Free Falling

freefalling

Recently I went to see the latest instalment of the Mission Impossible series. I was blown away. I’m not typically a fan of action movies (Bond and Bourne being exceptions) and I do remember enjoying the first MI flick way back when the franchise first hit the big screen about 20 years ago. I think I even caught snippets of other Mission Impossible movies as they were released, either through pay-per-view or whenever they’d appear on cable TV. This experience was different, though. I was struck dumbfound by what I saw. The stunts and filmmaking alone is enough to stop a person in their tracks, but something else I got from that movie woke me up in a new way, and I’m just starting to understand what it is.

There’s a scene in the film where the main character, Ethan Hunt (aka – Tom Cruise) jumps out of the back of a cargo plane 15,000 feet over central Paris. Knowing that Cruise (who I’m no fan of, by the way) does all his own stunts in the MI series, and that he’s 56 years old, and what you see in the movie is real (not some mishmash of CGI work) and that on top of all that – a cameraman (or two or three) is diving out of the cargo plane too, and filming the whole thing as it happens, while Cruise performs/acts like Superman – all that massive cinematic amazement gave me pause (after it almost gave me a heart attack watching it unfold, as my daughter would attest to. She tolerates me in movies like that, because, well – frankly, I’m embarrassing for a 14 year old to sit beside. I’m all nerves and gasps and screams, and I’m her mother. So there you have it.)

What I’ve come to realize after watching that scene is this: There’s tremendous beauty, and skill, in free falling.

I’ve been free falling for years now (thankfully ground is finally in sight) and while I have all the tools at my disposal for a safe landing, the drop is severe. I’ve never physically skydived, and I have no desire to, particularly now, because I know what it means to free fall already – and my ride has lasted a lot longer than a few minutes.

When nothing is holding us in place, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – we’re in free fall. And what I’ve learned about actual skydiving since seeing that movie is that any tiny flick of the wrist, a slight arch of the spine, the extension or contraction of any extremity – any twitch at all you make has an effect on your fall.

We can control our own free fall somewhat, but regardless, we’re still falling. Gravity/life/reality is in control. We can only moderate our way through it. If you have a few tools and a bit of knowledge to help affect your descent to solid ground in a favorable way, lucky you.

I have the tools and knowledge to land safely and show how it all works, but I wasn’t trusting them (or myself) enough. My point is (I think, anyway) that I was holding on too tightly to my own fall, instead of figuring out how to work with it and share the experience – just as I experience it. Just share what I know and let the rest be.

That realization will be reflected in my writing here from now on. When I started this blog I felt like I had to tell a chronological story – almost write a novel or an autobiography, and the daunting nature of that prospect has held me back. (I’m a writer. It’s what I do, so yeah – I naturally went the way of “story arch” in my own head when I began here.) What I realize now is, I have to let gravity take hold, engage my skills, knowledge, a certain amount of fearlessness, and write what’s on my heart. If I’m brave enough to do that, I just might inspire a few others to take a leap of faith too.

Hindsight

spiritual_path

They say hindsight is 20/20, and I suppose that’s more or less true. If you look back over the landscape of your life with honesty and a willingness to see the big picture, you start to connect the dots; you begin to see how your circumstances, experiences, beliefs and relationships affected you and the choices you made, and a sort of road map starts to materialize, showing you how you got from where you started to where you find yourself now.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started to examine the course of my life and how it unfolded; why I decided to choose the things I chose and do the things did – decisions that eventually lead me to a treacherous crossroads in my life and a crisis in my marriage. My awakening, as I suspect most awakenings are,  was a very gradual process. I sort of waded into it like you do an icy cold lake – one inch at a time, unsure of how deep I could stand to go and uncertain as to whether or not I even wanted to venture in. I don’t know exactly when I began to peel back the layers of my life, and subsequently, peel back the blinders I was wearing. All I know for sure is that it was impossible for me not to do it, and once I started, there was no way to stop.

If there’s a flip side to the saying Hindsight is 20/20, it has to be Ignorance is bliss. I know and have known countless people, married and otherwise, who seem to float through life with a sort of blithe indifference that I can’t fathom, and at the same time kind of envy.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve cursed my own incessantly loud inner voice, trying to strong-arm it into silence and submission, I’d be well on my way to retirement by now. But it simply won’t be quiet, and I’m getting better at trusting what it tells me. That’s really my life lesson, I’ve discovered – to stop ignoring and second guessing myself when my inner voice (or intuition, or instinct if you prefer) starts talking. It’s always right, and the longer I ignore it, the louder it gets.

What I’ve learned (the hard way, I might add) is that our inner voices/intuition/instinct first starts speaking to us in rather hushed tones. It’s a murmur really; a whisper – a subtle sense of unease that something isn’t quite the way it should be. At this stage, of course, ignoring ourselves is very easy to do. We shrug the whispers off as though they weren’t even there and just go about life the same old way. The next time your inner voice speaks up though, it won’t whisper. It’ll tap you on the shoulder and ask firmly for your attention. You might acknowledge it at this point – say a cordial hello and thanks for visiting, but if you’re new to tuning into yourself (or have no desire to listen) you will more than likely brush off this encounter with your intuition too, and go on your merry way. The next time your intuition attempts to tell you what it’s been trying to tell you – for weeks, or months, or maybe years at this point, it’ll shake you by the shoulders and stare you straight in the eyes. HAVE I GOT YOUR ATTENTION NOW???, it’ll ask you. If you’re smart, at this stage of the game you’ll listen and do what your intuition has been telling you to do all along. It’ll be intimidating, nerve wracking, maybe even scary, but if you heed your inner voice even this late in the game, you’ll save yourself a lot agony – because if you continue to ignore yourself and stay the course, life will inevitably throw something at you that’ll bring you to your knees, and you’ll curse yourself for not doing what you knew you had to do a lot sooner.

At age 40 I found myself in a life that was the exact opposite of the life I aspired to have. I was living 2,000 miles away from the people who mattered most to me in a place that didn’t feel like home and I knew never would or could. I was an educated, talented and ambitious woman who valued her independence and had always worked, but yet contrary to what I believed would be the case, I was unemployable where I was, so I spent my days trying to figure out how to function and be a happy ex-pat wife, homemaker and PTA volunteer. I didn’t fit or feel like myself in that life in any way, shape or form, but there I was, and I’d gotten there by my own volition. Every choice I’d made leading up to the day I could no longer deny that I was in the wrong life and a bad marriage had put me there, and I struggled on a daily basis trying to sort out how in the hell I got so far away from the me that I remembered and liked, and wondering if it was even possible to get that version of myself back again. I felt hopeless, and worse than that, I felt guilty. Guilty for not being able to embrace the life I was living – a lovely looking and very privileged life that a lot of women would sell (and have sold) their souls for. I grappled with that hard – was I just not grateful enough? Should I put on a smiling face, forget all the things I ever wanted to do and be, the dreams I had for myself and my life – should I just drop all of that and be thankful and happy?

I made an effort at doing that – I swear to God I did. But the more I tried, the more depressed I became. My inner self was simply not having it. The worst of it all was, I was trapped in that life – or at least it felt like I was. And that made everything immeasurably worse.

Did I share all of this with my husband? Of course, and at first I believed my despair would matter to him. I quickly learned that it didn’t – that in fact, the hardest and most ground-shaking revelation I had to endure was one that my intuition had been shaking me by the shoulders and staring me straight in the eyes over for about 6 years; that the man I was married to was not the man I thought I knew. Trouble was, it was too late by then. I’d ignored myself too long, and that “something” that life throws at you – the thing that will bring you to your knees? It was already at my door. A slowly building storm was now thundering around me, and hits of lightning were coming hard and furiously.

Looking back over the landscape of my life with clear, dispassionate eyes, I can see the exact moment when my inner voice was tapping me very firmly on the shoulder, telling me to make a very specific and life changing choice that would have been difficult, but was undoubtedly, in hindsight, the right choice to make. My intuition was talking loud and clear, and I didn’t listen. I made the opposite choice instead – the choice to move with my husband to Texas rather than end my marriage and send him on his way, and it’s the one choice in my life that I would remake if I could.

 

 

 

Getting Clear

getting clear

My husband had an affair. I’m not saying that to be dramatic, or to win points, or to colour anyone’s opinion. I’m saying it because it’s true and because it’s no secret. Everyone who knows he and I already knows about it.

I’m sure a lot of people think that my marriage dissolved as a result of my husband’s infidelity, but that isn’t the truth. In fact, the day I found out about his mistress I didn’t feel sad, or shocked, or destroyed – I didn’t even feel angry. What I felt on that hot Sunday morning in August of 2014, in the kitchen of our Houston home when my husband was finally forced to fess up, was relief.

If you know anything about infidelity, you know this: it’s based in escapism. It’s a rabbit hole. It’s an ill-advised survival mechanism. It’s immediate gratification and a way for the adulterer to temporarily feel better about him or herself and the life situation they’re in. Infidelity is about ego – I feel insecure and out of control of myself and my life, so I’m going to go play a role elsewhere where I feel like a superstar, and the person I do that with will intuitively know that I need them to inflate me and comfort me; and they’ll do it, because they need inflating and comforting too. Infidelity is a symptom of a broken relationship, not the end of a good one.

It’s odd and yet unsurprising that partners do this to each other. I’m convinced that the culture of infidelity – the acceptance of it as “normal” or at the very least, not unusual, is evidence of widespread human disconnection and fear of reckoning with ourselves.

At this point, I’ll throw out a caveat. For anyone who’s reading this in the hope of garnering salacious and tabloid-like information; I’m not here to trash my ex-husband. I honour his path in life just as I’d honour anyone else’s. I know he’s doing what he can, just like I am, for himself and for our daughter.

I guess this is what I’m writing about, actually – a long history with someone I tried to build a life with, and the complicated humanness that resulted from the fallout; the effects on someone in an unbalanced or fundamentally dishonest relationship who decides to rock the boat.

That’s what I’m writing about.

Where to Begin

I’ve been thinking for a very long time now about whether or not to proceed with this particular endeavor. It took me years to even consider putting my words and experience out there, and once I dipped my toe into the water, I immediately recoiled in terror. The writing I want to do comes from such a deep and sacred place in my soul that it seems rash if not downright foolish to deliver it in this manner.

Brené Brown, one of my spiritual, humanitarian, educational and literary heroes says that you have to be very careful who you share your story with – that not everyone deserves the privilege of hearing it. The spiritual path is a lonely one, for sure. Anyone who finds community in it is practicing religion – not spirituality. I believe right down to the tips of my toes that isolation, or at least the sense of it, is a necessity of spiritual growth, because it’s only when we feel truly alone that we have space enough to examine what’s actually going on inside of us.

There is an ache inside of me to share what I’ve experienced and what I’ve learned, and because of that I find myself in a Catch 22. (For those of you who have no idea what that is, I’ll save you the Google search.) Catch 22 is a novel published in 1961, written by Joseph Heller and based on his experiences in World War II. The theme of the novel is contradictions and paradoxes – situations from which it’s impossible to escape unscathed because of contradictory rules that screw you over either way.

My personal Catch 22 is this: if I don’t share my story (i.e. if I’m never to be heard) I’ll go to the grave carrying the painful ache I have to share it. I believe my experience is valuable; I believe it might help others, and I believe in sharing it I can add to the common good of humanity. But what I know (also from experience) is that Brené Brown’s words about sharing your story are entirely true. If you share with people who haven’t earned the right to hear your story (meaning, they haven’t proven capable of listening with empathy and entirely without judgement) then you’re setting yourself up for pain. I know that in writing what I need and want to write, I’m going to piss some people off, and I’m going to lose a few. I’ve lost many valued people already and I haven’t yet written a word for public consumption.

If I do this and be honest about it the way I want to be, I’m going to be judged. People are bound to talk, because what I have to say is going to make a lot of people very uncomfortable. It’s going to challenge what they thought they knew of me and my ex-husband – and more significantly, it’s going to challenge what they think they know and believe about themselves. They’ll retaliate. They’ll take sides. They’ll point fingers. They’ll say I’m digging up the past, or poking at old wounds or casting blame. Some people will say I’m playing the victim. Some will call me a bitch. Some will call me a liar. Some are bound to think I have absolutely no business at all disclosing anything, in the best interest of my daughter.

I’ve grappled with all of that and much more – I’ve grappled with it for years, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s more important for me to get the words out than to worry about what I might lose if I do, or any personal damage I might sustain in the process. I simply need to say what I have to say. At this point in my life’s journey, the weight of not saying it is a far worse burden to bear than any judgement I might face in the wake of it.

The next struggle (and a far less daunting one) is where to begin. You see, the story I have to tell starts 28 years ago, the day I met the man that would become my husband. I was two months shy of my 18th birthday, and I’d never had a boyfriend. He and I were set up on a blind date by one my friends, who happened to be dating his best friend, and from that night on, until October 2nd of 2014, he and I were a couple.

My story is one of awakening, and a cautionary tale too, I suppose. But let me be clear: I don’t regret my path. I’ve learned and gained much from it – including one incredibly fantastic soul that I am privileged to call my daughter. But there was a tipping point in my awakening – a moment (or maybe a series of moments) along the way when I knew for sure that the relationship I had with the boy I started seeing two months before I turned 18 was over, and despite every instinct I had to address the situation and end things in the best possible way, to listen to myself and have the courage to follow my own my conviction, I didn’t. And that sent me (and my daughter, by default) down a drain spiral of hell.

I’m almost four years out from the avalanche of the end of my marriage, and about nine years out from the first bit of rolling snow that triggered it. It’s only now, out of sheer necessity, that I feel that I can’t avoid writing the story down anymore. I ask you, dear reader, to grant me some grace. I’m terrified beyond measure.

I guess I’ll start where it began. The night I met the person I’d marry – a kind boy with blonde hair and soft blue eyes, who treated me like gold and made me feel loved for the first time in my life. Yes. I’ll start there.

My Neck of the Woods

Finding Your True North
Seeing the forest for the trees.

For the longest time I thought of myself as a details kind of person. I come from a long line of perfectionist women, which means the need to have everything “just so” runs deep in me. It’s practically part of my DNA.

I am very adept at making things look absolutely fantastic. It’s a skill I learned by example, growing up in a household of anywhere between 5 – 10 kids (depending on which of my older siblings had moved out or moved back in at any given time) – a household where my mother made sure everyone’s bedsheets were freshly washed and ironed (yes, ironed) where there was never a pile of unfinished laundry lying around anywhere on the floor, where nary a dirty dish was ever left in the kitchen sink, where the lawn was always pristinely manicured, the mirrors were spot-free, the furniture – dustless. Growing up that way, you tend to develop a knack for taking care of things – for doing the work that’s required, for tenacity and grit – and also, for creating appearances.

I created appearances for most of my adult life. I stopped doing that, sort of gradually over a period of about eight years, and the end result was a seventeen year marriage on the rocks, a financial disaster, a rather grim looking professional future and a shellshocked 10-year old daughter.

Not fun.

It’s been four years since my marriage disintegrated, and I can tell you at this point, I get why people stay. Why women stay, in particular. Leaving a marriage, especially one that lasted a long time and looked beautiful from the outside but was never grounded in anything real, is like trudging across a football field of wet clay in a 100-lb suit. Trying to make it work is often the easier thing to do.

I tried to make my marriage work. That was my strength and my downfall. I made it work for almost 20 years, until I knew for sure that the only way to continue making it work was to keep towing the line – keep creating appearances – to decide once and for all to take my life in a direction I never wanted or agreed for it to go.

True North is about having the courage to follow your own internal compass. It’s about listening to yourself, trusting yourself, and being brave enough to do what you know is good and right for you, even when it goes against everything you’ve been told or taught to believe is good and right. It’s about finding the strength to let go of what doesn’t serve or support you, and having faith that somewhere down the line, in doing so, you’ll create a life that serves and supports you tenfold. It’s about finding community when the number of people you thought you could trust and count on is dropping like flies. It’s about seeing the forest for the trees. It’s about big picture thinking as opposed to detail oriented tasks. It’s about navigating life in a way that’s real. Not easy, but real. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to life, I’ll take real over easy every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Stick with me and you’re going to hear (read) some pretty crazy stuff – things that even I don’t quite believe happened. But I want to share my story, and I’m prepared to be both accepted and/or judged for it. I’ve been accepted and judged multiple times already. What I’ve come to know is that being judged is as useful in the process of growth as being accepted is.

True North is my life’s roadmap. I welcome you on the journey.