“Listening to Your Partner’s Premonitions: Another VW Van Misadventure”
In 1977, Joyce and I spent part of the summer renting a house in Mt. Shasta. Because our first daughter, Rami, was only one year old, we sometimes took turns exploring the area while the other one stayed home watching our baby. On one of my turns, I drove into the mountains above Lake Siskiyou, on a road following the upper stretches of the Sacramento River. I had heard about a magical lake that was only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles. Since our VW van was only two-wheel drive, I drove to the end of the paved road, parked, then walked several miles on the rough road to a truly gorgeous small lake set in a glacial bowl. There was granite everywhere, with a gem of a lake set in the middle like a sparkling diamond in a granite setting.
I spent the day meditating and frolicking in the lake. I had it all too myself. And I knew I had to bring Joyce and Rami here to experience this wonderland. Because I had walked the road to the lake, I had the chance to really evaluate the possibility of getting there in our van. I decided it was doable.
That night, I told Joyce about the lake, amply describing its glories. I was not prepared for her reaction. She said, “Barry, I have a bad feeling about going there.”
Deflated, I still rallied, “But why? It’s gorgeous! And I checked the road out carefully. We can make it in our van.”
Joyce has often had a hard time opposing my desires. Still, she said, “I can’t explain my feeling. The more you go on about this place, the worse I feel.”
I wouldn’t give up. I promised her a great time, and finally she relented. We went the next morning, despite her misgivings.
We left the paved road and ventured onto the four-wheel-drive road. I have to acknowledge, it was not easy going, but slowly, carefully, we bumped along for several miles. We were just about to the lake, when I started to press down on the clutch and the pedal fell to the floor. I immediately knew that the clutch cable had just snapped.
I looked over at Joyce, who had been tense the whole trip. She saw a strange expression on my face, and asked with concern, “Barry, what’s wrong?”
I said, “The clutch cable just broke.”
Now she was worried, and asked, “What does that mean?”
I’m not exactly a car mechanic, but I did know a thing or two. I did my own tune-ups and minor repairs, closely following a helpful book called, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot.
“It means changing gears won’t be easy, but it can be done without a clutch. The lake should be just up ahead. Do you want me to keep going? We could still have a good time there.”
“Absolutely not,” was her vehement reply. “Please get us turned around and let’s get home.”
And thus began a very difficult journey, first getting our van turned around, and then creeping along in first gear for several hours, dodging boulders and holes. All in all, it was a long and miserable trip back to our house in Mt. Shasta. Rami cried pretty much the whole time. Joyce appeared to be praying at times, deeply worried at other times. Even when we reached the main road, it required the utmost finesse to time gear changes to exactly match our speed, otherwise there would be a loud grinding of gears.
That night, after we put Rami to bed, Joyce sat with me to “talk.” She began, “Barry, I’m really angry at you for pressuring me to go on this trip. You know I have a hard time saying no to you, especially when you’re so enthusiastic. But I’m angrier at myself. I didn’t have a good feeling from the very first time you brought it up, but I didn’t fight for my feelings. I didn’t listen to my intuition. I gave up on myself. From now on, I’m giving you notice, if I don’t have a good feeling about something, I’m not going to let you change my mind!”
After that day’s experience, what could I say? And to this day, I have gradually learned to listen to Joyce’s feelings. Sometimes I don’t like them, because they go against my desires. Of course, I also listen to my own intuition, deeper than my desires. And if my intuition differs from Joyce’s intuition, we each have to listen very carefully to the other side. We try to find a compromise, a very important art for couples.
Not long ago, I wanted to raft the Owyhee River in very remote Southeast Oregon. The window for doing this had just opened and was very short. In other words, the river levels were dropping fast. I proposed the trip to Joyce. I always prefer that she come with me. I love her company. But she had a strong reaction, a bad feeling, which actually was rare for her. Joyce tries her very best to honor my need for the wilderness, even though she worries about my safety. On some of my trips, I can go for days without seeing another soul.
I felt disappointed by her reaction, but something in me (perhaps my own intuition) listened and stayed home. What would have been in the middle of my trip, our beloved nine-year-old golden retriever, Rosie, went rapidly downhill. She had been treated for cancer and seemed to be thriving. She died, and I was there to comfort her and Joyce. And, it was important to me to say goodbye to my beloved pet. I would have regretted not being there.
How glad I was to honor Joyce’s premonition and put my desires aside.