The Prism of the Present

I just took a shower. Routine event…sometimes I get out of the shower and am toweling off and realize I had not remembered, specifically, washing my hair or using conditioner or shaving because I do those things so rotely they take no real awareness.  Sometimes I even have to rub my hand down my leg to make sure I did do all the shower tasks (but don’t tell ok?)

I do a lot of thinking in the shower. I write blog posts, or a book. I solve problems and have imaginary conversations. I often think of the past or something I didn’t do or something that is weighing on my mind…

There was a bad shower day: it was a few days after I discovered HUSBAND was a cheater, and that he had shared a cabin by a creek in a small town in North Carolina with the OW. As I reached my arm up to get my shampoo, suddenly it was her arm, SW, and it was her in the shower and his hands were on her and I couldn’t discern her from me and his touch on me was really on her…it was horrible and I sobbed.

CryingintheShower

So today, I had a different kind of experience. Turned on the water, just like always and stepped in when it was the right temperature. I let the water roll down my hair and my face and my body and suddenly, that was all there was. Me, the water, the shower. I noticed the tile and the perfect force of the showerhead’s delivery of water to my body – why had I not realized this before? And when I squeezed the shampoo onto my hand, I smelled the gentle fragrance that appeals to me, and makes me think clean, and I noticed, no – REALLY NOTICED – the way it sat in my hand. I put my hands to my head, and washed my hair and felt the stress and the debris and the stuff work out of my scalp and hair and fall with the water into the bottom of the shower and run down the drain. For the first time ever, I moved every moment of my shower with intentionality. Intentionally in the present, fighting off the urge to look behind or ahead.

A crazy thing happened. I saw and smelled and felt and sensed so much to be grateful for. In the shower, in my shower. Things like: A clean shower. Hair product that I like. The ability to take showers any time I want. To make the water temperature just so. To have delightful homemade soap to clean my body. To wash my face and get every nook and cranny clean and fresh and new. The gratefulness in the space was palatable, it was real, it was present in the shower with me.

It hit me how hard we have to fight to live in the present. To fight off the what-ifs, and the I need to… And no matter what our past story is, whether it is betrayal, or rejection, or abandonment, or fear, or addiction, or success and power…we really only have the present. This moment. Right now. As I breathe in the present moment, I discover that my eyes are often opened to both flashes of beauty, and possibility. Possibility that the next moment may hold a flash of beauty…and if not, finding the thing in one moment that is strong can carry me through the ugly and hurtful and dark until the next time I can see a moment of good.

BreakingThrough

It was pain that taught me to live in the present. It was the pain of discovering I was a betrayed wife that overcame me with such force that all I could do was take the next breath. Literally, the next breath. I learned that I had to allow the pain to be, to look at it, to feel it. This was the first time in my life the pain was so enveloping and strong and permeating that I could not shove it aside or just smile and nod. I had to let it be and experience it and let it own the moment. That present moment because there was no way I could look beyond where all I could sense was more pain. So I was forced to the present. It was there, in the present pain that I began to find healing. I survived. I slowly saw a flash of beauty. Just a flash, mind you. But then another and another.

Happy Labor Day…and may we each find a sliver of beauty in one present moment today.

flashofbeauty

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Cashing Checks

“You write checks with your words, and cash them with your actions.”

Profound statement, and one made by a beautiful young wife, pregnant with her first child, whose husband has struggled. The majority of his infidelity has been electronic relationships – porn – however he also reached out for a flesh person a couple times.

The brave young couple has chosen to work toward recovery (him – from sex addiction) and healing (her) and reconciliation (them). They have a long journey, but have made smart strides: individual and couple counseling. Recovery groups. Intensive marriage weekend. They have hope right now, and as coaches walking alongside them in the journey, HUSBAND and I have hope with them. And for their unborn child. And for all those who follow after their new marriage, their covenant of love.

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Back to the quote.

You write checks with your words. You cash them with your actions.

Therefore if your words are worthless, the check bounces.

bouncecheck

Vegas Feigns Freedom

This summer took me to a conference in Las Vegas. Seriously, Las Vegas. I’m in the business of helping design and implement community-wide prevention efforts related to substance abuse, and promoting health and wellness. And our national convention is in Vegas.

Vegas, where the perverted is promoted as compelling. Where temptations are touted as deserved. Where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Vegas1

I’m not trashing Vegas…there are some amazing people doing good things and trying to rise above the onslaught of support for selfish indulgence that is sold by many advertisers. But it is a unique place to observe the dichotomy of humanity. For the most part, humans all over the world and right here in the US speak of wanting to find their life-partner and of living in harmony together, of raising kids that are healthy and happy, of doing work that is fulfilling, and playing in ways that are fun and challenge them to grow, and of investing in their community or world to make it a better place.

Yet the heart of downtown Vegas screams a different story. A story of entire self-satisfaction, of disdaining any inhibition because of values or commitments, of pushing limits of restraint whether related to money or sex or drugs or rock ‘n roll. It calls…begs…taunts…you to dare! To live! To try! From the garish advertisements that start inundating you at the airport, to the recovery water prominently available right in your room…from the legal prostitution and bare pools to the free drinks when gambling and concierge’s willingness to make anything available for you at any time…

Vegas2

So what do we really want? What do we really value?

I think for many years, for all my years, prior to discovering the double-life that was my life…right in my own home…I somehow thought we could balance the onslaught of transgressions-made-to-look-pretty and not-making-bad-choices. I thought it was all about morality and being a good person and doing what was right and have a strong-will. But now I see that we are so incredibly multi-faceted and the normalization of the macabre does wear us down. It can, very subtly, without even realizing it, shave the edges off the strong parameters we have made in our own lives, we can find ourselves cheering for or engaging in things that would have caused us pause at one point. From the clothes we accept our loved ones wearing to the shows we watch ourselves…from the jokes we laugh at to the websites we frequent. We are inundated in a culture that flaunts it is all about YOU-yes-YOU, BABY! And it is all there for the taking and my happiness is the most paramount reality to be pursued and truth is all relative and by DAMN I deserve this or that or that or this RIGHT NOW…

You get it. We are affected by our culture. By no means in any way do I believe this is an excuse for betrayal, but we must begin to see it as one of the many root causes, core attitudes. Somehow the painful, ugly and devastating reality of illicit sexual and emotional relationships have been normalized. They are on every tv show and movie, often glamorizing the affair partner and reducing the spouse to a needy, driveling idiot. They are touted in magazines, and just search websites for affair sites…you find sites to help you have affairs, hide affairs and for sure, not-get-caught. Then search for apps that can help you out if you want to shop for lovers, chat with lovers, meet up with lovers or track your partners. There are thousands. Some of them help you out by deleting all the information with the simple shake of your device (you know, for when the spouse is asking to see your phone). Some look like stock apps or weather apps but when the secret pass code is entered, voila! There are all your secret communications with your lover along with storage for pictures and videos. Doesn’t it just make you warm and fuzzy all over? And of course, we need to start them young: youth love apps like Snap Chat that ensure no one can see their photo or video after 30 seconds. Why would such an app even be developed except for illicit purposes?

Culture

Over and over in all kinds of surveys, between 85 and 90% of people indicate marriage should be monogamous, yet (depending on the survey) 40-60% of those SAME PEOPLE admit to having been involved in an illicit relationship. So what is that? Other than cognitive dissonance? Our culture is boldly and subtly, overtly and covertly screaming to seek constant self-pleasure at all costs, despite costs, yet deep in our souls, it never satisfies.

And then…then the game comes to a grinding halt with discovery and devastation and soul-death and often divorce.

So, back to Vegas where I started this diatribe. Vegas is simply a symptom of the soul sickness we have allowed to permeate our culture. It makes so many promises, but ultimately, keeps none. Surreal experience visiting Vegas, promoting health and wellness in the midst of degradation and darkness. I am grateful, oh so grateful to have found the real light, the light of transparency and commitment and grace and truth. It cost everything, but what price freedom? What price love?

loveneverfails

 

 

 

Zephyr

1. The west wind.2. A gentle breeze.3. Any of various soft light fabrics, yarns, or garments, especially a lightweight, checked gingham fabric.4. Something that is airy, insubstantial, or passing.

It’s just after midnight and now April 30. I’m glad. I’m glad because yesterday was a milestone in my life, in my journey of healing.

Yesterday marked the day, two years ago, that I found out about HUSBAND’s double life – that he was a cheater – that he had a relationship with another woman in every sense of the word.

The day came roaring up in some ways, yet snuck up all at once too. I saw it coming, I dreaded it coming, yet all of the sudden it was here and in front of me without me really knowing. We have all the kids at home right now…ready to celebrate the graduation of one of the tribe…and the focus on changing linens and making sure cat fur was vacuumed up and everyone got their favorite room and we had all the right food made me forget for a minute that this was a day to be remembered, to be marked.

graduating2

As I looked around at one of the intermissions of the blessed chaos, it hit me with a SWOOSH that this could have looked so different. It could have been such a different day for me. For HUSBAND. For the graduate and all the other kiddos. It could have been a day of dread by the kids, wondering how they could negotiate between their separate parents at a single event and time. It could have been a day when I was forced to look at the person (or one of the persons) who had decided covenants weren’t for keeping and when I may have had to watch HUSBAND play role of lover to another woman. It could have been a day of tension, of terseness, of jockeying for position and fighting for affection and…desperately…seeking…love…

chaos

But instead, the day was like a zephyr. Like a gentle breeze I watched my beautiful children interact with care and fun and depth. HUSBAND and I have a rhythm now, and things flow amongst us and our home and our family without fits and starts like in the past-even though I wasn’t able to see the ruffles when I was living them. Now, the colors of our lives are woven into beautiful fabrics that cover, but don’t bind. That fit, but leave room for growth.

gentlebreeze

So rather than pour in and gush over me and us like a rogue wave, this marker day wafted over airily…zephyr-like, kind of insubstantial in light of the glory of being with those I love.

Two years…two years and we are all finding our way.

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.Weight.

WeightOfGrief

Weight of offenses against you.

Weight of misdeeds, intentional and not, curled in and through your being.

Weight of abandonment. Of abuse.

Of corruption. Of deceit. Of exploitation. Of injustice. Of perversion and manipulation. Of hatefulness and rage and retaliation. Of resentment and vengeance. Of scorn and mockery and neglect.

Of infidelity. Of betrayal and collusion.

Of exposure.

Of distortion and evasion and slander.

Of selfishness. And ill will. And disdain.

Weight of grief.

Underneath

New York City fascinates me…for all the obvious reasons…the flash and theater and amazing eateries and Wall Street and Central Park and Prospect Park and Bryant Park and coffee shops…oh…the coffee shops…

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But more than all that and the other thousand things I could list, I am fascinated with the life underground.

I am fascinated that the subway stations are such a part of the fabric of the streetscape that sometimes they are hard to see. I’m fascinated that people, young and old, fat and skinny, employed and homeless, move at a (relative) uniform (fast) pace and don’t see 20 stairs as a barrier to use (unlike much of the rest of the US). I’m fascinated that no one ever seems to glance at a schedule, or look at a map, but they get everywhere they are going. I’m fascinated that people bring their groceries on the subway, go to prom on the subway, go to work and school and dates and doctor’s appointments and meetings with their architects and, now that I know what I know, meetings with their whores. On the subway.

Subwaypeople

I’m fascinated that there is a whole life underneath the ground. A life that includes shops and restaurants and advertising and crime and cops and rats and music and people. There is New York City on top, in the light. And New York City underneath, in the dark. And they are both filled with drama and death and life. The underneath knows about what’s above, but all of what’s above doesn’t know about underneath.

SubwayMusician2

My life had an underneath too.

There was a little bit of underneath that I knew about, but lots that I didn’t. It knew…my underneath knew what was above and outside, but only let little snippets of itself be known. Until it had to.

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My marriage had an underneath too.

There was almost nothing of the underneath in my marriage that I knew about…except little snippets that HUSBAND shared…little little snippets…until a big snippet came out and all the other snippets eventually appeared from underneath.

OneManTwoWomen

I’m not willing to live with any underneaths in my personhood or personal life anymore. Truth is, they all are one anyway, they just like to keep the lines of demarcation and pretend they each have their own territory in my soul. But they were at war, battling…the underneath and the above.

They were at war. And I won.

iwin

Present.

We all say we want to live in the present, and we really do. We really want to savor the moments and see the world around us and breathe in the instant yet we don’t. We want to notice the way the trees majestically rise to the sky and hear the soulful coo of the mourning dove and say a sincere thank you to the person who hands us our coffee and even look them in the eyes while doing it yet we don’t.

be.here.now.

More often than not, we don’t.

Often we are plagued with burdens past or fears future and before you know it we forgot the present. We are pulled into the pain of then or the anxiety of next and meanwhile the possibility of now slips by. And we don’t see it, often, until it’s gone.

When your baby is done nursing for good, you try to think about the way he felt against your skin. It’s hard to remember, really, because you were there but not present, thinking about what to make for dinner or whether you would be on time to pick the other kids up. As you gaze at the road, you realize you don’t remember the last fifteen minutes of the trip and wonder what you were thinking about that was making you there but not present.

Moment2

Is that one of the ways that HUSBAND was able to live a double life alongside our life? Because I was there but not present? I was thinking of things past and things to come and forgetting to live in now and now was where he was living another life? As I try to think about those days of known infidelity now, I try to imagine how I had no idea (one of the mind scourges of the betrayed), and not living in the present was real. I spent time focusing on past failures and wounds, trying to avoid a future of mistakes and injury and meanwhile missed the now. Just like the driving reality – I woke up and wondered where and how I had gotten there.

Because that’s how present is. It is here now and gone then. But not like we sometimes think about present. It is seriously here now and gone then. Individual moment by individual moment. To learn to be present is something that finding out HUSBAND was a betrayer has taught me. To learn to literally engage here, now, in this very present moment and the next very present moment and the next and so on. To learn to quiet the mental chatter that feeds me messages from the past or fears of the future and to focus on the person in front of me, his words, his actions now without interpretation, and to receive it. To see the food and smell the smells and taste the tastes now, without expectation or comparison. To walk into a new barre class and see the space and feel the floor against my feet and squeeze the ball between my legs and receive the next move without anticipation.

Present. It is so hard, and so different than the way I used to live. But so completely – freeing.

livethemoment

Such a dichotomy that it was my shattered past that led me to learn to live in the present. But for me, this is an enormous part of my healing. The shattering is what helped me have the courage to do so…you see…the shattering left me bloody and strewn out across all that I knew and exposed…but I survived. I lived on. I became strong and fierce and even though I may be stitched together in so many ways and have crazy scars across all parts of my being, I know that it’s a beautiful pattern. I learned that the One who went first had experienced all this – mockery and flogging and betrayal and abandonment – and He showed me the way to present. Through Him, the past has no hold over me, and the future is glorious.

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