It is Time to Heal

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IMG_20141001_175030Sixteen years ago I lay on the floor trying to sleep, anxious and excited about the events of the next day. The room was ready. Clean sheets on the bed, beautiful flowers on the side table and many little touches of romance all around.

Waiting…. waiting…. waiting….

I was in a place of waiting. Alone but knowing very soon I would not be alone any more. The anxieties, the nerves, the hopes, the dreams crystallizing in that moment as I lay on the floor unable to sleep for the sheer excitement that I would be a bride in just a few short hours, and then HIS wife forever.

How young and naïve I was sixteen years ago to believe marriage could save me from my anger and my pain; to think that marriage would change being a single mom into being a family with the minister simply uttering a few words for us to repeat and then blessing us by the power of the church vested in his 91-year-old hands and heart.IMG_20141001_175301

How so much more complicated the process would all end up being…. And how much more pain we’d unwittingly cause each other in the process…

It has been sixteen years filled with passion, love, anger, disillusionment, grief, and struggles of many varieties including power struggles, parenting struggles, health struggles and financial struggles, but here at the threshold of another celebration the biggest fact I cling to is we are still here. Every day we get up and reach for love, reach for understanding, reach for forgiveness and we look at each other across the bed sheets hoping we can find the love, the healing, the forgiveness to carry us through many more years.

There is a lot to forgive and a lot of letting go that needs to happen. Sometimes the pain feels overwhelming and like a gaping hole that can never be filled with enough love to wipe it out. It’s an ongoing, ever-challenging, ever-changing, ever-demanding process. Some days it still involves a lot of waiting… Waiting for patience. Waiting to feel loved. Waiting for validation – to feel noticed, to feel seen and to feel heard.

One of the most intentional emotions I brought away from my retreat in August is that it is time to clarify, to re-define, to evaluate, to change, to face the challenges of my relationship. To stop settling for unhappiness for the sake of my children. It’s an old story. What kind of example are my husband and I setting for our children when we settle for unhappiness in one of the most important and singularly defining relationships of our lives? I wouldn’t want this kind of relationship for any of my children so why am I settling for living in one and asking my spouse to do the same?

After sixteen years my husband and I are at a crossroads. Neither choice is an easy one.

Down one road, there are lawyers, not enough money to keep two households functioning, inevitably more anger and resentment, children having to adjust to missing one parent when they are with the other, missing their bedtime routines of “I love yous” and “see you in the mornings”, and so many more crazy changes and adjustments we haven’t even thought of. Down the other, there is work, lots of work. Reconnecting work, honouring work, loving work, re-defining work, hard work. Really hard work. Divorce will seem like a viable option at times because it would be easier to move on than face some really tough emotions we’ve spent a lot of time and energy avoiding over the last sixteen years.

It is time to heal.

It is time to face our relationship, ourselves, our choices, our responsibilities and find the love again or, and this is always a possibility, not find it but I want to know we did everything possible to save this family because we do owe our children that much and if at the end of the day we can’t, hopefully this process will at least help us choose an ending that honours each other and our children.

For now we are choosing the path of hard work and in that spirit my husband and I have decided to go on a relationship retreat in December. It’s in Paris, France. For a week, the focus will be us, there will be no hiding from each other behind screens or responsibilities or day-to-day life or the needs of the children. Anni and Tim Daulter will help us find our way back to each other, help us find ways to reconnect, help us find ways to redefine our relationship in healthier ways so that there’s less hiding behind pain, resentment and anger.

As we embark on our seventeenth year of marriage, I commit myself to the work that Paris will bring, to meeting my husband in a safe place where we can begin the process of letting go of all the burdens that weigh us down and keep us from being the people, the couple we are capable of being. I believe in my heart that if we don’t fix us, nothing else matters and that’s why this trip to Paris is so important and I am soooo grateful that my husband has chosen to participate in this retreat with me.

A friend asked me if I was placing too much hope in this retreat solving our problems?

The truth is I have to believe it’s possible, that this retreat could bring us the closure on a less than stellar past and an opening to a better future together. I have to believe we love each other enough to give this gift to each other and be willing to open the package and accept the gift into our lives. If I don’t believe that than what’s the point of going to Paris at all? We might as well give up now… So yes I believe this retreat can help turn our relationship around, can temporarily plug the holes in our sinking ship and give us the life boat to save ourselves. We just have to be willing to get in the life boat and row like hell.

I am willing to do the work. I am willing to let go. I am willing to find a new path. I am willing to get in the life boat with my husband and row like hell, hoping that both of us will be pulling together and working together towards the goal of a healthy, happy relationship that is the center of a healthy, happy home. At the end of the day I believe that’s all either of us really want.

So as we celebrate our sixteenth wedding anniversary, we look to our future, waiting, waiting for the day we pack our bags and get on an airplane and for five days make us the center of our world for better or for worse…

I am ready to change, to heal, to love my husband with all my heart and in return open up myself to accepting his love, his healing and his changes, and together creating a safe place within ourselves and around us for the evolution to happen.

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March 27, 1999

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2264951349_46e31f3586_zIt was a beautiful spring-like day. Still cool, still snow on the ground but the sun was getting warmer. The melting snow dribbling off the shrinking piles to leave puddles on the sidewalks. Spring was whispering in the breeze, soon we’d see grass and the buds would explode the trees into their summer greenery.

My husband and I had been married six months plus a day.

On March 26, 1999, we’d gone out for dinner to celebrate surviving the first six months of marriage. I don’t use the word ‘survive’ lightly. It was a very difficult first six months of marriage with many adjustments and crushed expectations while we had not only tried to figure out how to live together but also how to raise a two-year old child together.

As difficult as the first six months had been, the real bomb had yet to drop and as we sat at dinner on the 26th we both felt its looming shadow succinctly as my husband’s parents had requested he come to Rockland by himself the next afternoon.

Over dinner we speculated, hoping for the best but in our heads and hearts we both had uneasy suspicions. His mother’s slow recovery from her surgery in January and the fact she still had not returned to work fueled our suspicions.

We boxed up most of our meal and took it home, neither of us able to eat much, our stomachs full with more fear and worry than food.

The afternoon of that beautiful spring-like day my husband left for Rockland. I curled up on the couch a ball of nerves and flu symptoms. Just wanting it to be over and my husband to return home and allay the fears and untie the knots in my stomach.

It was not to happen that way.

Instead he came home and confirmed our fears, my fears, and it was worse than we had let ourselves imagine.

Stage 4 breast cancer, incurable, inoperative, and it had metastasized into her bones. The prognosis was bleak, the outcome seemingly inevitable, it was just a matter of time.

What do you do when the bomb drops?

You cry, you scream, you rant “It’s not fair, why her? Why us?”

Then you put the two-year old in his stroller, put the leash on the dog and as a family you go for a walk in the beautiful spring-like weather.

Regardless of the pain and anger life must go on, will go on and demands that you go on even when you just don’t want it to, even when you just don’t feel like facing another day.

What we didn’t know that day was how his mother would teach us how true those words are. Life does go on. You can live it or die. She chose life.

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Post-script – Check back on April 12, 2014, for the next part of this story.