For the remainder of the spring and summer of 1990, I continued my general education studies at Gavilan Junior College, working at the YMCA, and best of all, seeing Elaine.
At the time, Elaine lived with a couple of girlfriends in Fremont and we spent an increasing amount of time together. From the start of our relationship, I was quite open with Elaine about my background in the Center, and my lack of experience in other matters.
So, when Elaine suggested that we take a trip back East to Washington, D.C. and Boston to see her old George Washington University roommates, I suggested we also make a detour through Queens to have dinner with some old Center friends. Elaine was all for it.
My idea -- strikingly naive as I think about it now -- was that Elaine and I would fly into JFK, rent a car, and drive into Greenwich. From there, we could drive into Queens for dinner, and then drive up to Boston the next day. So, I called my old roommate Trishatur and asked him if he'd like to meet for dinner, perhaps in Jackson Heights for some choice Indian food. Trishatur was enthusiastic and agreed to invite some of the other guys.
With that, Elaine and I made our plans. The first leg of the journey was to D.C. and it was fun. We tripped around the city with Elaine's college roommates and saw their old dormitory building -- it was both inspiring and a little intimidating to know that Elaine and her friends, all the same age as me, had completed their university studies years before (while I was just getting started at junior college).
The second leg of our trip started auspiciously, I'd thought, but quickly devolved into frustration. As Elaine and I stepped out of baggage claim at JFK, the first person I saw was an old customer from the Smile of the Beyond. Our eyes locked and we shared a few words. Elaine and I laughed -- it appeared to her as if I was well known in the Big Apple.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we had checked into our hotel in Greenwich. I called Trishatur straightaway to nail down our plans and that's when he gave me the bad news.
"Somehow Guru heard about the dinner. He said that you're welcome to come to a public meditation, but we're not supposed to meet you for dinner."
Until that moment, I had never felt really angry with Guru. Even years before, when Guru had warned me (unfairly, I had thought) to be "careful" around Jayanti, I hadn't actually felt raw anger, but rather frustration and hurt feelings. But when I hung up the phone with Trishatur, I was really pissed off at Guru personally.
I don't know why I was so mad. I had known that if Guru got wind of the dinner, he'd frown upon it. The reason for my anger, however, wasn't really important. Rather it was the effect that that anger had on my development that was important. Suddenly, in that hotel room in Greenwich, I realized that at some level I still had emotional bonds to the Center.
While I didn't want to follow the rules and had left the Center, I still craved some of the support structure the Center provided. If I was truly going to be my own man, though, then those ties would have to be severed. It occurred to me that Guru, like a mother bird, was pecking at me and preventing me from coming anywhere near the nest again.
My response to Guru's rebuff -- my anger -- severed those ties.
As Elaine and I made our way with north through Connecticut the next day, my anger was gone, and that, too, was a revelation for me. Being angry with someone didn't necessarily mean that you hated that person.
It's a healthy emotion and one that any strong relationship can withstand.
Photo credit here.