The Kids, Her Perspective

I am sure my previous article published in the Washington Post pissed a lot of you off.

Perhaps you think I am selfish, completely discounting the feelings and perspective of his ex (or soon-to-be, as I thought at the time). This is anything but the case. There is no question my ex and I handled things terribly. We fell in love and plunged in without fully considering how it would impact her. We should have waited until their divorce was finalized. I convinced myself that concealing our relationship was ‘protecting’ her and his kids. But in retrospect, this was not my main motivation. I just wanted to be with him, and I knew on some level that we would fall apart if she knew. We did.

This might have been the reason for our demise, but it’s irrelevant at this point. It wasn’t meant to be and we caused so much unnecessary pain for everyone involved. I now understand this, and it feels terrible.

Clearly the guilt, regret and residual heartbreak have resurfaced since the article was published. And as I was responding to comments, grappling with all of this, I came across this article, strategically placed right beneath mine.

Beautifully written by Samantha Shanley, it addresses the same topic, or at least one that is intimately related, but from a very different perspective.

Hers.

She relives the experience of ending her marriage while trying to keep her family ‘together’. She and her husband took a situation that can be so loaded with anger and resentment, choosing to treat each other with love and compassion instead. The grace with which she handled everything literally brought me to tears.

Her is the link to her website. I highly recommend reading more of her work. Her writing is extremely moving and powerful… and I kinda want to be her friend. 🙂

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to share in my excitement about being published. It truly blows my mind, especially when I read articles like this.

How do you keep a family together after a divorce?

 

Please check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

www.briyabags.com

me.gypsy.fav.cross.legs

Advertisements

Whipped Cream Revisted (Published in Thought Journal)

An entertaining one for your Tuesday morning. 🙂

What Not To Say To The Cute Guy ShopAt The Coffee 

 

Please check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

Shop here: www.briyabags.com

me.gypsy.fav.cross.legs

Masters of Our Fate

The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions…disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending .”  – Brene Brown

Timing. I struggle with this whole thing, both in the sense of the ‘space-time continuum’ and in the sense of being defined as ‘good or bad’.

Space-time continuum. Time as duration. What we use to define how long it takes to do something or for something to happen. How long we have been married or working at a job or living somewhere. In theory, this concept of time should be relatively straightforward. But it does seem to be relative, doesn’t it?

Bad timing. We hear it all the time. It’s usually a deal breaker, right? You got the perfect job offer or met your person or want to move to a new city…whatever the situation, there is something you want, but the circumstances aren’t ideal for it to happen.

I think ‘bad timing’ can be split into two versions: 1) Timing as uncontrollable– when things or events (beyond your control) happen to you, and 2) timing as a decision– the point when you decide to let things or events happen (or not happen) to you.

Timing as uncontrollable: Clearly, there are events in our lives over which we have no control. For me, there have been terrible things that have happened at the worst possible time, and there was nothing I could do about them. My dad getting terminal cancer when I was about to graduate from high school. My mom getting in a fatal car accident two weeks before I was supposed to move to Spain. Meeting the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with at the exact point when his world came crashing down.

Timing as a decision: But there are also times in our lives when events happen based on the choices we make…or don’t make. We convince ourselves that a certain outcome can only be attained based on “logic” or after a series of stipulations that first have to be checked off.. (I can pursue a new relationship or career, as soon as I…or I can finally take a vacation or sign up for a writing/dance/photography class once I…)

 

Timing has become particularly relevant in every sense of the word over the past year. Falling in love ‘at the worst possible time’. The duration and perception of time enduring six months in a dysfunctional relationship. The death of three boys because I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

Time- it can be a curse, a prison, and a means of facing our fears. It can also be a gift, a source of hope and barometer for progress. More times than not, it how we choose to approach it.

This has become especially apparent for me as I try to approach dating and relationships post-divorce and heartbreak. I’ve heard repeatedly from well-intentioned friends, “Are you sure you are ready?”, “You know, they say it takes at least half the time you were in a relationship to get over it.”, “You are supposed to give yourself at least a year after you get a divorce before you start dating again.”

Am I ready? Do I need to wait a year, or 5 months? What if I meet my person somewhere in-between? Do I walk away because the allotted time has not passed? Am I measuring time by the actual end of the relationship or the point at which I knew it was over?

I don’t think there is a strategy or ‘perfect time’ to get back out there. Clearly, there are points in our life that might be better or worse for starting a new relationship. But I think this is something we have to decide for ourselves, not because a friend or a book or a therapist gave us the go-ahead.

Timing can be a deal breaker, there is no question, but I also think that we have a huge say in whether it is or not. I think we often use it as an excuse. It is easier to dismiss something as bad timing vs. questioning why the timing is bad. Is it really timing? Or is it the underlying emotions we are too afraid to unpack? Acknowledging they exist means we have to do the work. Admitting timing is irrelevant- if we are brave enough to do so- initiates a process that can be very painful and anything but a quick fix.

But isn’t it actually more painful to keep repeating the things that aren’t working in our lives? Isn’t it more painful to continue preventing ourselves from experiencing life fully, whether that be love, fulfillment, success…whatever it is that would make your heart happy. But happy takes work. It isn’t something that just happens. It is something we have to make happen. It’s a decision.

“No one can be both happy and unhappy at the same time, right? One blights the other.”
                    ~ Mike Dooley

I have a love/hate relationship with this quote. It seems completely logical and seemingly impossible to apply to my day-to-day. It would be so much easier to be the victim, to believe all of these things are happening to me and chalk it up to bad timing.

But that’s exactly what defines us, isn’t it? We can’t always control our circumstances- and yes, our circumstances can be terrible. But, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, doesn’t all come down to our approach?

Are we the victims of ‘fate’, or are we the masters of it?

This brings me back to timing, but in the time-continuum sense. Application, essentially. How exactly do I do this whole transformation part? Relationships, for example, since this is definitely something that has not been working for me. And I’m not the least bit interested in repeating my past experiences with them.

Am I ready to get into a relationship? I really don’t know. The truth is, I’m questioning everything right now. I don’t 100% trust myself anymore. My intuition and ‘follow my heart’ approach to life has not served me of late. It is extremely challenging at this point to trust myself, or anyone else for that matter. More times than not, I find myself functioning from a place of fear and insecurity.

So does this confirm that I’m really not ready to put myself back out there? Maybe. But I’m not sure the alternative, forcing myself to steer clear of all things intimate, is the solution either. I don’t think you can know for sure unless you know and trust yourself enough to listen to what your intuition is telling you.

What I do know is that I can’t do the work if I’m not giving myself the chance to try again. True, I need to be very cognizant of the issues I need to work on. But, if I am determined to never go back to the place I was a few months ago, then I have to figure out how to go another direction. Standing still certainly isn’t going to get me anywhere.

Oddly enough, the general theory of relativity kept surfacing when I was thinking about all of this. Quick review (I definitely needed one).

The theory dealing with gravity…based on the postulate that the local effects of a gravitational field and of acceleration of an inertial system are identical.

I know, where the hell is this going? Bear with me, here.

If we want to move forward, then we have to be willing to fall and trust that the result will be a progression forward. One cannot happen without the other, because they are happening simultaneously.

And just to take it to the extreme, cause that is what I do, let’s consider the space-time continuum

The four-dimensional continuum- consisting of length, width, depth, and time- in which all objects are located and all events occur, viewed as a single and continuous framework for existence. 

So, moving forward in time (i.e. progress), and how far we are able to go, are inseparable from the depth and breadth to which we travel.

Okay, just one more and I’ll stop.

There is a cosmological theory that the space-time continuum has a curvature in 3 dimensions. So, if you travel in one direction long enough, you will return to the same place where you began.

So, metaphorically speaking, if one of the primary forces of gravity is acceleration, then couldn’t that mean that we have to let ourselves be pulled down/go to the depths of what is keeping us stuck, in order to move forward? Isn’t the latter impossible without the former? If we do let ourselves travel the depth and length needed, then wouldn’t that lead us back to the place we were, to a place of falling or being in love, but now armed with the knowledge and tools we acquired on our journey back?

Just something I was thinking about…

Regardless of the applicability of my Einstein tangent, I think you simply have to find the courage to go deep, dig up all the shit that is keeping you from where you want to be, and replace it with behaviors and actions that will manifest what you truly want.

Some say that you have to be alone to do this. I don’t agree. For me, my issues usually surface when I am navigating the emotions involved with being intimate with someone. All the fears and insecurities that, for me, are inseparable from making myself completely vulnerable and opening myself up to potential rejection. It’s actually my worst fear and what has resulted in the most growth.

When you do experience the pain of rejection, the last thing you want to do is go through it again. it’s instinctual, right? Fight or flight. Stronger than our inherent desire to avoid pain is our instinctual desire to make it stop once we feel it. But it’s been my experience that it is much more painful to be alone because I was too scared of getting hurt than to stay and fight through the pain with someone I love and trust. You can’t experience the opposite of pain and fear, which I think is love if you choose ‘flight’.

So I guess that is where I’m at. I’m ready to fight again. Maybe it is too soon. Jumping back in the arena sounds terrifying. It is terrifying. It feels so much safer to stay on the periphery, to protect myself from any more potential suffering.

But is this living? Or is it just existing?

I don’t want to just exist. So my only other option is to fight. Yes, it’s scary, but complacency scares me more. I saw my parents do it, my grandparents do it, others I love do it. It was heartbreaking to watch and it literally killed them. I tried to fight for them, but I couldn’t save them. So now it’s me and the things I love I have to fight for. I don’t think it will always be a fight, in the sense of a struggle. But I do think there is always a certain degree of pain to navigate in the beginning.

But I think it’s time, and it has nothing to do with timing and everything to do with my decision to risk falling in order to move forward.

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
                                       – Willian Ernest Henly 

The D-word: Part I

“You did too much. You tried too hard. The only thing you didn’t do is walk away. So walk away. It’s going to hurt like hell, but do it anyway. Do it with grace. Do it with love. Do it knowing you did everything you could”.        – b.breazeale

I have admittedly been avoiding this one, but it was inevitable, really. It’s pretty much why I’m here writing this, why I keep on writing this, why some of you have asked me to keep writing this.

Divorce. It’s apparently one of mid-life’s sidekicks. A lot of us are starting to wonder if these two now just go hand and hand. We see it happening all around us, yet it still feels like we are the only ones going through it.

I thought I would find it reassuring each time one of you confirmed that I’m not alone in all of this. It’s not reassuring. It’s heartbreaking. When I hear your stories, I just want to push fast forward so we can all arrive safely, unscathed, on the other side.

I think most of us have an idea why we are going through this at this point in our lives. There is growing evidence that our age bracket (40 and older) has the highest divorce rate. Clearly there are multiple factors, but most theories attribute this to the ‘empty nest’ phenomenon. I will try to tackle that one next week, at least my thoughts on it since my experience is only from what I have read, hearsay, and observation.

Regardless of age or the children factor, we all pretty much have different versions of the same story. We are the ones who cheated or the ones who were cheated on, the ones who are hated or the ones who hate, the ones who left or the ones who were left. Either end is excruciating and feels terrible.

For me, it was the months before- the unraveling of what I thought was my forever, when I knew I had to do it- that was by far the most painful part. The moment of truth, of trying to come to terms with the fact that I had to leave, of trying to find the courage to do it, of trying to prepare myself for the look on his face when I finally forced myself to do it- to turn my back on him, open the fucking door and close it behind me.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I try to reconcile the guilt and regret with the fact that I truly did fight for us. And I know he did too. We all did. Not one of us wanted to give up on our person, on our relationship, on our lives as a couple or a family unit. We didn’t want to be the cause of pain for the person we still love. We didn’t want to be alone or bear the thought of them being alone. We didn’t want to hurt our kids and our families.

So we tried longer and harder than we should have, prolonging the inevitable, trying to forgive or waiting to be forgiven, trying to conjure up what had been missing- to fix it or force it or fake it. It seemed an infinitely better option than being the one responsible, or being the victim, or admitting to ourselves and the world that we had failed.

We all know the statistics: ‘Approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce’.

For most of us, the statistics were irrelevant. They certainly did not apply to me. I, unlike the other 50%, would beat the odds. I didn’t get married out of desperation or the desire to be the status quo. I wanted to be with the person who I had chosen to grow old with. I wanted to solidify our commitment to each other in front our closest friends and family. I wanted to build our own family and community. I wanted to have the happy, fulfilling, normal life that I assumed all of my friends had. The ‘other’ 50% were getting married for the ‘wrong’ reasons. But I wasn’t in that bracket. I was by no means going to be a statistic.

We were together for around 7 years before we got engaged. And yes, it became an issue. I began to question whether he was in it for the long-term or if there was something wrong with me or if there was some glaring reason why he didn’t want to get married that I wasn’t seeing. When we did get married, I distinctly remember wanting to tell everyone and probably made sure the ring on my left hand was noticed. “See, there is nothing wrong with me. I am lovable. Someone does want to be committed to me for life. You thought I wasn’t, but I am. I am normal”.

We did in the end become a statistic. But we were so much more.  I don’t regret one second of our marriage (except for hurting him), nor spending over a decade of my life with him. I married him because he was everything I wanted and needed at that point in my life. I married him because I wanted to spend my life with him. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t.

I hate that I couldn’t save it, that we couldn’t save it. But I think we both know we would have been saving it for the wrong reasons. I didn’t leave because I didn’t love him. I left because I did love him and I knew I was no longer giving him the love he deserved. I also knew that I wasn’t getting what I needed anymore. That wasn’t his fault. He did every possible thing he could to give me what I needed and more. But what I needed, from life, from my partner, had changed. Staying wasn’t fair to either of us. We would have been living a lie.

Although divorce seems to becoming the norm, there is nothing about it that is normal. The unfolding, arrival, and aftermath is different for everyone. It is rarely mutual or fair, it never just ends, and it is always painful. Most days I know it was for the best. But there are still so many days I wish we were still together and just feel like I made a colossal mistake.

I think it just takes time and perspective to get to the place where we know that we made the right decision, that we didn’t fail, that sometimes failing is actually staying. But we are not there yet. We are in the thick of it and have little access to those on the other side- the ones who now can see that they did the best thing possible for everyone involved. This is why we are still fighting when we know it’s time to stop. This is why those of us who stopped are now riddled with guilt because we did.

But you can only fight for so long. And when you realize that you are the only one fighting with conviction, it is time to lay down your sword. It is time to fight for you, to have faith that time and perspective will reveal in the end that you did the best and most courageous thing you could have done. You walked away.

“One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away or to try harder.”

Articles regarding divorce rate statistics: 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3330435/Divorce-figures-drop-except-50s.html#ixzz4cRuDEekC 

https://www.mckinleyirvin.com/Family-Law-Blog/2012/October/32-Shocking-Divorce-Statistics.aspx