a Cult