I am Not the Buddha

The following quote by poet Tyler Knott Gregson came up on my Facebook memories this week…

“To begin again, sometimes you have to take life down to the studs, knock down all the walls, and pull out the insulation that kept you from the world. You must get dirty and feel the ache in the muscles you used to pull the house down around you. You must stare wide eyed and grinning at the mess you have made, seeing through the rubble to the clean floor that will emerge when the work is through.

Now, now is the time to destroy the foundations of fear and apprehension, the walls of waiting and wishing; now is the time to begin again. Laugh at the piles of the past you stand in, knee deep and smiling.”

I so loved it at the time I posted it. Reading it again brought me back to that moment in time. It was two and a half years after I had split with my husband and moved out of our home. I had – we had – torn it all down. It was not working. We were not happy, though we had tried and tried. I had already gone through the grieving, much of it while we were still together. I was, at that point in time, ready “to laugh at the piles of the past in which I stood, knee deep and smiling.”

The date was February 2016.

About a month later, my ex-husband (and the father of my two girls) came out as transgender. Nine months after that, my beloved father died suddenly. Nine months after that, my mother was diagnosed with BRCA and stage 3 cancer.

Let me be clear – I am not comparing my ex being trans with death nor with cancer, but I list it here because…well because when the person with whom you were in a relationship for twelve years reveals this kind of secret – when you realize you didn’t know, percieve, understand…have an inkling of something so fundamental about your spouse as his gender – it has the power to shake one’s foundation. As is, for my girls and me, navigating the outward changes of our loved one. When you think about it – what is more fundamentally true to a child, than that Dad is a man? (Or to a woman, that an ex-Husband is a man, for that matter?) Love is love…and what is revealed within that can still be a wall rattler; a soul shaker.

Once again I found myself standing in the rubble that was once my life. However, THIS time – I hadn’t asked for it. I had not held the sledgehammer in my own two hands and swung wildly, hungry to tear it all down. I had simply woken up one day to find a big hole in the roof, and then I watched helplessly as the foundation cracked, and the walls buckled, and everything seemed to crumble all around me.

The question I find myself asking is – Is it possible to approach the rubble we’ve willfully created in the same way that we greet the rubble we did not? The rubble we never asked for? The rubble we never saw coming?

The Buddhist answer would be yes – simply greet what is. Embrace it.
I can assure you, I am not the Buddha.

As I have stood in the piles of the past, I have grieved. Heavily. I have cut myself on the jagged pieces of the past as I tried to fix what was there. I have tripped and fallen as I tried to hold up the pieces that were still hanging on by a few desperate nails. When you never wanted the destruction, it is hard to accept the fact that nothing can be put back exactly as it was, in its imperfect perfection.

Whether the rubble was intended or not, Gregson was right about looking THROUGH it all, “to the clean floor that will emerge.”

Because it will. It is there, beneath it all. It is always there. Whether we brought on the demolition ourselves, or we helplessly watched as everything fell apart. Either way, we must rebuild.

We have no choice, as we stand there in the rubble, but to get to work cleaning up the mess and to begin again…and again, and again.

Such is life – learning to push up our sleeves and do the work…

The work we asked for, and the work we didn’t.

I still may not be able to greet both with a smile – to greet them equally with gratitude as bits of the house that once sheltered me cling to my hair and dust my eyelashes – but I do understand that it’s the building and rebuilding of my house that will teach me the most about myself.

Above all I must remind myself that I am not the house.
Its destruction never has to equal mine.

Day 229/365 A Virtual Family

There we were, a virtual family…

Sunday night the girls had an impromptu change in their schedule by spending the night at their dad’s on a school night. When it came time for bed, Ruby was missing me. Thanks to FaceTime I accompanied her into the bathroom to brush her teeth, and chatted with her while she changed into her pjs. I stayed “with” her as she got under the covers. As we were talking, her dad came into her room and laid down next to her, partially filling the screen.

He and I “tucked her in” together – they in the bed, and me on the screen. There we were, a “virtual” family. After he and I tucked her in, we moved on to Beau’s room and did the same.

A tender scene, to be sure.

It triggered some sadness for me (I think that’s why I blogged about divorce yesterday). Sadness, but also warmth. I am grateful that we can comfortably share that kind of intimate moment together, with our children…for our children.

I think there will always be a bittersweet feeling during the moments when we are enveloped together in our love for our children. No one else will ever feel what we feel for them…the absolute awe and gratitude for their very existence.

There is often an exchanged glance between us in moments like these, and I know we are both thinking the same thing –

I’m sorry, I wish things were different. 

At this point, the regret isn’t about our relationship, it is about our family. We wish things were different for them.  The truth is, though, that our children have moved on. They have embraced the new normal.

What seems to matter most to them is that he and I authentically care about each other. When they see us interact and communicate with each other in a warm and respectful way, they are happy. Of course they don’t articulate this, but it is plain to see. The children notice everything…any modicrum of disharmony is felt in their bones.

Our mere tremors can rock their very foundation.

Sometimes it can’t be helped – the disharmony. We’ve been through so much, he and I. Some of it has been too painful to hide, despite our best efforts.

Though the initial separation was amicable, the actual process of divorce was really hard on us. We started with a mediator but ultimately we had to rely on lawyers to help us. This caused us both to load on the armor (never a good thing). We learned the hard way how important it is to keep communicating with each other and to avoid allowing other people to speak for us, whenever possible. Too much can be lost in translation, especially when we already had our guard up.

Last fall we hit an all time low because of some things I am not going to get into here. No, it didn’t have anything to do with his revelation that he is transgender. That was a walk in the park compared to what transpired a few months later. I didn’t know how we would ever recover, but we did.

We did, because…

We keep showing up, over and over again. We show up to do the hard work even when we are furious, depleted or entirely discouraged. We show up even when we need professional help to do so.

After all, we are the most important people in the world to our children, and our children are the most important people in the world to us.

That is the bright, unwavering truth that has led us through the darkest of times.

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Photo by Kim Fuller.

 

 

 

Day 228/365 It May Be What You Want, but It Was Never What You Wanted

The thing about divorce is that even when it is absolutely what a couple wants, it was never what they wanted.

A few months after my separation I wrote a letter about how I was feeling, and I addressed how my loved ones (who were struggling to know how to help me) could help. It was a private letter initially, but about a year or so after I wrote it, I shared it online in support of a friend going through a divorce.

Subsequently, a friend of mine shared it with his friend who had recently lost her husband. Her husband was a beloved man who had died suddenly, much like my own father. He shared my letter because he could see the parallels between how I had been feeling and how she had been feeling. He could sense that what I was asking for from my friends and family was perhaps also what she needed from hers.

Divorce is, in a way, a death. The more I write this blog about death and loss, the more this rings true.

Divorce is the death of the life you thought you’d have with the person whom you thought you’d have it.  You may miss the physical presence of that person in your life, in your home.

Even if the newfound space between you brings relief, you grieve the loss of the version of them with whom you stood on the altar. You mourn the person to whom you made a promise that you can no longer keep.

Just as with the loss of a loved one…

We grieve.

We struggle to find our footing in a new reality.

We rebuild.

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Here’s the letter I wrote back in 2014. I think you will find that whether you are reading it through the lens of death or of divorce, it will resonate.

Loss is loss.

Dear Ones,

Last night, I really fell apart.  Retching, uncontrollable sobbing, to where I was afraid I might wake the girls.  But I had to let it come.  In a way, it was a welcomed release, a surrender to some deep pain.  I feel alone.  I know I am not alone in the sense that I have so many people who love me, who want to support me.  But at the same time, I AM alone. It is me, and me alone, who needs to rebuild her life. This divorce, this death of a life I thought I would have, is a grieving process that I need to navigate in my own way.  And I do feel the weight.  I feel the enormous weight of making this situation, this death, okay for my girls.  They are grieving too.  I have to walk the line of being human, somehow honoring my feelings, while projecting – no, BEING solid.  Reliable.  OKAY.  It is hard, exhausting work.

I know that you love me.  I know you are trying to support me, and I am sure it is painful for you because you’re not sure how.  As I laid in bed I thought about this – What does it mean to support me? What does that look like to me?  Who or what has been the most helpful to me in these past few months?  What gestures have meant the most?  Here is what came to me, and I thought I’d share:

Checking in, even when it seems like the effort is one sided.  I may not want to talk.  I often don’t.  But it has meant a lot to have people call, text, Facebook, email – just to say “I’m here.” without putting any pressure on me or placing any unnecessary meaning on whether I respond, when I respond, or the extent to which I respond.  I might not answer the phone, I might respond to the message with a simple (and admittedly unsatisfying) “okay” or “thank you,” but knowing you were thinking of me means so much.

Asking me to do something – getting me out of the house – but not being hurt if I say no.  Offering again, even when I said no the last time, and the time before that.  Not taking it personally.

Being okay with not knowing the details.  I am still processing a lot.  I have a lot of inner dialogues.  I don’t always want to talk about it.

Understanding that there may be people other than you that I choose to confide in, and not taking it personally.  Knowing that it isn’t that I trust them more or love them more, but perhaps their own personal experiences make them better able to relate to what I am going through.

Listening, without judgement or unsolicited advice, when it all pours out.

Understanding that I might be happy – joyful even – one day (hour, minute, second…) and be utterly paralyzed with grief and fear the next.  Rolling with it.

Letting me be selfish.  Not mean, but literally SELF-ish.  I know that divorce is not the hardest thing anyone has ever endured.  It may not be the hardest thing someone you know is enduring RIGHT NOW.  But for me, in this moment, life is HARD.  It is confusing.  It is at once excruciating, and full of hope and possibility, and frightening, and so very visceral. Give me a margin of error.  A wide one.  Let me fail to make time for people outside of my daily water treading.  Let me fail to return phone calls.  Let me forget things.  Let me get defensive.  Let me get sad, and angry and giddy.  Give me a pass.  Just for a little while.

I am surviving, one day at a time.

Love,

Me