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copyright 1999, Lois Wickstrom

That Woman

by Lois Wickstrom

I hadn't heard from That Woman (TW) for about 4 years. The last time I saw her, she dumped me and most of my luggage out of her car into the New Mexico desert. Okay, she dumped me in front of a Hertz rental agency __ she wasn't heartless. But we'd been taking a vacation together to Carlsbad Caverns. I'd planned to rent a car in Denver, but she was low on funds. Her solution was to use her car and I'd pay for gas. Her car was a stick shift, which I hate, but I foolishly agreed.

Suddenly, one day, when I was buying gas, she got mad at me and no longer wanted my company. She never said what she was angry about. We didn't have an argument. She simply said she no longer wanted my company, and she agreed to pay for my rental car to get back to Denver. (She never did pay me, even though I sent her the bill.) I thought I'd never hear from her again. And, frankly, the idea pleased me.

When I moved to Philadelphia, I did not send her a change of address card. But now, four years later, there on my phone answering machine, when I got back from walking my dogs, was her voice. TW was calling me and she wanted me to call her back.

I figured I had two options. I could call her at a time

convenient for me. Or I could wait for her to call again, and probably be inconvenienced as well as irritated. I wasn't happy about running up my phone bill to call a woman who owes me $400 I never expect to see. But I called. And I talked to her answering machine.

I left a message and hung up. Then I started thinking about my trip after she dumped me. To tell the truth, I had a good time without her. I visited museums she wouldn't have liked. I bought a silver necklace I'd have been embarrassed to buy in front of her, knowing her financial straits. But that didn't mean I want to get mixed up with her again.

I remembered going to a workshop in Gainesville where I asked Reb Zalman how he manages to be happy so much of the time. He answered, "I have a quick flush."

That's what I wanted to do with my feelings about TW. Flush them. Pretend I never knew her. My inner voice started arguing with my anger.

IV: It's been four years and you haven't flushed it yet. Why not?

Me: "Look, four years ago this woman dumped me in the desert. What should I do now that she wants back in my life?"

IV: "She's always been in your life. The only question is are you going to use her to make yourself look good, or are you going to give her a fresh start?

Me: "Compared to her, I do look good."

IV: "You don't feel good saying that, so you don't really mean it."

Me: "But she hurt me."

IV: "You look fine to me."

Me: "No thanks to her."

IV: "Not true. You had a good time without her. You learned that things don't have to go the way you planned them for you to be happy. You might say she did you a favor."

Me: "But I'm still mad at her. What she did was wrong."

IV: "You're being illogical. She did you a favor. You learned something important about yourself. You suffered no harm. And nobody is asking you to go on another vacation with her. What are you afraid of?"

Me: "I'm afraid she'll hurt me again."

IV: "She didn't hurt you last time. You just admitted that."

Me: "I hate to admit it, but you're right."

Right after I finished this discussion with my inner voice, That Woman called. It was still prime time phone hours. TW was distraught. She wanted to know if I still had a file she'd created on my hard drive eight years ago. I don't even have that hard drive any more. It died about four years ago. And I never backed up files that other people made on my computer.

Despite the fact that I do computer support, I barely manage to back up my own essential files.

What was in this file that was so important? It was stuff about what time she was born. She wanted to go to an astrologer for a reading to help her out of her troubles, and she'd forgotten her birth time, but she remembered putting it on my hard drive. Since we last met, she'd left her husband, had an abortion, and been through a string of miserable jobs. Some she has quit. Some have fired her. They've averaged about five per year. She feels like a failure. She wanted an astrologer to tell her what's wrong with her.

Suddenly I didn't care about the desert any more. This was a woman in pain calling out for help. I didn't know what was wrong with her, but whatever caused her to dump me in the desert was no excuse for me to dump her now. It was almost as if a mothering instinct kicked in.

I found myself telling her she's not a failure. She's a

survivor. She's managed to find new jobs, keep the rent paid, and keep herself fed. She even has a new significant other.

TW began to cry. "Nobody told me I'm a survivor before. They just tried to tell me what I'm doing wrong." I told her that part of her life is over.

I amazed myself. I wasn't dealing with the TW who dumped me in the desert four years ago. It was as if that woman no longer existed. I'd flushed her. I dealt with the upset unemployed woman on the telephone.

None of this means that I'd welcome TW into my home, go on a vacation with her, or lend her money. Not only did I not know this TW I'd been talking with -- I didn't know the I who'd been doing the talking either. But I liked her.

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