Mary Schiendler seems to have welcomed every difficult turn that presented itself to her in life. The usual? Not for her. Well, as a child she did want to be a Majorette, but the pull of her father’s business that enveloped the world was a powerful influence even in a time when most women who worked were teachers. So, off to Thunderbird Business School it was to be one of only 14 women in a class of maybe 400 and with the promise from the head of the administration that there would be no guarantee of any job. Totally undaunted, Mary knew she wanted to work overseas rather than stay in the familiarity of home. But her plans got deferred with a New York City job she did not count on and having met her future husband at Thunderbird. Long distance romance and lots of letter writing when he went to Beirut without her.
Overseas finally came, and Beirut as a young wife was the start of 17 years in 5 different countries raising children and facing uncertainties. Life was fascinating. Was it hard to do all that moving? “Loved it.” A challenge every day. Will there be electricity? Water? Food in markets?” And more letters. To everyone at home.
Mary discovered that her first son, at the age of 18 months, had a malignant tumor, so she returned to San Francisco for treatment and then a terrible heartache. When her baby died, part of her said she should have stayed in the US longer to grieve, but they were offered a job in Jakarta, and this time, not for adventure, but because she was too numb to care, she moved once again. It was bleak time but with an embedded relief lurking in the visit of a cousin who came to visit with her unusually spiritually sophisticated 22-year old boyfriend whose question was simply, ”What is wrong with you?” She told them, and they stayed for 3 weeks during which he introduced her to ideas about reincarnation, life after death, spirit, yoga, and vegetarianism. Raised in what was to Mary the rigidity of a religion that gave an inflexible choice of heaven or hell, and as willing to take an unknown path as she always was, in that 3 weeks she experienced a whole internal spiritual shift that let her enjoy life from that moment forward. He introduced ideas that the spirit is living and well and will at some time itself decided to reincarnate and come back. She found a new perspective and hope. Life went on but still in unexpected ways. Having separated from her husband, she and her two sons moved back to live with her mom, and although she realized that all religions are the same and given up her official religion in Dubai, she had a hole in her heart that had to be filled.
Enter Dick, who was on the very path she needed to walk even though when she asked him what he had done for his spiritual growth he told her that it would probably make her teeth fall out from the woo-woo aspect. She listened to what he described and told him it was fine for him but that she “wouldn’t be doing that.” He said okay knowing full well that she would love the journey. He never crammed it. He gave the ideas to her with freedom to choose. She chose him, chose his was of being in this world and one of her real fears, the fear of death, vanished.
Mary, for whom unusual choices have been customary, has a great deal to say about being open to new ideas, about seeking and finding, about courage in the face of crisis, and about the importance of the personal journey. Today Mary is the program director of Inside Edge, an educational group of accomplished people from various fields such as education, psychology, medicine, law, technology, science, biology, chemistry, research, and business who meet twice a month for the joy of learning and the camaraderie of intellectually and spiritually like-minded souls.