Pen and Moon

from the writing nook of Theresa Jarosz Alberti

Tag: Love

Divorce Lesson #8

Dear Reader,

I find myself in the peculiar position of dating my own husband, who is living separately in an apartment across town. I’ve said it before—we are not having any kind of a “typical” divorce. I’m sure that’s been at least a little bit evident, from that first announcement we put out on Facebook and my continued blog posts.

But in the four months since this started, things have morphed and changed as we’ve talked and worked hard on issues that have come up. We’ve had more deeply honest communication, more openness and more tenderness than we’ve had in ages. There’s been self-examination by both of us, a commitment to personal growth, and a willingness to live in a place of uncertainty. And, perhaps ironically, separation.

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In light of Our Strange Journey, Bob and I have come up with an “elevator speech.” As long-time Unitarian Universalists, the concept of having an elevator speech is a handy tool, a succinct and clear way to explain our uncommon religion to those who give us a blank stare when we mention it. For us, there have been so many questions lately about what the heck is going on with our relationship, and instead of long rambly answers, this will sum it up. (Granted, we don’t owe anyone explanations on this private matter, but especially for those in our local sphere, and also friends elsewhere, it will help clear up confusion.)

 

Divorce Lesson #8– The Elevator Speech

 

Here’s what we came up with:

“We are separating because we are co-dependent, and we are dating because we still love each other.”

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We are separating because we are co-dependent… Co-dependent is common vernacular these days, but for anyone who needs a refresher, it means allowing another person’s behavior and feelings to affect oneself dramatically, and becoming obsessed with controlling a situation or another person’s behaviors.

Both Bob and I realize that our communication patterns and ways of relating to each other have gotten skewed over the years, for many reasons. Patterns like this can become entrenched, and then it’s hard to even be aware that you are operating in this unhealthy way. Bob saw it first, how unhealthy it had become for both of us, and we were staying stuck in many areas of our lives. For me, I realize now that I had trouble expressing certain emotions or being up front with him about certain topics. And I’ve been stuck in areas of my life that weren’t making me happy—my weight and health, my writing, self-confidence, my job search, to name a few. Bob has often told me that his co-dependence made it hard for him to be in touch with his feelings because he was overly in touch with mine.

This separation is giving us both some space to work on ourselves. Having that space between us isn’t very easy—it’s painful tearing apart old patterns, habits and routines. But we weren’t able to make much progress living together. We are working on a new way of being, called “differentiation.” I thank my current therapist for enlightening me about this new-for-me concept. In short, differentiation is the process of holding onto your unique self in a relationship—your feelings, your perceptions, your essence—without enmeshing yourself into your partner’s self. It’s allowing the other to have their feelings, while you learn to self-soothe to maintain your own sense of self. It makes a relationship stronger while maintaining personal integrity.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on differentiation and I’m so excited about it that I’ll be blogging more about it in the near future. It’s such a helpful concept and I’m amazed I haven’t come across it before.

Dating circa 1988... it's Throwback Thurs, after all

Dating circa 1988… it’s Throwback Thurs, after all

We are dating because we still love each other… Love has never been a question between Bob and I (which is why his sudden announcement to me came as such a shock). We’re best friends, we know each other better than anyone does, and the love is deep. It’s sad that this separation needs to happen to help us get healthier. But one thing we re-discovered through this whole upheaval is that we really do want to and enjoy spending time with each other. Our communications have changed and become more honest and introspective. And so we’ve decided that at this stage of the game, we’re dating again.

Honestly, it’s odd to be dating. When you’re with someone for 26 years, all sorts of habits and patterns and routines create this illusion of safety. It’s easy to take the other for granted. Now we have pulled ourselves away from all that– we are back to having to ask each other for time, for help, for a date, to talk. I’d forgotten how vulnerable all this is. When you ask for something, the answer might be no, and that doesn’t mean you should take it personally. It’s like having to walk on bumpy, unstable ground after decades of walking on flat rock. It’s a bit scary… but it’s also refreshing, and even exciting.

All in all, we don’t know how this will all play out for us. There are many possibilities. I must haul out once again my favorite Deepak Chopra quote on Embracing Uncertainty, which comforts me—

“I will allow myself and those around me the freedom to be as they are. I will not rigidly impose my idea of how things should be. I will not force solutions on problems, thereby creating new problems…I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic and mystery of life.”

That’s all I know for today—what we’re doing now, what our intentions are, and how we are both committed to personal growth to rid ourselves of unhealthy patterns and habits. Individually and together, we are a work in progress.

Hopefully, this will lessen the confusion for locals who see us out and about. We are an experiment happening before your very eyes. Stay tuned!

Divorce Lesson #1: Stay in the Present Moment

Divorce Lesson #2: Love Is All Around

Divorce Lesson #3:  The Freedom in Hopelessness

Divorce Lesson #4:  Do It Your Own Way

Divorce Lesson #5: Thanksgiving– Changing It Up

Divorce Lesson #6: Don’te Pre-Suffer (or Post-Suffer, Either)

Divorce Lesson #7:  Re-(Blank)-ing Myself

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*All photos courtesy of me.  🙂

 

 

 

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:

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