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For Carl

my new private balcony

my new private balcony

 

A new era has begun in my life, with a move from the place I moved into 2 months ago, to a place that is … well, it’s a little piece of heaven, with a fellow recovery woman.

It’s on a river. The sound of the river permeates the entire property and house. My room is on the 2nd floor, with my own private balcony. The house has several skylights, wood floors and trim throughout.

The property has several gardening areas for vegetables and flowers, grassy nooks with chairs, fruit trees, and a gazebo on the river. There is also a workshop and an art studio.

Both my roommate and I feel that this is a place that wants to be a vessel for healing. It wants to provide a safe, affordable and soul-nourishing haven for people who need it, in order to do our work, the work of the soul and spirit. The rent is super cheap, and the location is a few minutes walking to down town. We want to host healing circles and various healing modalities here.

My arrival here happened suddenly, removing me from the danger inherent in living alone. I had been isolating and not eating, in and out of various states of dissociation and paralyzation. A friend of mine asked me why i was remaining in this harmful situation. I realized I had not made it real in my mind that it was a harmful situation. I was still holding on, trying to convince myself that it wasn’t happening, that really, I was fine; I was just thinking I wasn’t. When the landlords there gave notice they were returning to the Valley, this new place emerged. After my friend asked me why I was staying, I checked out moving earlier, and was given the green light. I moved the next day.

The previous roommate here was a beautiful, bright, gay man who was the keeper of the space and property, loved gardening, home repairs and landscaping. He also lived with OCD and Bipolar Disorder. He chose to leave this world by suicide last month. As he had promised to his friends, he waited until he was happy for several months before leaving. He sorted his things and arranged for them to be dispersed, cleaned the house, made soup for the woman who is now my rooommate. Everyone knew that his leaving was imminent, and when he was all set up to facilitate his departure, he emailed my roommate, who was out of town at the time. It took him two consecutive attempts to leave.

His body was found in his room. He died a happy, loving and giving spirit; at peace in his surroundings and with his friends in this life. His passing has brought me here, and so I write this as an offering of gratitude and appreciation. I feel his presence, and that he is a kindred spirit. I regret that I did not get to know him while he was still here.

For Carl. For all your journeys, sorrows, joys, achievements, struggles, and losses. And for all the great love you gave to this world. May you be in peace in the afterlife. May your spirit soar on, always and forever free.

beside my pillow, the sound of the river surrounding.

beside my pillow, the sound of the river surrounding. words and cards by a fellow aca member. amethyst heart stone from fellow coda member, crystal from dear friend in my previous city up North. I am not alone on this journey.


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what’s your book cover

I’ve been having book covers and titles coming to me. What, if anything, I ever end up doing with them, it seems like part of my therapy to express them. What is your book cover?

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Two quotes on relationships from The Work of Byron Katie:

When you own your share in something that your partner did to you, it’s the sweetest thing in the world. You just feel humility, without the slightest urge to defend yourself. It leaves you completely vulnerable. This is the kind of vulnerability you want to lick off the pavement, it’s so delicious.

It has been a life’s work to make our partner wrong. Then when we enter inquiry, we lose. It’s a tremendous shock. And it turns out to be grace. Winning is losing. Losing is winning. It all turns around.


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the hippy man (in my dreams)

i’ve been remembering more of my dreams than usual lately.

there’ve been a lot of dreams about being chased — hunted for the kill in some gruesome way.

last night though, I dreamt of my ex-husband. i dreamt that we were at my wedding, though i couldn’t seem to remember who i was getting married to now, and i found myself alone a lot.

Ex was there, though his hair was long, and in ringlettes, his face softer somehow, his clothing non-descript. sitting down on a blanket to say hello, i felt closeness with him and held him for a moment. He seemed to reciprocate the feeling, but remained a little bit removed.

I could feel myself wanting to fall in love with him again. (Yup, that’s me — “Removed? I love you!”)

In the course of the event we were at (oh, yeah, it was my wedding to this unknown groom of mine), I was hanging out with the women and it became apparent that one of them was seeing Ex; but I wasn’t really sure until Ex posted a picture of himself arm in arm with another woman. I knew in my heart that he wasn’t in love with her, but I still felt sadness.

The other residual feeling from this dream is that I have connected with the Spirit of Ex, and we still love each other. I’m not saying here that I want to get back together. It’s like our business in the flesh is really done, but it is nice to have closure with his higher self. I miss that higher self — the person I saw when we were dating and fell in love. I think when we date, we show each other our higher selves.


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right attention to the one you love

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“If you do not give right attention to the one you love, it is a kind of killing. When you are in the car together, if you are lost in your thoughts, assuming you already know everything about [them], [they] will slowly die.”        THICH NHAT HANH, O Magazine, Feb. 2007

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This is the story of my marriage, as told by yours truly at a weekend retreat of Codependents Anonymous. The theme of the retreat was The Big R: Relationship with Higher Power, Self, Others. The title of my topic meeting was ‘Growing is Forever: Avoiding the Slow Death’.

I had thought that I would ‘wing it,’ instead of planning or writing anything in advance; but when I arrived at the retreat, I found myself writing out our story, in a way I had never done before. I wrote all afternoon, and was up late that night continuing to write. I handed out a sheet with the quote above, a collage of wedding photos I had done up after our wedding, and on the other side of the sheet, our last email dialogue this year. Then I shared my story:

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When the planning committee decided on the theme of Relationships for this retreat, my heart sank a little. I was not interested in a relationship, and I felt like I’d been there, done that. The next response in me said, “What’s the point?” How could there be a point if a relationship like me and my Ex’s ended so sadly? Our relationship never had the obsessive, addictive quality that so many other romantic relationships in my life have had. He wasn’t exciting like a shot of heroin — a bottle of liquor, a project to feed the work addiction, etc. etc. etc.

When I met Ex, I thought I was done with all that. Our love felt calm and deep and genuine, born out of vulnerability and a sense of going against the grain, being ourselves, authentically, at all costs.

We said our vows in a grave yard, on our 3rd date. We promised to let it be a choice to be with each other — a choice renewed at the beginning of each day. We promised not to leave the relationship without a thorough and common understanding of why our relationship was ending. In essence, we promised to let each other go with love.

We moved in together a month later. Our decision to get married came as a surprise to my Mother and close friends. My parents had not married, and I had never been the marrying type.

Still to this day, I don’t regret loving someone genuinely so fully as to want to gather our families for 3 days and celebrate it. I believe those moments have value not for how long they last, but for even getting to them at all. I am forever grateful.

For various reasons, the time we were together before it all went South were some of the happiest years of my adult life so far.

The first breakdown in communication came after my best friend had split up with her husband and stopped speaking to our mutual friend. The break up of my self-identified family was deeply distressing to me. In a state of irrational panic and desperation, I responded by taking a trip across the country to visit the friend who had left.

The breakdown in communication was that Ex did not understand the depth of my emotion around this trip, and neither of us recognized this lack. I returned from my travels to a house of the greatest chaos I had ever seen. There were dirty dishes, clothing, random objects, slips of paper, and garbage covering every surface of the house and most of the floors.

The second breakdown in communication was that Ex told me the house had gotten this way because he’d been really busy with work. And I’d believed him. The truth I later learned was that he had had a relapse into a video game addiction, and had played the game solidly at the expense of all else for much of the time I had been away.

From there, it was a slow decline of intimacy. We had become estranged from ourselves and each other, without knowing it.

When we bought a house, it seemed to be another turning point in our relationship. Ex became deeply unhappy as a lawyer with his own practice, which he began to neglect, while communicating less and less with me. He couldn’t admit even to himself that he was unhappy, because he saw no way out. He became a chronic pot smoker. I became a chronic workaholic.

All we did together was smoke weed and watch movies. The state of our house declined — things were left unfinished and undone, and our self-care also declined. Our fights and our distance from each other escalated.

Two power trips were present:

  1. I wanted emotional intimacy before sex; he wanted sex before emotional intimacy. Neither of us got either.
  2. I wanted him to tell me how he was feeling and what he needed; he wanted me to “have a heart” and read between the lines, anticipate and empathize with his feelings and needs. Not need them spoken all the time. Neither of us got our needs met.

The disparity between our public image and our home life widened with my (our?) sense of shame.

Our car broke down.

Our deck had no railings for most of our time there.

Our tub was rust coloured from the minerals in our water.

Our entire property was repeatedly covered in 6 feet of snow and we had no snow blower.

Our dog ran away to live with the neighbours 6 blocks away.

Our fights continued to escalate. There were screaming matches, objects thrown, doors slamming in the middle of the night, many lonely nights in heartbreaking despair, confusion, hopelessness and isolation.

I began riding in the back seat of the car in the mornings into town. Then I began staying on friends’ couches. In and out, in and out. Each time, it would feel as if he would break open, and I would finally be able to SEE him, so I would move back in.

The moving out and back in dynamic went on for 2 years. Each leaving felt more final than the last; each return more earnest and hopeful, but with the voice of doom in my head that I was ignoring growing louder.

Many people told me when I got married that the relationship would ebb and flow. That there would be times we would not love each other, but that the return to love would grow deeper each time.

I waited and waited. And waited, to fall in love again. I gave my all, bent over backwards and turned my life upside down for two years to survive the mean time, and STAY IN.

It took me those 2 years to know without a single doubt in my mind that we had reached an end, not an ebb. By then, I had already grieved. The day of clarity came, and I ended it with peacefulness.

When I read the Tich Nhat Hanh quote that I have shared with you, I thought of all the hours I spent in the car with Ex, when we shared a car and drove 20 minutes into town and back every day. I remembered the first time we ever drove in a car together. I saw how our car rides had gone from awkward shyness, through great connection and joy, to a peaceful, contented silence, to a bored and restless silence, and arrived finally in the bone chilling silence, filled with anger, resentment and clenched teeth.

In retrospect, I wonder what would have become of us if, in those 1st 2 breakdowns in communication, we had tried harder to truly understand each other and be understood. Now, I understand how important that is. How one place of disconnect leads to another, and the whole thing dies a painful, agonizing, slow and gruesome death.

This is a great gift to take with me into my next relationship. We can never know all there is to know about another because we are always — in each and every moment — changing. Connection, patience and curiosity must never be lost. I am grateful. I grieve, honour and give thanks to this part of my life by sharing it with all of you.

Here is what became the theme song for our wedding:


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step four: the authentic voice that called

(my post step four introduction is the context for this series of posts.)

my dorm room–another false start of balance and serenity. another false ending to the chaos. january 2011.

(undated #1)

It does not agree with me to push myself so hard. The challenge of this term is quite extreme for me. I hit a wall of exhaustion today, and had to take the night off — from studying, from work, and basically the world. I watched TV all night. I didn’t respond to my husband texting me. I just needed to escape.

I am not motivated to learn when there is this much workload and the tests are not straight forward and the scores do not reflect my learning.

 

 

statistics, final exam formula sheet.

(undated #2)

The notion that I need to own my space and my time — I responded by feeling frustrated and unsupported.

I feel blind-sided by life — smacked in the face and rolled around in the mud, holding on to the rope of my soul, enduring.

There are times when a person needs to take responsibility for the experience they are having by changing their approach and managing themselves better, and these are the majority of times; and there are times when taking responsibility means recognizing situations and people that are unhealthy, and simply exiting from them.

(undated #3 — to my now-ex husband)

I’m drawn to you for the essence of you — the way you smile at me, your sunny demeanor. I’m drawn to and compelled by your spirituality, your compassion and caring for the world, and your capacity to produce and make things happen.

I’m afraid that if I don’t want to be around the whole pot-smoking, beer-drinking crowd, I won’t want to be around you, and our friends won’t mix.

the part to remember, give thanks for, and grieve, understand and accept its demise. i remember that feeling. i remember it all, in all of life’s glory. all of life’s glory.


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step four — july to november 2010, the nose of the ship begins to go under

my post step four introduction is the context for this series of posts.

the form of the space and how all my things went with his furniture seemed so perfect. my heart sang to have a home space with my things in it. it seemed like the final landing place for the next era of being a student on a national leadership award. we called it the Zen Palace. I could finally grieve and recover from all of the upheaval in my life because I thought it was over.

On the plane to the leadership conference I attended in November as part of the award, what was on my brain to write about was my new roommate. we’d been roommates since July, and had entered an agreement to have a “jock & ben” (from the Haven) kind of friendship, where we practice radical honesty with each other in order to work through some of our issues around connection. I had come from the previous winter in a trailer park, then a basement suite sleeping on a massage table and living out of President’s Choice reusable shopping bags, then finally a local B&B in exchange for caretaking, to this beautiful appartment, shared with my Haven friend.

From my notes during the conference of speakers and workshops and such:

Meaningful service:
  • positive contribution
  • solves a problem, fills a need
  • meaningful to you, your passion, your goals
  • spark / inspire action in others
  • far-reaching, long lasting.

Depth & Breadth — breadth is the degree that it pushes yourself, and to which you engage others.

These notes were followed by pages of brainstorming on how I could make change in my community.

Looking at these notes of busy-ness, what they make tangible is the degree to which I pushed myself. How hard I tried, and how much I was trying to do, all at the same time, as an intensely sincere, thorough, thoughtful and hard-working person.

Upon my return from the conference, and only four months after I’d moved in, my new Haven roommate became emotionally cold, and informed me he didn’t want to have a roommate in his space any more and that I had to move out. This was the point at which the boat really started to go down. The feelings of being isolated, forgotten and ashamed were so intense that I found myself sobbing at the bottom of our empty bathtub after a bath. My chest throbbed with the kind of pain that is emotional and physical all at once — the kind that radiates down my arms right out to my finger tips.

I had exhausted all my friends couches, massage tables, trailers, basements and b&b’s; and I felt I had exhausted my friends themselves. The world was a cold hard, empty bathtub; I was naked inside, and clinging desperately to a  disintigrating mask of a national leader.

I declined to attend an awards ceremony because I couldn’t stand the thought of standing alone, not having anyone there with me, being an outsider. I just said I couldn’t go.

I had begun seeing the school’s free psychologist, but even she did not see the drasticness of the actions that were required. I did not sleep or eat properly again until arriving in the hospital 6 months later. By then, my stint of homelessness had seen me on a basement mattress for December, and into the school’s mature residence in January.

a handwritten note on a recipe card I found on the windshield of my car after work one day over the summer. Though I’d been reluctant to admit it, the car had become a real beater, with rust and a faulty muffler. It was the car of my marriage that I was still driving, while negotiating the sale of our house and working as a cashier; which, in a small town where I was previously famous, was the most humiliating thing I have ever done. At the time, I endured, thinking all would be well once school began in the fall. You know it’s time to get a new car if complete and total strangers begin leaving messages like this one on your windshield.