A Toast…To ME…And The “Quest”

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So, here I am 59 years old and back in school…who would have thought! Certainly not I, that is for damn sure. As a stay-at-home mom with two special needs kids; B and I let my professional license lapse as we never thought I would go back to my career. Then during his affair he kept trying to push me to go back to work because a divorce would be easier if there was no spousal support to pay and probably because he was supporting/compensating “affair woman” too. Let’s face it,  all he had done became too much for him to handle, and as he saw it, my working would reduce his burden in so many ways. Of course, I didn’t go get a job because with the boys autism issues, school interventions and all the doctor visits there was just no way to do so… but still he kept trying to push me back into the workforce even though financially it made no sense… at least until you calculated in the cost of the expensive mistress…at which point it made perfect sense.

Needless to say, this “about face” on B’s part had left me feeling vulnerable, scared and rather pissed in the face of a “maybe” divorce. No career, no livelihood … no nothing to depend on except a husband with whom we had made joint decisions for the “good” our family… decisions that he now wanted to abandon or amend. Yep, I could count on him looking out for his “affair needs” but not mine and at my age I found it to be a very nerve wracking thing to have staring me in the face. It was definitely a wrinkle I had not counted on and one which Botox could not cure.

Now that things are better between us I decided that I need to secure “my or our” future… whatever that turns out to be… and so last week I started online schooling. This program will allow me to work from home in the medical field and earn $50,000+ per year. While it is not what I am used to living on it will allow me to take care of my family should the need arise. It will allow me to help pay for college for our kids, would allow B to retire early if that is what WE choose and it will allow me to provide a decent living for myself should I find myself alone.

Starting to plan on a new career is a scary thing and goes against what the lawyers have told me. But I am feeling that I need to step out and take a risk for my own sake and safety. While I would like to believe that B and I are healing our marriage with a two steps forward one step back approach; I also know that the time has come for me to trust in myself again and to find a way to be able to be less fearful no matter what comes my way. If we stay together that would be great but if we don’t I am taking my first scary steps to my own financial independence and to relying on myself alone. And while I am still pissed that I have been put into this position in the first place, at this point in time I find I am grateful to have the opportunity to shape my own destiny even though I do not know what the future holds. This truly is my first step to letting go of fear and trusting in myself, my “maybe” marriage, and what is to come.

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So, here’s to me and the two A’s I have received on my first two tests. I’ve got this and I finally have my own back too. And with the holidays upon us I am proud to say I have given myself the greatest gift of all…leaving limbo by reclaiming my own strength. While I may have been betrayed by others, I will try never to betray myself again and instead will face the world standing in quiet confidence.

So starts a new journey and quest. This tough old broad is ready. Bring it on.

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No Longer Living In Fear

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I have had many of you write and ask what is going on in my life. Thank you for that.

I have not written about what has been going on with me and B because…I have been afraid…afraid that I look weak…that I appear small…worried that I appear to be less of a feminist than I once believed myself to be and didn’t want to be a bad example for my daughters. I have had my doubts…afraid that what I have done was not the right thing, the smart thing, or the best thing. Afraid that I am a poor role model. But now that I have gotten my bearings and some time has passed; I know how I feel about the choices I have made for myself and my family. For many women it would not be the right decision, and I get that…but for me, at this time in my life, my choices have been the right thing for me to do as I enter my sixties.

A RECAP

After separating and filing for divorce for four months, an unexpected job offer came B’s way which entailed moving to Texas. He walked the Pacific Coast Trail trying to decide what he wanted in life…his family or HER. Of course, I had no idea that was what he was doing. Therefore, I found it interesting, that when he returned from the great walk, he appeared to be a changed man. He sat me down, apologized over and over again, admitted his mistakes, came clean, and told me that he wanted to make me and our family the foremost thing in his life once more. After proclaiming all of this, he immediately called HER with me sitting beside him and he told her together that we were staying together as a couple while explaining her that the five year affair was over. Well, her stripes came out for him to see in full glory. This woman, who had told him numerous times that she wanted to see us together, began sending me conversations that they had had in which he was not overly kind in his assessment of me and our relationship. It was painful to say the least but also very eye opening for both me and B to read these texts and  it gave me some insight that I so desperately needed.

And so it was in the month of August when I literally found myself with the shoe on the other foot after all this time and I was the one choosing whether B and I would be together again. Being together is what I thought I wanted for the past year-and one-half,  yet, faced with this unexpected change of his heart, I found I was unsure what I really wanted for myself. Did I want to start a new journey on an entirely different path or did I want to try again with a man who broke me into little pieces but also knew where the glue went to help put them back in place? Would I be making a decision out of fear or would it be because whatever decision was truly the best for me?

Confession time: Soon after separating, I joined a dating service…not so much because I was ready to date (I knew I was not) but because I felt that it would help me find me again and what I wanted or did not want in my life. And after much discussion with my therapist, we found that for me, it was the right thing to do. Frankly, I was surprised at the number of men who found me funny, sexy, beautiful and more importantly just plain interesting. And it felt good to have my worth acknowledged even though we all know the person who had to acknowledge that worth was really only me. I also rapidly found that I knew after a few emails that certain qualities in a man no longer interested me. In truth, I only met one of these men in person but I have never laughed so much in my life. He helped me to view myself in a way that was more realistic with who I actually am and it felt lovely. No, he was not who I would want in my life on a permanent basis but he was a lovely and wise diversion and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to give that up for B.

So I debated and wrestled with myself. I worried and fretted. I witnessed the pain the upcoming divorce was having on my kids and one of my teens was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia which brought me to this truth: I knew I did not want to traverse that diagnosis alone.  So I went to my lawyer and tried to protect myself to the best of my ability…and we moved as a family.

Of course, moving has not released me of all the distrust and pain I have felt over the past five years, but then again, I knew that it would not when I made the decision to try and rebuild our relationship and our lives again. At times, it has been a deep and dark struggle but I also know that it would be an skirmish if I was with ANYBODY because betrayal is a difficult thing to overcome. I think the worst thing about being betrayed is that you stop trusting your own perceptions and have to re-learn how to trust yourself  again which takes guts, time, and determination.  In addition, I knew that when I made this choice that trust would not come easily…and it hasn’t because…. TRUST=consistency/time …. and I have not had enough of either to let go of the hyper-vigilance that the affair has instilled in me.  And yet…happiness and joy has arrived again. My ruminating about the affair has decreased. The trust still has to be earned but with each act of love, each moment that we carve our for our relationship, and each time we have a deep conversation, I little smidge of it arrives to take the place of doubt.

So we have been here for over two months and so far it has been pretty darn good.  We have done a lot of traveling to local sites as a family and B and I have had many date nights…some good and some not so good…but we are trying hard to listen to one another again. Yes, it is early and with the chaos of a move comes a time where real life and true feelings are suspended and now comes the hard part…day to day living without the excitement of a move impinging on our daily lives.  But for the most part, I am happy with the decision that I made and if I made the wrong one I guess I will have to live with the painful consequences. But if I made the right one…I see a better life together before us that will sustain us in our old age. Don’t get me wrong an affair is a horrible thing… but maybe… just maybe… it has been the catalyst for changes that needed to be made in order for our relationship to survive and flourish over the next 30+ years. We shall see… but in the meantime I am determined to become my true and best self, let go of the anger and disappointment and if B doesn’t like it, frankly, he doesn’t have to live with it. For I am no longer living in fear and never will again.

Radical Acceptance

I have been reading a book called Radical Acceptance-Embracing Your Life With The Heart of a Buddha by Tara Branch, Ph.D. It has amazed me.

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One of my issues over these last four years of heartbreak and betrayal has been resisting the experience I have had. I have wanted the situation to be something other than what it has been and have denied what was in front of me in order to give the benefit of the doubt or see B in the way he used to be but refused to view him for who he has become. I thought I was doing myself a favor trying to save my family the trauma of divorce when all I really did was just delay it.

And herein lies the problem. Resistance to what IS causes trouble for your body, heart and soul. It creates misery, health problems, and unnecessary suffering. It has made me physically ill. The last four years have probably taken ten years off my life and one reason centers around resisting what was in front of me instead of accepting what was. Given enough time I believed… I could change it…I could minimize it… and I could make B love me again…but of course, I couldn’t.

In her book, Branch advocates using guided meditation techniques and in this case something she calls exploring the POWER OF YES. During this exercise the author suggestions sitting in a quiet place, breathing deeply and closing your eyes. Then she asks you to bring to mind something in your life or a situation that produces strong reactions like sadness, anger or fear. She then asks you to access what it is about the situation that provokes the strongest feelings and be mindful of how that feeling feels in throughout your body…your chest or your stomach of any other place that you may feel tighten or get hard.

Then, and I quote from her book:

“In order to see firsthand what happens when you resist experience, begin experimenting with saying NO. As you connect with the pain you feel in the situation you have chosen, mentally direct a stream of no at the feelings….as you say no, notice what this resistance feels like in your body.” p87

So I followed her instructions  and immediately began to feel so stressed that I began to feel ill. My stomach clenched so hard that I felt nauseous. My head started pounding and my chest felt tight making the air flow to my lungs decrease. It was awful now that I was really paying attention to the reactions my feelings were provoking. How I had lived for all these years saying NO to my grief, NO to my anger and NO to my sadness? More importantly did I want to feel this NO for four more years, four more months, or even four more days? Obviously, the answer was NO.  Now that I was aware of and could really feel the impact that this denial or resistance to my emotions was having on my physical body I knew I could no longer live this way.

This now lead me to the second part of the authors meditation. After directing NO at your emotions she asks you to once again think about that painful situation and to remember the words, beliefs, and feelings that are associated with it. But this time stream the word YES. Say YES to the words, the thoughts and the beliefs that come forward.

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Upon doing this part of the mediation I immediately felt a shift… a lightness and lifting of the unpleasantness that I was feeling. My chest loosened, my nauseau disappeared and my mind became quiet… no longer racked in pain. And with this YES to the experience came an acceptance. It was not an acceptance that what B did to me was okay. It was an acceptance of this is what has happened. You can’t change it nor can you fight it and more importantly I didn’t need to rally against it anymore. As I allowed these non-judgmental YESES to come forth, I felt a release of some of the burdens, anger, anxiety and fears that I had been living with begin diminish as a gentle form of acceptance began to soothe those less than pleasant emotions. I found I could just BE and did not have to react both physically and mentally to all the emotions that I was feeling about the affair or my impending divorce. Finally, I felt a sense of peace.

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So this is how I start my day. Saying YES. Accepting what is. Finding understanding where I could not before and I feel good. My chronic pain has decreased and I find more joy. Sure I am still struggling but the struggle doesn’t defeat me. It has just become a small part of my life instead of the epic saga it once was. And for that I am thankful.

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Who Are You And What Do You Stand For?

I could write something profound and meaningful about the question of who are you and what do you stand for. Always an important question in my book but one I will leave for others to debate. Today, I want to ask you the questions in regards to art. Precisely, designing your own coat of arms.

Several weeks ago I wrote about how my therapist has been encouraging me to paint. I am not good at it but I am finding that it is getting those “after his affair/almost divorce” feelings exposed in a way that is finally helping me to examine them and let them go. Who knew?

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This week I decided to take on a new project. I am designing my own coat of arms. I was inspired to do so, believe it or not, because of Meghan Markel and her now husband, Prince Harry. Seems that when they married they needed to have a coat of arms designed for their household. A big task to say the least. It is said that Meghan took great pains to make sure that emblem represented who she is and where she came from. As such, California figured predominately. First, she incorporated the state’s flower, the California poppy. In addition, the blue background on the shield represents the Pacific Ocean and the yellow rays across it come from “The Sunshine State” logo.  She also acknowledged her own power of communication through the open beak of the song bird and the quill.

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In designing my own pennon, I have looked hard at myself. Who am I? What do I believe? What do I love? What represents my authentic self? And for the past week I have been designing my crest.  I am not ready to share yet but I will share with you some of the symbolism that I have incorporated.

  1. The first thing you would notice on my coat of arms is the Phoenix rising which signifies that I have arisen from the flames a winner having beaten life’s challenges and defeating the hard times. It is a concrete symbol of my rebirth as a person, female, wife and mother. Around the neck of the Phoenix is a heart with a number in the center which is meaningful to me.
  2. Instead of a traditional crest I have used an open book with symbols of what I believe contained within the pages. This works because I am an open book and share openly and freely. I also love to read and write.
  3. Within the pages of the book is the earth meaning I am a traveler and a person who sees all people as being in and on this planet together. There is also a musical note…self explanatory. The scale of justice sits high upon the crest because of my believe that we are the same and therefore the scales should be balanced for all equally. A pen representing my writing career also has its place. A symbol of Korea is also represented since the country has played such a major role in my life. And there is a very large ? showing that I am a seeker as well as a person who questions everything.

Needless to say, designing this coat of arms has been an interesting process. It has helped me clarify some things and made me look hard at what I value. Further, I have tried to approach this design as my 26th Grandfather must have approached his. Seven hundred years later his crest still stands embedded within the doorway outside of his castle reminding all that enter what his life stood for. I want my coat of arms to be the same… a testament to my great-grandchildren of just who I was and what I stood for.

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My 26th Great Grandfather’s Coat Of Arms At Craigmillar Castle