Pen and Moon

from the writing nook of Theresa Jarosz Alberti

Month: October 2014

Divorce Lesson #2

(In case you missed it, you can read Divorce Lesson #1 here.)

It’s been almost 5 weeks now since the D-word landed like a hawk on my shoulder, digging claws in tight to let me know it’s not going away, the heavy weight a constant reminder. In this short but life-changing span of time, I’ve already been passing through phases– complete physical and emotional devastation that left me barely functioning, denial and trying to be super-pleasing to try and make him change his mind, anger, learning to ask for what I want and need (as I figure that out), and coming to a place where I am still raw and feeling tons of feelings, but I can have a few good hours and enjoy something. I can even have a whole good day, which is a miracle and a relief. That good day may be followed by a devastating plunge, but I know I’m on a rollercoaster right now, rapid-pace and full of highs and lows.

I’m also a sponge right now– talking to lots of people, reading lots of things, soaking in knowledge and insight to help me navigate through all this, but also to help me process my feelings and find the parts of myself that I lost or let atrophy over the years. For me, this is not just a divorce but a soul-quest… if I’m going to have to go through this, then I want to use it to make myself happier, more fulfilled, to find the true authentic me that I’ve been too afraid to embrace for so long.

Some people laughingly call this type of thing AFGO– Another F#%*@ Growth Opportunity, and it really is. I’ve had a ton of Miracle Grow dumped on me and my life has turned into one of those stop-motion flower-blooming videos. Amidst all the pain, it’s exciting and scary. I just can’t keep it all to myself, so if you’re willing to keep reading, here I go again…

 

Divorce Lesson #2: Love Is All Around

 

If you’re old like me, this title may bring you back to the Mary Tyler Moore Show: “Love is all around, no need to fake it…”   There’s also the more recent song from the movie Love Actually: “Love is all around me, and so the feeling grows.” For the purposes of this blog, either one works. (Sorry for the ear-worms.)

As my heart has broken, as I grieve the horrible loss of my dreams about my marriage, my future, the life I wanted to have with my husband, it would be easy (and understandable) to sink completely into the darkness and be unable to move. Somehow, even as I sank down into it, I was able to catch glimmers of something else, a sparkly, shiny new gift being held out to me: the gift of Love and Support that truly is all around me.

 

Love, Part 1

 

In the first few devastating days, I knew I needed some support to just survive. I called one friend (we sweetly claim each other as sisters) who listened, suggested and loved. I told another, newer friend and received her dear caring and attention. I wrote to a private online support group who circled me in a strong web of concern and love, giving me empathy, virtual hugs and even helped me to start re-envisioning my process and my life. Some little voice inside me knew I needed all of this, right from the start, and was either strong or desperate enough (maybe both) to ask for it. This was a small circle—which included my dear daughter, who lives with us and could see what was going on and comforted me many times a day. In the first few weeks, we weren’t sharing the news with the world yet. The circle stayed small, but it was vital to me.

Then came our Facebook announcement, since it was becoming more complicated to not tell people, even though this was a painful step. We preceded this with a weekend of running around and telling people who we knew needed to hear this in person. Our public announcement was crafted by both of us, a positive message about our circumstances and our intentions to do this in a loving, healing way. It was one version of our truth, and while some found it emotionally confusing, it was what we needed to say at the time. Bob and I sat side-by-side with our laptops, pasting the same message and photos into our status bar, hitting send at the same time. The flood of support started within moments—warm, caring, affirming, loving waves washing over us, hour after hour. For me, this opened out into FB messages, emails, texts, calls and in-person hugs. I let it all wash over me.

 

Love, Part 2

 

I also needed to share another truth—my own personal emotional experience. We’d left this out of our announcement, but I’d been sharing a bit of this with people face-to-face and I found that healing. I decided to start blogging about it with last week’s Divorce Lesson #1— I needed to share my own story and had a deep desire to share the lessons I was learning in the process.

Sharing my story cleared up any emotional ambiguity left over from our announcement. It was more of a behind-the-scenes view, and again, the floodgates opened with even more support, empathy, stories of “I’ve been there and survived,” and love-love-love-love-love.

Love.

This has been the awe-some, mind-blowing, affirming silver lining in this dark cloud. As my heart splits open to lose one kind of love, I am suddenly and unexpectedly awash in another kind —the love of a whole world of people who care and are reaching out. To me. Love that has been around me, unseen by me, unacknowledged.

I’ve spent a lifetime shutdown from this kind of love. I grew up twisted in on myself, contorting myself to be someone that everybody would approve of. I’d taken messages coming at me from people in my world to mean I wasn’t loveable, I needed to change, maybe if I were perfect, then someone would love me. I wore a façade.

Of course I haven’t totally been closed off—I’ve had love, I have many good and loving relationships, but my orientation to the world was to hide who I really am and try to be someone more acceptable, unless I felt completely safe.

What’s funny is that it’s so ironic– I don’t feel safe at all right now, and yet the tables have been not just turned but tossed out the window. What have I got to lose? And this: maybe I’ll be loved just for who I really am, deep down inside? And finally: I love myself enough now to take a risk and ask.

 

Love, Part 3

 

Last Tuesday ended up being a really tough one for me. I’d been having a good day, then Bob came home and we had a unexpected difficult talk which left me sobbing and broken, unable to stop crying. It had been several days since I’d wept with such ferocity, and I been thinking I was done with that really hard part. I felt like I’d been climbing out of a deep canyon, making progress, and then my foot slipped and I was back to the bottom again. Bob left after a while, had someone he needed to be, and I was left alone with my howling inner demons.

I called my sister-friend, and she helped me so much, talked me through many things, listened. And when I hung up the phone, I found myself back in the pit. So alone and hopeless. I call it one of my Dark Nights of the Soul. The image that kept coming to me was George Bailey weeping on the bridge, thinking he’s worth more dead than alive, so broken down, ready to jump. I wasn’t ready to jump… but death seemed like it wouldn’t be unwelcome, if it happened to happen.

That’s when this little voice inside nudged me. Reminded me about the love all around me. I desperately needed that. And I somehow knew that it was there, just for the asking. So I asked:

Any good thoughts you can send my way, even virtually, would be so much appreciated. I’m having a pretty rough night, can’t talk about it now. Might not be able to respond… sigh. Thanks.

It was a simple plea. 34 words put out on Facebook and some online groups. And yet it yielded immediate and powerful results. I sat crying in front of my computer as you—so many of you—offered me love and comfort from your very own hearts. Comments and texts and messages and emails and offers and uncountable good thoughts poured in, one after another. It was such a healing balm. It didn’t take away my pain, but it was hands reaching out to pull me up. It got me through the night.

Wonderful Life 4

Even as I go through hard times, I am looking up to see a brilliant sun shining down. There’s so much love. Even just opening up to see the strangers who briefly enter my life and make eye contact and give a smile, the bank clerk who connects, the guy who says ‘darlin’ as he holds open the door, the friendly barista. It’s all good.

Yes, this damn divorce is life-changing. But perhaps I can take a moment and recognize that these lessons I’m learning are even more profoundly life-changing. Love, there is so much love, if you open to it, choose to see it, learn to ask for it. It’s been waiting for me to wake up, for each of us to see it.

Thank you, everyone, from my grateful heart.

 

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One of my favorite songs about Love:

Divorce Lesson #1

I’ve suddenly entered a new place in my life, traversing territory I never thought I would. A few weeks ago my husband told me he wants a divorce, and it was unexpected for me. This new landscape has been full of heartbreak, grief, anger, fear, anxiety, panic, denial, sleeplessness, PTSD reactions, and loss of appetite. I can’t say it’s been fun, but I’m learning a lot right now.

This post isn’t about the divorce itself– we put out a Facebook announcement about it (which you can read by clicking here, if you want) and have talked about it to people way too much. Suffice it to say, we are going to do this in as loving and nurturing way possible, and keep our friendship and closeness intact. Some people say it can’t be done. We are choosing to believe otherwise.

I wanted to write this post to start sharing some of what I’ve been learning in this process. It’s only been 3-plus weeks, and it seems more like a year has passed in how much has happened and changed, and my new insights and awareness. I’m in a place where I’m raw, I’m open and I want to make changes in my life to make me happier and more fulfilled. I can see now the many ways in which I’ve stayed stuck because of fear or old wounds that never healed. And I hope that whatever lessons I share might be helpful for others, whether you’re going through divorce or not. So here we go…

Divorce Lesson #1: Stay in the Present Moment

The first two weeks after my husband mentioned divorce were brutal. I was in a state of adrenaline rush (hence, no sleep), and my mind was racing and swirling, coming up with stories and thoughts at about the pace of every 30 seconds. The thoughts and stories centered a little on the past: “Why did this happen? Why didn’t I see this coming? What if I’d done this differently? Why did he do this? What about his issues? What about this event, or that?” Etc. But they mostly centered on the uncertain future that was now looming ahead of me: “What kind of life will I have? I don’t have a job? Will I be sad and alone while he’s out dating other women? Will I keep the house? Whenever I see a married couple, I’ll cry. Will he really want to stay connected to me? What does that mean? What will happen on holidays?” Etc.

Photo by Bob Alberti

Photo by Bob Alberti

My mind was expert at catching one little thread of a scary thought and spinning it for hours. I would be in such a state of panic, I couldn’t focus. I tried meditation, alcohol, reading helpful books and journaling. All these helped a little, but what’s helped most is constantly reminding myself to come back to the Present Moment.

The Present Moment is actually all any of us ever really have. We do have the Past and our memories, but those are gone, done, and we can do nothing about them now. The Future – whether it is lovely plans and goals we are imagining, or the worrisome, scary stories that I’ve been telling myself– it really isn’t real. It hasn’t happened and might never. It’s an illusion, and while having goals and plans and dreams are great, they don’t yet actually exist until we make it so. My scary stories are just as unreal—they don’t exist, they may never happen, and filling my head with them and torturing myself is only making me horribly miserable.

Telling myself scary stories is a habit I’ve developed, a worry habit, maybe a self-protective mode I developed in my emotionally chaotic childhood. I learned to scan my circumstances and look for the worst in the future so I could prepare myself, somehow keep myself safe. It was a survival tactic that probably helped me survive my childhood, but now it just gets in my way. Big time.

Now I’m having to develop new skills to get me through this current traumatic situation. It takes some time, a ton of practice, and a lot of repetition of soothing or sometimes sterner mental phrases to bring me back. For instance, “It’s okay, that’s just a scary story you’re telling yourself. None of this is happening today. Come back. Everything is fine in this moment.” Or maybe, “Cut it out. None of that is real. Focus on this moment here.” I’ve said such things to myself hundreds of times each day, and it really does help. Some days, I’ve managed to achieve a sense of peace and stay in the present. Other days I swirl round and round and never manage to calm the waves more than briefly. I know I’m building new neural pathways, and it takes some time for new messages and patterns to sink in. I am doing what I can, and I’m grateful for moments of peace.

That reminds me– gratitude can play an important part of staying in the Present Moment. When I start to list in my head all the things I DO have in this moment, I start to calm down and realize that things are not 100% bleak. I’m grateful for the sunshine and the pure blue sky today. I’m grateful for my three wonderful kids. I’m grateful for the ways my husband is supporting me in this process (yes, I know, even though…). I’m grateful for my new awareness of all the support and love around me as I share my pain with my community. I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for the new ways I’m growing, even if it hurts.

I am reminded of all I do have, and that brings some peace.

I know that planning and figuring out the future is going to be necessary, researching options and getting answers from professionals. But right now, when everything is so new and raw, I’m in survival mode. We are taking our time in this process (another thing to be grateful for) and I need to feel these feelings. I’m looking to be a healthier me—physically, mentally and emotionally, and shutting down or having a mental crisis because I constantly scare myself wouldn’t be good for me or others. I want this path to lead me to a better life for myself. It is an In-Between time, a time of not knowing all the answers, of living in uncertainty. And for right now, the Present Moment is the best place for me to hang out.

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