The Year In Pictures

So another year is coming to an end. Frankly, it has been the worst year of my life. So much change and pain…The coming to light of my husband’s three year affair, the “almost” divorce, the loss of a job, a big move and how that impacts autistic kids, selling our house, the development of PTSD due to B’s affair, the big fire and evacuation…anyone of these are considered top stressors but they arrived on my doorstep all within the year of 2018… resulting in the death of one life and the re-birth of another.  Yet, there are now rays of light shining throughout my life because with truth instead of deception (B’s) comes the ability to re-build, allows for understanding and growth. Our six kids are happy and healthy as are our grandkids and really… you can’t ask for more than that!

So as crappy as this year has been, in ways, it has been one of great personal development for me and for that I am thankful. I am making a conscious effort not to induce further suffering…mine or contributing to others. With age comes…well, heck…I have no idea what comes…except wrinkles. Hard to believe that sometime within the next three years I will be 60. Where has the time gone?

Up until now, I have never shared a picture of myself as I have always felt the need to protect my family from the gritty-ness and pain of this blog. But with the filters available today, I decided to post one picture of myself because, well, it doesn’t look like me!

May everyone have a glorious 2019. May we each find peace, joy and love in our everyday lives as well as the time to contemplate whatever it is that needs to be “looked” at. And like a good egg, may we gently break open to get to the yolk of our lives! Amen!

After The Affair

I was talking with my therapist today. It was exhausting. Almost 60 years of life to look at…some of it not pretty but a lot of it brilliantly played and enjoyed.

After the three years of B’s affair and the “almost” demise of my marriage it has been difficult at times to believe that B has changed and that our life together is stronger too.  The doubts that plague me have swirled fast and furious especially in the first six months after the storm.  The calm surety I have been searching for has been more elusive and more difficult to trust when I see it. Sometimes it appears to me that my life is only an illusion and I am always checking to make sure what I see is real. That process is exhausting and life-robbing. It is not life affirming nor is it increasing my sense of stability.

As I come upon 11 months of “knowing” about the affair I do feel hope and real joy again. The anguish and pain are slowly diminishing. Parts of me have been re-born and parts re-shaped into a better part of my whole. I have grown, explored and examined parts of my life that I saved until “LATER.” Yet, conveniently, LATER never came… until the affair… when I was forced to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild myself and my marriage. And now, believe it or not, at times I am even thankful for B’s affair because it has allowed both of us to evolve and create something different within ourselves and within our relationship. We are rebuilding on something that resembles bedrock and our foundation is no longer sinking in quicksand.

Another tidbit. For years I have not dreamed. Not once. EVER. But in the last month I have had three vivid dreams about B and “the other woman.” All involved water. In the last one, right before I woke up, an image of a goddess came to me and she held her hand out and said, ” Stop looking, It will come to you if needed.” The imagine was vivid, profound and unlike anything I have ever expeirenced before.

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My therapist tells me this is a good thing. That my psyche is clearing things out and washing them away.

I have also been busy creating my therapist provoked artwork. A recent picture is of a bird’s nest filled with various objects along with the words: LEARN, REST and FAITH interwoven into it. She says these are important words for me to concentrate on.

“What is faith?” she asks.

ANSWER

“It is the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Can you see the wind? No? But you can see or hear the evidence of it in the sound of the wind chime or the rustling of the leaves. So REST in the hope that you have for your marriage and have FAITH in the evidence that you are seeing that things are changing for the better. Believe your goddess who is telling you to stop looking for trouble. and to believe that you can LEARN from your past, REST in the comfort of now, and have  FAITH in your future.

AND THEN SHE SAYS

“What if you get the stability you have been searching for your entire life? Will you see it and embrace it or will you run from it?”

GOOD QUESTION…AND FOR NOW…I DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER.

I would like to think that I have matured suffienctly to embrace all that has come and will come my way. Yet, at other times, I am just not sure. Sometimes I still want to just slide down the rabbit hole into another time and place.

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Yet, no matter what I choose I know that I am strong enough and wise enough to handle it because I have lived through the worst year of my life and not just survived but thrived!

 

Moving

 

So about a month and 1/2 ago I told B that I could not move with him or our children if he was still in love with HER. I told him I was tired of his ever-so-quiet pining for her and that I was done and leaving if that was the way it was going to be. I was tired of being silently compared and tired of

AND FOR HEAVEN SAKES NEVER SAY AGAIN THAT SHE WAS A GOOD WOMAN like he said when the affair was discovered. As I told him, “Good women don’t try to take another woman’s husband. Period. A good woman doesn’t try to remove a man from a family of children whose special needs are significant. A good woman doesn’t take $20,000 from a man who has a family.”

A good woman? Well, I could go on and on about what a good woman is and isn’t.

And so my words were like a slap. I told him that I thought he should go to Vietnam and see what in the hell he wanted. I also said I would most likely not be here when he returned.

“I don’t want to go.”

“I bought you a ticket. You leave on Friday.”

“I love you. Not her.”

Later that day, we took all this to the therapist who told B that this fantasy he has lived was only that…just a fantasy and that he was going to lose the things he loved most…me and his children if he continued to put HER on a pedestal and ignore the goodness that was right in front of him. I think it shook him to the core.

That evening, he cried and apologized for all the pain that he has caused. He admitted that he was being stubborn and wrong and that he loved me, not her, to which I said well you had better start showing it…and he has. It is like the blinders are off and he is seeing me for me and not who he needed to see me as so he could conduct his affair. For the past 6 weeks we have been so much closer and he acts like I am his one and only, is being honest in all those little ways that count, and is stepping up to the plate to really work on himself and our marriage.

Last week I decided that I would move with him. I am happy with this decision. I was deeply in love with this man for almost 30 years until his affair started three years ago and he changed into someone unrecognizable. I am not going into this blind. I know that there is still a lot of work to do. I know that moving away does not solve all your problems. I know that moving with children is a major stressor and that our lives might implode.  I am aware of all of this and yet, I have made the decision to go with him because I do still love him. Always have.  Always will. But most of all, I love myself again. And…I also know this:

“Fool me once, shame on YOU. Fool me twice shame on me.”

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B’s affair was horrid. Awful and he destroyed a part of myself that still needs for me to build it back up into something so strong it can never be leveled again…YES, ME…because I allowed myself to let go of who I was in an attempt to please him. My therapist believes I will never do that again. I believe so too.

So, while the affair and its aftermath has been the most painful thing I have ever experienced I am looking at it in this way…it was the first and only affair he has had in over 30 +years. He deserves another chance. As I do. As does our marriage and our children. And so we are giving that chance to each other and our family.

Will he contact her again or have another affair? I truly believe not because of all the devastation that his affair has left behind. He lost just about everything because of it including his health. And if it ever happens again I will take action immediately and leave. My therapist believes this to be true because I have found myself again and plan on never letting go of who I am in an attempt to please him. Another affair will not be tolerated. Period.

So…he goes. I am jumping off the deep end but this time I am holding his hand as I do it. If he let’s go, I will survive, but if we continue to keep our fingers intertwined I think we will have something to hold on to for the next 30 years.

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Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

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P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.

 

 

 

 

Blink Of An Eye

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This weekend was fabulous. Well, any weekend is fabulous if you are at the beach…how could it not be? We hiked the cliffs and just enjoyed spending time together. I worked in my garden, watched a few sunsets and sat on the back deck watching the marine layer slowing edge its way to shore. Our raven visited carrying a huge egg in his mouth which he promptly cracked on the shed and ate. Several furry antlered bucks grazed in the woods and I heard the wild turkeys in the hedgerow. Oh… and the seals were out with their babies zipping through the water…first here and then there as slippery as can be.  Really, it was lovely especially after last week with B which I will probably go into later this week.

We were heading home and for once the kids were not fighting in the car. The sun was setting with the pinks and oranges filling the sky. Then in the blink of an eye everything changed.

I received a text from my best friend. It read:

Mary is at the hospital. Her husband is in ICU. He was in an accident and cannot feel his legs.

Mary is my niece. Seems her sweet husband was out on a four wheeler which flipped. He has broken ribs, vertebrae and possibly paralysis. Surgery in the morning.

Now I am not a big prayer because I think God knows what is needed but if you are so inclined I am sure a few prayers would be appreciated for this young man and his young family.

In the blink of an eye it can all change. We all know this but when it comes home to roost it makes you remember just how precious life is and just how important it is to love and be loved.

And so I leave you with this quote that I read earlier this week. I cannot think of anything better.

“The purpose of life is to convert time into love.”-David Roberts, Puyallup, Washington

What shall you do with this second and what will you convert it into?

 

Trust

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T – Truthful

R- Reliable

U- Uphold

S- Steadfast

T- Take For Granted

 

This has been a week where I have been put in the position of feet to the flames in regards to trust.  I have been in a situation where I have had to CHOOSE to believe or not. A test for my soul, my heart, and my head.

You would think that trusting would be easy. After all, we enter this world as trusting human beings and if we are lucky we maintain that trust in ourselves and humanity at least until we get into school and we find out what “mean girls” are. But then, as we age, life begins to teach us that trust is not as easy or forthright as we once imagined it to be. It no longer is blind or innocent and often for many of us it becomes something that has to be earned rather than something that is freely given.

This week as I contemplated the issue of trust I decided I needed to understand just what that word meant to me. I discovered there were some essential ingredients that I feel must be evident if trust is to be maintained.  These are:

Truth- For me trusting means that your words and actions must be truthful. NO games, no secrecy, and no purposeful omissions. I want to know that what you say and do is based in truth.

Reliable- I must know that I can count on your words and actions to mean what you say they will mean and that those words will be acted upon and be done.

Uphold-In the old English sense of the word it means to maintain in good condition;to take care of.  It means that you will be constantly doing things to take care of our marriage. To me this fundamental if a relationship is to grow and thrive.

Steadfast- Unwavering in purpose, faith and attachment. Firmly fixed in place or position. You are not going anywhere.

Take for Granted- To accept without question and being able to believe what is said or done is true.

I suspect there is a whole lot more to trust than the things I have written and I know that trust is not just a one way street. Trust also involves making yourself vulnerable by believing in your partner when circumstances appear that it would be in your best interest to protect yourself. It means opening up your own heart, taking off the armor, and allowing possibilities to drift into your life when it makes you uncomfortable. It means looking for the best in the person or situation rather than the worst.

In theory, I believe that trusting with all your heart and soul is the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationships.  I would rather have my heart broken than to never have tried to trust.  But in practice, trust takes two, and you have to know that your partner is trustworthy in all realms of your relationship in order for it to survive.

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Slowing Down

I have been moving at a  pretty fast pace lately. Whether it be traveling from one side of the country to the other or in my interactions with those I love; warp seems to be the speed at which I move these days. So I was more than a little ticked when my therapist “suggested” that I take more time in all aspects of my life. In other words…

S L O W

I T

D O W N

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When I wrote B that recent letter I shared with you… I was ready to be done that day, move into a new home the next and be in court a couple of weeks later. That is the way I do things once I decide to do them. Final Decision=Changing My Life For Good.  Let’s cut through the crap and start a new chapter. But my therapist says that type of thinking is self sabotaging and creates more pain in the end. Incidentally, B’s therapist also feels this way.images-7

One example she has given me to highlight this type of thinking is that if you are driving 100 miles per hour you are going too fast to see the little important things along side of the roadway. Things that may influence how fast you continue to drive or if you need to stop or slow down. When you are going that fast nothing is crystal clear and everything becomes a blur. Decision making, instead of being thoughtfully planned out, becomes spur of the moment and as a result it creates pain and suffering. To quote her:

“You have to remember that not all suffering is the same. The suffering you may face from leaving before the time is right may be nothing compared to the years of regret you might have because you didn’t take the time to work through the things that needed to be addressed even if that does result in divorce later on. Usually going at a fast rate of speed only leads to serious pain and regret.”

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According to her, speed will destroy what it is I ultimately want to accomplish.

“If this marriage ends due to knee jerk reactions,” she says “then you will not learn to trust yourself or the decisions that you make. Doing that takes thoughtful planning and seeing each part of the decision-making process come to fruition. That’s when trust in yourself begins to build upon itself when you see things coming together because you took the time to do things right and get what you need in the final outcome.”

And so I am trying to slow down and put into place the things that I want and need for my future. Although I do not know what that future holds I want to be sure that when I get there it contains all the things I need to live this second half of my life on my terms and not to be left holding a speeding ticket because I took the laps too fast.

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One Of THOSE Posts

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This weekend our cousin died in an automobile accident. She was 29 years-old, newly married, and had a three year-old daughter. For her family it is a tragedy that defies understanding or words. For her husband and daughter it is incomprehensible loss in which parts of their lives will never be able to be restored. For the rest of us it has shaken us to the marrow of our being because we have lost such a wonderful woman which just reinforces how fleeting life can be. How random things are. How we really never know when our number is up and how scary that can be.

Sometimes I wonder that if you knew you had 24 hours to live whether it would be a good thing or a bad one?  Would it be wonderful to have the time to say your goodbyes, express your love, and to impart your wisdom? Would death be a tad scary if it all boiled down to 1440 minutes? Would being surrounded by loved ones make that fear disappear?

Obviously, V didn’t know she would die on Saturday. She woke up happy and carefree after having a date night with her husband. Life was looking good as she was going to pick up her daughter from her mother’s house.  And then, just like that, she rounded a curve and she was gone.

Did she leave the house planting a kiss on her husbands check? Does her husband wish he had if he didn’t? And how often have I left my house irritated instead of in a loving mood? What would my family’s last impression of me be the majority of the times that I have stepped outside of my front door? Would they have the good to remember or the bad? Would they feel guilty for the rest of their lives because our last words were not the words we would have said if we had known that they were the last words we would ever say to one another? It gives me pause to think about the ending of life in this way.

And so, yes, this is one of THOSE posts. A gentle reminder that we never really know when our time is up. A “go hug your kids” kind of post. Have sex with your spouse kind of post. A wake-up call to phone your mother. A take out the trash because you love your dad post. It is a post that calls attention to the fact that what we do today really does matter because it may be the last thing we are remembered by the people that mean the most to us.

Amen (so be it)

 

Love Is A Choice

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If there is something else of importance that I came away with from this weekend’s Marriage Encounter it is that LOVE IS A CHOICE.  It is a choice that you make again and again and again over the lifetime of your relationship. The choice to love begins when you wake up in the morning and think pleasant thoughts of your spouse while he lays there sleeping. It is present when you decide to take the time to really listen to what your partner is saying. And it renews itself when you chose to give your sweetie the benefit of the doubt and believing in the best instead of the worst.

I am not sure when B and I forgot this or if we ever viewed love in exactly this way. Letting resentments build up is not choosing to love. Foregoing intimacy is not choosing love. Escaping from each other by putting other things first is not choosing love and I know these things were happening in our relationship. No wonder our relationship became unsatisfying to both of us. Other things intruded and we did not recognize it nor stop it when we did. Making sure that our love for each other a priority just never got very high on the list.

I thought it might be difficult to make sure that B knew I was choosing love. But staying connected throughout the day via texting and dialoguing at night is helping us to see that putting our relationship first makes us feel good about the other. It makes us appreciate and celebrate what we have.

Sure, it has only been a few days and we have yet to be put to the test with schedules, poor behavior and a disagreement. But I have hope that as long as we both remember that LOVE IS A CHOICE and choose to honor the choice we have been blessed by; then loving each other as the unique individuals we each are will become as natural as a rose opening itself for all the world to appreciate and see.

 

Love Letters

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Recently someone contacted me (after finding my family tree on a genealogy site) saying that they had found a box of letters from 1912 from my 2nd Great Aunt (I’ll call her Mary) to her then boyfriend who later became her husband. She had three boys from an earlier very bad marriage and in stepped (I’ll call him Ned) to love and cherish her and the boys. Not many men would have had the heart or the courage to take it all on but he did and I know that Mary and her sons were blessed to have Ned in their lives for another 51 years.

There are about 40 letters in all and they are courtship letters. Mary and Ned were separated at the time by two long train rides from one another and they were trying to find a way that they could be together as a family but things were hard and there was not a lot of work where my Aunt lived, so Ned went to the “Big City”  to look for work. One of the bonuses of these letters is that my Grandfather is mentioned in them twice. He was about seven at the time. In one her letters to Ned, Mary says that my grandfather said to her son, “Do you think that man is going to marry your mom?” He replies “I reckon they might.”

Throughout all the letters there are pronouncements of practical love and a few glimpses of passionate love too. In one letter my Aunt talks about what might happen if they were to work together and says, “But if we do you have to promise to keep your hands off of me while at work!”

These letters are nice reminders of how early in relationships we do our best to impress, to praise, encourage and to believe in the possibilities that lie ahead. I think that is often missing as marriages mature and the letters have reminded me of just how important those kinds of gestures are in everyday life. Mary and Ned’s belief in their love and their future together is strong and its an overriding theme throughout their writings. It was important to them to believe and celebrate what they had and what they had found in each other. It’s some thing I want to rediscover in my relationship too.

Ever since B brought up the”maybe divorce” I have had difficulty celebrating what we have had, what we do have, and what we might have. Yet, as Mary and Ned have shown me celebrating a relationship and each other if important. It is a must do and it serves a much needed purpose to foster love and a sense of connection. So I have decided that if I want B and I to be a couple, I have to live like we are a couple and act as if we will be together forever. I have to believe in the possibilities that still exist for our marriage if this relationship is to survive. I must:

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