Delfina Potocka by Ary Scheffer, 1840 (Image via Wikipedia)
Excerpts from my chapter about the relationship between Fryderyk Chopin and Countess Delfina Potocka, and what that has to do with me and with the story I related in my last post. There’s a lot more, which you’ll get if I ever do manage to finish the danged book. It’s too long to put all of it in a blog post. Here I’ve left out a lot of the more personal parts about how I came to discover this material, and focused mainly on what I know and don’t know about the relationship itself, and what the historical record tells us.
As you’ll see, there is a great deal of controversy over whether these two ever had an affair at all. For a long time, I had trouble believing it myself, despite the intensity of my experiences.
Mme Potocka had had a frightful life in some ways. Locked into a painful marriage to an abusive husband, she had further to endure the deaths of five children at birth or soon after; she never did bear a child who survived. After six years of marriage she said good-bye to the husband and took off for Paris—right about the time Aurore Dudevant, the future George Sand, did the same. In 1832, at age 25, she became a student of the 22-year-old Chopin. Their relationship lasted in some form till the end of his life, but exactly what passed between them remains a vexing puzzle to historians for reasons I’ll attempt to make clear below.
The next time I felt able to get some information about Delfina’s life, I asked specifically about Chopin. There was nothing but sobbing. Delfina, or the recording of her in my mind, seemed overcome with grief, and she went on and on sobbing and whimpering until I got tired of it and shut her up. Still no information, except that Chopin obviously was important to her.
Over time, I had opportunities to pick up more impressions. In general, the relationship between Mme Potocka and Chopin felt positive and comfortable to me. I was a little surprised to see that, given both of their highly sensitive personalities and her history of emotional and sexual trauma.
It wasn’t until late in 2000 that I ran into anything dramatic, problematic, or traumatic in connection with Chopin. One night I was searching for an old poem, and in a notebook from a couple of years earlier I found a piece I had started that concerned him. There wasn’t much of it, and I wasn’t sure where it was going. I remembered that when I had originally worked on that poem, I had been feeling angry and resentful toward him, but that hadn’t seemed to make any sense. It had felt like something was trying to come up but never made it to the surface. I began to work on the poem again, and got this far:
They say that no one ever knew your thoughts.
You never gave yourself, but only lent;
you mastered all the forms of politesse,
which built for you an icy castle wall
that ordinary mortals could not breach.
The prince within your realm, you always judged
the commoners with merciless disdain.
They really did say those things about him. But I couldn’t figure out why I myself was saying them. That description could not possibly have been less like the being I had spent so much time with over the past nearly eight years. Yet, I couldn’t deny the powerful emotions that were attached to the nascent poem. Without resolution, I went to bed.
It was the next evening, while driving home, that the flashback hit. In the past, I had experienced plenty of what seemed to be past-life “bleedthroughs,” but usually they were more like emotional states with little specific content. This one was like actually being there. It felt as if I were being screamed at, an impression of a terrible quarrel. I hung on to the steering wheel and thanked God that my car was stopped at a red light, because I couldn’t see or breathe for a few seconds. Fortunately, I wasn’t far from home.
When I pulled up in the driveway, I sat for a while, still with a death-grip on the wheel, and made my best attempt to get a clear view of this episode. I asked what Chopin and Delfina were saying to each other, and it was as if I were watching a soap opera on TV with the volume low, barely able to catch the dialogue. His tirade seemed to focus on telling her that her behavior was disgraceful and totally unacceptable. “You slut!” was the general drift. He was disgusted with her and telling her so rather brutally.
Delfina had the wind completely knocked out of her. She was terribly hurt, all the more so because she had trusted him, because he had been gentle with her in a way that her husband, father, and brothers never had. It felt as though she actually collapsed to the floor. But then she picked herself up, arranged her dignity around her, and told him off. She was not going to let this little squirt, three years younger than she and of a lower social class to boot, get the better of her. “How dare you judge me?” she retorted. “What do you know, you with your easy life, your perfect parents and your perfect sisters? When you have actually lived, you can come back and tell me how I should conduct my life. Until then, keep your opinions to yourself! If you want me, this is what I am. If you don’t want me, I will go elsewhere.” And with that she sailed out the door, trying not to show how much she was trembling.
What had Delfina done to arouse such wrath? I couldn’t perceive that part. We are told that Chopin was extremely possessive and jealous later on with Mme Sand (to some extent there were valid reasons for this, but it seems he may have gone overboard), and if this was true, he may well have been the same way a few years earlier. Mme Potocka, if we believe the contemporary accounts, made Sand look like a nun. Adam Mickiewicz, the premier Polish poet, referred to her as “the Great Sinner.” I doubt that she was very good at focusing entirely on one man. In fact, she may well have been seeing someone else at the same time that she was involved with Chopin. Unfortunately, I have very little access to any chronological information about her many lovers, and what I do have says nothing regarding the period of 1832-1835.
Whether this flashback-like vision was literal history or only metaphor, it was overwhelmingly powerful, and so I took it very seriously. I was ruminating over it the next day, in the car again, when I found myself behind a truck with veteran’s license plates and a bumper sticker that said I BRAKE FOR FLASHBACKS. “Amen, brother,” I thought.
Much later, in March 2007, I was again hit suddenly with impressions about the breakup. Sometimes I can understand why a “past attack” hits at a particular time; I may be working hard at delving into a related psychological issue, or I may be doing something with bodywork that unleashes an episode of memory. But many times it’s been totally out of the blue, and often damned inconvenient. I feel a certain pressure or a sense of dread, and I know it’s coming. This was one of those times.
I had come home from an extra-long work day in Grants, New Mexico, where I see patients once a week, and was feeling exhausted and stressed. I thought I would play the piano for a few minutes before I went to bed, in order to relax and have a little something to enjoy. After playing through a nocturne I had never taken much notice of before, I felt like trying more, and I leafed through the rest of the Henle edition, which listed the dates of composition at the beginnings of the pieces. My eye fell on the “1835” printed at the top of one page.
Suddenly it was 1835, and it was a bad year. “Oh, crap!” I thought. I really didn’t want to deal with it right then, but I’ve learned that it’s best to get these things over with. I found myself again in the midst of the breakup of Fryderyk and Delfina’s relationship. The pain in my heart was intense and physical, and felt exactly like the losses of love that I’ve experienced in my current life, something I had hoped never to feel again. It went on and on, with no relief. I was angry at myself for dredging this up; I couldn’t see any possible use to it, since I already knew that this had happened and had already been through so much of it in the “I brake for flashbacks” episode.
I wanted to pull some kind of new insight out of this, something to make the pain and obnoxiousness worthwhile. I found that I was able to look at the situation from his point of view. It seemed that he didn’t especially want to get out of the relationship, but he felt that it had no future. Since they wouldn’t be able to marry or build a life together—in his estimation—he thought that the affair had to end sooner rather than later, and that if he waited it would only be harder.
All that might have been only my supposition, but what came through next, with unmistakable clarity, was immense anger on his part. He was absolutely enraged, so angry that I wondered at first if he might have become violent. Delfina didn’t seem to have any idea why he was so upset. When I questioned my “inner countess,” she insisted that she had done nothing wrong and that he was being totally unfair and unreasonable. She honestly seemed to feel that she was being victimized. The pain was worse because of her inability to understand.
I was left with only the theory I had had to begin with, that Delfina had in some way shown interest in another man, or perhaps more than one, and that Fryderyk’s possessiveness had taken over. I couldn’t get anything more.
I went to bed feeling, yet again, like I had been beaten all over with a baseball bat. The release and relief that usually comes after a flashback did not appear. For about the next week and a half, in fact, I continued to feel sad and angry. I thought that something else must be trying to come up—otherwise there would have been a resolution and I would be feeling much better. I did everything I could to search for a connection to any other bothersome material that might be lurking just beneath the surface.
But that wasn’t what I found. Instead, all of a sudden, a completely new experience manifested itself. Suddenly I felt the reality of the rest of that relationship, all the sweet and joyful moments that they had shared before things went bad. These new feelings poured in on me all at once. It was the first time that I could recall having anything positive bubble up from the past, anything other than pain, fear, or rage. I felt wildly in love, much as I had when I first encountered Fryderyk in 1993. As I had then, I also felt more in love with my husband than ever, and I was able to pour lots of extra affection and attention over him. I appreciated my husband all the more because he has never put me through such terrible angst.
When the flashback first occurred, I didn’t want to have anything to do with Fryderyk for a while. It was just as well that he didn’t show up for a couple of weeks or so, because I would no doubt have taken those old feelings out on him. Eventually, though, after things lightened up, I did want to tell him what had happened. I took the opportunity for some channeling practice. I explained what my experience had been, and asked if there was anything he could tell me about his feelings toward Delfina and why he had felt it was necessary to end the relationship. The only answer I could get was, “I just couldn’t get through to you.” I heard this over and over, but I couldn’t figure out what it meant. You will see later that what I heard fits perfectly with other statements he has made since.
Does my memory jibe with history as we know it? That’s harder to answer than it should be. The historical record tells us just enough about Chopin’s relationship with Mme Potocka to be tantalizing, without revealing much of anything solid; it is a matter of considerable controversy. We know that they met in Dresden late in 1830, at her mother’s home, and in a letter to his family he mentioned this and referred to her as “the pretty wife of Mieczyław,” who was already an acquaintance of his. Many years later, in 1847, he told the family about a visit from her, adding “you know how I love her,” using a word for love that means something more than a casual fondness. [“Pani Delfina Potocka (którą wiecie, jak kocham)….”] This tells us very little, and there is not much else in the way of actual documentation of his attitude toward this woman.
We know that Delfina and Chopin were often seen in public together; many people assumed that they were a couple. And that’s about all we know, except that we can be sure that there was not any officially or publicly declared alliance. There is an anecdote told to an early biographer, Ferdinand Hoesick, by the widow of Chopin’s roommate Dr. Aleksander Hoffmann. She related her husband’s story that Mme Potocka would often stay for a long time after her lessons, sometimes even till the next morning. Unfortunately, this tale told fifty years after the fact is in no way proof of an erotic attachment, and apparently this lady was not considered a reliable source anyway.
There is also nothing to definitively disprove my suppositions. The fact that there was no public acknowledgement of a romance means little in the light of Chopin’s usual what-will-they-think worries and secretive nature, combined with Delfina’s unfortunately married state. I’ve read that Chopin specifically denied the existence of a romantic liaison when Liszt asked about it, but then, why should he have told him the truth? Though large-hearted, Liszt was quite capable of gossip, some of it on the vicious side, and Chopin probably did not entirely trust him. In fact, Liszt did later prove himself to be untrustworthy by using Chopin’s apartment (without permission, of course) for an assignation with Marie Pleyel, the wife of Camille Pleyel, Chopin’s friend and the manufacturer of his favorite pianos.
Perhaps, during the 17 years that Chopin and Mme Potocka were friends, there was only a brief period of physical involvement. Perhaps they knew each other for quite a while before that happened, and were only actually lovers for a time during the year 1835. That would leave more room for Delfina’s “official” liaisons, and would mean that when Chopin denied an affair with her to Liszt, he could have been telling the truth as it stood at that moment.
We do have one letter written by the countess three months before the end of Chopin’s life, the only bit of authenticated correspondence between them. This letter shows that the two had been in recent communication; Delfina had been working with her contacts in the government to secure permission for Chopin’s sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, to visit him in Paris. It is also apparent that they planned on seeing each other again. However, there is nothing in it to suggest a romantic relationship, even one years in the past; it is hard to imagine this missive passing between two people who have been truly intimate, particularly since Chopin is addressed by his last name, and she signs herself that way too. (Though this kind of signature is not unusual in letters of the period, and Chopin often signed letters, even letters to Mme Sand, simply “Ch.”) Yet, there is also no absolute contradiction of a past romance, and it must be said that much correspondence of the period sounds oddly formal to people of our own time. It is also possible that Delfina wrote in a restrained manner because she thought the letter might be read by persons other than the intended recipient. At any rate, we do get a hint of her emotional state—she whines about injustices visited upon her and sounds either depressed or simply histrionic, I’m not sure which. Perhaps this is her way of expressing her feelings of sympathy toward her friend; she seems to be replying to some reference to Mme Sand’s lack of support. But it sounds unlikely to bring any cheer to someone coming to the end of his life!
The following translation of the letter comes from Bernard Gavoty’s book Nocturne: A Life of Chopin. Since it must have started out in Polish, then been translated to French, and only after that ended up in English, it’s hard to say how close it is to the original either in ideas or in tone. (I did get a glimpse of the original wording at the Chopin museum in Warsaw, but was unable to copy any of it down.) I have no idea who the “excellent grandmother” might have been. Mme Etienne was the concierge where Chopin lived.
Aix-la-Chappelle, July 16, 1849
Dear Monsieur Chopin,
I do not want to bother you with a long letter, but I cannot remain a long while without news of your health and your future projects. Do not write me yourself, but ask Mme Etienne or that excellent grandmother who dreams of cutlets how your health, your lungs, your breathing, etc. are. You must think seriously of Nice for the winter. Mme Auguste Potocka has replied: she will leave no stone unturned to get permission for Mme Jędrzejewicz but she tells me there are great difficulties in that unhappy country. I suffer when I hear of your being so abandoned in illness and unhappiness. I beg you to send me a few words here at Aix-la-Chappelle, general delivery. I would like to know if that Jew has called on you and if he has been of some service.
Everything here is sad or boring, but life for me everywhere goes along the same way: provided that it passes without more bitter griefs and ordeals, for I have had enough of those already. For me as well, happiness has not smiled on this earth. Everyone I have wished well has repaid me with ingratitude or with other tribulations. All in all, this existence has been only an enormous dissonance.
May God keep you, dear M. Chopin! Goodbye until the beginning of October, at the latest.
The journal of Eugène Delacroix, the painter and close friend of Chopin, gives us a tiny insight into Chopin’s friendship with Mme Potocka, and is flattering to the countess. On March 30, 1849, he wrote, “Saw that enchantress Mme Potocka this evening, at Chopin’s house. I had heard her sing twice before, and thought that I had never met with anything more perfect, especially the first time, when it was dusk and the black velvet dress she was wearing, the arrangement of her hair, in fact everything about her, judging by what I could see, made me think she must be as ravishingly beautiful as her movements were certainly graceful.” We can surmise that the countess was spending a fair amount of time with Chopin, because Delacroix again mentions her in an entry for April 11: “I think it was this evening that I met Mme Potocka again at Chopin’s house. She sang as beautifully as ever. Parts of the Nocturnes and piano music by Chopin and, among other things, the Moulin de Nohant [!], which she had arranged as an O Salutaris…. She tried Le Lac, by Lamartine, the one with Niedermeyer’s vulgar and pretentious setting. I’ve had this cursed tune on the brain for the last two days.”
These meetings occurred during the last spring of Chopin’s life. At some point Delfina returned to her home in Nice, but when she heard that her friend was on his deathbed, she hurried back to Paris to be with him—a substantial trip even today—arriving just a couple of days before the end (not at the beginning of October after all). At some time during those last days he asked her to sing for him, which she did, hampered by tears and interrupted by his coughing. Those who were present reported conflicting memories regarding which songs she sang; this has been a matter of intense interest to all of us vulture-like historians who must know the name of the very last piece of music Chopin heard on Earth. I don’t know any more than anyone else, but for the concert Jane and I gave on the 150th anniversary of his death, I picked the Handel aria “Vouchsafe, O Lord,” from the Dettingen Te Deum, because to the best of my knowledge, Delfina herself is on record as saying that was what she sang. Just one more uncertainty.
A friend, Charles Gavard, recounted that upon Delfina’s arrival at his bedside, “Chopin exclaimed, ‘God has delayed so long in calling me to Him; He wished to vouchsafe me yet the pleasure of seeing you!’” (Szulc, Chopin in Paris, p. 399)
All this would be confusing enough, but there is a far greater source of confusion and frustration for historians, and for me along with the rest. In the 1940s a Polish woman named Paulina Czernicka revealed what she claimed to be correspondence between Chopin and Mme Potocka. The letters were not only erotic but positively in bad taste (one sin Chopin was rarely, if ever, guilty of), as well as nastily anti-Semitic, and they created a huge stir in Poland at the time, with linguistic and graphological experts weighing in on their authenticity. Eventually Czernicka was discredited because, among other factors, it was shown that certain words had been used which did not exist in the Polish language during Chopin’s lifetime. In some cases, Delfina could be proven to have been elsewhere at times when the letters said she was with Chopin. The fact that Czernicka did not produce original letters, only “transcriptions,” did not help her cause. Despite the weakness of this body of so-called evidence, a number of biographers (Gavoty being one of them) have wholeheartedly embraced this story of a torrid affair, and there is even a film based on those letters.
Paulina Czernicka committed suicide in 1949, the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s death. (There are conspiracy buffs who believe she was murdered.) I can’t fathom the depth of disturbance that must have affected this woman. Although she must have craved both money and attention, perhaps there was something more to her obsession with Chopin. I have to wonder if, despite her apparent derangement, there was some basis for her feeling of connection with him. Her story is sobering to me, a cautionary tale.
Yet, the proof that some or most of those letters were faked doesn’t end the story or our confusion. The experts of the time were left with the suspicion that at least one of the letters was genuine. It appeared possible that Czernicka, a relative of the Potockis, had come across something real and decided to make the most of it. To the best of my knowledge, that is where the situation stands.
Early in the process of getting to know Fryderyk, before my apparent memories surfaced, I read some excerpts from those letters in a book by an author who accepted them as genuine. I remember feeling flabbergasted because they seemed so uncharacteristic, and again, they were in such poor taste. (Not to my own taste, at any rate; if I had received such communications from a lover, I wouldn’t have been pleased.) However, at the time I was not aware of the evidence against their authenticity, and I had to accept what the author was telling me.
When Fryderyk visited next, I casually asked, “So, are those letters for real?” I wasn’t at all prepared for the answer I got. Suddenly the inside of my head went a dark maroon, and I found myself being held down by what felt like hands around my neck. I probably could have moved if I had tried really hard, and I wasn’t being hurt in any way, but I felt immobilized, and I became a bit alarmed. Immediately I tried to withdraw my question. “Then the letters are fake?” I asked. Nothing changed! I was still being held down, and my mental viewscreen was still maroon. A little panicky, I cast about for the right thing to say. “Okay,” I ventured. “The letters weren’t real, but something did happen between the two of you.” Right away the pressure on my neck released and everything went sunny yellow. Apparently he was happy with that option.
Was Chopin perhaps involved with someone other than Delfina Potocka in the early 1830s, being young, single, and already famous? His letters mention temptations to which he did not succumb, but there is also an early, cryptic reference to someone in Vienna, named Teresa, who left him with some sort of unpleasant souvenir of their encounter, making him unwilling to accept other offers. No one knows for sure what that may have been. Most biographers have assumed that it involved some sort of sexual encounter and a brush with a sexually transmitted disease, which would have had to be a minor and curable one; in that case, it may have given the inexperienced young man quite a scare and stopped him from experimenting further.
I never tried to ask him about this until the spring of 2009, at Mendy Lou’s. I didn’t receive any impressions myself, but what Mendy got was this: He didn’t do anything inappropriate with Teresa at all, but someone, probably her father, thought he had, and was extremely angry at him. Eyes widening with horror, Mendy reported, “They threatened to break his hands!” Well, that would give him about the biggest scare one can imagine, and would make him extremely reluctant to get into a situation like that again. It’s certainly a plausible solution to the mystery.
But there’s an even more tantalizing mystery. A phrase in a letter from Chopin’s composition teacher, Jozef Elsner, written in November 1832, refers to “the young lady with whom (according to your sister Ludwika) you are about to be united.” (Samson, Chopin, p. 88) Perhaps Elsner had heard something about a relationship but had gotten the story wrong; Chopin himself wrote nothing that we know of about any intention to be married at that time. It’s possible that something had gotten back to Elsner about the woman that Chopin was known to be spending a great deal of time with, Mme Potocka. In any case, there is no possibility that anyone thought a marriage could take place between those two, since Delfina, to her eternal regret, was thoroughly married already. There is no other known reference to the young lady Elsner mentions, and my best conclusion is that he was mistaken.
Yet, to make matters even worse, in her Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), George Sand tells us that at one point in his youth Chopin was engaged to a Parisienne while at the same time being attached to a young woman back in Poland, and that he was torn between the two. Supposedly he dropped the French girl over a tiny slight, but we don’t find out why he never married the other one. Sand was using this story to illustrate Chopin’s inconstancy, which simply does not seem to be a characteristic of his, then or now. I find her account exceedingly difficult to accept, although if I ever find any evidence in its favor, I will have to deal with it. For now, I will only remind the reader that Mme Sand was a writer of fiction, and that Histoire de ma vie contains plenty of, shall we say, exaggerations. The man himself has certainly never brought up anything like this.
Rosemary Brown casually mentioned, in Immortals By My Side (p. 183), that Chopin, like Liszt, had made many romantic conquests, but that unlike Liszt, he didn’t boast about them. (Chopin was not given to boasting about anything.) I have to assume that she meant she had heard this from Chopin himself, because no official sources have ever said such a thing. Mrs. Brown is a fascinating source, with her own questions of reliability and authenticity, which you may find discussed in my post “The Music of Rosemary Brown from a Pianist’s Perspective.” However, while Chopin may have made other romantic conquests in some sense, my understanding from him is that he was physically involved only with Mme Potocka and Mme Sand. Which makes me a little sad, as I had held out a slight hope that he might have had a bit more fun during that life, maybe a fling or two at some point, especially after Mme Sand banished him from her bed.
(Leonard Bernstein once asked Mrs. Brown this extraordinary question: “Chopin used to be a very sexy man. Is he still?” What a one-track mind! When I read that, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ask such a thing about a person who, as far as we know, spent a good deal of his life celibate or close to it. Then I realized that Bernstein must have read those fake letters to Delfina and gotten a totally wrong impression. At any rate, Mrs. Brown replied that she hadn’t noticed, but she didn’t think so. The word on this matter from her friend Franz Liszt was that once we no longer have our bodies, sex as we know it no longer exists. That is not my experience, but then I probably have a pretty broad definition of “sex as we know it.” And even if sex in any form were impossible in their world, I’m sure Bernstein would find a way.)
I ask you to think of the “Delfina question” this way: A young man moves to the big city and makes the acquaintance of a woman he finds extremely attractive, a woman who is known to be sexually aggressive and uninhibited, and who finds him attractive as well. They share meals, piano lessons, duets, concerts, and social occasions of all sorts, are seen together often in public, and develop a friendship that lasts until the end of his life. Although there is ample opportunity, nothing physical ever happens between them. He remains a virgin until the age of 28, at which point he begins a liaison with the only lover he will ever have.
Did that sound likely to you? Me neither.
We can’t judge by contemporary standards, though. Unfortunately, in terms of official history, there is little clarity about Chopin as a sexual being. He gave an impression of being almost incorporeal, yet he wrote the most sensual music ever composed for a keyboard instrument, and his profession required the finest possible control and coordination of his physical self. Jeremy Siepmann summed up the matter like this: “Indeed his sexuality remains for the most part a closed book, proof against the massed pryings of biographers and psychologists alike.” (Chopin: The Reluctant Romantic, p. 117) Even for me, the book opens only so far. However, my understanding is that Chopin was considerably more a normal guy than people like to think, that is, he was as interested in sex as any guy might be expected to be.
[In this chapter I didn’t take up a discussion of the exact parameters of his sexual orientation, because it is not relevant here. For anyone who is about to comment that he was most likely interested in men as well to at least some degree, yes, I know.]
I would like to recount a set of occurrences which shed some light on the questions I’ve raised in this chapter, and also nicely illustrate some of the difficulties inherent in after-death communication. The week before Christmas 2007, I was looking for some pictures to show a patient of mine who had suddenly developed a burning interest in both Chopin and Sand. Along with the pictures, I found a copy of the letter quoted above, and became intrigued anew by the question of what had passed between Mme Potocka and Chopin at that time. I felt that Fryderyk was accessibly near, and I decided to ask him about it then and there.
I got him on the line, and at the same time I dived into the memories I felt beginning to well up. Delfina, it seemed to me, was in a state of panic when she wrote that letter. She knew she would lose him soon, and was terrified of that happening. There was no other more specific information to be had. Working in a sort of weird stereo (and feeling like quite the virtuosa for it!), I asked Fryderyk what had been going on at the time he received the letter, and I was immediately sent into an abyss of despair. He longed to be with Delfina, but believed that she was already lost to him. He could find no hope at all, about anything. The pain transmitted to me was severe, and I hated terribly to think that “I” had contributed to that suffering in any way. I couldn’t understand, though, why he thought that Delfina was so completely inaccessible, and why he could find no comfort in the fact that she was writing to him, since I knew that her feelings for him were very much alive. “What do you mean, that you’ve lost her?” I asked. “Are we really talking about Delfina?” I wondered if I might be tapping into his despair at the loss of Mme Sand instead, but he indicated that he did mean Delfina. I was quite confused. I took the opportunity to time-travel through their relationship as best I could, asking both of them about their feelings at various stages, and except for that period near the end of his life, everything looked to me as it always had. Just in case I still didn’t get it, he made sure to remind me that they really had been physically involved, embracing me ever so lightly, just enough to give me a few tingles in the relevant spots.
I spent a lot of time on this experience, doing my best to get clear about everything. It was already late at night when I started, and the whole thing was exhausting, especially when I was asking about the very end of his life and I found myself unable to breathe. The only thing I really did get clear about was that Chopin had experienced tremendous emotional pain on account of this phase of the relationship. I couldn’t just leave it at that, not if I bore some responsibility for it.
A couple of days later, on December 21, I had the opportunity to visit Mendy Lou and see if she could make any sense out of all this. I showed her the text of the letter and told her that I had received some impressions about it, but I didn’t want to cloud her mind with any other information until she had told me what she perceived herself. I mentioned that the letter seemed very formal and a little odd to me.
“Oh, I’m just seeing love,” Mendy began. She didn’t think the letter sounded as strange as I did, but then, as she kept looking at it, she did feel that there was something negative going on. “Delfina is angry,” she said. “She’s put off.” Delfina was unhappy about the years of not being able to be loved by Fryderyk; she wanted to be the center of his world, and she was not. She wanted to be with him, to help take care of him, and she didn’t understand why he didn’t come to stay with her, or why he didn’t ask her to come to Paris and be with him. Mendy saw Delfina as being rather self-absorbed, but also genuinely concerned about Chopin.
Turning to look into Chopin’s situation at the time of the letter, Mendy saw the same absolute hopelessness and despair that I had encountered (that is, she saw it herself before I told her what I had experienced). As soon as she finished telling me about that, she announced that Fryderyk had been standing by, politely waiting to give his own answers to my questions. At that point, I wasn’t yet in touch with him myself, but I wasn’t surprised, since it was typical for him to show up at Mendy’s; apparently he finds her congenial and easy to work with. This session marked a great change in our interactions with him, though, and was the first time we had an actual “conversation” rather than just a general sense of his presence.
I apologized for once again rehashing long-past events that probably didn’t mean much to him anymore, but he/she/they said that he realized that I wanted to understand this situation and rectify it, that it was important to me. He seemed eager to explain his point of view. I hadn’t expected anything like this—though he had been very much present before in Mendy’s office, he had never attempted to speak to me— and I hadn’t brought a tape recorder. I did have a notebook, though, so I scribbled down what I heard as fast as I could, which unfortunately kept me from relaxing enough to communicate directly with Fryderyk myself. As it came through Mendy, he said that things were askew at that time, nothing was correct; promises couldn’t be kept because of his illness. He had no physical strength left and didn’t want Delfina to see him in that depleted state. Upon receiving the letter, he had felt utter hopelessness, despair, and sorrow. He said that she had inspired great things in his life, and that he regretted the “fragile, fragmented passion” of that relationship.
He was not one hundred percent positive in his feelings toward Delfina, it seems. He said that he had great passion for her, but she “could not hear the depth of his soul,” whatever that meant. He felt that she was “tainted” by the beliefs imposed upon her by society. I didn’t like hearing that—I had already spent years trying to get over Delfina’s feelings of being tainted.
Fryderyk asked me to understand that my emotional interpretations of the past are not how he feels now—a point I had wondered about. He has seen past the emotional issues since the resurrection of our relationship, he told me, but I have not.
Mendy/Fryderyk continued to speak for 20-30 minutes, advising me on my spiritual and artistic development. Over and over she reported that he was saying he loved me. He loves me without conditions, she said, and he asks me to let go of all the conditions so that I can grow as he has.
I’ve been having a something of a pronoun problem while trying to convey this message to you. I can’t be sure who should get credit for those words; the presentation appeared to be very much a joint effort. Some of the speech was couched in Mendy’s distinctive, rather convoluted style of expression, while other bits sounded like things Fryderyk had been known to say in other contexts. One thing that struck me as truly “him” was that he told me how fortunate I was, but then hastened to add that he didn’t mean I was fortunate because I had him!
I thought a great deal, after that session, about the limitations of mediumship and the impossibility of keeping the medium entirely out of the mix. Mendy has told me that Fryderyk mostly communicates psychically rather than verbally; he impresses raw ideas upon her and then she has to do most of the actual verbalizing herself. (I have had this experience with him since.) I could see that sometimes she had to search around for the right words and never did get quite clear about what she was supposed to say. For example, she couldn’t decide between “the creative truth” and “the truth of creation.” I wish my notes were more lucid regarding that section of the session, in which Fryderyk was trying to describe what he is doing on Earth with me and with others, and what he considers to be his mission here. It had something to do with helping us to understand our creative potential and to transcend what we see as our limited physicality, but I don’t have the precise words.
So it must be remembered that my notes are translations upon translations and cannot be taken as holy writ. I got to thinking about how many layers of meaning and interpretation go on in a communication like this, how many separate operations must be accomplished. First, Fryderyk had to get to us from wherever the heck he comes from. He had to remember exactly what was going on in July of 1849 and call up the feelings he had at that time—probably not easy. (Or maybe not so very hard, since his fans incessantly think, talk, and write about his life, and no doubt we keep reminding him of events that are now irrelevant to him.) Then he had to think about why he did what he did and felt what he felt and make an interpretation of his own long-gone psychological state, which he probably did not entirely understand, since we know very little about our own minds. Then he had to impress all that upon Mendy’s brain in some way and wait for her to come up with words to express each piece of it. Mendy had to do the actual speaking, attempting to give a clear presentation and interpretation and at the same time trying to keep her own ideas out of the way, keeping up her concentration over a fairly long period of time, and constantly checking back with Fryderyk for accuracy. As the communication went on, they both had to deal with concepts that are difficult to verbalize under the best of conditions. And since at Mendy’s office it’s often like the doors to the heavens open, and that small room gets filled to the ceiling with light beings of all sorts, they even had other entities breaking in at times with thoughts that were only tangentially related to the subject, adding more distraction and difficulty.
And there I was writing as fast as I could, never having studied shorthand, and missing a fair number of words in the process. I decided to just keep writing rather than stopping to ask for clarification, in hopes that the communication would flow better if interruptions were avoided.
As he has done many times, Fryderyk insisted that I am in communication with him, much more than I realize. He said that I need to look at the soul communication rather than the senses. Also as usual, he exhorted me to remember my own divine nature, to believe in myself, and to use my creative powers to the fullest.
After all that, I was still left with a certain degree of confusion, but I had gained some crucial answers. He had told me, incontrovertibly, that he had passionate and intense feelings for Delfina. I had a little more insight into what had gone wrong between them. Perhaps most importantly, I had received some information about why he visits our planet so regularly.
Since then, I’ve also looked into the period after Chopin’s breakup with Mme Sand, in 1847, to see what may have happened between him and Delfina at that time. I had been under the impression that their love was rekindled to some degree, and that is indeed what I found. However, sad to say, the barriers and difficulties that I had found at the end of his life were in operation then as well. Delfina seemed to be paralyzed by fear where Fryderyk was concerned. His illness terrified her, all the more so since it brought up the memory of watching her children die. In addition to the dread of losing him to death, she was afraid he might decide to leave her again; she didn’t quite trust him, and she could not entirely open her heart to him. On his side, there was terrible frustration and despair, a feeling that he could never reach her, that she could never really belong to him, and that he had missed whatever chance he might have had with her. Despite Delfina’s sincere love and high regard for him, that self-absorbed quality, the inability to see past her perception of her own victimhood, must have made a true, complete connection with anyone problematic for her, contributing to the sense that he “couldn’t get through to her.”