When I was a young teen, my father was a professor at the University of Colorado for a couple of years. We lived in the amazing, green-belt-wrapped town/city of Boulder, tucked neatly into the valley with the beautiful Rockies looming to the west, and foothills part of the landscape.
There were strong winds that swept down over Boulder off this eastern slope of the mountains. Winds that were called the chinook – after the Pacific Native Americans – and, according to the Earth Systems Research Laboratory, are some of the highest peak winds in the entire country. The winds were sometimes strong enough to blow roofs off, down trees and melt a foot of snow in less than an hour. But for the most part, the chinook was something brief and interesting and part of the lore of living in Boulder.
So for Christmas one year, my parents had rented a condo at a ski resort for a week. Believe it or not, the day before we were leaving, it was in the mid-70s in Boulder – a perfect day to lay out in the backyard in my bikini and get a tan. Dad was at work, and mom was running around getting last minute items for the trip, and our house was filled with a crew of 4-5 men painting the living room and dining room. I was on my lounge chair, soaking up the sun and the phone rang…and this was prior to cell phones that are perched by our sides…so I jumped up and ran to the door…a sliding glass door…and grabbed the handle to slide it open with my right hand touching the glass with my left hand…and
The entire 72 x 80 inch door shattered with a deafening sound. Shards of glass were there – inside the door and outside the door and sticking out of various places on my body.
I was stunned, shocked, completely confused how this could have happened. I did not fly into the door with my body weight, or press hard on the door with my left hand. I opened it the same way I always opened it, lightly touching the door with my left finger tips to stabilize the opening procedure while pulling on the handle with my right, yet this time the door lay in little pieces all around me. Then I realized that numerous places on my hands and legs and feet were bleeding…some small spots of blood, but a couple quite vigorously.
I ran into the kitchen (to this day have no idea who was on the phone), turned on the sink, threw my heavily-bleeding-hand under the sink while telling the very-shocked-painters to hand me some paper towels that I pressed onto my worst-bleeding-foot wound with the other foot. They began to sort-of-panic (isn’t that just like men? Sorry, didn’t mean to be sexist, but I guess I really did) and I took the role of calming them down.
So why this story? There was no man involved, no relationship, no HUSBAND or cheating or loving or even family-of-origin stories here.
Right after the door crashed down, everyone (mostly my parents) blamed me. It was surely my teen-crazed desire to answer the phone…I had crashed into the door…I had wrenched the door open with force. I replayed the incident over and over and over in my head while nurturing the physical wounds, and knew this was not so. Eventually, we learned that it was very likely the glass had been weakened and bore cracks and fissures due to the winds…cracks we couldn’t see…cracks that were actually the cause of the shattering which could have happened to anyone.
Some have suggested that for me to go back and examine my marriage may cause more pain, stunt healing or lead to self-blame. For me, on DDAY, I was the glass door. I looked healthy and clear and shiny with no cracks or hints of instability. But it wasn’t true. And as much as I am me, and I am separate from HUSBAND, WHICH I FULLY BELIEVE, because we were married we were also inextricably woven into one in a mystery I cannot fully understand, so any brokenness in him really was brokenness in me. Those crazy chinook winds had blown over and in my life and over and in his life and over and in our life, and left microscopic cracks and fissures and schisms that I glossed over or thought would be better tomorrow or could not see because they were just so small…but then
The entire 27 year marriage of HUSBAND and me came crashing down. Shards of my life were strewn across the years and the dreams and the reality of all that I was.
That gaping hole where the door once stood, where the marriage once stood, has to be rebuilt. It could be a single-hung glass, or perhaps a double-pane, but either way if it is going to stand the chinook bearing down again and again as life does, I want to understand how the original construction allowed those cracks and fissures to form. I want to change the plans, to be able to withstand the winds and not be in danger of shattering again, and to do so, I am willing to take apart every bit of the process and rebuild step-by-step with stronger, smarter, better parts. In my case, HUSBAND also wants that for himself, which is what is allowing us to consider remaining married, to work toward a whole marriage which I can see now, we never had before. If he wasn’t willing to invest and to dedicate his heart and mind and being to both going back with brutal honesty, and moving forward with humble bareness, I would be on this journey alone. Because that is what I am doing, and now, we are doing – going back with brutal honesty, and moving forward with humble bareness.
Looking back, for me, is the only way to build forward.