“You Can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need” – Mick Jagger
Grab a cuppa, a cozy wrap and hang the do not disturb sign up so you can settle in on this cold winter day to read a little story, my love story……
When I close my eyes I can travel back to the winter of 2010. I was now four months into this still unfamiliar estrangement period and learning to navigate solo. Made it through the holidays and knee surgery. The climb out of this black hole my life had fallen into had begun. Little did I know that in less than two months my marriage would be mending. By January my husband had realized that the chapter of his life with his old love needed to close. The harder question for both of us to face now was whether he wanted to be married or not.
In the meantime, I was tapping into my toolbox that had been filling up over the years with skills acquired as a psychotherapist and my practices of yoga and meditation. Following my knee surgery, when all my physical practices (yoga, hiking, nature) had been taken away all I could do was breathe. When strong emotions would well up, I let them come, always coming back to my breath. Inhale, exhale, repeat was my practice. Tears came a lot during that dark time and I did not stop the waves of anger, grief, sadness and loss when they crashed to shore. When the waves retreated, however, I consciously chose different ways to be in the present. In spite of my anger my heart kept pointing towards compassion. Don’t get me wrong. I had a few Carrie Underwood, baseball bat to the headlight thoughts. Just chose to redirect them.
Somewhere along the way I learned about the giving & receiving practice of Tonglen (something the Dalai Llama did to cope with his own exile and annihilation of his people & his homeland). Tonglen is a beautiful practice that teaches us how to be present for our own suffering and the suffering of others. Frequently when my emotions were too much to bear I would breathe in any suffering my husband was experiencing and breathe out compassion for him. I knew my husband was a beautiful man wrestling with many issues of simply being human.
During my sitting times and attempts to move these boulders that had fallen onto my path, books were a comforting companion. New perspectives allowed me to shift my view of life and open myself to a deeper understanding of love. The Myth of Monogamy, A Grown Up Marriage, Undefended Love,and The New Monogamy taught me that humans are not biologically hard wired for monogamy; infidelity is very, very common; marriages can survive affairs and we can love more than one person. Most importantly a marriage can be re-envisioned and the sacred contract of matrimony can be renegotiated. Ultimately acceptance of my circumstances (not agreement with) became my new companion on this untraveled road. Sarah Ban Breathnach says ‘accepting and blessing our circumstances is a powerful tool for transformation’ and ‘ illuminates reality so that we’re better able to see the next step’. 1 Another practice, gratitude still washes over me as I remember with fondness all the support I received in person and from a distance. My parents would call to check on me and often simply listened to my tears from the other end, holding space for my grief. Friends were always close by to listen and be a loving presence for me as I figured things out.
As Joseph Campbell says when you say yes to the call, guides will appear. Many guides (I think some of them were earth angels) did appear as beacons of light to help me find my way in the darkness. One of them, without ever meeting her in person, gave me the wisest council on how to view this unasked for event. She taught me that sometimes obstacles are for our own spiritual growth and not because we had done anything wrong. Obstacles are the path says an ancient Japanese proverb and how we grow. Shifting my perspective and how I viewed what was happening changed everything. Without any proof, I just chose trust vs suffering. The choice to trust has made all the difference in my life.
My beloved and I had met in Richmond, Virginia while working at a racquetball club. We worked, played and socialized with our club ‘family’. When we said our vows all of our ‘club’ friends were witnesses to our commitment to one another. Part of my estranged spouses’ journey took him back to Richmond that Spring to play in a racquetball tournament in the same club where the roots of our relationship were established. The memory of our beginnings began to return to him along with why we got together in the first place. During his time away we stayed in touch by phone and were still very connected energetically. One day he called and I heard the lyrics to Mick Jagger’s song over the phone ….. and I knew a shift was happening.
The movie Avatar had come out the year my husband “went off the reservation” as one of his Aunts called his behavior. Loved that movie. One of my favorite scenes was when Neytiri placed her hand on Jakes’ heart and said “I see you.” In spite of everything I could still see my husband’s goodness and human essence. Even though I was ready to let him go, I kept holding onto a prayer of him coming back. Late in March my prayer was answered. After rediscovering the feelings from the beginning of our relationship while in Richmond, he turned his car around and headed home. The night he came back it was late and I had already retired for the night. When he climbed into bed I remember saying to him something silly like ‘do you come here often’. We had a chuckle, wrapped our arms around each other, began falling in love all over again and into a deep sleep. Both of us knowing a big weight had been lifted from our history and the re-envisioning and mending of us could now begin.
We never know what life will offer us, but we do get to choose how we respond to what is given. Being curious instead of fearful is much more fun. We don’t need all the answers and sometimes waiting for wisdom to be revealed can bring more joy than ever imagined. Adding practices of acceptance, gratitude and compassion can do wonders for the journey. One constant is that everything changes. When we learn to ride the waves of life instead of swimming against the tide you never know what will be just around the bend. Who knows, you just might get everything your soul desires.
1 Breathnach, Sarah Ban, Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Warner Books, 1995