A Young Man’s Anxiety about the Future
“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
Loving the Real Person, not the Fantasy Hero
March 11th, Calgary
My dear Biene,
You know me as a very cautious person, who often perceives the future as more ominous than it is. Yet now I can state with a clear conscience that I will certainly pass all my final exams in April. My academic achievements are already way above the average. In Math I collected so many percentage points that I wouldn’t need to take the final in order to pass the course. The last exam day is April 29th. Now if we were really reasonable, it would be best if you came in May, when all my studies will be over. But my desire is to see you again much sooner. Also I think it to be in our favour if you keep your fingers crossed right here close to me. It will certainly help.
Quite frankly I am getting quite a bit scared. I am really looking forward to your coming, but the burden of new responsibilities gives cause to think about many things. You must understand, Biene, why I had asked so strongly for preparedness for our great adventure. The inner bond between us must rest on solid ground. Biene, it is not the money that bothers me, but the fact as I had said before that you want to go away again, even if only for a short time. I don’t know, Biene. Call it selfishness, if you wish, but I feel it is not right what you have in mind out of love for your mother. Yet, I don’t want to dwell on it any more. I believe that your trip to the Canadian Embassy in Cologne will shed considerable light on this matter. In suspense I am awaiting your answer.
Dear Biene, I believe you that you are wearing my ring. Lately I really had to restrain myself. Often frightening thoughts are surfacing and I don’t know why. So the thought that had been tormenting me in my subconscious suddenly had slipped out. I felt a certain kind of relief afterwards, until I realized that I felt better at your expense and a few days later felt very sorry about this question.
The hero and angel from England will not appear at the Calgary Airport. But I consider myself lucky that the illusion of a superwoman has been taken away from me! Do you not also believe that it is the greatest mistake a man can commit in his ecstasy to no longer see his partner as a human being? I think that life taught me a very valuable lesson in this regard. Dear Biene, take also great care not to see more in me than reality will permit.
Peter makes a Confession
Believe me, dear Biene, I am a paragon of faithfulness in my outer conduct towards my female fellow students. However, do external actions describe the entire human being? Was I permitted to absorb with burning desire the images of womanly shapes, which enticingly passed by before me in the great lecture hall of the university? Was it OK to sleep in my dreams with other girls than you alone? Biene, when I thoroughly examine myself and notice in the depth of my inner being the flickering of thousands of secret desires, I must confess that I have betrayed you innumerable times. To admit this dark side to oneself takes a long time. Some, alas too many deny its existence. I don’t know what kind of impression I am making on you now. I don’t know whether you are relieved to hear it or whether you will pass a moral judgment over a completely amoral matter. I said yes to myself and henceforth I am getting along with myself much better. I believe that this attitude is also the precondition to get along with others.
Recently I dreamed about you in my sleep for the first time. I wonder why I did not do this before. After all you and our future have constantly been on my mind with anxious thoughts so much so that I lay awake often for hours after my evening studies. The dream was not something of the past. No, one Saturday morning you entered my room. I threw all my books into a corner. In a long walk we passed wonderful hours ambling through the Calgary Zoo. Finally I woke up caused by the disappointment that you had suddenly disappeared.
Tackling a Delicate Problem
The Idealist is Voicing his Opinion
Dear Biene, regarding children you found a seemingly good solution by suggesting that we should go and see a doctor together. I would like to broach this hot topic right away. The doctor will help you in no other way than to recommend to you to swallow that notorious pill. Allow me to tell you, dear Biene, why I harbour such a profound resentment against any such plan. Please do not consider me old-fashioned, when I launch an attack against this form of birth control, even though it is being hailed as a great medical success story.
I do not wish to talk about the obvious health related consequences at this time, but more importantly rather discuss the hidden psychological effects on our life together. In my view the interplay between tension and relaxation determines our creativity. Ideas are sparked by the inner tension and within the subsequent state of relaxation rests true happiness. If now by using the pill our relationship deteriorates into something rather common or even vulgar, where inner tension never surfaces and, if it does, is immediately dissolved, then – so it appears to me – our life will taste no better than lukewarm water. Therefore, Biene, let us be ‘old-fashioned’. Watch your internal calendar and if your biological clock is halfway accurate, we will find a useful solution. I strongly believe it would be far better for us to become parents than to lead such a distastefully ordinary life.
As to my studies you should know that I have practically regained the lost years of my German army time by having started my studies here in Canada. Since I am taking senior courses in German literature, I am ahead of my Canadian fellow students in my academic placement by at least two years. So should I have to interrupt my studies next year, I could already expect to earn a fair teacher’s income.
My dear Biene, should I have used another hurtful word in my letter, please do not be offended, but let your anger burn and your wrath be directed at me.
Always in love with you,
Peter Contemplates a Second Opinion
March 15, 1966 Calgary
My dear Biene,
How I hate this tedious letter writing! What is being revealed in our lines is but a fraction of who we really are. And the long wait makes our hearts heavy and sad.
There are two new developments which I would like to quickly share with you. My kind professor of German literature spent two hours to discuss our problems with me in his office. For the beginning of our married life Dr. Cardinal advised against my idealistic plan of getting by without any form of birth control. He acknowledges the same danger I described to you, the danger of a shallow life style, followed later by a complete disinterest in raising a family. Yet, according to him, this problem is more characteristic of the common person of vulgar disposition totally immersed in the pursuit of pleasure.
My professor believes that you and I have sufficient moral backbone to return to our ideals, when we will have acquired a solid financial base for raising a family. We should not shy away from taking advantage of what modern medical science can offer us. On such a complex and difficult issue I think I will have to sleep on it for a while.
Dr, Cardinal expressed his envy in a good-natured way for our happiness. He said that he regrets that he married so late and had listened to his mother. Her opinion was that at the age of 23 he was still too immature to get married.
He also believes that it is sometimes necessary to foster illusions with your parents to alleviate the pain of the final farewell. In that sense he is partly in agreement with you and even justifies your actions. As you can see, Dr. Cardinal has been like a father to me. He asked me to pass on his kindest regards and he is looking forward to meeting you.
Now quickly to the second news item: I have been very busy looking for a small apartment for us. I found out that the Italian family upstairs will be moving out soon. I had a good look at the apartment and immediately fell in love with it. Mind you, it has not been painted for years, but I saw the potential of what we could do with it. The rent is only $55. It is like a large doll house, but large enough for two people. There is also a basement suite available in the neighbourhood, which I will have to check out in the next couple of days. As you can see, I have been busy in the search of a more pleasant living space for the two of us. If only the dumb thoughts and worries about our future would leave me alone!
Always in love with you! Your Peter