Monday, October 26, 2009

A year ago

 Buddy's knees, one year ago.

E and I just finished reading Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol.  In the book, professor Robert Langdon has an eidetic memory.  "Eidetic" was a word unfamiliar to us both.  It sparked a conversation that involved some  iPhone vocabulary research.  Eidetic means "pertaining to visual imagery," but the second definition is "pertaining to eidos."  Eidos?  That means "the formal content of a culture."  Cool, no?

While I don't have an eidetic memory--far from it--I do have some kind of related curse that involves a near-perfect memory of my feelings and what people said to me at any particular time.  While that's a special thing when it comes to days like the birth of both kids or our weddings (yes, both of them), it means that I've spent a lot of time pondering.  The night before Addie's first birthday I was a wreck.  I was just overcome with emotion; the memory of the night of her birth was so positive, but it was powerful and overwhelming.

I am overwhelmed again.  One year ago this month, E moved out.  Specifically, it was October 11th, 2008.  I was nervous about living out another October because last October was so bad.  Several times last month I broke apart like a puzzle just thinking about it.  E has been really comforting and has been reassuring that this is not last year and we are not facing the kind of deeply-rooted problems that we were then.  Knowing that is reassuring, but it hasn't kept me entirely confident.  You know what a worrier I can be.

There's nothing scary to report; life has marched on without a single nod to the pain that was in our lives a year ago.  E is supportive, loving and patient.  I try to do my best.  The memory hasn't been on my mind every single day, but it's there.  On Saturday when I saw my old friends I had the chance to answer some of the "what, exactly, happened?" questions.  I don't mind doing that and just like writing about it here, it helps me to own it.  Honesty has been a blessing.  Writing has been a blessing.  Speaking plainly about the reality of our marriage, separation, reconciliation and relationship has brought me closer to many people in my life--people that I know I wouldn't have had the confidence to reach out to if I hadn't started writing about our struggle.  (It's not an easy thing to go from Hi, how are you? to  let's talk about how I almost got divorced and our relationship isn't picture perfect, but my life is better because I try to find the words here and in subsequent conversations.)

This is a hard thing to write about.  I know that when painful things have come in my life it's always the next time around that I measure and weigh my worries to the point of absurdity.  Hypersensitivity dominated the early weeks of my pregnancy with Addie because I'd lost the pregnancy before.  Until I passed that date I was exceedingly conscious.  Maybe this is like that.  I need pass through it.

So many things are on my heart about what we, and especially I went through during that time.  One of my friends who recently ended a long relationship and has been blogging about the difficult reality of being newly single and it takes me back.  I believed when E and I ended it that I'd be stopping the pain, and instead I just traded up for a new and more solitary pain.  I don't bring this up to say that I needed to find all the answers in E, either.  I needed that time alone and I needed to rely on God and myself and my family in order to get through it.  I feel it's worth mentioning, though, because like he reality of ending a marriage is just one of those things that's not really talked about either.  People like to pretend it's easy to be single just like they like to pretend it's easy to be married.  I was as alone in my difficult separation and in being a scared single parent as I'd been when I was afraid to admit the imperfection of my marriage.  I was terrified that I was the only one who had been in each of those situations, I was lonely, and both times I was petrified that there was no end in sight.

When running, I have a new goal.  I'm working on ignoring the finish line.  If I run and think about getting to the end, I tire out.  I feel my muscles ache.  I want to walk.  I feel defeated and lacking in the energy to make it all the way to the end.  By contrast, when I focus on the joy of the moment for the entire hour or whatever it is, I just eventually arrive and finish.  My whole life, I've been a planner.  I mapped out my plan one day in eighth grade and I was so afraid to deviate from good and smart and right and responsible that I didn't give myself permission to be happy with a life that was unfinished or imperfect.  I had the goal in mind and I convinced myself that until I got there I wouldn't be happy.  One of the biggest areas of growth for me in the last year has been seeing that that's a recipe for suffering, and an immature view of how life should work.

I don't have any answers, I only have the distinct memory of what that painful time meant for me.  In the most awful phase of our marriage, in our separation and my loneliness, and now, even as we're happy and healthy in our relationship I find myself saying that "things will be good as soon as we _______."  I believe there's more peace in living in the moment, rather than living for what's coming down the road.  That's quite a challenge, though.

You might raise an eyebrow about this type of thing, but a few years ago in the depths of our awful relationship and in search for any comfort for my anxiety and worry and pain, I listened to an Eckhart Tolle audiobook on the way to and from Yosemite.  It really spoke to me about trying not to live in the past and what's already happened, or in the future with what may happen.  Tolle says "unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence" (50).

I really believe that this is true.  When I focus on what's already happened, I'm forgetting that I can't change it.  I get it in my head that because something happened before it's going to happen again.  I heard Dr. Phil say once that "forgiveness is letting go of the hope that things could have worked out differently."  Cheesy, I know...  Dr. Phil.  But for me, that's huge.  When I am able to let go of things that are done--to forgive other people and forgive myself--I free myself up to live life without fear that it's going to fall apart.  When I focus too much on an arbitrary date in the future, I forget to be thankful for the blessings I have now.

October has almost passed, and I know that the succeeding months are going to hold some of the same painful fears and feelings.  The memory of those difficult times is still very strong.  Life is good, though.  I'm thankful for change and I'm thankful for where we are in 2009.  Life isn't perfect, but it's certainly better than what it was a year ago.


  1. I really enjoyed talking with you the other night. I was really tired and I should have told you then, but I'll tell you now that I think you and E are amazing and have become an amazing example of what marriage is. It speaks a lot about the character of both of you that you've stuck it out and are commited to doing so. Many, many people would have just walked away.
    You're in my prayers always, hope to see you again sometime next year. :)

  2. Thank you so much for writing about this. I have been feeling the same way lately..that once all of these things happen I will be happy and life just isn't like that...thank you!

  3. I like your blog. I like your openness and honesty. Thank you for sharing your story. I think that if everyone was a little more truthful about their own stories, maybe this world would be a better place. Maybe there would be more compassion because we would know that we have some kind of hurt. Know what I mean? Anyways, thank you for what you do. I am inspired.

    Take care, Karina

  4. I love how honest you are about everything... it makes me feel like the feelings I have are the reality as opposed to marriage being this perfect thing. I agree with what you just said on the comment on my post... marriage is about marriage, not the wedding, or how perfect we can make the details of it all. I remember people asking me why I didn't seem as into the wedding at first and it was because I was scared out of my mind. It was all so serious to me... this idea of spending my life with someone scared me to no end. It's so not perfect, at all, and your posts remind me that imperfection is actually what keeps us going.

  5. Excellent post. I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on living in the now. Especially when you liken it to running. We ARE so focused on the finish line. I like that you compare it to running. How true is your fill in the blank reference. I said the same thing in one of my posts last week. As soon as we're through dealing with one heap of bullshit, we're confronted with another. :)

    I'm thinking of getting a Tolle book. Any recommendations?