My life has always been an educational experience. I have come to see that we never arrive at a place of completion in life because life is like a fast river that is ever flowing towards us; it brings to us, in its flowing stream, the challenges and obstacles that are perfectly age appropriate for us in the moment. I remember as a young mother thnking that no sooner than I get my child to, say, age two, when suddenly they are three, and a whole new strategy, relevent and specific to that age, is needed. If felt like I was always having to learn new strategies to apply to the present moment, and having to let go, as irrelevant, the strategies of yesterday. I have found this to be true in all arenas of my life. Now in my sixties, I find myself again, treading water, trying to navigate new, and often turbulent waters, in an effort to bring myself up to speed on dealing with life as a senior citizen. Not just the aging part either, but similtaneously learning to make peace with decisions I made in my recent past that turned my life topsy-turvey in a completely upside down way.
I was 64, a time in life when one is “supposed” to be settled down, with the one we have settled down with, for the “last stretch” of life. There are rumors that this time of life is “supposed” to be easy, moving at a slower pace, where one enjoys the harvest of ones life, so to speak. Many of my friends are married and seem to be biding their time, waiting to fulfill their vow, of “til death do us part,” I, on the other hand, chose to leave my marriage of 23 years, because I would not/could not make peace with settling for less than I wanted in relationship.
We had an amicable toleration policy between us that we put in place in the very beginning, back when that somehow sounded like a good idea to me, perhaps because I didn't take it too seriously. But then I discovered that I wanted more. I found myself aching to feel reached for, to be desired, and yes, quite frankly, adored. Anyway I definitely wanted more than to just be tolerated. But that was not in the bargain we made and it only made things sticky between us whenever I brought the subject up, The longer I lived with our agreement the more intolerable toleration became for me – until finally I moved on.
I am not going to pretend that I have not many times considered the possibility that I made a “wrong turn” by leaving. It certainly seems it might well have been easier if I had stayed and made the best of it – after all it was not all THAT bad, but then again, I've never been one to settle for things. So I chose to go. Besides there is an inner knowing that whispers to me (when I am willing to listen) that “wrong turns” are sometimes the only way to bring us into right alignment.
But that does not mean I have not suffered from a lot of guilt and remorse for daring to violate the status quo of a marriage that, by many standards, was a good and stable one … And there were many who judged me for breaking our marriage vows. But in the end, I realized that my husband appeared as glad to see me go as I was to leave. Not that there was terrible animosity between us – as a matter of fact, we are friends still, comfortable in one another's presence; perhaps we are even better friends now than before – certainly there is much less struggle on my part to get something that was not there to be had, and that has made it easier to be with each other again.
Since leaving the marriage, I have realized that the judgment I felt from others was really simply reflecting the voice of accusation that was living in my own head. My leaving has had ramifications on many levels. Blaming myself for leaving a marriage that wasn't overtly abusive, that didn't threaten my safety, or cause me to suffer, left me feeling undeserving of a better life – and so the things I left the marriage to open the way for, became the very things I would not allow myself to have. I believed on some deep archaic level that I didn't deserve to be happy, so I punished myself with negativity and poor choices that left me with little to show for my years of hard work as I moved into retirement.
A sense of self-rejection such as I had never before experienced left me feeling lost and isolated. Even my business suffered to the point that I found myself unable to supply the niceties I had grown used to in my accustomed lifestyle. I had to make hard choices, and simplify my life in ways I had not had to experience since I was in my twenties. My ego took a hard knock, and I began to see myself through different eyes. But slowly, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I came to see how necessary all of this was for me. It has been a long slow process of shedding grandiose ideas of myself, and of who I thought I was in the world. Moving to a city where no one knew me, was unsettling and it opened me to humility, often through the doorway of humiliation. Insisting on living according to the principles I teach meant forcing myself to see all of this as somehow good and necessary for me, or else resort to seeing myself as a victim on the victim triangle. So again and again I reminded myself that my life is a necessary initiation; that it was meant to be FOR me … Slowly I discovered things about myself that I would never have known if I had not ventured out of the safe, but stifling cocoon of stagnacy that my former life had become.
In spite of the much suffered regret, I can say today, now 2+ years since leaving my marriage, that I am grateful for the journey of self-revelation that this whole process has taken me through. No, it has not been easy, but I remind myself many times that being easy does not automatically mean better; it often takes contrast in life to help us to better recognize what is most important to us. Life challenges either grow us by showing us who we really are, or they flatten us. I have never been one who is willing to be flattened by life. From early on in life, my priority has been self-discovery at any price, and personal expansion and personal freedom has taken precedence over security and safety,
I continue to learn … exponentially it seems. I am learning how to find happiness in the simplest things; a sunny day, the breeze in my hair, a curious duck on the pond, my kitten curled up in my arms, or a bike ride with a friend – life is SO rich even when my pockets are empty. And I have found that my work is again returning to full thrive in the midst of it all. My personal journey has provided me with more compassion, perhaps I am even more authentic today as I sit with those, who like me, are simply in the midst of their own intense life initiation. I have learned what it is to struggle and question, and to go down in the trenches, and I often speak to myself through you.
I am learning through the challenges of these past two years how to move beyond self-toleration, and that is a marvelous thing. I have accepted the challenge of forgiving myself, realizing there is really nothing to forgive me for , unless it is somehow a crime to seek ones hearts desire. This growing sense of self-accpetnace for choices I made in the past allows me to finally move beyond that past to a fresher perspective of what is today … and I am getting better all the time at shifting my thoughts away from the old negative spin, and better able to focus on the gifts in the grit. I am finding the blessings in my life lessons, even the hard ones, and I find that regret vists me less and less often.
Recently I had a dream that seemed to sum up my recent journey:
I was trying to escape from negative spirits (my judgments, and fears) who were chasing me and my baby (representing my new life). There was a school building (representing the learning process of my life journey) between me and the parking lot where my get-away car (vehicle for moving on with my (baby) new life) was parked. I had a choice to make: I could take the long way around the building but I knew that I would have to fight off the negative spirits (painful beliefs I carry) to get to my car and I wasn't willing to go the distance it would take (to stay in my marriage perhaps?) So I decided to take the shorter route through the school building – even knowing that I would have to face the ghosts from my past which I could see roaming past the windows and through the halls inside the school. Standing in the door and holding it open for me was a headless friend, (perhaps he, like me, had “lost his head” by opting to take the short cut thrugh the doubts and fears intensified by my past.) Even though I was afraid of dealing with him and my past, I knew that choosing to struggle through the school (my initiation) was going to be the shortest, most direct route to moving on with my new life (baby). Perhaps I chose, by cutting through the school building, to face my fears, my doubts, and my unresolved judgments from past choices to get to the other side.
This dream brought me relief somehow, perhaps because it reinforced the idea that my choice to leave the marriage was my way of forcing myself to deal with the ghosts of my past. It suggested that my journey through the past two years has been an initiation, rather than a mistake; that it has been purposeful in opening me to self-forgivness and a necessary process for releasing my past.
I may have more facing of my past yet still to be done. I am ok with my journey being what it is today. But what I know right now is this: Everything we experience has purpose and it is therefore FOR us. And knowing that gives me great hope for the new life that lies ahead – for me – and for you.
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