Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mary Goulding

Mary Goulding has died at age 83 after a rich life intimately related to transactional analysis.

Words cannot express my admiration for this woman. I was last with her on a sunny, cold Agust day on the Berkeley marina where she, my wife Jude and I, met for lunch.

The day before she died (12/7) she wrote a letter in which she anticipated her death. I include the text of that extraordinary letter and a picture as she was on August 2008.
I also include a statement by Jude who had just recently met her and who is, for now, better able to express how much she meant, than I.
Additional comments from Marylin Marx
Feel free to comment or add your own narratives. I will administer this blog as long as it continues as a meeting place for Mary's fans. Or you can e-mail me a statement to csteiner@igc.org and I'll post it. If you want to post on the blog click on comments at the very bottom of this post. It's very easy!
From Mary: (This letter was forwarded from Mary by Carol Salomon who says: "She wrote it on
Friday the 6th of December and worked very hard on it during the day.")
It was the darndest thing!
On Saturday, November 30th, I was to go to the thoroughbred races with step-daughter Kathleen Callahan, but woke up very tired. I stayed home on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday I had a new sensation, difficulty breathing, so I dressed in my flashy pink jeans and my lavender sweatshirt from my daughter Claudia and called my favorite cab driver, “Maybe I should go to Alta Bates”. He asked why and I told him I was having trouble breathing. He said “Unlock your front door. I’m calling you an ambulance.” I’d been admitted one other time for the birth of my son, David, sixty years ago.
It turned out I had congestive heart failure, a heart attack on Saturday and one on Monday. Seems diabetic Women are prone to silent heart attacks. I have pneumonia in both lungs and pulmonary edema, which is getting worse. Long explanation of why I am dying.
I feel strangely calm as I drift in spite of medicine and a constantly needed oxygen mask. I know the pain of saying good-bye to the living. As an atheist moving into nothingness, there is no pain. No matter when I died there would be places left to visit and beauty still to enjoy. I cannot imagine a better life than I have had – so much of it stimulated by ITAA.
Many thanks and much much love to all of you,
From Jude:
Mary became a special person for me rather instantaneously, in one particular moment. I was sitting at lunch with her and Claude in Skates restaurant. I had met her years before but it was a tumultuous time and there were many people present; for me it felt like we were meeting for the first time. When the subject of writing came up, I was ready with a little something I brought along, an LA arts magazine with a poem of mine. She read the poem and looked up at me and said, "You really are a writer".

I told her that the editors failed to italicize certain words. She looked again at the poem, then said, "You're right, it would be better with the italics". "Wow," I thought, she gets the poem and she can edit it in her mind and see that it would be better. In that moment and the short exchange that followed, I felt recognized and validated. And she did it with charm, generosity, and that engaged mind, which was surprising in a 94* year old, and hard to find among people of any age.

There was more laughter that afternoon than I would usually expect from such a get together. I learned that she was a sort of a Marxist, a veteran of TA psychotherapy practice and theory, and that despite being 94* and having great difficulty walking, she had a lover in Cuba whom she went to see regularly. She was radically left-wing, but didn't seem like an embattled old leftist, like some left-wingers I know. And she was a truly positive person; despite political convictions based in the awareness of injustice and suffering, despite having lost her beloved husband and being so limited in her movements (probably with no small amount of pain), despite her diabetes, she gave the impression of being totally interested in the world. She was an avid reader and encouraged me to send her one of my stories and gave back a detailed reaction.

We had lunch again about six months later (in Augut 08). I would learn that Mary's lover was black and 7 or 8 years younger than herself. She went to see him and other Cuban friends four times a year! She would say zany, uninhibited things. When Claude mentioned that she was an older woman dating a younger man, she simply said, "Well, it's just as well that he's younger I suppose, otherwise we wouldn't be able to have sex." (!) I noticed that at times I would look across at Mary and find her smiling at me. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but knew it was a sign of an unusually open heart and a very embodied, uninhibited form of self-expression.

I was delighted to suddenly have a 94*-year-old friend who was an unapologetic Marxist, journeyed regularly to Cuba, and had an active sex life with a younger man, which she spoke of unabashedly. Mary didn't just think outside the box, she seemed oblivious to the box. She didn't acknowledge that the box existed.

Later we exchanged messages. I sent her the short story I'd promised, a brief love story set in colonial China. She wondered what my writing style would be like with a US subject. I was planning to send her a somewhat similar story about an contemporary American couple. There was talk of another lunch but busy schedules interfered with setting a date. It did occur to me: Mary may not be alive much longer. I want to enjoy as many more of those lunches together as possible.

But then came the news: she's not here any more. Her loved ones don't have her, she no longer has the life full of vital activity (she had said on returning home to Berkeley that she was already missing Cuba, missing her partner there), she doesn't have that active, very unconventional life, and everything she was to me: a new friend, someone who made me feel validated, and a great person to have lunch with—all that has been snatched away.

I'll be lucky if some of her qualities rubbed off on me.
Jude Steiner-Hall
* Claude and I thought that she was 94; he informs me that she was actually 83.
From Marilyn Marx:
Mary was one of the true giants of contemporary psychotherapy and especially of ITAA, and I think all agreed, a most remarkable character. As a long-standing friend of almost 40 years, she was the best!
From Steven Karpman
Dear Mary:
I am sending this to your email address in hopes your family will see it. Maybe others can write you directly and personally too. I know you don't believe in the afterlife, but just in case, I want to say I'll miss you, we'll all miss you.
We go so far back, 44 years, when we worked together at Highland Hospital in the early 60's playing Aint it Awful about the Chief there. I want to thank you for inviting me down to Mt. Madonna to teach so many times. You've changed so many lives there. What a wonderful dream come true.
In creating your own amazing adventure script, you've set an example for anyone wanting to escape a Don't Be You injunction and your newly added 13th injunction, Don't Want. And you've proved that someone doesn't have to choose between a Don't Think and a Don't Feel, but they can both Feel and Think in a grand way as you have.
You've done it your way. A truly fulfilled life led to the fullest. As close to a script-free life as I'll ever see. I miss our back channel sharing and support over the years and taking certain advice and offers. You don't believe in this either, but if you redecide, I hope you and Bob reunite in heaven and find a new Mt. Madonna. Good luck with the new spirit adventures.
With love always
Steve Karpman