In a room with a couch, an orchid and a box of tissues sat three people. Dr. K., The Genius and me. The Genius had finally (maybe) confessed when they all do that because it seems people are everywhere but in their homes. Where do all they all come from? Restaurants overflowing, stores like hives buzzing with people instead of bees. And everyone is so talkative!
I feel like I’m in Europe.
But I’m not, and it’s winter. So I retreat indoors except for when I turn off my mind and unconsciously put on my swimsuit and head to the pool. If I were to think about what I was preparing to do, I would, instead, venture into the crawl space beneath my home and search with my tongue for hibernating arachnids.
A distaste for the cold affords me the time to watch a video like The Observation Effect and finally click on a few suggested links that I’ve received over the last few months leading me to articles and blog posts meant for me to read. I gathered ideas and statements from each to ponder along with some recent encounters with man and owl.
Three owl sightings in the span of four days kicked off what feels like a new chapter in my life. In each case, a large, white barn owl flew directly overhead, wings that could hug you compressing the air beneath them silently; so close I could see each feather, stark white against a pitch black sky. I didn’t hear the owls, I heard the air parting to let them through. Having only seen one other owl in my life, even though I search the tree tops as twilight arrives nightly, I was flabbergasted. By the third sighting, my reaction was spontaneous laughter and an, Okay! I’ll consider this a sign!
While that may seem like quite the fanfare to usher in a new time, the shift has been so subtle that I didn’t realize it was happening until this very moment. It’s sounds silly to say, Something’s happening, because something always is…but something’s happening.
As I sat at the keys, the diverse thoughts, statements and ideas that have come to me from far and wide (NYC, PA, South Africa, England, Canada, New Zealand) all coalesced into one clear message:
We are afraid to talk.
First words are greeted with claps and gasps and awe-struck faces. We consider language an art, teaching it to new little humans for at least the first 20 years of their lives. This planet is draped in words whispered, sung, yelled, chanted, rapped and taken back. Our motor mouths distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom, who prefer to speak when necessary.
Us? We speak when it’s easy. And it’s easy most of the time. When it’s necessary our tongues swell, our eyes glaze over, we (I) crave wine and sleep. Talking when necessary usually means talking about something that we were hoping to not have to talk about.
That sentence is as cumbersome as the idea itself.
Talking about things we don’t want to talk about is laborious. At times frightening. Especially when we are trained on correct use of prepositions but not adequate expression of emotions. I can think of only two times in my life when I actually looked forward to having a difficult conversation: the day I told my Mom I got a tattoo (I was so exhausted by NOT telling her) and the day I knew I would sit in front of Dr. K and tell The Genius I was divorcing him.
I put off telling my Mom about the sweet little cactus with a shadow that sits on my left oblique for a year. I didn’t stand up for myself, summon my courage and release my attachment to happily ever after for two agonizing months after learning of The Genius’ betrayal and infidelity.
My Mom thought the tattoo was cute. The Genius thought nothing of me for four years, so I suspect my request for a divorce was a relief.
I don’t regret marrying The Genius, but I do regret not respecting myself enough to launch him out of my space upon discovering his affair. Even with the year that has passed, I still feel a little dirty when I look back on that time and observe myself trying to be the good wife. In looking back further, I see now that I didn’t feel brave enough to say, This isn’t working for me, at various times during our marriage. As I’ve said before, I explained away our issues with excuses – travel and the challenges of being new parents. We’d work through the trials and tribulations, and one day look back and toast how resilient we were, how our love carried us through the tough times.
I’ll still have that toast, likely on New Year’s Eve, but I’ll be toasting the girl in the mirror.
Filters are good, but the ones that keep us from speaking up when things don’t feel right, when it’s necessary, are not good. The first article forwarded to me was a stunning read from xoJane, sent by Mr. Simplicity, titled: It Happened To Me: My Parents Adopted a Murderer. It was sent as an example of why we ought to be grateful our lives aren’t more screwed up, that it can always be worse. And as an example of brilliant writing. And it is brilliant.
She suffered in silence during a childhood of abuse, then pretended everybody adopts an orphan who bludgeoned their parents. You mean your family didn’t? I empathized with her predicament. How do you tell your father that he’s an angry lunatic when you’re a teenager? I’m fairly certain that wouldn’t go over well. As a teen, talking to your parents when things are great can be challenging.
Having never been to xoJane before, I tooled around a bit and came across an article titled: What It’s Really Like: To Be Young and Divorced. (I would add, naive. I should know. I was, as well.) Two women shared the stories behind their short-lived marriages. I can understand our divorce rate when I read something like this:
“I wasn’t ready to marry him, but I also wasn’t ready to break up with him. And turning down a proposal, in most situations, is going to result in a break up.”
So she married him.
And then divorced him.
I was struck by the fact that she didn’t say to him, I’m not sure I’m ready. Five words that would have sparked a conversation, an adult exchange of ideas, an exercise in being vulnerable. Five words that may have prevented these four from being said mere months later: I want a divorce.
As my Mom says, Life isn’t complicated until we ourselves complicate it.
Then I received the email I referenced in the last post. A brave kitten came clean about an affair. An affair that pulled the plug on a marriage that was on life support. She was unhappy, miserable in a broken relationship.
I knew I was unhappy and had been for years but I could never admit why (even on a subconscious level) – ignored any gut feelings or intuitions I had that the root of my unhappiness lay with the biggest relationship in my life (outside of my two children that is) because I was scared sh**less- denial was much easier to process than the other big D word- DIVORCE.
Fear. Fear prevented her from stopping the madness. Fear propelled her into the arms of another man, further complicating an already complicated situation. Denial allowed her to function as if everything was alright. I asked her why.
I truly believe that every wrong deed that we commit has a root cause ..some motivation that causes us to make the wrong choice. I think that if we all possessed the self awareness necessary to understand our motivations for our actions we would never do wrong ..we would address the root cause and move on . But we don’t always have this self awareness. I believe these acts of wrongs that we commit are the Universe’s way of guiding us to a place of better self awareness The trick is that we have to step back and look at the root cause when we stumble. So often we just dust ourselves off, say our apologies and carry on. Lesson be damned. So each time we ignore the message the Universe gets a little louder. Until finally it’s a doozy….that was it for me; an affair was so against my nature that I knew I couldn’t pretend anymore. I knew that happily married people don’t have affairs.
Let’s pretend, happy end. Only pretending is in and of itself deceitful. Yet, we choose to pretend because it’s seemingly easier than being honest. We choose deceit over honesty, and I’m not sure why.
Why pretend when it’s clear that continued misery will be the end result?
What if I tell my spouse what I really need and how unhappy I am…and nothing changes …then what ? What’s harder to face? Laying it all in the line and still being stuck in exactly the same place or not saying anything and just fooling yourself that everything is perfect. I think for most people the chance of things staying status quo even after you have poured your heart is just to damn frightening …here you are outing out your heart and soul and saying what your heart and spirit needs and you either get a response of total apathy or a response of complete inability to meet your needs.
Or, what if I told The Genius that his Machiavellian ways were unacceptable and my marriage ended?
What would have happened then?
We would be friends. We would have a bittersweet period of time, where one or both of us lamented the end to our marriage, and then segued into a compassionate relationship that supported the growth of our two children. Our moral compasses would be intact, our hearts at peace. I would not be forever scarred by being betrayed by the one who committed to protect me.
There would be no HGM. And chances are, I would never have learned as much about myself as I have in this past year. So, yes, there are benefits to how my marriage ended. Seems odd to say it that way, but it’s true. But my intuition tells me that those benefits would have still been realized, albeit in a much less painful fashion, and likely at a pace less brisk than what I’ve experienced over these last 12 months.
I didn’t prevent the obliteration of my relationship with The Genius because I didn’t have boundaries, my needs weren’t clear to me, I didn’t respect myself enough to acknowledge them, hence I was afraid. I didn’t take the time to look at my options and make a choice that supported me because I didn’t value being supported. I accepted the status quo rather than summon the bravery needed to say: I deserve respect. I can’t force you to respect me. But I can end our marriage if you won’t. And so I will.
In looking back on my life, the times when I allowed something to fester resulted in encounters that were much more painful than had I addressed the situation when my gut first flipped, whether in a relationship, or with a work matter or even simply with myself. It took 46 years for me to come to understand that it’s much easier, more exciting even, to meet a challenge head-on, with the confidence that I will be safe because my intentions are pure.
Like the white wings of a barn owl as he sails through a night sky. He remains bright even in the dark.
I was too afraid to speak because I feared the path I was on would disappear, leaving me lost in blackness. What was then illuminated was at least visible – the known. The darkness, the unknown.
When I spoke up, the lights went on and I realized I had been in the dark the whole time, but my own light never went out. My own self, flying by my side, silently, waiting for me to notice her, reach out and grab her hand, look into her emerald eyes and say,
There’s nothing to fear when we have each other. And we will forever have each other.
Today I speak without fear. I speak when necessary. I speak because I love myself.
I will never let fear silence me again.