There are two of ‘me’ right now. Perhaps I should be thankful there aren’t more of ‘me’. That might be cause for an intervention. Or a margarita.
There’s the Mom-me and the Woman-me. The Mom-me struggles with the same things all Moms struggle with – being present with the children, not overwhelming them with direction and trying to control their behavior, pausing to laugh with them, seizing teaching moments to help shape them, remembering to clip their nails.
My responsibility to my children is clear to me. I am able to stop myself in the moment if I am being dismissive or critical and remind myself to love. To support. To parent. And to also simply be with my children wholly and fully present, with my light shining brightly.
The Woman-me fell overboard four years ago, and I let her. I watched her drift away in the currents. I couldn’t dive in to save her. I was too busy ignoring the fact that I wasn’t happy, and that my marriage wasn’t fulfilling. I was too busy not wanting to know that The Genius was living a double life, jetting off with The Happy Dance chick while I
herded cats raised our infant and toddler. I was too busy being caught up in the nets of day-to-day life to see that the very part of me that could come to my rescue was left at sea. By me.
The night of the Pocket Call I found her lodged in a storm drain, clothed in sea grass, her skin pricked to bleeding by shards of shells. I dragged her water-logged body onto the sand and back into my arms. But she’s still so wet.
Like a victim of hypothermia, she is slowly coming to. Unable to feel her extremities. Her heart beats are faint. But they are there. She looks up at me with pale green, questioning eyes.
“Why did you leave me there?”
“I didn’t know you were there. I didn’t feel you leave. I didn’t feel.”
“I didn’t leave you. You left me.”
“In case you haven’t noticed – but how could you, your face has been planted in a storm drain – it’s been pretty complicated here since you left. I mean, since I left you. The man I thought I could trust to love and protect me decided I wasn’t worth the effort. So instead, he created a sub-plot to a story we were supposed to write together. And I didn’t find out about it until he wrote the final chapter.”
We sat there looking into each others eyes seeing the sadness, the questions, the accusations, the deep need to be there for each other. We felt detached, but at least I had her back in my arms. This time for good. No one will part us again.
How did she end up in the drain? Because I didn’t stand up for her, for me. I didn’t say, “This isn’t working. My needs aren’t being met. So, Genius, before I start to resent your every breath, let’s sit down and tell each other about our needs and see if we can satisfy them, or let’s part ways.” That’s all I needed to do. Address the situation. But I didn’t. And I haven’t before. So I’m sure as hell going to start now.
As I pull the sea grass and shells from her hair I am reminded that for someone to love me I have to love myself. (We’ve been talking about this for eons, I know.) I’ve made great strides in loving myself over these last several weeks as I’ve watched my marriage vaporize and my soon-oh-so-very-please-let-it-be-so-soon former husband and his family cozy up to The Happy Dance Chick, but I’m feeling now that I haven’t been loving my whole self. I’m still a little bit on auto-pilot and a little bit Indestructo-Girl. Indestructo-Girl needs to transform into a mermaid, and I need the yoke in my hands again.
The part of myself that needs love and attention is the part that steps aside, or gets shoved aside, as I make my decisions here on the Blue Marble. Her. I wish she had been more brazen and slapped me on my ass a few times to alert me to the muck that I was wading in. But that’s not her role. If I tune in she will guide. If I tune out she will hope for the best, and shed tears over what she could have done to protect me, if only I had let her.
I want to know her better. I want us to fall in love again. So I asked her out on a date. Saturday night.
My Our place. I’m going to wash her off. Slip her into a dress. Dry her hair. Put on some makeup. And do the same for myself. I’ve been needing to dress up and don some heels – this is a perfect opportunity.
I’ll set the mood with candles, and uncork a bottle of red. Throw a grass-fed steak on the grill and cook it. Perfectly. She’ll spin tunes. We’ll sit down at the table and hold hands. Our eyes will meet, tears will surely fall. We’ll eat and drink, laugh, marvel at how well we mesh together and have an olive pit spitting contest. (She’ll win.) We’ll both feel an intense desire to never be apart. That no matter how challenging the road gets, we want to be on it together. We’ll protect each other and I’ll never leave her again. She’s beautiful. And so am I.
We’ll leave the dishes right where they are. She’ll feel safe enough to slip back into me. I’ll feel whole again. And then we’ll have a happy ending. I know you get my drift.
Then, maybe one day, I’ll sit across the table from someone who has only love in their eyes for me. Because I will have only love for myself. He’ll point out the spinach stuck in my teeth, tell me I’m glowing from within, and that he doesn’t want the night to end. He’ll celebrate my spirit and my courage. He won’t care if the steak is a tad overcooked. (It’s hard to grill grass fed!) He’ll think my flaws are badges of honor, that my size 11 feet are not flippers but brave soldiers that carry my far and high. The in-grown hair on my thigh that I obsess over he will not even notice.
He’ll be too busy breathing me into his body and telling me that this happy ending will go on forever. But even if he leaves, she’ll stay with me, and I will be forever whole.
It’s amazing what one great date can accomplish.
You are going to get there!
I am almost loathe to tell you this because this person is somewhat affiliated with Oprah and I largely associate anyone affliated with Oprah as exploiting themselves for the cash (and power). But a great book to read is called Yesterday, I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant. She is a little hoaky (especially if you are a cynic like me) but her book is truly inspirational. This is a woman who has had so many hard knocks in life and spun it all into gold. She really helped me a lot.
I can’t wait to carve out time to read Yesterday, I Cried. Thank you! I MUST get better at managing my time so I can read AND write. It’s times like these that communal living seems really smart. Imagine what we could get done with a gaggle of like-minded souls all gathered together to make life flow.
You help me.
“I didn’t feel”–bingo! You, myself and a million other women who have learned to become so many things to so many people. Not exactly denying who we are but pushing that person aside for the people we love. I once told my students that the inverse of the women’s liberation movement is the message that we can do it all/we can have it all. The reality is that we can’t. Something has to give. Unfortunately, that something is usually our “other self” the one that has her own needs, wants, and desires. I love being a mother, being a wife. Yet, it took several visits to a stranger’s (albeit professional’s) couch for me to realize that as much as I wanted the things I had (the kids, the husband, the friends, etc.) I needed to take care of myself. She said “When you take care of yourself, everything falls into place.” It was such a simple concept I found mentally slapping my hand on my forehead–DUH! Of course. And it was the best thing I did to myself, to my husband and to my children. But most of all to myself. So every week, I have long-standing date with myself. Maybe one of these days our other selves can have a date, or we can double up. I don’t mind an overcooked steak as long as the company is great and wine is decent.
My ego has to give. Let go of what I thought my world would look like and embrace the beauty of what it IS.
Your students are fortunate to have such a thoughtful woman helping them to see the way the world works.
I look forward to our date, Grace. In the mean time, join me on Saturday night. I think I’m going to wear my wrap dress and thigh high suede boots. I plan on knocking her socks off.
Today…I really needed this, no more words…simply…thank you!
I know you have a killer dress in your closet. Every woman should. If you don’t, go buy one. Then set your alarm clock so that you can grill a steak with me at 8:30 PST on Saturday. It’ll be your breakfast, I imagine, but I’m still going to require that you pour a glass of vino.
What wonderful writing and such an honest and beautiful blog. I recently came to it from LaineyGossip and have been entranced by your journey ever since. I too can relate to your situation (too well!) and am also a mother.
From reading your blog, I think you are a marvellous and beautiful person and I thank you for sharing your experiences with the world. It takes great courage to do that.
So in return for sharing your story, I wanted to share something with you. It’s just one word “Luminality”.
Have you ever heard it before?
I came across the word today and found it describes my current state and reading the latest blog entry, thought it might describe yours a bit as well.
This is what I had read about it and wanted to share with you:
“Liminality” it is a term that refers to the betwixt and between state. It’s dawn or dusk, when neither night nor day fully rules. It’s the mood that prevails when a transition is imminent or a threshold beckons. During a rite of passage, liminality is the phase when the initiate has lefther old way of doing things but has not yet been fully accepted or integrated into the new way. Mystical traditions from all over the world recognize this as a shaky but potent situation — a time and place when uncertainty and ambiguity reign even as exciting possibilities loom.
Cleo, I hope you keep well, stay healthy, and embrace the luminality as you continue your journey forward.
Exciting possibilities await!
LOVE, love, love your name. But on to your words…
I have courage because of you and everyone else that takes the time to read HGM and send me notes such as yours. How could I not feel elevated by such praise? Thank you, love you, owe you.
I had not heard of ‘luminality’ before. (Is it luminality or liminality?) It struck such a cord with me that I shared it with Mr. Jackpot too. We are both in luminality now. “Mystical traditions from all over the world recognize this as a shaky but potent situation — a time and place when uncertainty and ambiguity reign even as exciting possibilities loom.” I love the word ‘potent’. On so many levels. As a matter of fact, I think ‘potent’ should be the new ‘it’ word. Dude, that was so potent. Can’t you hear it?
Thank you so much for sharing that with all of us. I’m so delighted you found HGM.
It’s “liminality” – sorry for the typo! And YES, “potent” is an amazing word. It will be my new “it” word from now on!
Have an amazing day and remember, sometimes things fall apart so better things can come together!
Interesting that it would be ‘liminality’ which screams ‘limitations’ instead of ‘luminality’ which whispers ‘lit from within’. Regardless of my need (obsession?) to ponder words, liminality is a pretty exciting place to be.
Attempting to stay in the present instead of wanting to rush ahead to see what comes together. Thanks for helping to keep me here.
Cleo, you are going to have the best date ever. You will have fun, great conversation and you get to choose how the date ends. It’s a win, win situation. It sounds like you are more present today than you have been in 4+ years. What a gift! You will come out of this with wings on your back and of course you will sit across the table from someone who simply adores you for being Cleo. I have learned that it takes patience, grace and yes, wine. Cheers to a brilliant Saturday night! W
susan b says
Buy ‘tender grassfed meat’ by stanley fishman. I couldn’t cook grass fed steaks or roasts until I read this book. Good investment for that $$$ beef.
My first husband cheated on me. Looking back, I am so thankful it happened because it got me out of a not so good marriage….but not so bad that it couldn’t keep percolating forever. Plus, it allowed me to meet the current husband.
Gave me goosebumps to think of you falling back in love with yourself.
I’m doing it day by day, J. It is my most important responsibility. It must come first so that I can provide a centered, balanced and loving environment for the boys. Some days it’s a super challenge. Others, well it feels natural. But it is so very much a work in progress. Thank you for taking the time to point out how important it is. And for being here.
I love your comment about your discarded self and picking her up and her saying but you left me. I am in a similar situation with my Genius whom I now call “It” for lack of a better word. I have been shaken to the core and am rebuilding but have been sso focused on the kids I have left myself at the bottom of the laundry pile. I am going to set a date night for me and start taking care of “her” my former self. Love it !! Thank u for your courage and honesty women need to be able to talk to each other about these things .
Yay! Date night! It will be so very worth it. We often feel guilty for taking time to focus on ourselves. It’s misplaced guilt. We aren’t who we need to be for our loved ones if we don’t nurture ourselves. Your children will respect you for caring for yourself. I’ve seen it with the boys. They are learning what it means to respect yourself by seeing me try to consistently take time for myself. I’ve also noticed that when I do take time to care for myself I am more present and centered for them.
So glad to have you here. And thank you for taking the time to comment.
Cleo, I read your blog at one sitting today. I am a struggling married very successful woman. Am so lucky that I don’t have a cheater husband (though we have other issues). Your metaphor about your other self being lodged in a storm drain hit me like a ton of bricks. You speak not only to women who have been cheated on, but women in general who have left themselves behind….I think that I need to drag her water-logged body to the surface as well. You have a gift, please keep it going….
Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope I can help you bring her back to the surface, into the light. It’s a challenging task, for sure. Some days I think I’ve got it down and on other days I feel like I have made no progress. I’m working on letting go of the need for perfection. I want to give myself a break more often. Let myself know that it’s not the end of the world if I haven’t made huge leaps forward. So, let’s you and I make an agreement to do something fun and goofy for ourselves over the next few days. Let me know what you do. I’m going to hike from Stinson Beach to the top of Mt. Tam and back. And then I’m going to make sand angels and get dirty. That’s the goofy part. Stay close…
Hi Cleo, I’m real life work friends with your hilarious, amazing SIL. After she accidentally pocket called your brother while we were working together recently, she told me the story behind your blog. Three years ago, I kicked the man I had been living with for five years out of my apartment after discovering he had slept with a bartender he met right in front of me. And of course, it turned out that it wasn’t just the once — he was a serial cheater and prolific liar. I really wish I had had this blog to read when I was going through getting over my own genius, but I’m so glad you did this — for you and all the people who will come across it when they need it. And I’m happy to report that these days, I sit across the table from someone who has only love in their eyes for me. Cheering you on. Nichol
At first I was thinking…Sister-in-law? I only have one and she’s the sister of The Genius! Then I realized you must mean one that I only consider a sister. An amazing, beautiful and hilarious woman, as you also have noted. My brother is one fortunate dude.
Thank you for your kind words. And for sharing with us that love is still ours for the having. I’m not there, and I likely will never be (not a pity party statement, I’m just a little ‘unique’ as a kitten recently stated), but so many are ready to create that long term bond again.
Way to stand up for yourself! You know your soul loves you for that. So grateful you took the time to comment. Stay close and by all means, laugh at all her crazy jokes. Oh, how I miss her! No one makes me laugh harder. She’s a gift.
Amy A says
I love this….I didn’t even think about myself in that way, but as soon as I read “I didn’t leave you, you left me” it hit me. I dropped off the strong, independent, smart, happy me, in exchange for a man who had been looking for the girl of his dreams the whole 4 years of our marriage (and apparently found her in November 2012), thus my divorce. I reasoned me out of my life, BUT, I am bringing her back to my life and one day we are going to be strong together.
I love the way you wrote this…thank you!
The rhythm of this world and how in sync we are all as we trod upon her never ceases to amaze me. Today, I needed to reread those words and you made sure I did. Thank you. I am glad they resonated with you and I am so grateful you are here.
That one day has arrived. It’s not a ramp up process. The strength is there, and she is there. Don’t lose sight of that and that strength will flow. We’re here for you as you navigate these ultra challenging times. I love your spirit.
A friend informed me of your blog just yesterday. I wish I had been reading it as my story, husband’s mid-life crisis, his affair, young children, etc… rings so similar to yours it is uncanny. Perhaps so many of our stories are similar. Thank you for writing. This post had me recall a poem I wrote during the early months of deciding on divorce. As I reread it’s clear I still had hope, but now know all is for the best… of me. Thought I’d share.
Awakened in the Darkness
glancing at an image
projected back after
years of being vacant
amid the confusion
through life’s emotions
devotion, anger, love, frustration
yearly trials of responsibilities
of sleepless nights, the joys of birth
the pain of loss and emptiness
lost to the chaos, in it,
both the storms and calms of life
side by side barely together
her smile feels familiar, full,
eyes reflect excitement, hope, love
long buried, emerging in this darkness
age upon her face reflecting
beauty, compassion, love, strength
sadness washed by her smile’s familiarity.
escaping betrayals and bitterness
from anger cast among the pain
peaceful again to find her soul reflected.
suffer not from disappointment, reflect
but discover strength, grow and emerge,
together, not today, perhaps tomorrow
hope in love, prosperous when true
a hand lay gently upon her belly
her spirit awakened in the darkness.
Thank you for taking the time to comment and for sharing your beautiful words. So many similar stories. I imagine there are many theories as to why the script varies so little from couple to couple.
Grateful you are here, J.
“The man I thought I could trust to love and protect me decided I wasn’t worth the effort. So instead, he created a sub-plot to a story we were supposed to write together. And I didn’t find out about it until he wrote the final chapter.” This pretty much says it all. Exactly how it feels. There isn’t a deeper betrayal known, I’m sure of it. Mine happened on November 18th, 2009. It amazes me how you’ve gown by leaps and bounds and I’m still on auto-pilot. I already know everything you’ve said and I tell myself certain things everyday but it’s so hard to implement it.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I apologize for the delay in posting my reply. I’m grateful you found HGM. The words shared here, and the care and support so selflessly given by the kittens, is the absolute #1 reason (next to my amazing, loving, strong mom) I have made such progress. And you can absolutely do the same. Read their words and you will discover that living fully present in the moment and seeing magic is only a click or two away from Auto Pilot.
Repetition is key for me. (And the dudes.) I have to repeat the same pep talks daily. I’ve recently started my day by waking up, keeping my eyes closed and immediately creating a list of things for which I am grateful. Today was especially challenging. Right in the midst of the upheaval I started reciting monologues to myself about smiling, being calm, breathing, consciously not feeding into drama or getting wrapped up in the white noise that distracts me from being joyful.
What’s done is done. Now it’s up to us to spin these sets of circumstances into magic. It works. Trust me. Stay close…
Allison Desormeaux says
Remembering to clip their nails. I can so relate.