More Hard Things

Today, I sat helpless in my kitchen knowing that a friend was facing a hard thing.

Her hard thing isn’t one that I have experienced. Her hard thing is one I can’t really imagine. Her hard thing is one that has stretched and limped and roared and picked but no matter what, she couldn’t make it go away.

Her young adult son has cancer, and today, he closed his eyes for the last time.

As I’ve sat here alone, I have tried to imagine. I have tried to imagine if you see the infant baby staring up at you with utter trust. I have tried to imagine if you see the first day of preschool or the last day of high school. Do you see the moments of frustration or fear that you undoubtedly had and wish you had do-overs? Do you feel the pudgy arms hugging you and the sweaty face pressed against yours with dirty tears running down after a crazy child-moment? Do you see the movies you didn’t allow and the parties you did, or the times you postponed a conversation  because the laundry wasn’t done or didn’t go on a walk because it was too hot out? Do you remember the last carefree laugh, or dinner that wasn’t carrying a shadow, or worrying about things that didn’t include forevers? Do you see past the pictures of the tubes and the needles and the possibilities of potential help drifting by and shouting NO! STOP! YOU DON’T GET IT- this is MY SON to the moments of caring about the color of tie for prom?

Oh my friend, this is a hard thing. A hard thing that will make you dig deep in your soul and shout out in pain and look at the rest of the world like it is nuts for moving on.

A hard thing that will keep you up at night and not let you get out of bed. That will create moments of thinking you could do more and moments of knowing everything was done. A hard thing of pain and sadness and loneliness and utter, despicable emptiness.

But beautiful girl, you can do hard things.

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And you are not alone. He did hard things first, and He will journey to and through this hell with you. Nothing you can throw on Him will make him leave you – not rage, or disappointment, or anger, or contempt, or doubt. Take his hand, beautiful girl. Go.

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Intermission: Grateful in the Chaos

Taking a break from the chronicles of infidelity. Because I am overcome today with gratefulness in the midst of the pain and confusion we are seeing around us here in the US.

It is Veteran’s Day. And I’m grateful. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that we have brave men and women who literally place their lives on the line for the rest of us unknown and unnamed Americans. I’m grateful for my father, a 25 year Air Force vet who flew over 150 missions in the Viet Nam war, and helped to identify a missile base that was blasting SAM missiles at US planes, shooting them out of the sky. I’m grateful for my brother-in-law, a 25+ year Army vet who fought hard for our freedom in several fronts around the world. I’m grateful for my friend’s son, her only child, who lost his life defending our country and our most precious freedom.

I’m grateful, too, for my overwhelmingly brilliant and opinionated and verbose children who eloquently and frequently express their thoughts on political and social issues. Who exercise their freedom of thought and choice and speech, and band together with such passion to bring change they desperately know will make our nation stronger and better. I’m grateful they listen well, and believe in collaboration and will leave this country, and this world, a better place.

And I’m grateful to live in the United States. A country in which we are allowed to disagree and duke out deeply dividing differences in public forums, yet free to choose to find the common places and spaces where we will…WE WILL discover and defend a better solution than any of us could singularly create. We are stronger, together, doing the incredibly difficult work of learning about, hearing, understanding, embracing, caring, loving. Anyone who doubts this is listening to forces and voices that need to be overcome – because they know we are weaker if we are pitted against each other – through our dedication to what this country is all about: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I’m grateful “they” cannot make us believe that this is not at the core of our people, our focus, our commitment.

I’m grateful, today, for this unique, diverse, beautiful tapestry of individuals that have chosen to allow a common thread to run through us and that is defended, brilliantly, by our service men and women. But also by those who work so hard to ensure their voices and causes and victories and battles are heard. We have so much in common, so much more than people outside our unique country could ever understand. I’m grateful for you.

Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 4

Just looking back through the life of my infidel…looking at gaps and patterns and moments and experiences and ways-of-living that could give us both clues into how. Into why. This isn’t a treatise for explaining cheating; rather a process of working through for both of us…so we never end up there again.

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On to Part 4…

He was smitten by this crazy girl. She had a different kind of home life than the one he knew, and she had traveled roads he hadn’t been down. She was unpredictable and passionate in good ways and bad ways. They continued to party…drinking…smoking pot…going to concerts…trips to the Keys and the Bahamas… Between her voracious sexual appetite, knowledge of ways to please and strong personality, he was in a state of constant confusion. For the first couple years it was exciting…so exciting that HUSBAND decided to marry her which angered his family. They got engaged, but the ring came off and on depending on the status of their relationship. At one point she disappeared and left town with another man, but returned soon and the relationship resumed. Finally the ring never did go back on her finger, and there are lifelong wounds that have been difficult to reconcile.

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But there was another side to the man, HUSBAND, during those years. I met him then, at the end of his tumultuous relationship. I was a determined and goal-oriented young professional and a mutual friend brought us together for business reasons. The man that I met was kind, a bit shy and open to the business assistance I could provide. He was a solid manager in a successful company, and seemed to have his future planned with quiet confidence. Even then…he was able to put on a mask when needed. We were both engaged at that point, and I thought nothing of our meetings other than what they were intended for.

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A couple years later, a Board member and I were targeting HUSBAND’s company (along with several others). We provided several occasions to share our services and products and got some interest from the leadership team of HUSBAND’s company. Eventually I took a tour of the company, led by HUSBAND. I was impressed with his deep knowledge of a really complex business, his breadth of vision for upcoming changes in technology and business methodology. At the end of the tour, he walked me out to my car and asked if I’d ever gotten married…no…nor had he.

Within a few weeks, our business relationship moved to a personal relationship and six months later, we were married.

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The man I was getting to know admitted he had partied some in the past. But not so much, really not much at all.

The man I was getting to know admitted he’d had sex with his long term girlfriend, and two other times/people. Not much of a conquest guy, really tame compared to some of the things I’d heard from other men.

The man I was getting to know had a vision and plan for his future. Yet he had a charming way of being humble, and uncertain that was endearing.

The man I was getting to know loved me so much. Loved me more than hunting. Loved me more than fishing. Loved me more than anything, and wanted to be with me more than anything. Told me on more than one occasion when we were forced to be apart overnight due to previously planned trips…just think…soon…we will never have to be apart again…

Turns out the man I was getting to know wasn’t the man I married. Not that I had any clue for a very long time.

And turns out that I did turn a blind eye to some things.

That all comes next.

So as you put on your masks and costumes tonight, think about how many people you know who wear them every day…wear them so well that they are nearly impossible to detect. Halloween…a celebration of illusion.

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Better Alone. Or Not.

I heard a wife say this recently. That she would be better off alone. I used to think it, but never dared say it aloud. I used to think that it would be better to be alone than to be in an empty marriage. In my empty marriage. To have the wrappings of a partnership and the title of a partnership yet no workings of a partnership. I didn’t permit myself to think that often, but that loneliness would press its way into my awareness sometimes, and be almost overwhelming before I could squish it back down to its hiding place in my soul.

I used to say that if anything happened to HUSBAND, I would not remarry. I didn’t say that because ours was a love that couldn’t be matched – rather because I felt I’d given him the best of me, all of me, for most of my adult life and I would be better just taking care of me. That I would likely get some funky amazing old place in a funky amazing old part of town and live there with lots of books and more than one cat and I would be happy. That I would know I was alone and not be pretending to be able to depend on someone else who wasn’t really available and that had to be better than an empty marriage.

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I was alone in the midst of my marriage. It was so odd…being in the same room with another yet so utterly alone. I could see HUSBAND there in the house, and we would talk when needed. We functioned in this well-oiled machine of knowing our designated roles and doing them well, taking care not to tread into each other’s realm of responsibility, or dig too deep into each other’s realm of the heart. And I was so very lonely.

I knew that I would gather the laundry and make sure it was in the washer and then the dryer and then folded and then in each respective person’s room. He knew he would make sure the cars got oil changes and had the right air pressure in the tires and got washed and cleaned out. I knew that I would pay the bills and determine where to rob peter to pay paul as HUSBAND walked by the office on his way outside where he knew he would trim the bushes and rearrange things in the garage to accommodate the current sports paraphernalia of our kids’ lives.

We were good at living well in our lanes and making sure they never intersected. Even when we dressed up and went out, or headed to church or on vacation, we stayed in our lanes. We could smile broadly and stand together with HUSBAND’s hand lightly on the small of my back. We could laugh at people’s jokes and engage in lively conversation. But I was still alone. HUSBAND could not read my glance from across the room, or tune into the subtle nuances of a conversation and support me with his words or actions. We got back in the car or on the plane and it was if there was a wall between us buffered only by our mutual love and care for our beautiful babies.

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Alone. Lonely. My plight in marriage for much of it, and as I looked around then, and even now, the reality for many, if not most, marriages. It was, after all, what marriage was and lonely as I was, it was good(ish). Until somedays it wasn’t so good, but then I thought really, it was because I just expected too much because, after all, we make our own happiness.

A jumble of loneliness and confusion.

When HUSBAND’s serial cheating and porn addiction came to the surface, I remembered being alone all those years. It weighed heavily on my heart and mind and decisions about whether to stay. I was so angry that I’d been used to give him a home and a family and he’d not only been unfaithful, but he’d allowed me to be so completely alone throughout the journey. There seemed to be nothing to salvage, no reason at all to consider staying married. I’d been betrayed by his actions sexually and abandoned by his responses emotionally.

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And I was right. There was no way or no reason to stay in that marriage. He got it. It was like something turned on deep in his being and he got it. He began to awaken as a person and as he moved into recovery he began to awaken in his capacity to care, to empathize, to love.

Now I know it is not better to be alone. Now I know that I was wired to be cherished and to cherish. To be cared for and care. To be loved and love. It is a vital part of my being that I had turned off but that’s just it…it is crucial and to deny that part of me is to cut off part of my humanity.

I don’t want to be alone. And I won’t ever be lonely in marriage again. Lonely together is not marriage, not the way it can be and should be. Lonely in marriage is soul crushing and body killing and mind jamming.  So when HUSBAND walked in our bedroom a couple night’s ago and said, “Please know that I don’t want to be on life support, should something happen…we’ve never really talked about that before…” I realized that if he left me now, I would miss him. I don’t want to live in that funky old house in the funky old neighborhood with a couple cats without him. Then I would be lonely, a different kind of lonely, all over again.

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Yearn.

I yearn.

I yearn for a country of kindness and a community of care. I yearn for kids to connect with each other and with playing – really playing not pushing buttons on a box and watching an image someone else designed. I yearn for people to look each other in the eyes and see the heart of the human and to have compassion.

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I yearn for integrity and sacrifice from myself. From those I know. From those I elect. From those I listen to on Sundays and those that teach our children and those that enforce our laws.

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I yearn for places that animals can roam and flowers can grow wild. I yearn for ideas from the people to be percolated and considered not thrust aside as meaningless or naïve. I yearn for leaders to listen but, even more, to hear and for the same radical change that we’ve dared to embrace in technology and gaming and communication to happen in education and healthcare and politics.

I yearn for peace…peace that passes all understanding that comes from facing pain and grieving loss and then knowing there is love. To know the LOVE that wrote our names in red as He gave His very life to provide the salve for our wounds.

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I yearn for gentleness and grace and mercy and kindness. For cheaters to see the pain that is inside them and face it and deal with it instead of passing it on to other victims. I yearn for addicts to peel back their wounds and look boldly into the vortex of their agony and to reach out and heal and walk in courage.

I yearn. Do you?

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