Nov 17, 2020

Actually, there was another reason I’d decided to go to Spain, as important to me as becoming fluent in Spanish. I worried about being a burden to Britte—I had so much emotional baggage—and figured that striking out on my own was the fastest way I could grow the rest of the way up. I wanted to be on an equal footing with her, a friend who could give back to her in the ways she gave to me.

Now I began to discover that by using free association, which I first tried in the T-group at Jane’s suggestion, I could find my way into whatever was bothering me, untangle my feelings from complicated snarls, and emerge with a sense of resolution and self-possession. Always before in my life I’d felt confounded and overwhelmed by my feelings—but now, for the first time, I was able to master them.

And maybe because Britte had led such an insulated life, I needed to forge a connection to someone who hadn’t. When I met Jane on the Aurelia, though she was only in her mid-twenties, she’d already had more than her share of sorrow and was on her way to Israel on a sort of pilgrimage. She’d played the trumpet, but a dead tooth had changed her embouchure and brought her musical career to an end; the man she’d loved and led T- groups with had married her best friend; and the four-year-old brother she’d helped raise—and loved as her own child—had died.

“Dear Jane,

“I’m really scared to be frank—but I’m also willing to take a risk. I want to say, ‘Tell me what you know about life. I’m trying to understand what’s happening to me—and I feel like you can help me.’ Knowing you and Britte suggests this to me—there are only a few people we meet in life whom we can love deeply and intimately, and we only reach our full potential when we love and are loved in this way. I sometimes wonder why I can’t love EVERYBODY; then I think: there are only a few people in our lives who are willing to reach deep enough to touch what is best in us—and though we never know why these people are willing and others aren’t, they are all we need to give meaning to our lives, all we need to teach us who we are and how to love ourselves.

“I can’t embrace all of humanity—I can’t reach the potential behind all the faces I meet coming and going. I can only hope to let loose the line on my needs, my desires, my talents, my ambitions, to fly my soul like a kite, to pursue fearlessly what I love and reject fearlessly what I don’t—and be willing to cry as many times as such freedom sets as its price.”


Despite my disclaimer, I was able to feel, for the first time since childhood, a genuine love for all of humanity—and found in myself a new patience and tolerance. At the same time I understood, quite clearly, that this change had come about because, at long last, I felt loved.