To think about

To think about

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.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Defining Moments

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco California, and died at age 88 in 1963. In 1915, following his return to the United States after three years in England, Frost sent his poem "The Road Not Taken" to a good friend and fellow writer Edward Thomas. Reportedly, Frosts intention when sending the poem to his friend were to gently mock the indecision of his friend that he had picked up on during their walks together. However, Wikipedia notes in the analysis of the poem: The final lines "I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference" are often cited as emblematic of America's individualist spirit of adventure, in a reading that assumes they are to be taken literally. This is doubtful: whatever difference the choice might have made, it was not made on the basis of a discerned difference between the two paths that opened up before the traveller. The speaker admits in the second and third stanzas that both paths may be equally worn and equally leaf-covered, and it is only in his future recollection that he will call one of the two roads, the one he took, "less traveled by."

The "sigh" can be interpreted as one of regret or of self-satisfaction; in either case, the irony lies in the distance between what the speaker has just told us about the roads' similarity and what his or her later claims will be. Frost might also have intended a personal irony: in a 1925 letter to Crystine Yates of Dickson, Tennessee, asking about the sigh, Frost replied, "It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life."
According to Larry L. Finger's analysis, nearly all critics have agreed that the sigh represents regret as this is mirrored in the regretful tone of the opening lines. He quotes scholar Eleanor Sickels as saying that the poem is about "the human tendency to wobble illogically in decision and later to assume that the decision was, after all, logical and enormously important, but forever to tell of it 'with a sigh' as depriving the speaker of who-knows-what interesting experience."
Likewise, Lawrance Thompson is cited as saying that the speaker of the poem is "one who habitually wastes energy in regretting any choice made: belatedly but wistfully he sighs over the attractive alternative rejected."
While a case could be made for the sigh being one of satisfaction, given the critical support of the 'regret' analysis it seems fair to say that this poem is about the human tendency to look back and attribute blame to minor events in one's life, or to make more meaning of things than they may deserve.
I studied this poem in my first year of college and fell in love with it. It resonated deeply within me the way no other poem ever has. I have often thought on it, quoted it, taken solace in it, and I have a magnet on my fridge with the lines "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference" to remind me when I falter in my decision making confidence. To me, this poem has always been about choices in life, a reminder that we will all be tasked, over and over, to make serious decisions that will change the course of our lives, with little to no information. Even indecision is a form of decision making. I understand this poem to mean that there will be times in my life when I will be alone and faced with a significant choice, and although both options may have their positive attributes, since it is unlikely that I will ever be faced with the option of revisiting the other path, and I do not believe in the multi-verse, there is no point in regretting the path I did not choose. Instead, I choose to believe that the path I chose made all the difference in my life.

Last night my friend was telling me about Dr. Phil's theory that every life will have, on average, five to eight defining moments. Times when the lightbulb goes off, a crisis engulfs you, or you are suddenly faced with choices, the proverbial fork in the road you did not see coming. Since I do not watch Dr. Phil I am paraphrasing, and hoping I have accurately captured what I was hearing and not misquoting anyone. I found this at According to Dr. Phil, you can trace who you've become in this life to three types of external factors: 10 defining moments, seven critical choices, and five pivotal people. But first it's important to understand the following terms: 

Ten Defining Moments: In every person's life, there have been moments, both positive and negative, that have defined and redefined who you are. Those events entered your consciousness with such power that they changed the very core of who and what you thought you were. A part of you was changed by those events, and caused you to define yourself, to some degree by your experience of that event.

Seven Critical Choices: There are a surprisingly small number of choices that rise to the level of life-changing ones. Critical choices are those that have changed your life, positively or negatively, and are major factors in determining who and what you will become. They are the choices that have affected your life up to today, and have set you on a path.

J and I talked about this during our long drive back from a hockey game in Vancouver, and I thought about my life out loud, counting my defining moments, which based on the description above were probably a mix of critical choices and defining moments. Although it seems to me that in large part, my critical choices have almost always become defining moments. The times in my life that I stood looking at the two roads in the woods. I guess the difference is, in part, that a defining moment is not about choice; it is when you or I am suddenly catapulted down the new path in the wood, possibly quite afraid. At the age of 41 I am already up to 7 defining moments and/or critical choices. I never wanted to live a boring life; I wanted to live a life less ordinary, and it seems I am accomplishing that. 

When I was 18 and found out I was pregnant, that was my first critical choice. Choosing to have a child at that age, having not even graduated from high school yet, absolutely changed the course of my life, and for the better I believe. I have no regrets with regard to having my son when I did, although that choice did not make for smooth travels. There were many rutted and bumpy moments. My only regrets about that decision would be for the things I think my son might have missed out on due to my choices. My second defining moment and/or critical choice came about a year and a half later when I left my son's Dad. That divorce absolutely freed me from an unpleasant path and set a tone of strength and independence. A third defining moment and critical choice was becoming a prison guard at age 23. That choice offered me a significant pay check for a relatively uneducated young single mom, with stability, a pension, health benefits , etc. It also, over many years, hardened me beyond recognition, swallowed my soul, burnt me out, and a host of other negative things that I am recovering from now 17 years later. 

My fourth defining moment came at age 28 when I decided to leave my son behind in BC under the care of good friends, and move half way across the country to attend school and follow a dream I had wanted for years. Those next six months proved to be the best and the worst time of my life, to this day. The course was horrendously difficult and had an appallingly low success rate so I was experiencing stress like never before; one failed test and I would be sent home. There was simply no margin for error, day in and day out. Those are excruciating ideals to try to maintain, but I did somehow. I missed my son beyond belief and struggled constantly with the guilt of having left him, worried that I was scarring him indefinitely and condemning him to be a serial killer. I had also never had such intellectual stimulation, nor been with a peer group that was so on par to me. Everyone there was of equal intelligence and drive. Almost everyone there was risking something back home, broke, missing their family, and working their asses off with the course load. I imagine this living in the same building we went to school in and took all our meals in was the equivalent of living in the dorms or a fraternity at university, something I had always wanted. Ultimately, that experience changed me forever. To say I developed an ego could be an understatement. I was elite in my abilities to think spatially; the last statistic I knew was approximately 2% of the population can think like I can. I realized I was an intelligent as my parents and teachers had told me all those years; my brains capacity for knowledge, comprehension and understanding was truly amazing. I was stronger than I had ever known in terms of missing my son yet carrying on, always hoping the sacrifice we were both making would lead to a better life. And lastly, for the first time in my life, I knew I was attractive and held the power as a female. I had never been so sought after given the ration of men to women was about 10 to 1. Of the 20 people in my class, I was one of two women, and a few months into the course, became the only single woman. I knew I could have my choice of four different suitors. The one I chose was the man I married; the man who has just cheated on me and left me for another woman. Which is defining moment number seven. The fifth moment came in-between when I left that career I had fought so hard to achieve to move my son and I to another province to live with M; to give love a chance. In most of those situations I had choices; when I reflect back on the telling of these forks in the road, it is really only the last with my ex-husband where I felt I had no choices. So will I look back ages and ages hence, sigh, and regret the role I played in the ending of my marriage? I hope not. I don't think I will because I have never been a big acceptor of regret. 

The sixth defining moment of my life came via a letter during the summer of 2005 I think. My Dad wrote me to tell me that I had a full biological sister. My parents had conceived her out of wedlock and had given her up for adoption. I was heartbroken and stunned. I cried and cried, struggling to breathe. I called my Dad and asked why? It was all I wanted to know. Why had they given her up, why had they not told me before, why had they adopted my younger brother, had I really been a twin as told or was that my parents way of dealing with what they had done, why had my Mom taken this piece of news to her grave? A lot of my tears were from a place of grief that my Mom had died many years ago and I could not ask her about the adoption. And a lot of my tears were regret based; time that I could never get back with a sister I had always wanted. My sister and I had a few faltering attempts over the years to establish a relationship, but for whatever reason, it never took. I no longer carry regret around that piece of my life; just some sadness.

I have always thought it is better to regret something you have done, rather than to regret what you did not do. I also believe in fate. I believe that we have free will to make choices, but ultimately, the souls we are destined to meet, the experiences that we are destined to have, the path we are meant to walk, will happen, no matter which road I choose in the wood. If I get waylaid, fate will correct me on my journey, which I believe is what is happening right now. I think that regret is such a negative and useless emotion, and quite frankly pointless given my spiritual beliefs. Regret spirals into guilt, and if you have a tendency towards addiction, poor behaviour choices follow, which produce even more guilt and regret. It is a never ending downward spiral if you entertain it. Even if you do not share my beliefs about the way the universe unfolds, I strongly caution you from a good place not to buy into regret. You cannot change the past, and you and I were making the best decisions with the information we had, at the time. A mentor once told me we are all doing our very best with what we have at any given moment. So forgive yourself, and if possible and appropriate, forgive others. And of course, make amends to earn the forgiveness of others if that is where your regret birthed. In the meantime, take solace that a century ago, and probably since the dawn of mankind's evolution into a thinking and feeling entity, people have been grappling with the very same issues around decision making, life's choices, and hindsight that we are today. I don't think Frost regretted the paths he chose despite what the scholars might say, not at all. I think Frost chose a positive attitude and believed he had made the right decision regardless, because it made him who he was and gave him the life he had. We should all be so lucky to have no regrets in our twilight years. 

Monday, 18 November 2013


How do we define ourselves and form the mental picture of who we are to present to the world? So much of our persona in western civilization is formed around our jobs and our families. It is embedded in the language that is commonly used by people. When you meet someone, a common question to ask is what do you do for a living. And the answer is typically: I am an air traffic controller, I am a hairstylist, I am a prison guard, rather than, I work as an air traffic controller for the income that provides the lifestyle that creates my identify. And I think the other most common question is, tell me about your family? And the response would come: I am married, I am single, I have two children, I am a mother or a father, rather than I live with someone, or I parent one child. We can also define ourselves in other ways, but they are usually the more private thoughts: I am a fighter, I am smart, I am curious, I am a volunteer, I am loving, I am compassionate, I am opinionated, I am difficult to live with, I am a diva, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am honest to a fault. That last string is how I identify some of my personality traits, but it is not what I would tell you about myself if I met you in a casual social setting. In the past, it would have taken me years of friendship before I would articulate my strengths and weaknesses that colour my daily life to you in such a way. 

Authenticity, I believe, is the marrying of the public and private identities. Where no mask is utilized to hide the private self. An Elder told me years ago that the longest journey one can take is from the mind to the heart. I have come to understand this message as partly being about making peace with oneself, accepting our humanity and our flaws, perhaps even celebrating them to the point that we can be authentic and let the world know who we are. We can let others know how our scars impact our field of vision, how we struggle to challenge the childhood messages we have internalized and accepted as our identity, how we yearn to be authentic in our interactions with others and not shy away from the possible rejection. And during the last few months, another possible version of the Elders message is truly allowing the heart to embrace what the mind knows. In my current situation, both my heart and mind knew instantly I wanted nothing to do with an open marriage. As time progressed and interactions became more and more difficult and hurtful between my husband I am, the space between my mind and heart actually widened. My heart loves my husband and misses him and our life deeply. My mind knows intellectually that he is not in an honourable place to receive the love I want to give him, that he has nothing to offer me, and that our paths have diverged. There is a battle going on in my soul constantly because my mind and my heart are not on the same page about the relationship. I have a long way to go in my journey between my mind and my heart when it comes to the end of my marriage.

From Wikipedia: Identity is often described as finite and consisting of separate and distinct parts (family, cultural, personal, professional, etc.), yet according to Parker J. Palmer, it is an ever evolving core within where our genetics (biology), culture, loved ones, those we cared for, people who have harmed us and people we have harmed, the deeds done (good and ill) to self and others, experiences lived, and choices made come together to form who we are at this moment.

Now, what does one do when in a matter of months, most of the big tickets items noted above that form your identity are gone, lost either through choices you consciously made, or because someone made a decision that impacts you without your input or consent. For me, I left my job on stress leave at the end of July 2012, already knowing I would not likely go back given I had never enjoyed the criminal justice field and I was burnt out. The decision not to return to my job became more clear as time moved on and I healed my anxiety and depression through counselling and self-help. In August 2012 we informed our son that we were selling the house, downsizing, and moving an hour away to be closer to my husbands work so that we could financially manage me quitting my $80, 000 a year job. We told our son it was time for him to be on his own; he wasn't moving with us. The house sold far more quickly than I think anyone was expecting, and the rush was on to find a new home for both our son and I. In October we moved. It was an odd transition not being a hands on parent. Given his age I wasn't much of a parent per se, but he lived with us, and I saw him daily. I missed my son deeply, and contact was sporadic in those first few months as I think he was quite angry to have been excused from the nest. It was also a freeing time for me. I had never before not had to work or have my child to be responsible for. There was no nagging, my house was always clean, my husband and I could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted, and I had all the time in the world to focus on myself and my health. I read a lot, travelled, went to the gym regularly when I wasn't injured with some broken appendage, and generally had a great time. In April 2013, with my husbands blessing and encouragement, I officially retired from my government job and cashed in my pension, ready to start the next chapter of my life. My plan was to flip houses. My husband and I had set up our lives financially so that this could be a reality, and I had been educating myself on all things home renovation. My heart and my mind were on the same page regarding my employment. Five weeks later he informed me that our marriage, as I knew it, was over. In the span of less than a year I ceased to be employed, my son no longer lived with me after 22 years, and I was no longer a wife, or in a significant relationship; I was suddenly single again. This was far too much change in a short period of time. My identity had been rocked, stripped of three significant grounding factors, and I felt as though I was floating around untethered to anything meaningful or tangible. I felt lost, undefined, blurry, insecure, and blob like. 

And what does one do when their beloved has a massive crisis of identify and changes the rules midway through the game? Most of us in western civilization take for granted that marriage and monogamy will form part of our identity at some point in our twenties or thirties. We have all heard of swingers, but the societal norm is still to commit to one person and marry, whether the end goal is a family or not. Others might choose not to get married, but will still commit to one person, or perhaps you are not allowed to marry who you love because of ridiculous laws in your state/province. I got married with every intention of being committed to that one person for the rest of my life. That may sound cheap coming from someone who has already been divorced once, but if you could see inside my heart, you would know that the feelings I had for my second husband were a million times more "real" than for my first. I believed that my husband and I had formed a partnership that could and would weather any storm. I believed that we were soul-mates and best friends, and that no matter what we faced, we could stand side by side in our partnership. The beliefs surrounding my marriage, my husband, and our roles in each others lives formed a significant part of my identity for the last 12 years. And I am sure they formed a significant part of his identity too, until the portion surrounding monogamy was challenged and other forms of marriage were introduced to him. As a side note, I do believe that my husband was manipulated or persuaded to some degree to opt for an open marriage. I believe that if he had not met Stephanie and Ian, that he would not have come to the conclusion he wanted an open marriage on his own. Which doesn't translate to me believing that our marriage would have gone on blissfully; perhaps we would have divorced regardless as he searched for a better fit for his identity. That is for another post though. My husband decided, six years into our marriage, that being monogamous was no longer a part of his identity. He instead decided that his identify regarding relationships was that of being polyamorous. He stated he wanted to be in an open marriage; he wanted to be able to love multiple people at the same time. I will write more on this in another post, but for now, I really only wanted to touch on how the identity we form for ourselves, or the labels we give ourselves, not only impact how we see each other, they dictate how we interact with others. My husband if facing a very large range of consequences due to his change in identity, as are the people he was closest to. 

So, is a mid-life crisis a crisis of identify? A person gets to a point in their life, oftentimes spurred by a critical situation, looks at where they have been, what they have "accomplished," and the path they are headed down, and screams "No, wait, this isn't for me!" Is this what happened to my husband? Many people have expressed their thoughts that he was/is having a mid-life crisis. All the triggers were there: we were entering our seventh year of marriage, he hated his job, we had moved away from his home province and he had struggled to develop a new "community" or social circle, and we were undergoing significant changes within our family as our son had moved out, or been kicked out. And to top that all off, I was going through an incredibly difficult time personally in my own life, and was off work on "stress leave" with no real intentions of ever returning. I was without a doubt going through my own mid-life crisis. And then our cat died; his cat, his beloved Mya. Could all of those stressors have been the catalysts for him to re-assess his identity and want to shed the life he had been leading? While I understand those feelings, and the need for significant change, the difference between he and I is that I didn't see him, or our marriage, as negotiable. Is was a constant, a positive, a haven, something grounding in the chaos of a turbulent time in life. 

From Infidelity: When, Where, Why by Irene Tsapelas, Stony Brook University Helen E. Fisher, Rutgers University Arthur Aron, Stony Brook University: The self-expansion model, for example, suggests that infidelity may result from insufficient self-expansion from one’s primary relationship and/or the desire to experience more varied forms of self- expansion, such as gaining access to a broader range of resources, skills, experiences or perspectives. In this way, infidelity may function to expand the self in ways that are not possible within the primary relationship. That sounds to me like infidelity is closely linked to our identity. 

Sadly, there are many in our communities who have ingrained negative messages from childhood; they have internalized and personalized messages such as "you aren't good enough" to the point that their identity and self-image are warped. As a child my mother would tell me I was tenacious, that I never did anything the easy way. I never felt that it was said with love though. I felt as though I had disappointed her. I very much grew up to believe that I was a fighter, and that belief in my identity has played out as an adult over and over in my actions and choices.  Therefore, I believe that we behave as our identity would dictate, but can it be another way, can new behaviours create a new identity? Can a criminal who has internalized that as an identity, rather than a behaviour, ever be anything but a criminal? Can a cheater ever become a non-cheater, if they identify with the role, rather than the action? I think for me, and for our society, the labelling of a cheater is prolific because surely that individual must be lacking in morals, ethics, compassion, and other nuances of character. In other words, they as people must be flawed to cheat. Their identity is not on par with the rest of society. As for myself, I am at a place in my life now where I am working very hard to be more flexible, more relaxed, and find an easier way to accomplish what I want. Always fighting for something is exhausting. However, old habits do not go quietly into that good night.  

There is a great TED talk that touches on how we perceive ourselves that rang so true for me. Amy Cuddy gives a speech on how your body language shapes who you are. She tells the personal tale of a very bad car accident when she was 19 that involved the car rolling several times and ultimately she was thrown from the car. She woke up in a head injury rehabilitation ward and learnt she had been withdrawn from college and her IQ had dropped by two standard deviations. This event and the information regarding her intelligence were very traumatic for her. She had been called gifted as child, and very much identified with being smart. And after the car accident, she was told she would never be able to finish college, that would not work out for her. She speaks about identifying with being smart, and this is her thought on having your core identity taken: "there's nothing that leaves you feeling more powerless than that". She felt like an impostor when she returned to school, and wanted to drop out, but her adviser persuaded her to "fake it until you make it". The author encourages us to fake it until you become it. Change your identity. You can watch her talk at:

What that talk awoke in me was the realization that my feelings of powerlessness about the end of my marriage and everything that was transpiring in the following months stemmed, in part, from my core belief that I was a fighter, and that if I gave it my all, I would succeed. That was my life story, being a fighter was part of my identity. And isn't that what we are told over and over by media, pop culture, our parents and teachers? If you work hard enough, anything is possible. This is not always so. I was devastated at the end of my marriage, in large part because I didn't get to fight for it. A decision was made with no consultation from me. I had auditioned for a part, the role of wife and partner to my husband, and failed never knowing I was auditioning. I didn't get a call-back or a mulligan. I stood there stunned watching my entire life disintegrate around me, powerless to utilize a core piece of my identity that I had relied on for the last twenty plus years. Not that I didn't try to fight for my marriage. I couldn't engage my husband, he wasn't interested in fixing anything when he firmly believed he was making the correct decision for his own happiness. So I fought for the opportunity to fight. Until I stopped fighting and started accepting I wasn't going to win this battle. It was a great stroke of insight for me to realize that I had the power to stop fighting for the right to fight, even if I didn't have the power to fight for my marriage. It was the beginning of the space between my heart and my mind closing, the beginning of my healing. 

Who am I now? How do I define myself now? New words are being added slowly to the repertoire of how I identify myself. I have gotten in touch with the writer inside me, so now I can say I am a blogger, writer, and I will be an author one day. I am still a mother, my role has just changed and now I am adjusting. I am still a friend, and becoming a better one I think as I heal and become less needy. I am a traveller and a wanderer, that hasn't changed. I am becoming more spiritual through this time in my life. I am becoming more curious about life and a better conversationalist. I am growing into a new and different version of myself. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

This is just an angry rant

I have been working on my next post, and have it written and ready for editing, but today my son told me something that has given me such grief and anger that I have a headache and feel sick to my stomach. And since this is a safe place in that my son does not read my blog, and my ex-husband doesn't know about it as far as I know, I will use this forum to vent and try to work through my feelings. My son told me today that he saw his Dad this past week for his birthday, and that his Dad is looking awful. He is skinny, has gone completely grey, is balding, and his hair is a mess. This visual description of how my ex has let himself go saddens me, but that is not the source of my anger. My son prefaced the inflammatory action of my ex-husband with the sage comment that my ex has lost his mind, or is going crazy, something to that extent. My son told me that my ex asked him if he wanted to meet his girlfriend. My son said he was stunned into silence and couldn't say what he was thinking, so he just said no. That is what I am raging about. Why on earth would my ex-husband have so little compassion for what he has done to our family that he would think our son would want to meet the whore he was cheating on me with? Just because my ex seems to think that his actions were justified because he is in love with her doesn't make it a nice pill for anyone else to swallow.

And why on earth would she, who has her own family including two young children, want to meet the son of the woman whose husband she stole? From all accounts by people who know her and my own husband, she is not a very good mother, or a very involved loving mother. She appears to have had the children for her husbands sake. Is she wondering if my son would be willing to even meet her? Is it curiosity on her part? Or is she just trying to upset me? And if the latter is her game, why is my husband playing into it? Probably because she can do no wrong in his eyes, so he doesn't see it as a game or way to upset me. Does she even want to meet my son, or is this my ex-husbands delusional idea? The man-child is my son; my ex-husband has helped me raise him for 12 years, so yes, I also consider Marcus to be my ex's son, but he is not a biological child. And Stephanie is only 9 years older than our son. How would that conversation go? Hi, nice to meet you, I had an affair with your Dad and stole him away from your Mom and I think I will make a great step-mother to you, part-time when I am not with my own family, even though you're 23 and don't need another mother? I cannot even imagine what my ex was thinking when he asked such an outrageous question; all I can come up with is that he isn't thinking at all.

And oh dear god, if they were to meet, how awkward would that be? I wouldn't want to be there for the life of me, yet my ex thinks this is a good idea? 

I really think based on the conversations I have had with my ex-husband, the emails I have seen between him and Stephanie, his actions, and what I have heard about him from others since our split, he has had a serious break with reality. Is he checking himself with other people? I know in times of stress and/or grief, people don't think straight. When I am thinking on something serious, I talk to my girlfriends. If I was in his shoes, I wouldn't dare propose such an emotionally charged idea without running it by, not just one, but several friends. And I am willing to bet that every single one of my friends would tell me to give my head a shake. Where are my husbands friends at a time like this? Even if he doesn't talk to them about his personal life and how he wants to integrate the two main people he has left in his life, his physical appearance is noticeable to all. Does no one have the guts to tell him he looks like hell and ask him what is going on? Does my ex not look in the mirror and see the very physical costs he is paying to be with this woman, even if he is in complete denial about the emotional costs? What is her role in this? Could she really be getting a kick out of watching someone she supposedly loves unravel knowing she is part of the reason? Does my husband have any counsel left at all, or is that crazy psychopath he left me for his only confidant? If she and her husband are the only friends my ex has left, that would certainly explain why he is making such terrible decisions. Stephanie has proven time and again to lack empathy for other people, be socially awkward, and be highly manipulative, none of which my ex-husband can see. And I believe her husband is much the same. 

It is incredibly frustrating for me to see someone as high-functioning and caring as my husband completely unravel like this. Or, is his appearance a game of deceit when he sees our son? My son had told me previously that his Dad never seems happy when he sees him. I told my friend that, and she responded with, of course not, how could he be happy? He needs to present shame and remorse when he sees his son whether he feels it or not. 

This latest situation breaks me heart to some degree under my anger. Is my husband so desperate for some validation from someone that he has made the correct life decision in walking away from his marriage and family for a part-time relationship with a married family woman that he would seek it from our son? And if so, why would he think that this young adult would be the person who would offer it? Despite my encouragement, my son has not told his Dad what he thinks of his behaviour. He says it will come up one day, but I know he has anger towards him, and rightly so. And I want to protect my son from this garbage, so I say as little as possible about the break-up, stay as neutral as possible, and have spared him the gory details of the open marriage aspect of the new relationship his Dad is engaging in. The mothers instinct kicked in today, and I want to email my ex and his home wrecking girlfriend and tell them both to stay the hell away from my son. I don't want my son being contaminated with their poisonous views on love, sex, marriage and commitment. Instead, I bit my tongue, and told my son I don't want him to meet her because she is not a very nice person. And again, he made me smile with his answer: "no, she can't be a very nice person given what she has done." 

I want to email them both and tell them to leave me alone, and leave my family alone. My son and the friends that are left are all I have. She has taken enough from me, she needs to leave me my son. She has no right to him, and neither does my ex-husband as far as I am concerned. He walked away from his family, discarded it for another. I know my son is an adult and will make his own decisions in time about what type of a relationship he wants with his Dad, if any, and the strong me won't interfere with that, but the afraid me wants to tell her to go to hell and let us be. I already had to share my husband with her; I don't want  to share my son too. 

I also want to email my ex-husband and ask him how much of himself he is going to sacrifice for this woman before he decides enough is enough? Is he going to let her kill him in the name of love? I want to ask him what he sees when he looks in the mirror. I want to ask him if he is looking after himself. I do worry when I hear reports of how he seems to be letting himself go. I worry sometimes about how much he is drinking. And I wish I could stop caring, because he doesn't seem to care for me or worry about me at all. I won't email him, partly because I checked myself with a girlfriend who responded to my angry text with: "Silence creates his self doubt and awareness whilst showcasing your strength … rage and nagging commentary intensifies his bad behaviour". My other girlfriend called and confirmed he is not thinking at all. The other reason I won't email him is that I have already expressed my concerns to him about the cost of this love affair on him emotionally. So what more could I say? He is incapable of hearing me, thinking I speak only with the mouth of a jilted ex, rather than from a place of true care and concern. I have nothing new to say to him. And like every other person walking this planet, he needs to be free to make his own choices, and reap those rewards, or suffer those consequences. That is no consolation when someone you care about is suffering though. I guess I am practising tough love. When someone you care about is in the throws of addiction, the time comes when you have to stop bailing them out of trouble, or pushing them towards rehab, and you simply say, if this is your choice, I love you too much to watch you choose to suffer. I will be here for you when you are ready to heal and sober up.     

Friday, 15 November 2013

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Losses Keep Coming

There is a very high price to be paid for honesty; the truth isn't cheap and it sure as hell isn't easy. And what I have struggled a great deal with during the last five months are all the heartbreaks and losses that came after the big one. One might think that such a huge disclosure and shift in life would be enough, but for me it was just the start of a chain reaction, the first domino falling. Losses I was never expecting, that no one warned me about, losses I feel compelled to warn you about should you end a significant and lengthy partnership. Over time, I have come to understand and identify my losses as primary, secondary, and tertiary. It is these losses, or fresh bouts of grieving as I rediscover a loss per se, that I think slow down the healing process, or create the good and bad days during the mourning period. At the five month mark I am managing to live a pretty good life all things considered. While I certainly have my down moments, by and large, I have joy almost every day, I have friends to spend my time with, I have my health, and I have activities to keep me interested and busy. Yet, every single time I am faced with a reminder, or a trigger, I relapse into feeling the loss acutely and easily become overwhelmed with grief about everything that I do not have anymore. The feelings may not be as acute as they were a few months ago, and now when I find his paperwork I am usually just irritated, but there are still moments when I cry and feel the grief almost as strongly as I did four months ago. When I feel particularly down, I wonder if the grief will ever ease? Will I ever be able to look at a picture he is in without reacting? Will my heart ever stop aching for what was? And at the lowest moments I can have, I wish I didn't know. I wish desperately that I could go back in time and change something. Do something to avoid the heartache. I wish the chain of events that led to the discovery of truth had never happened. If I had a magic wand I would still be a married woman on that life path. 

I would identify the primary losses as: my innate trust of people to be good and to do right by me, my faith in marital relationships, my husband and everything he as a person meant to me, and the entire timeframe of memories during the admitted period of cheating. I identify my secondary losses to be: the future as I was expecting it, such as having to cancel the Alaskan cruise we had booked for that summer, or camping trips we had planned, and our common goals such as future trips and retirement plans. Just the summer prior we had decided to start camping as a means of getting closer to nature, and now I am lugging around camping gear that I as a single female will never use, but I want to go camping again, so I have kept it. Every time I see it, I remember the camping trips we took, and the trips we had planned for the summer he left me, and I feel those losses and I am sad for what I don't get anymore. The tertiary losses are things such as too much alone time, having no one to buy souvenirs for, falling asleep alone at night facing his side of the bed, having no one to share a meal with, having no one to go to a movie with, having no one to ask how my day was, and concert tickets that he had bought me. After we broke up he said he would still go with me, but then as things deteriorated between us, he gave the tickets to me. Why would he think I wanted to go to that concert? Why on earth would he think I wanted to be reminded that the tickets were bought in happier times, and then promises were made and broken to the point that he no longer wanted to go to that concert with me. So I gave the tickets back to him and wrote him a note telling him to take his girlfriend. And on the day of the concert I was very cognizant that not only was I not at the concert, but I wondered if he was, and who he was there with. I haven't listened to that band since, and I wonder if he has ruined them for me. I have loved this group since I was 12 years old; it was the band he had previously bought me a VIP package to, and meeting those schoolgirl crushes was a highlight in my life. 

I am reminded of my various losses every time I find something that is his, be it clothing, a book he forgot to pack, or the tax paperwork. He actually took very little when he moved out, mostly his clothes, toiletries, a few smaller pieces of furniture, and what I had set aside for him as being his. One of the hardest hitting finds for me were the stocking stuffers I had already started accumulating for next year. Finding silly little gifts I had bought him, knowing he would have laughed, absolutely tore me apart; I might never hear him laugh again. And I certainly won't be spending Christmas with him. What do I do with these gifts I had already bought him? Do I donate them somewhere, try to pass them off to someone else, or do I send them to him, and if I do give them to their intended recipient, do I send them now, randomly, or do I send them at Christmas, and with or without a card? What would I say in that card? Those few small gifts represent not only pain but an enormous moral dilemma to me. Mostly though, they remind me that he won't be with me at Christmas. Finding those presents reminded me that the family unit we had built has been abandoned by him, and that I won't be getting any gifts from him ever again. I not only found those gifts when I was packing for this move, but a month later I found them again when I was unpacking. The emotional impact was much less the second time around; I was only saddened, not flattened with grief. And now that bag of gifts is sitting on my bookshelf, along with another bag of gifts for a friend that is no longer in my life. 

My husband not only walked away from our future, he decided not to take his past with him either, and left that for me to deal with. In the final days of packing before my move I told him that the only containers I hadn't gotten through were the Christmas ornaments. Over our 12 year relationship I had maintained a Christmas tradition with my husband and son. Every year in their stockings I included some kitschy pop culture ornament, usually from the Simpsons or Family Guy. My husband told me he didn't want them, to give them to our son, that he would probably like them. I felt as though he was completely disregarding that tradition and throwing it into the garbage. A loving and fun tradition that I had implemented is gone. Those bloody ornaments are in my house now, in my spare room waiting to be unpacked and cried over. Those silly ornaments are pieces of history, part of a life when my family was intact, and I was loved, and in love, and now they mean nothing. Now they will only remind me of what I have lost. I feel anger and sorrow that he disregarded these gifts I had spent time and energy picking out for him. I feel that he has disregarded everything those gifts stood for, including me. Did he leave them behind because he doesn't want to see a physical reminder of what he threw away? Is he not going to celebrate Christmas anymore? I did ask him after during a conversation about open marriages how he saw his life playing out, how would he celebrate the holidays, where would he spend Christmas? He said that Marcus and I were his family, and he would always spend Christmas with us. I was so stunned at the time with his faulty thinking that I was speechless, and now … 

There are a million small unexpected reminders of the loss. I randomly got an email the other day from Microsoft, and after about three reads of it, I figured out what had happened. My husband had gone in and changed his security settings to remove my email as the account his password would be sent to if he ever forgot his. That upset me for hours. It was another act of division from being a married couple to two strangers that had once known each other. Similarly, last week my husband copied me on an email to the timeshare company asking them to remove my email from the account, stating it was no longer "valid as a contact". It is hard not to read that as: you are no longer valid in my life as my partner and wife; I wish to delete you as a contact as you have no validity to me anymore. Is there another way to perceive this without personalizing it to such a great degree? Do I really mean nothing to him now, or is this the normal process of disconnect when a marriage fails? Changing my phone number upset me deeply, for days. I knew it was the right thing to do in terms of creating the distance between us that gives us both some peace from the emotional roller coaster we were on, but it seemed like such a final act, akin to disappearing. He has changed his number too, and I know this because once again, we had each other set up as the back up contacts for the accounts, so I got an unexpected email from our carrier stating what changes had been made to the account. I have never been to my husband's new home. He had initially said he wanted me to come and see it, spend time with him there, but only three weeks after he moved out, he admitted he had moved her in, maybe the same day. He told me he didn't want me to come over and see her stuff laying around. In a matter of mere months, to have gone from being a married couple, to strangers that don't have each others phone numbers or know where the other lives is a huge shock and a huge change. It is also a massive loss to me. It all happened so quickly that my brain can't process it, and my heart hasn't caught up either. While he was cheating and planning his exit strategy, I was fully engaged in our marriage. I can't speak for him, and I know his losses are mitigated by her and the time he had pre-planning the end of our marriage, but every time I realize something is missing in my life, like the drill I needed to take the curtains rods down when I moved, my brain is forced to acknowledge his existence, and his lack of participation in my life. 

The other day I saw a picture of R and S on Facebook together; it is the second time I have seen this. It is a trigger of loss for me because I am not in that picture. I was not with them during that happy moment in their life; I was left out for whatever reason. It saddens me and I miss them, and I miss my old life. I miss my old routine with my friends, going to yoga or the farmers market, playing with their dogs, and talking about our relationships and our husbands. I miss the couples dates we had. I see that they spend time together without me, and they are happy in the photos, and like my husband, I wonder if they miss me at all, or think about me at all. I have no way of knowing for sure, all I can do is guess, and interpret the behaviour. I think it is my lack of a husband and relationship, and the awkward circumstances of how that came to be, that has some responsibility for the distance in the friendship. I also acknowledge that it mush be incredibly difficult for S to have to go to work and see my husband and Stephanie all lovely dovey. It was likely easier to distance herself from me, than to switch jobs. That doesn't change the pain I feel though; the costs of this split can't be measured in my heart. I got to take almost nothing with me from our life; I had to start over. And it is so miserably unfair because I didn't want this. If he was the one who wanted it why didn't he have to start over, why didn't he lose his friends and social circle? I guess he did to some extent, but it was his choice, and sometimes I feel bitter over the unfairness of everything that I lost that wasn't my choice. I didn't choose this new life, and frankly, I don't really want it. I am trying to make lemonade out of lemons; pass the vodka, please.   

Almost daily I have bouts of missing my husband. Today the sensation of missing him came on with no noticeable trigger, and punched me in the gut, and then got ahold of my heart and started squeezing it. I missed him for hours before the emotion turned to anger towards her. To clarify, I don't miss the husband of the last year before the break-up, and not the sheep in wolves clothing I knew in the months after, but the man who I want to believe was a great husband that loved me for many years. I loved, and had a great marriage with, the man who wore a mask, or before he changed. The man who was a great friend, who treated me like a princess, who called me his princess. The man who brought me coffee in bed every morning that he could, and on the days he worked early, he set up the coffee maker so that it would be ready when I got downstairs. The man who brought me home a beautiful ring after a guys trip away. The man who faithfully called me every day that we were apart, so a day never went by that we didn't connect somehow. The man who bought me meet and greet passes to a favourite band. The man who surprised me on a birthday by flying my best friend out to Edmonton, and managed to keep that a secret; he knew I was homesick and what that friend meant to me. His actions displayed care and concern for my happiness and well being. We had a good life together, genuinely enjoyed each others company, I felt safe and cared for, we did a lot of great activities, and we made a lot of great memories. Now that football season is back, every time I am aware that the Seahawks are playing at home, there is a moment of sadness because I am not at that game with my husband as we had done the three years prior. It is the loss of a social activity, something we bonded over, something we talked about with each other or others, an activity that we made plans around. It was stable, dependable, grounding and we counted on it as part of our life. And now it is gone, likely forever. So I avoid watching the games, or following the teams progress. I hope that by letting that tiny piece of my life go, it is a step towards letting the entire life go. I know he kept the tickets this year having already paid for them at the time of the break-up, and he did the right thing by giving me my half, which I sold or traded away. I also know that leaves him five home games that he will go to, without me for the first time. I am aware that I am not there, that things have changed, something has been lost, and I wonder if he is as acutely aware as I am? Does he go to the game and look at the seat beside him, which someone has filled, and wonder where I am and what I am doing? Do any of the people we sit around ask him where I am? 

Since June 4, 2013, my day to day life is unrecognizable to me; very little seems to have crossed over from that life to this. People mostly, and very few at that. It feels foreign even with some of the same players. I guess that is because I have changed, and until I am comfortable in my own skin again, my life will feel awkward, like a really poorly fitted pair of shoes that you borrowed from a friend and that hurt your feet within minutes. Those shoes really aren't worth the discomfort no matter how pretty they might look or how perfectly they might accent a great outfit, are they? I have a lovely apartment with beautiful objects in it that at times I desperately want to escape because it is not home; it is the echo of a home I lived in once. I go about my day, and then wonder at night what I did with my time. Lately I have been identifying with drug addicts; I think I finally understand some of what might drive someone to use heroin. I have moments when I am so physically and mentally distressed within my own self that I would give almost anything for a break from the feeling. It is a hard sensation to describe. I feel restless, out of sorts, emotional for no reason, itching for something that I can't put my finger on. I liken it to withdrawal from nicotine when I have quit smoking in the past, but this is far more pervasive. I can't seem to just distract myself from this sensation or walk it off as I can when I want to smoke. The unease is deep within. My closest friend says that when I am fully engaged and in love with my life the feelings will pass. My psychologist says that when I have found my passion and completely changed my routine, I will start letting go of the past and move on. So I am not there yet, but I am on my way. 

This post was very hard for me to write, despite me thinking on the topic for weeks. This post didn't flow, the commonalities were not obvious, or came out jagged, and writing this has upset me more than any other post I have written. It is also the first post I wrote and then sat on for days, not sure if I liked it or not. I even called in reinforcements because I doubted myself and this post so much. I wonder why? Perhaps at this time I am only really ready to document facts, tell a story almost from the third person. There were a lot of feelings in this blog, and I might not be ready to process all of the shades of my emotions just yet. Or, maybe, putting my thoughts into black and white that the losses are real, and acknowledging to the world that the marriage is over, is still too uncomfortable.  

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Friends and Tetherball

My friends saved my life, over and over again. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but I believe that to be the truth from my perspective. I could not have gotten through these last five months without my friends. Whether it was the down and dirty work of having horrible information they felt they needed to share, to sitting with me after the news had been broken, offering me a place to stay, coming home with me the day he moved out, driving me to appointments when I was in no shape to drive, sending me messages of support from distant provinces, going for walks with me, distracting me, letting me text my messages of anger or love to my husband to them instead, at any time of the day or night, to dissecting and interpreting his emails to me, or conversations with me, there has been a significant outpouring of support and love from friends close and far, spiritually and physically. Even people I barely know, that have heard the story from a friend, have offered words of wisdom or support. And now, through this blog, I have garnered additional support. And I cannot even imagine how I would have coped in the absence of that support. So, in honour of the many who have positively touched my life during this difficult time, I want to pay my respects for their time, efforts and support. 

Once or twice in my past someone has asked my opinion on whether or not they should share the tragic information they have, with the spouse or potential spouse of someone they know that has cheated. I have always said yes, you do not withhold such significant information from someone. And I know it can ruin friendships, but if you truly care for someone, you want them to have the opportunity for truth. And now, having been the recipient of such information from a friend, I stand by that statement 110 percent. I am so grateful that A shared the piece of information she had with R and S. They struggled overnight with what to do with that information, but thankfully, they are honourable souls. They were not trying to hurt anyone, or cause anymore problems, they simply cared enough about me that they wanted me to know the whole story, or have a complete picture, if my husband wasn't going to tell me. It was very brave of those three women, and I know it was difficult. I can't imagine how hard it was for R to actually be the messenger. I am aware there was fallout for all three women at the workplace, given the almost incestuous dynamics of the friendships and workplace that was involved in my situation. In fact, I had a fight with my husband over the disclosure. His mind was so twisted with what he was doing, that he was angry and felt betrayed by A whom he had been very close to in years prior. I challenged his mindset with "if you hadn't cheated there would be nothing for A to have disclosed". And really, if his drunk girlfriend hadn't been so disrespectfully running her mouth at a party full of his coworkers, would anyone have known? To this day I still might not have the truth. The damage was already done though, and my husband weaved his faulty thinking into his version of the story and shared that with at least one other coworker. So cheers and love and gratitude to A for being so brave and realizing that she had done nothing wrong and could hold her head high at work.

And R and S are owed a significant debt of gratitude from me. It was they who came and sat with me that hot afternoon. It was they who drove me to my psychologists that day, and waited patiently throughout the session. They drove me home afterwards, and that one day they probably spent eight hours of their life managing mine. They had left work, left their home, to come to mine at the drop of a hat, or text message, and breathed for me that day. These two women would continue to be one of my greatest sources of support for weeks to come. Daily, sometimes hourly, I would write them or text them updates on the latest hurtful thing said or done. I felt protected by them. Here is one message I got from S: "I wish I could wave a magic wand and this shit would be over and you could move on. But I can't and the best I can do is love you and as you know you always have a room here to come to. Sending hugs your way." And one of the most remarkable aspects of the support I got from R and S is that they were relatively new friends in my world. R and I had met many years prior at school, but had only recently reconnected now that I lived in the same geographical area as her and was interested in going to yoga with her. And S and I had only met the summer prior, and were just getting to the point of being good friends; mostly we had socialized as couples and were just getting comfortable with each other. They were a part of my "new life," whereas the other supports I was accessing were my "old life".

I had significantly withdrawn from my old life in the year preceding the break-up. We had moved over an hours drive away from our community, I was no longer working due to a nervous breakdown of sorts, our adult son was no longer living with us, and due to this combination of significant lifestyle changes, I was passively letting go of my older friendships. I invested little in maintaining my existing friendships in the year leading up to the disclosure, mostly because I had so very little to offer anyone given the depression and anxiety I had and continued to experience. Which made me all the more grateful and wondrous at the way these people rallied around and supported me when I selfishly reached out to them. In that first week there were about five or six people I told, and they got all the same messages. I resorted to sending group texts or messages on Facebook because I couldn't stand to rewrite the same story over and over. The next week, I told three more close friends what was happening. The beauty of the shotgun approach I used was that at almost any given point, at least one of my supports was available. My selfishness continued for a long time. I had nothing to give anyone; all I could do was take, and I did. I leached and sucked every comfort I could from my support network, turning from one friend to another, afraid to burn someone out and lose them. About two or three months in, I started to realize and acknowledge how self-centred I was being in terms of caring for my friends in return, but it was only an intellectual acknowledgement. It really was only about month four post break-up that I started to offer support or caring, or even basic interest in their lives, in return. I am so grateful that for the most part, these friends were true and good friends; they understood or forgave my selfishness. And I am grateful to myself that I did not hide from my friends, no matter how I felt about myself or the situation, which was shamed, afraid of rejection, ugly, stupid, and a lot of negative qualities that don't necessarily bode well for connection with another human being.

Not everyone did, or could, support me though. And this is the ugly side of a messy break-up that needs to have a light shone on it. The book, After the Affair, does speak to the sad reality that not everyone you love, and expect love in return from, will be able to listen to you during this time. Perhaps your friend is struggling within his/her own marriage and you are not aware of this. The discomfort your situation awakens in them is too much to handle, and they have little they can offer you in the way of comfort as they would much rather avoid you and the pain you represent. Or, as was the case with my husbands best friend, who I believed to be my best male friend, he did not want to be put in the middle of two people he "cared about". Or at least that was the way he put it. He said he did not want to know the details, and expressed some of his personal discomfort with the situation when he said we were the first couple he knew that was divorcing. The end of that friendship was swift, over in a few messages. And I don't know that his friendship with my husband has fared much better. Initially, I am aware that he did not answer my husbands phone calls, and when they took a trip together a few months after the break-up, my husband told me later that every time he tried to talk to E about his feelings or the situation, E changed the topic. He simply was not going to listen to what had happened, and that was that. You might read that and say E was never a good friend, or a true friend, he is shallow, and you might be right, but it doesn't change the fact that you feel the loss of someone who has been in your life as a travelling companion or drinking buddy for ten years. I also felt the loss, although far less acutely, of the many coworkers that were my acquaintances, that were probably incredibly uncomfortable with the situation given they had to work with my husband side by side for many hours of the day. My entire social circle was disrupted by the break-up.

And the other troublesome situation I faced was with a friend who I term the quick healer. The friend who espouses trite cliches such as, "This is your time to focus on you". What the hell makes people think I needed time for myself, or that I wanted to focus on my spiritual growth or lose weight? I know she meant well, and she is still my friend, but for whatever reason, about a month after the break up, if she called and I was crying, or just feeling down and tired, she would ask "what's wrong"? I was stumped and horrified that I had to explain myself, over and over again, that I was still upset about the situation, that I was still grieving. I tried to focus on the positives, she was calling regularly and obviously cared for me. She and I went to Vegas about seven weeks after the disclosure on a trip that had been planned months prior. At this point my husband had moved out and communication was sporadic. However, during my time away, he had promised to write me a letter, and we were planning to spend some time together talking when I got home from the trip. A couple of days into the trip I got a short text message from him, simply outlining a significant career decision he had made and put into motion. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I tried so hard to keep the tears in check given I was in public, but the odd one snuck out. I didn't know how to respond to my husband, so I said just wrote, "congratulations, I am not sure what else to say." When I joined my girlfriend a few minutes later and told her about the text and what he had done, she asked me why I was upset? She reminded me that we were separated and heading to a divorce. I told her that I didn't want to be separated or divorced, and that him making such a major life decision without consulting with me was painful to take; it was hurtful to acknowledge that my input was no longer required in his life since I wasn't going to be a part of that life years down the road when the plan came into fruition. She did not seem to understand how personally I took my husbands action of singlesness, and for the next couple of months, while I was fragile and hurting, I avoided her a bit, minimizing the way I felt when I talked to her: like I was over-reacting to everything; like I was silly to still be upset over the breakdown of my marriage, the cheating, and the fact that my husband loved somebody else.

What the universe takes, it gives back. I have made two new good friends in the last five months. Women who are wise, kind and supportive, women that I can support too, and feel good about that. Women I simply enjoy spending time with. And the sad reality is, knowing where I was physically and emotionally, and how I was travelling my path, I likely would not have become such good friends with them had it not been for the separation. I wouldn't have seen the need per say. My husband had been my best friend for many years, and I was content with the other friends I was making, and what our social circle was providing for me. I have also been blessed to reconnect with a very old friend, and potentially make a new friend with his wife. And through them, I went on a cruise, and made another new casual friend. But most importantly, during this trying time, I have significantly reinserted myself back into the life of a friend who has been around so long, she isn't even really a friend anymore; she is family. And like so many family relationships, I took her for granted that she would always be there, whether I invested regularly or not. I have much gratitude that she took me back into her life with open arms and words of comfort. The ripples of how the ending of my marriage has effected my friendships, both positively and negatively, have been on full display during the past five months.

And what does any of this have to do with Tether ball? Nothing, but I promised my closest girlfriend that I would weave her sage tether ball visualization into what I wrote next. So bear with me on this train of thought as I create an analogy, good or bad, out of nothing. One of my supports throughout this challenging time has been the volunteer coordinator for the non-profit organization I volunteer with. She is a retired reverend and counsellor who has met with me on several occasions to see how I am faring. And she gave me a lovely compliment at one point: the fact that I have such wonderfully supportive friends meant that I myself had been a good friend in the past. I am so grateful that at some point I have made enough deposits that at this time I can withdraw extensively from my friendship account without going into bankruptcy. Now for tether ball: last night my girlfriend told me she wants me to visualize that I am the pole in a tether ball game. The ball is at the end of the chain, and can represent whatever I want it to be at that moment: friends, money, love, happiness, career, my husband, family, travel etc. It spins quickly around me, seeming to be out of reach, but that chain is attached to the pole. And eventually, when I am ready, the chain will start to wrap itself around me, the pole, and the ball will come within reach, and I will be able to grab it. I now know without question that in terms of that ball, my friends have always been within grasp, whether I realized it or not. I wish all my friends, and you the reader, love and light. Namaste.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Will I ever have sex again?

Go ahead and laugh at me, roll your eyes, snort, you wouldn't be the first person. The few I have shared this fear with have inevitably assured me, in a semi patronizing way, with only the best of intentions I am sure, that I will. Are they blowing sunshine up my ass again, or do they believe that with conviction? Well, I don't. And I am not just talking about sex. I have zero interest in the mechanics of the act, I am actually talking about everything that falls between the place I am, isolated, unattractive and uninterested, to the final act. Meeting someone, getting to know them a bit, a first date, a second date, attraction, chemistry, trust, intimacy, being naked and vulnerable yet feeling safe. Those things scare the ever loving bejesus out of me right now. And I don't just mean trusting the other person. I have trust issues with myself right now. I have made some very poor choices in mates, and I have made some very poor decisions in my relationships with those men. I don't trust myself to make good decisions anymore when it comes to love, sex, or relationships. How does a person get passed that, without casting all the blame onto the other person? If I am to look at my relationship with my husband honestly in an attempt to learn from it, then I need to take responsibility for what I did, or did not, bring to the table in that relationship. And I have not yet read anything to suggest that the non-affair person is ever completely innocent. I don't get off scot free in what happened, and I don't know how to rebuild trust with myself. It seems from what I have read or heard, trust is built through the actions of being trustworthy. I know I am trustworthy, and I do have my best intentions at heart, but let's be honest, my past is ugly. 

My history book is not adorned with romantic illustrations of me fighting off suitors with my sword and shield, so, if I look at my past, I believe I have sound reason to be concerned. Having spent my thirties with my husband, I am starting to get wrinkles around my eyes, grey hair, I now have to manually manipulate my breasts in my bra to get my nipples pointing the right direction and not willy-nilly all over the place, and I am a whole bunch more set in my ways. I married my first husband at 18, and had my son that same year. I left him about a week before our first anniversary when our son was only a few months old. A year later I fell hard for a friend. That dysfunctional disaster lasted, on and off, for about two years. The first relationship was a joke, disaster, and I guess just a typical teenage romantic whirlwind that never should have included marriage or a baby. And the second guy was a really decent guy, we were just terrible together. He was 22, in school, and just starting his career. He wasn't prepared for the ready made family and all of those responsibilities. What I have learned about myself over the years is that I am a runner. It has taken me almost forty years to learn that I am who I am, no matter where I go. And what I did after two heartbreaks within a few years of each other was move away from my home town for a few years and sit on the beach. I shut down and sat on those rocks watching the ocean. At the same time I was raising my son, and quite rightly he became my priority. I didn't date for four years. I was in a terrible place emotionally.

The next phase of my life did not bode well for my love life or general feelings of respect and appreciation for men. When my son was five I was hired by the Federal Government to become a Correctional Office, so I moved back to the general vicinity of my home town. Let me tell you, a 24 year old female is eaten alive emotionally in the federal penal system. If it wasn't the inmates I was guarding myself against, it was the lecherous guards. The next few years I learned some very painful and difficult lessons about men, lying, and protecting myself. I learned those lessons the hard way, by making terrible mistakes. I had an affair sporadically over two years with a married man. It ended when he confessed he was having another affair with another young female officer, and he needed to end all his affairs because his wife was pregnant. Yes, it has occurred to me more than once that my current situation is karma biting me in the ass. I am not proud of myself, and I learned from that mistake. And it didn't matter whether I was sleeping with someone or not, the gossip in an institution is horrific. I was accused of sleeping with inmates, supervisors, and if I wasn't a common whore, I was a dyke because I wouldn't put out. I felt like I couldn't win if I tried, so I stopped trying. I hardened so much over the nine years I was a guard, I was unrecognizable to myself at the end. And now, 17 years after I started that career, I have finally quit, and I am getting back to my roots, finding my authentic self.

Near the end of my "first stint" as a guard, I did have a normal, albeit short-lived relationship. He was a good guy, although again, drama and fighting which I loathe given my upbringing. Confrontation makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and despite a lot of counselling over my life, and being able to use certain communication skills in relationships, I still quickly deteriorate down to fearing abandonment during a fight. We dated for a few months before I moved away to another province to go to school. Once I was gone, and it was clear I wasn't going to be coming back, that relationship ended. No fault to either side as far as I am concerned, but it still hurt. After two days of crying, one of my instructors took me aside and told me I had to find a way to get through the course. It was an incredibly intellectually challenging and demanding course with a brutal work load. I couldn't afford to spend much more time feeling sorry for my love life or missing this guy. Three days after the break-up, on a Friday night, I went down to the bar on campus looking for a distraction. I saw my husband sitting with his friends at a table; I vaguely knew a few of them because we smoked together. Smokers bond with each other over lost lighters, being social pariah, etc. I went over to his table and announced that I wanted to go to a movie, was anyone interested? My husband said he would go with me. It ended up being a big group, but my husband sat next to me during that movie, and we were inseparable thereafter. Well, at least for 12 years.

And that is it. I have been in love or had four "real" relationships averaged over four decades. I spent almost all of my twenties alone focussing on raising my son, lonely beyond all belief. I have never been one of those women who has to fight off men. I have one friend who has some aura that attracts men like flies to shit. She literally met her first serious boyfriend driving in traffic. He waved her over because he just had to talk to her. That doesn't happen to me.

Now lets look at the challenge of my current lifestyle. Isolated, back in my home town 22 years after I left, unemployed, and now single at an age when most of my peers are well fortified in both career and marriage, with young children. I think it will be quite a few years before my age group hits the inevitable wave of divorces, probably at least another five to ten. And then that group will need a couple of years to heal before they are ready for a relationship. I don't mean to sound bitter, but the statistics don't lie; the most recent estimate I saw predicts almost 50% of marriages will end in divorce. And the future I envision, world traveller and author, isn't exactly conducive to committed relationships, or even leaving my house much. Writing is a solitary activity. Unless of course I meet a kindred spirit since I have no intention of supporting a boy toy and taking him around the world with me on my dime. And I am completely out of practise! I said this to a male friend, and he laughed. I am not sure if he was just uncomfortable talking to me about my sexual future, or if that was again the patronizing snort of disgust I have heard before. I have no idea how to make small talk, flirt, or be coy. I did my best to flirt with my husband on occasion, but it's not really the same when you have a sure thing versus someone you have just met. I took a cruise recently with a big group of people, most of them unknown to me. They were a great group, and all married, save for one guy. We were the only two singles in the mix. I so wanted to be attracted to this guy. Before the cruise I decided I was going to get back on that bike, so I bought pretty matching panty and bra sets, condoms, and new clothes that made me feel as sexy as I could. Sadly, there was zero chemistry, on either side I am sure. I think I have made a new friend, but I did not get to practise any flirting skills. It is not a real challenge when I have no vested interest in the outcome. 

And then on the morning of day three of the cruise I saw him. He was tall and lanky, with a goatee, salt and pepper hair, wearing a beanie. He was a carbon copy of my husband, except my husband would never wear a beanie. I kept seeing him that day, but was confused about his sexuality because most of the time I saw him he was with another man the same age. Just my luck I figured, my first crush is on a gay man. I pointed him out to my male friend, who almost choked at my choice and thereafter called him Sasquatch. And when I disembarked four days later had I ridden my bike? No, I hadn't even kicked the tires. I hadn't even got close enough to the bike to know what colour it was. My determination to have a torrid affair on a holiday went to shit because I was too afraid to approach this man. I really wanted to, but I never saw him alone, and I didn't even catch his eye to smile at him. And it would seem he didn't notice me, which is the story of my life.

Prior to the cruise I had a short lived foray into the life of internet dating between months two and three post being dumped; Plenty of Fish to be exact. And what I learned from this experience is that no matter what I wrote in my biography (looking for friendship only), and no matter what the initial contact with a potential friend was like, it quickly deteriorated into a booty call. Every day on that site I blocked at least one man, if not several, due to the crass manner in which they introduced themselves. It felt like a million more disappointed me in their approach with opening lines like "hey baby, whatcha doing?" Is it too much for a girl to want a little substance in that first impression? I had a short-lived, ten day friendship with one guy and all we wrote about was our guinea pigs. That was right at my speed, but apparently, that bored him and he stopped contacting me or responding to my messages. Another guy, who I thought was cute and intelligent, took about ten days before he approached the topic of role playing, cosplay (costume play), and whether I was dominant or submissive (it never would have worked as we were both dominant personalites). He then disclosed that he was in a "loveless and sexless" marriage. This sent me over the edge and he got an epic rant from me. Oddly enough, that was the end of him. And the only other man who intrigued my libido killed my mind; trying to get him to type more than one sentence at a time was the opposite of herding cats; boring. The last guy wore me down with his attention, even though all the red flags were there that he did not understand or respect that all I wanted was a male friend to hang out with, someone to watch the game at a pub over a beer with. I gave him my phone number after two weeks and we texted for a week. Then I allowed phone calls for a week. At the end of the month, I was ready to meet him. And I never heard from him again after I said I was ready to meet him.

A few people told me after the fact that my choice of that particular dating website was the problem; apparently, that website is really only about the midnight phone call. Perhaps E-Harmony, or Match will be better in time. I do know several couples who are married, or living together and committed that have met on internet dating sites. And I am happy for them, but I think they are the exception rather than the norm. Oh well, I am not ready yet, it is just fantasy/concern at this point. I know I will be ready to ride a bike again one day, and I want to believe I have a chance of getting going and not falling off and skinning my knees. My psychologist wants me to take up golfing; says there I will meet men worthy of me and intelligent enough to challenge me. She told me today that when I get my power back I will have men willing to kill for me. I don't need anyone to go to that length, but a date and a kiss and a hug would go a long way for this lonely girl. Just being able to believe in the possibility would be good enough for now.