The name of the blog
"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
An Accounting of My Flaws
It has been an emotional, topsy turvy, crazy last few weeks and I need to retreat to my corner and lick my wounds. It is time for me to reassess where I am, and what I need to do to continue moving forward and not get stuck in this latest little whirlpool of a set-back. I have been very emotional and weepy the last few weeks, with my ex-husband being ever present in my thoughts as I struggle to move into the unfamiliar territory of letting other men into my life, but I have also had moments of hope and joy. And now that the roller coaster has come to a stop, I need to get off for a little while and think on my lessons. I am pretty sure the Universe is sending me a very clear message, by removing people from my life, that I need to be alone. So the last few days I have chosen to lean into the solitude, silence and loneliness, and tell myself that I am safe. I have spent the last couple of days practising self-care. I so wish the solo trip I have booked for Bali in April was imminent, as I am very good at running away. I need that month away right now, or yesterday. It would be easier to have the people I care about absent if I was geographically removed from them.
As I sat down to write this, or more truthfully, as I went on Facebook to avoid getting into writing this, the singer songwriter Jann Arden posted a status addressing my very emotional state. Bless the Universe for sending me messages of support that I can recognize, for isn’t recognition the first step towards change? I have finally learned enough about myself to recognize my patterns, even if I do not yet have the maturity or emotional intelligence to change my patterns. In a nutshell, when life is going swimmingly, I feel untouchable. I can have days, weeks, or months when I feel completely blessed and loved and content. And then something mysterious happens, which I have yet to identify, and the pendulum swings the other way and I can’t do anything right. It almost seems as though I am being punished for having it so easy for a while. However, I was challenged by a mentor recently that is this cycle not just my perspective? I am sure there is some truth to that, in that my behaviour cycle could well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The worse I feel about myself, the more sensitive I become, which in turn leads to more interpersonal dysfunction, and on the cycle goes spiralling downwards until, for reasons I again do not know, the cycle stops and all becomes well again.
Right now I am clearly in a down-swing: I am fighting with friends, feeling annoyed with family, feeling annoyed by other friends, I was completely told off and called out by a fellow volunteer who felt the need to share his email telling me off with the Chairperson of the Board and the Executive Director he was so angry with me, and the second guy I dated dumped my ass before we even got to the second date. Which is why I need to retreat to solitude, write, and do some reading. I have strayed quite far from my daily healing plan activities, and it might be necessary for me to refocus on myself and the basics rather than looking for love. I am interpreting this stripping down of my life as a sign that I am not ready for a serious and functional relationship and have more work to do with my grief and behavioural patterns.
Although my second companion left my life on bad terms rather quickly, I am as okay with what happened as I can be, because the red flags were there from the beginning and it rapidly became obvious to me that a relationship could not develop between us. It is best we have parted ways, although I wish we could have more organically lapsed into friendship. My sadness is not just about his absence, but almost more so that my life is empty of hope again, or that once again I have been dismissed from someone’s life so easily. There is no one on the horizon that I can see, and no one I am exchanging emails with on Match.com. As I reflect on my interactions with D, particularly the last day and the difficult conversations, I feel comfortable that I did the best I could. I was honest, accountable, vulnerable, caring, respectful, challenging, and strong. And I asked him to be the same, which presumably he did to the best of his abilities, so hopefully as he moves on in his life, he will reflect back on our short two weeks together and grow from our conversations.
D was a very good mirror for me; he was me prior to the break-up with M, and he was me just a couple of weeks ago when I fought with my girlfriends. As the writer of Eat, Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Vulnerability is . . . keeping the conversation open when strife or resentment has built up between me and a friend, or a loved one, or a neighbor.” I struggle immensely to stay in a conversation when I feel ashamed, angry, rejected, vulnerable, stupid, ugly, unwanted, judged or criticized. Staying in an emotionally distressing conversation without running away or resorting to very bad behaviour, which is not my style, is a land mine that I have become aware of and very much want to challenge and address in my life. D responded to perceived rejection in such a similar manner that I could not help but recognize the pattern and be empathetic to it. I did my best to be brave and calm, take responsibility for myself, and be assuring yet challenging to him. It is never easy for me to act that way in an uncomfortable and emotionally charged situation, but for the first time ever I clearly saw how frustrating it must be for the other person to deal with me and see me shutting down and withdrawing. It was so glaringly obvious to me that D was a mirror to me to bring about awareness of myself. In my life, there appears to be a direct, and inverse, correlation between how much I value someone and how incapable I become of staying in a conversation when it matters most. I have reached out to D again in the hopes of mending the wounds and building a friendship because he is so valuable as a check for me.
I am aware on reflection that both of the men I have had dates with have not dealt with their issues about women and their past relationships. Was this a reminder from the Universe that I need to deal with my baggage before I will be permitted to move into a loving relationship? At least I am acutely aware of my baggage and the triggers they present. I know that with D I let my baggage overwhelm me on at least one occasion. Neither of these men seemed to have a clue about where the motivation for their behaviour was coming from. And my baggage is with me, every day. I feel M’s presence in my life through each day. The space he occupies in my heart and mind is shrinking, but he is there nonetheless. I am currently trying to accept that M will be with me for quite awhile, if he ever leaves, and that I can love the ghost without letting him haunt me. I yearn to make peace with his presence rather than fighting it continuously.
I think the Universe is playing games with me. For months I have been putting my intentions for love out into the Universe, and what I have gotten in return in the last month is quite comical and not at all what my intentions were. Specifically, last week I had one crazy day which was just unbelievable. Two past relationships reared their heads in one day! To be honest, I initiated the contact with my first husband, but never expected him to respond. Back in December my son had told me that his Father had gotten fat and bald. I was very alarmed at how he might have come by this information, concerned that he was being exposed to his Father, but he told me he had been on his Fathers website and seen the pictures. Curiosity got the best of me and I went onto the website. And among his Fathers posts there was a comment from him about families being the cornerstone to living and loving. Or something along those lines that annoyed me to the point that I detoured off the high road I had been on all those years and commented on it, given the irony that he had abandoned not one, but two children. And then I thought no more of it, assuming he would just delete my snarky comment.
Fast forward to this week when I found a message on my blog that someone wanted to get in touch with me. I assumed it was just some random guy that was either going to tell me off or hit on me. Mostly I was hoping for a conversation about a book deal, but I was actively practising having no expectations. I gave the commenter the email address associated to my blog, and a few days later went into that email for the first time in months to check if there was a message. To my shock and delight, it was an old lover getting in touch. Someone had been thinking of me and searching for me and found me through my blog. It was great to chat and reconnect, but I had to be firm with him, given he had been married all those years ago when we had our affair, and is still married to the same woman, that I had no interest in renewing that affair, given what I have learned firsthand about the emotional consequences of cheating. And in finding this old lovers email, I found an email from my first husband responding to the comment I had left on his post.
In a nutshell, he wrote that if he ever heard from me again he had promised himself he was going to engage me in a positive manner. Then he went on to “answer” a question I don’t remember asking, and the link is dead as I suspected it would be, so I was clueless as to what the context of his response was. It simply didn’t matter enough to me to register in my memory. To him, I simply returned a one liner stating I was not interested in having contact with him. Twenty-two years of silence between my ex and I after a horrible divorce and custody battle, and then out of the blue, that interaction. I thought it was particularly odd.
Then yesterday I became aware that the man I loved is still alive in some very small way inside my ex-husband to be, and the man he morphed into. My son told me, when I asked him if he had talked to his Dad lately, that his Dad had texted him to remind him it was my birthday. He chooses not to have me in his life, and he does not love me anymore, but he still cares for me in some small way from afar, and that was the first time since June that I have felt cared for by him. He contacted me on my birthday, and this time remembered to acknowledge the holiday, and it didn’t upset me the way his Christmas email did. Progress, even if it is in minuscule steps, must be celebrated. I sent M a brief email thanking him for being sweet and reminding our son about my birthday. It was my brave and compassionate action for the day.
The email my ex-husband sent me on Christmas Eve obliterated any sense of healing and progress I had made for about three days. I was knocked on my ass emotionally, and now I wonder if I have even recovered from it? Although the email started well, him saying he missed me and thought of me, it deteriorated to him using love in the past tense, which was a first, and him essentially wishing me good luck in my life. And in that email he did not even wish me a Merry Christmas! I couldn’t figure out if he was psychopathic and cruel contacting me at Christmas to let me know he was over me, or if the email was so difficult to write that he simply forgot to wish me a Merry Christmas, and that had been his intention. After three days of crying and struggling to keep it together, the anger came. In early December I wrote about my seeming inability to get angry and my confusion about that. Rereading M’s Christmas email gets me riled up to this day; if I feel too weepy I go into the email and read the last line about how he hopes that one day we can talk to each other again and tell each other about our lives. And I reminded of how little he grasps the reality of the choices he has made, and the impact of his actions on me and our family. The anger I feel triggers my self-protection and I think, no, I will never let you back into my life. I don’t need to be reminded of how little you actually cared for me.
I told a married couple about the two emails from my past that I received in one day, and the wife surmised that I needed to very clearly say goodbye and say no to those two men, and my past, which I did. Another girlfriend thought these two had come back to remind me that my responsibility is to tell other women my story and assure them they can learn from their challenges and move forward into something better. So here it is reader: life does not move backwards. There is a reason for everything that happens to us, including the people we meet and lose, and it is our sole responsibility to discover the lesson and/or message of that event. It is our duty as responsible loving citizens to grow and mature, and touch other lives in empathetic and loving ways with our new found knowledge. It is our responsibility to learn new coping mechanisms and behaviours and model these.
I believe the Universe will keep giving me the same lesson, over and over, until I have truly internalized what I need to be able to let go and move on. As the process of me moving on continues in fits and starts, I hope to meet like-minded and authentic people and one day discover real and lasting love.