When I look back, I see many reasons why Bill and I didn't stay together. Basically we grew apart. We'd been doing that for some time before we noticed. When the boys turned into young men and stopped living with us, it became apparent that parenting was the biggest thing we had in common. Without that, there wasn't much else.
'What do you want from life?' I asked him, hoping to find some mutual aim and recover our sense of partnership. 'What are your goals and visions?' He answered, but I didn't hear him. 'I'd like to travel around Australia,' he said. Well, we'd already been to Sydney, Adelaide, Townsville, Darwin, Ayers Rock, Kakadu and Broome. Besides, to me a vision was big, like saving the world; a goal meant being a famous writer at least. After we parted, he visited Perth and Brisbane and explored more of coastal Victoria. He was telling me loud and clear what he wanted all the time; I just wasn't capable of hearing it.
And I broke some unwritten contracts, although I didn't realise that until later. He was supposed to be the writer, and later the psychic and the healer. It was I who went on to careers in all three.
When we met, he was writing a novel. He didn't know I was a writer too. He knew I was a librarian, and that I'd majored in English Literature at University. He told me with naive enthusiasm that he was drawn to me because I must be good at English. An odd basis for attraction, I think now, but I didn't question it at the time.
Bill was 15 when his family migrated from Holland. His older brother John had learned English at school; his little brother Robert was young enough to pick it up easily here. Bill missed out both ways. Maths was the only lesson he could understand at his Australian school. He taught himself English by attending movie matinees and watching the same cowboy film over and over. Surprisingly, he fell in love with the language. By the time I met him, his reading was quite sophisticated. His writing, though, had problems. The first letter I ever got from him was a huge disappointment. I couldn't read it! Finally I figured out that he was spelling everything the way it would have been spelt in Dutch if it had sounded the same. Once I had that clue, I managed to decipher it, but it took a long time for only two pages. I could see that he did need help.
He loved English because of its nuances, its subtleties, its fine shades of meaning, the fact that so many different words could be used for one thing. In Dutch, he told me, language is blunt and simple — one word, one meaning. Bill's father loathed English for exactly the same reason. 'You know where you are with Dutch,' he said.
Bill's written English improved considerably, but he put the novel aside for the responsibilities of providing for his family. If he'd stayed a carpenter, perhaps he would have written in the evenings; but abalone diving is one of the most physically demanding jobs there is. He rose early and went to bed early, and there was no guarantee of a weekend off. If the weather was right, you dived. You might not get another chance for a while. His father was a builder. When it wasn't diving weather, Bill worked for him. It kept us fed but didn't leave much time for writing. Luckily, abalone diving became his even greater passion. He loved the life. His story-telling impulse was satisfied by becoming a raconteur, telling wonderful tales of his experiences under water, which he never wrote down.
I was a poet, a very different matter. It takes a lot less time to write a poem than a novel. When I'm asked how long it takes me to write a poem, I usually say, 'Anything between five minutes and 20 years'. That's more or less true, but at least the first draft can be done quickly. But I was just a private scribbler. It was only when I was 32 that I asked myself, 'OK, you've got a good husband, lovely kids, a nice house, all the things you're supposed to want. Why are you still discontented? What do you really want to do with your life?'
A light bulb lit up in my head and I knew the answer. It had always been there. I wanted to be a poet. I'd always wanted that. I just hadn't believed it possible.
When I was little, my parents read me poems for bedtime stories, and bought me books like Now We Are Six and A Child's Garden of Verses. I started writing poems when I was seven. My parents were proud of me, but when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, 'A poet,' they explained as kindly as possible that it wasn't a thing you could 'be' in that kind of way. It would have to be a hobby.
I won some school writing prizes, and in my teens became brave enough to submit to Meanjin, the foremost literary magazine in the country (and the only one I knew about). My work was promptly rejected. I pulled my head back in and resumed scribbling so privately that few people knew.
Now, at 32, I told myself, 'OK. Time to have a go for real.' Bill was appalled.
'I've got friends who are artists and musicians,' he said. 'Any art form consumes you. It's a tunnel that'll swallow you up.'
I argued vociferously. I wouldn't let it do that to me; I'd still look after the family. I wore him down until, grudgingly, he gave permission. (Obviously I had little understanding of feminism back then.)
Doing it 'for real' required much more crafting. Near enough wasn't good enough any more. But it seemed I'd learnt some things in those years of scribbling. I was published quite soon, joined the Poets Union, embraced performance poetry, and made a name. I even got to teach the poetry part of Professional Writing courses at various colleges, on the strength of that name plus my BA.
Bill didn't pick up a pen for another 12 years, until he retired and we moved to the country. I was amazed that his gift was still there, but he seemed to have lost heart. He wrote some good short stories but didn't do much with them.
By that time he'd become psychic overnight, lost it and partly regained it. [As recounted in my previous post.] Meanwhile some friends got me interested in Tarot. I started playing with it just for my own amusement.
At the same time as becoming psychic, in the same lightning-strike way, Bill developed healing gifts — part of the same package. He would get an inner knowing where to put his hands on someone and how to massage them to relieve pain and other symptoms. If he did this too often in a short time, he became drained of energy.
'Who heals the healer?' I wondered.
Also I was worried about the legalities. He was working on people without any qualifications. When I saw a Reiki course advertised, I persuaded him we should both do it. I'd experienced Reiki. I didn't know much about it but I thought it was a superior kind of massage. I thought he could get some qualifications to put to his natural gift, and that when he got drained I'd be able to look after him.
But Reiki isn't like that. It's not massage but energy healing. You tap into the universal energy instead of using your own, so you never get drained. It's activated automatically by touch.
I had no idea of being a healer myself, except to help him, which now he didn't need. But it was I who fell in love with Reiki and, in a major life change, decided to train as a Master (a teacher). As a start, I began seeing clients professionally. I also decided to advertise Tarot readings. To my surprise I got plenty of clients for both services.
Bill declared, 'I support you 100% in your ambition to become a Reiki Master!' A few months later he thought the training took too much time and money. 'Unless you give it up,' he said, 'Our marriage is over.' I was rocked. But I was due to go to Sydney, to a conference of trainee Reiki Masters with the world Grand Master on her first visit to Australia.
'Go,' said the Reiki Master who was training me, 'And then make up your mind.'
I walked into the conference, and into peace and acceptance. There was a large room full of people sitting on cushions on the floor. It was also full of the Reiki energy they all carried. I looked around. There were my brothers and my sisters; I was home. The decision was made. After a profound and beautiful three days, I went back and told Bill the marriage was over.
It was his turn to look shocked. I think I must have called his bluff, and then he didn't know how to back down. But I hadn't realised that he was bluffing. And by then it was too late.