Does ‘Everything Happen For A Reason’??

Some people believe there is no reason at all – that shit happens – plain and simple…

I heard someone this week say that they had a love/hate relationship with the thought that ‘everything happens for a reason’. How does one consider that the death of a newborn baby or the young father of four children or the massacre of a village has a ‘reason’? How hard is it to try and believe that the most devastating thing we’ve ever experienced may have some kind of ‘purpose’ attached to it?

It’s completely nonsensical and yet our humanness insists on trying to answer the question… “Why?”

We just can’t help but wonder…

When I was fifteen years old, I accompanied a friend to Youth For Christ student conference. For me, it was about going to the beach because it was in Ocean City, Maryland and I had only seen the ocean one other time so I was really excited. On that first day as I woke with thoughts about donning my bikini and lathering myself with baby oil, we were instead herded into this big auditorium with hundreds of other teenagers to listen to people talk for a couple of hours. Someone promised me that I would eventually get to the beach.

The first speaker began by telling us a story that I have never forgotten. He talked about how he was late for a speech one day and he was flying down the interstate, driving way too fast, being way too aggressive and focused only on getting to where he needed to go so that he wouldn’t be late.

He talked about how annoyed he was that a little red car was driving in the left lane, the lane that was supposed to be for passing people only. He described how he got right up on the bumper of that little red car and flashed his lights so that the car would pull over and let him by. But the car just kept going, preventing this guy from going any faster.

And then he said, he got a flat tire. He recounted hearing the pop, noticing the wobble in the steering wheel and feeling the car pull. He had no choice but to pull over to the side of the road and he said that he cursed the entire way; so frustrated that he was going to be even more late than he already was.

This guy was angry. He explained that the entire time he was changing the tire he thought dark, ugly thoughts and then he got back on the road and went even faster.

After a few miles he hit a traffic jam and could see a lot of emergency lights up ahead. Again, he described extreme frustration because everything that could be going wrong this particular morning, was going wrong and it was making him later and later.

As he came upon the problem there was a car upside down in the middle of the roadway with bloodstains across the windshield. Alongside that car was the little red one that he had been tailgating just a while earlier and it looked like an accordion, having been smashed from both the front and the back.

In that split moment, he said realized that if it hadn’t been for the flat tire, the upside-down car may very well, have been his car. He could have been the one IN this accident. He could be on his way to the hospital or worse, he could be dead.

If it weren’t for that flat tire.

This man, and I am sorry that I don’t know his name, spoke about how he got off the interstate, cancelled his speaking engagement, and went to church. He went to church to say thank you for the flat tire. He went to church to express gratitude and from that day forward, every time something bad happened, he would go to church and say thanks. No questions asked.

I’ve never forgotten that story and in fact… it has directed much of my life; so much of the perspective that I’ve attempted to solidify when something unexpected and indeed, tragic has happened. It’s amazing how many different ‘reasons’ I’ve considered for some of the things I’ve experienced.

Is it true? Does everything happen for a reason? When it’s a minor thing like a flat tire or a cancelled flight, thinking that there may be a Universal rational is easy to consider. But when it is a true tragedy, a horrific accident or unnecessary death, the theory seems to implode; to be nonsensical and we can’t seem to rectify the logic.

We don’t know. We’ll never truly know – not until we die.

There are books written from people who have died, temporarily at least – and they tell us that there was light… God… Angels… and Sprit Masters… that’s a great thought.

I’m a bit of a skeptic at heart though and I consider that perhaps they just wanted to sell books, to make money and have a moment of fame but maybe not… maybe it’s real. And don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that I don’t believe in God… I am simply vacillating over the idea a ‘divine plan’.

I generally end up at the point where I believe that it is as possible as anything else. Some people believe there is no reason at all – that shit happens – plain and simple and I guess that is possible too.

However, that doesn’t help me. That doesn’t make my day to day life better here and now and so I prefer to believe that there is some kind of reason – some value. I find it comforting to think that my soul is on a journey and that it chose to come here and learn the lessons presented to me in this lifetime. If I look for the value in my experiences and consider possibilities, I feel empowered and willing to push on; to keep learning.

I don’t know why shit happens and frankly, I am human so when it hurts – I hurt. When it sucks, I am challenged. When it is heavy and hard, I struggle. But… I am always seeking the lesson. I am always attempting to find something of value in the midst of the misery because I *hope* that my soul is in the midst of learning something important. Perhaps something that will guide me in whatever happens in my next life or… next in my life.

And so when I hear someone say (or when I use the words) that “everything happens for a reason” – I am really believing and/or saying that ‘it’s OK, my soul is learning’.

And I can accept that.

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Epilogue

I feel fortified and open to the next set of lessons although I hate the idea of them coming.

Continued from Commitment

“A hard life is not a punishment, but rather an opportunity.” ― Brian L. Weiss

Harlan and I continue to love one another. In the eight years since we were in Vieques, we have shared incredible joys, learned more valuable lessons, and built modestly successful businesses; and we’ve done it together. We’ve been partners, lovers, and friends.

I finished grad school and opened a private counseling practice. It’s now funny to think that I started with one client – just one person sitting on my proverbial couch – and then two… and today I often have a waiting list of people who need to get in that week. I love what I do and find that I am happy to go to work most days. I work in the same building where the Print Shop is located and so Harlan and I get to see one another sporadically throughout the day – creating moments that we fill with a hug or a brief injection of love and appreciation although he is better at that than I am. When I get focused, I often have tunnel vision.

I do not believe that Harlan’s presence in my life is a coincidence. As we grew in our discoveries of one another we realized that throughout much of our adult life we had been dancing together in the Universe. His brother got married at the church where we (ex-Hubby and I) were members in the early nineties. He worked in the building across the street from the first house ex-Hubby and I owned together, although not at the same time. He and his ex-wife traveled across the country the same year that I traveled with my family – visiting many of the same national parks – only two months apart. And, when I road tripped with my mom and the kids, we stayed overnight in the town where he owned a business in New England. There were too many incidents to believe that it is all coincidence or happenstance. We were waiting for one another – for the time when our souls could come reunite and continue whatever journey had previously been started.

Harlan has become a bold presence in the life of my son and daughters, helping them to see a different perspective of masculine energy. They have grown to love and respect him not only as my partner but as a personal friend. In fact, they have all grown into incredible people. I don’t go one day without being in wonder at one of them; their work ethic, their commitment to success, their compassion, and their fearlessness. They inspire me to be a better person and they challenge me to learn the art of ‘letting go’. I could not be more proud. Frank got married a few years ago and I adopted another daughter as a result. Almost daily I count my blessings that he chose a woman I could so easily love. She embodies the spirit of our family and bolsters him in the way that a mother hopes for her son. Their partnering is a wonderful example for the girls.

I’ve continued to grow in my faith, my ability to be introspective, and in my esteem. I am stronger today than ever before and yet I don’t feel it is over. Indeed – it may be only beginning again. I think that perhaps we are allowed growth plateaus – times in our life that feel like we are coasting… nothing much happens – it feels comfortable and easy. And then, the learning begins anew.

When Emily left for college, Harlan and I were finally able to live together. We bought a home and moved into a perfectly downsized house that would allow us to comfortably grow old together. Late last year, just as we were settling into the long-awaited period of ‘empty-nesting’, Harlan began to feel sick. After months of frustrating and grueling testing and doctors’ visits, he was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. We sat together in the small windowless office of our first oncology appointment and listened as the doctor said: “at some point, we will be discussing comfort care”. The prognosis was approximate – an average, they said – of two years.

 

This is where I must leave the story – the irony of his illness is not lost on us. In fact, we are each deeply challenged by it. We have taught one another so much… I have learned more about myself in the last eight years than perhaps in all the time prior and Harlan too. We know we came together to learn. This cancer is impacting both of us significantly. Obviously, Harlan is the body that is suffering from the disease – and the treatments. We both are afflicted with emotional challenges; not only the ones existing in the present but also the ones that have come washing over us from the past. We have noticed triggers we both thought were rusted and locked; renewing themselves with old – unwanted energy.

We arguably are doing the best that we can. Every day we confront the current hurdle and attempt to jump. Most of the time we make it. My imperfection is highlighted almost constantly and I have become accustomed to facing the fact that I am only human – although I don’t like it. The ugliness of cancer doesn’t always bring out the best in us and at other times it highlights everything good. The dichotomy of it can be exhausting.

 

I’m not sure where the words or energy for this story actually came from. It’s only been ninety days. They flowed easily each day as I sat with my laptop and opened the evolving word document. I can only imagine that they are a gift from God. That the Universe has allowed me to see myself in entirety so that I can use the accumulated knowledge now in perhaps the most difficult challenge yet. I feel fortified and open to the next set of lessons although I hate the idea of them coming. Perhaps there is another story unfolding.

 

I do believe that this amazing life – with all of the pain, lessons, joy, and exhilaration is worth living. Even though I get intensely tired from time to time, I am eager to walk the path that will lead me into pure love, into peace. I remind myself of that destination and it motivates me to take the next step. The existential veil that lies atop each experience does not go unnoticed and I am deeply grateful for each day as it draws to a close; regardless of its impact.

Thank you for walking with me as I dared greatly.

Trancendent Study

I hear enough critique in my own mind, in the real world, and I didn’t need it to come from the afterlife too.

Continued from Such Diffidence

“Learning the lessons of life can be so simple if you believe in immortality.” – Brian Weiss

There is a phenomenon of picking the same seats, day after day in college classrooms. It is a psychological mystery. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t just happen in college and it was apparent there, in the conference center at Omega, full of adults ranging in age from 25 to 80 – that we were also subject to this tendency. The good part was that I could ask that guy next to me – eventually known as Michael – about his regression yesterday.

The resolve I had started the day with, the resolve that quickly waned as I went relatively unnoticed at breakfast, had not walked into that room with me. I sat there, silently, as Dr. Weiss asked us all if today was in any way special. I wanted to say “It’s my birthday” in hopes that he would use me to demonstrate a regression; something I had fantasized about ever since I began reading his books. It was a simple gesture to just raise my hand and make that factual announcement but something heavy and solid inside of me prevented my arm from lifting away from my side and the day got started. I sat there, of course, interested in the unfolding of what I could learn but also disappointed in myself again for not being willing to take the risk, for not allowing myself to be vulnerable. I was still not convinced that my voice, my energy, my input – was worth hearing.

We broke off into groups of two or three several times that day, offering me an opportunity to talk with people and yet even then, I waited for people to come to me or I waited to see ‘who was left’… it was a self-fulfilling continuation of those many times in grade school where I was the ‘last pick’… relegating myself to the benchmark of my youth. There was a woman behind me who appeared as quiet and as low profile as me, she became my go to… my escape when it was time to pick partners. If I chose her, I didn’t feel unchosen. It was a good compromise. What I really wanted was to choose Michael but he had already formed a ‘group’, the popular people… the ones who were bold and confident. I didn’t belong to that group no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t find the moxie to wedge myself in there. It was one of those adult moments that seemed as though we (or at least I) had transported back to middle school for a short time and who in their right mind would do that?

This woman who had become my serendipitous partner was so ‘in tune’ with the Universe that when it came time to practice listening to our souls, she read me like a book. We had the task of taking an item from our partner and holding it – concentrating deeply on the story of the item, it’s history and then share any insight with the owner. I handed her a ring that I had been given from my Grandmother’s estate. It wasn’t old fashioned looking, in fact, I’m not sure it was old, only that it had been hers. She gave me a bookmark. Dr. Weiss directed us through a process whereby we were to consider the object and its energy. I felt way, way out of my league at this point. I was still an infant on the regression thing and reading energy was for Spiritual Masters, wasn’t it? I tried to concentrate on his voice, on the direction but my feelings of inadequacy were too strong. They overruled almost everything that came through my mind. The only thing that I could say I ‘felt’ was God. That is the word that kept coming to me.

When the challenge was finished, we shared with our partner the information we had received about the item we had been holding. I told this lady that I wasn’t very good at this yet, that the only thing I sensed was “God”. She smiled softly and informed me it was the bookmark from her bible and pulled it out of her backpack. It was a worn, King James version that appeared to be well read. As she slipped the bookmark back into the pages, I felt a shiver run up my spine. ‘Whoa’, I thought. Next, it was her turn. She informed me that the ring had belonged to an old woman, perhaps my grandmother – she asked with a question mark. I nodded in agreement. She said that my grandmother had come to her and spoke about all the sadness in our family, that there had been too much loss but that they were all together – the shivers intensified dramatically. And then, she said, “your grandmother said to forgive your sister.”

I sat there stunned and silent. Why would I always have to face this? Can’t Abee just be a non-issue for a while? “Wow, that’s amazing,” I said. “Thank You”. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea that people could talk to me from the grave. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, actually. Isn’t it odd, perhaps misfortunate, that we only want to hear the things that are supportive and validating?? I hear enough critique in my own mind, in the real world, and I didn’t need it to come from the afterlife too.

We spent a fair amount of time hearing more from Dr. Weiss, details from his sessions with Catherine, in the early regression years. She had channeled some spirit masters who spoke about love, learning, and the ultimate goal of serenity. Those masters indicated that sometimes, we stay in soul form so that we can be guides for people we’ve left or for future generations. Other times, we reincarnate into the same family to continue working on growing in an environment we know is ripe for us. He led us into a regression where we were to connect with our spirit guides, asking them to come to us in an identifiable form. I saw a picture frame on the wall with three ‘windows’ – room for three photos – but they were blank. The more I focused on the frame, I came to realize that there were forms in the squares but they were blurry. I stayed with it. One of the frames became clear and I saw a face. It wasn’t a face that I knew completely but it appeared to resemble my oldest daughter. When I looked closer, I experienced a distinct knowing that it was indeed her. There was something about the eyes that make it obvious and believable. I was a bit confused because she was here… in my life, not just existing in the spirit world somewhere. Was it possible she had come into this world to guide me? I was pleasantly surprised at the prospect.

We watched a couple more regressions that day and by the end of the afternoon, I was tired. I ate a quick dinner and headed back to my room where my roommate, was resting. I tried to be quiet but of course, she woke as I came and unpacked my bag. She was from Pakistan and spoke very broken English but we made it through conversation pretty well. It turns out she was known, in her country, as a medium and was there training with someone renowned in the US. When she discovered it was my birthday she offered to ‘read’ me. She used only my date of birth and jotted down several things. The one I specifically remember is that I would meet a man sometime between holidays, before Christmas; I took that to mean after Thanksgiving. It was still only July so I didn’t get too excited but it was fun to have something to look forward to – maybe.

I had to drive off the mountain in order to talk with the girls who had been waiting all day for me to call so they could wish me a happy birthday. For a few minutes, as I sat by the river in a park across the bridge from Poughkeepsie, I missed them terribly. I considered just leaving, going home to my kiddos and forgetting all this transcendent stuff but I continued to be pulled toward the things I could not rationalize. The week had just begun.

Love’s Journey

I grew to believe that they had been sent into this life for the sole purpose of generating obstacles for me on my spiritual development journey.

Continued from Decision

“Love is the beginning of the journey, its end, and the journey itself.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Not long after ‘decision day’ I was at church, me and the girls. I was hurting and looking for support. Sometimes, and many of you can attest, a church is a busy place, especially on Sunday’s. It wasn’t the time or necessarily the place for a full-on discussion about the events unfolding in my life but I wanted to at least let Pastor R know something was amiss. As we made our way through the ‘receiving line’ to share our regards, I gave him a little hug and said softly “things are bad, history is repeating itself”, believing he would understand since he was so instrumental years ago after Hubby’s first indiscretion. He smiled, nodded, and hugged me back. I went home and waited for him to call.

He didn’t call. I went to church again the next week – this time by myself because Hubby was with the girls. There is no doubt in my mind that I looked sad… most nights I cried myself to sleep in those early weeks. I waited for him to make eye contact with me so that I could telepathically share my pain with him, or at least make sure he was able to notice my demeanor. I had been a part of that church since its organizational days and knew most people there as we were still a small group. No one asked about the family. No one asked me how I was doing. I might as well have been invisible that day. I bypassed the line of people waiting to say hello or otherwise to Pastor R and headed home with deep disappointment.

I didn’t go back. I waited though, waited for R to call… waited for someone from one of the home groups or ministries to call and at the very least make sure everything was ok… nope. Didn’t happen. I know that I could have picked up the phone and called someone, I know that I could have reached out to R again, and I know that it wasn’t anyone’s direct responsibility to keep track of me but I expected it. I expected my faith community, people who had known me for seven or eight years to at least ‘notice’ that I wasn’t there week after week and to find out why.

Describing the disappointment is difficult because the rational part of me wants to take responsibility for not communicating properly about it. The emotional side of me, however, went directly to that place where abandonment resides; fortifying some internal creed that was now easily triggered. Many of the criticisms I had about organized religion were validated in this failure. The negligence that I perceived from this spiritual community was flawed by my expectations and forced me to investigate why I had developed them. In addition, it created an opportunity for me to better understand what I wanted from people who share my beliefs. The icing on the cake was when the leader of the finance ministry called to schedule our annual commitment meeting. I think I hung up on him.

I never did return to that community and no one ever asked why. I tried a few other churches in the area and I was always unsatisfied with either the contradictions, the hypocrisy of the congregants (some of whom I had known through the years, realizing that they were ‘fair weather’ church goers) or the degree of fundamentalism and rigidity. I just cannot relate to a literal translation of a Biblical text. I read the bible as a teen and took the opportunity to read it again, the New Testament mostly, during this time… I read it with a different perspective, a more open mind to language and metaphor. I thought long and hard about the idea that I was created in God’s image… what? God was a tall, heavyset, white female? Did I look like him more before or after my tenth birthday? Why is God depicted as male? Why old? Why do we think of God in human terms at all?

One of the most profound things I’ve ever heard about imagining God came from an interview of Deepak Chopra on The View – an ABC television program. They asked him “how do you envision God?” and he replied, “to visualize God is to limit God.”  Something important clicked for me in that explanation. Then, in the Brian Weiss book Messages from the Masters, he writes that a Soul Master defines Love… “Love. Everything is Love… Everything is love. With love comes understanding. With understanding comes patience. And then the time stops. Everything is now.  Love is our nature. We are Love. … Love is the ultimate healer.”

I started to assemble a collection of ideas across various world religions and there were similarities that resonated within me deeply.

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I knew I didn’t have to be a practicing Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc…, to embody these tenets. Moreover, I knew that when I focused on Love, I felt God’s presence no matter where I was. I chose to simply BE love as much as was possible and to foster and grow the spirit of love in my life whenever and however I could.

Many of us have great intentions and I am no different. I was good at loving people, paying it forward, growing my faith … until… Hubby and Abee entered the picture. It was there that all my faith was challenged and I grew to believe that they had been sent into this life for the sole purpose of generating obstacles for me on my spiritual development journey. It was working…

I found myself turning to Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Here, I discovered more validation for my pain as well… “God intentionally allows you to go through painful experiences to equip you for ministry to others”. I, like countless others, was known to beg for a response to the question ‘why me God, why me?’ It’s incredibly difficult to accept extreme circumstances as purposeful without some paradigm of faith and so I found resolve in these words. More importantly, it was yet another source confirming the necessity of Love… offering sentiments such as “Life minus love equals zero.” And “It’s not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters.”

I turned to Deepak Chopra to learn meditation and here is where I found profound peace. I heeded his words “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” and when I was angry, frustrated, scared, or unsure I sat still and followed his voice into a state of calm that offered the most incredible tranquility and comfort. In those moments, I imagined myself wrapped in a cocoon of light, in the arms of God’s love and I was safe.

Soulful Expedition

I was new at this – new at thinking of life as something that could teach me, help me even when I felt so much pain.

Continued from Splitting Delusions

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha

Going back to school was only one of many decisions I made in the first couple of months’ post-decision day. I had to jump through a few hoops, gathering all the twenty-five-year-old transcripts from the five years I was in college as a young gal. I was told that anything with a C+ or better would transfer if there was a matching class. In total, 90 credits transferred which was amazing, leaving me to finish two years of psychology classes and French…  Since I was shooting for a Bachelor of Arts, I had to take four semesters of a foreign language. Ugh! I had taken French in High School and for two semesters way back when – in college so why not… maybe some of it would come back to me. I still remembered how to count.

Taking classes was a great idea – in theory. However, I wanted to make sure that I would succeed so to garner an appropriate measure of my ability to successfully navigate college in middle age, I opted to take Statistics first. I wanted to schedule it over a ‘May-mester” … three weeks of daily class between the Spring and Summer session. I figured if I could master Statistics (which I had dropped as a nineteen-year-old because I was certain I was failing) then I would keep going. I registered for the class and kept my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the girls needed something to look forward to as it was feeling heavy and dark at home. We were all at dinner one evening… the three of them and me. I suggested that we plan a great vacation and they got excited. “Where do you want to go?” I asked.  “Disney!” “A cruise” “The Caribbean” … they shouted simultaneously and in non-agreement. Hmmm…. “what about a Disney Cruise?” I asked. Immediately there were smiles and hugs – a lifting of spirit that warmed my heart to an exquisite simmer of happiness. The temporary relief of change and uncertainty was welcomed by each one of us as we sat there and made plans to make it happen. We agreed that I would stop having the house cleaned once a week; the girls would take responsibility for clean bathrooms, dusting, vaccuming, etc., and we would redirect that money into our cruise fund. Their dad and I have always been strong proponents of fiscal accountability; also, believing that something earned is often more deeply appreciated. We agreed to create a special ‘envelope’ where we would accumulate funds and they were excited and eager to get home and decorate it. We sat together to research our options and set the date for January 2006 – we had twelve months to make it happen.

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My extended family was in an uproar. It was no longer a secret that Hubby and Abee had been indiscriminate. Our poor mother was still disbelieving and after listening to everything else I had discovered, she decided that ‘hate’ was the only thing she could feel. I can’t imagine how she must have felt watching her children divide, take sides, and disconnect from one another. A mother has so many dreams for her children and we were definitely not fulfilling the fantasy she envisioned. For almost a year she had watched and attempted to console one daughter while trying to direct another. We had allowed her to accept a promise of remediation and now, it was done. I was unwilling to consider any direction that allowed for the possibility of more philandering and emotional upheaval in my life.

On what would have been my fifteenth wedding anniversary, mom and I spent the day together shopping and exploring a neighboring county that was full of farmland and quaint villages. We were doing one of her favorite things to do – driving and exploring as was I… spending time with mom. I had stopped working by then. Our company was the brainchild of Hubby and mine. It was the cumulation of a dream that we had manifested through the years via long, deep conversations, relentless pursuit, and grave concessions. I had learned to cook hamburger – literally – one hundred and one different ways as we poured our profits back into the business. I scoured yard sales and consignment shops for children’s clothing so that we could buy office furniture for new employees. It was as much my dream at that point as it was his but I couldn’t go there every day and see them together; he wouldn’t fire her. I gave him an ultimatum… she had to go – or I would.

Had it been a mistake last year when I first found out about them? Should I have just bit the bullet then and said ‘good riddance’?? Had I been a simplistic fool to think that we could have risen from such a calamity? I guess it didn’t matter – it was impossible to turn back the clock and it was bigger and so much more complicated than a familial trespass. I perceived that my only choice was to rely on the ideology that was cementing in my soul … that each of us has a journey to walk; our own path. I continued to allow myself comfort in reading.

Another significantly profound book, one that will forever be implanted in my memory is Messages from the Masters: Tapping Into the Power of Love by Dr. Brian Weiss. With practically every page turn I related to his words, reputedly words spoken by Master Souls while his patients were under hypnosis. Here again – the exact origin becomes unimportant, inconsequential to the substance that was presented.  I read “forgive the past, it is over. Learn from it and let go.” … like I had never heard that before…

This time, however, it had true meaning. I read “come from the heart, the true heart, not the head. When in doubt, choose the heart. …when the intuition rings clear and true, loving impulses are favored.” I realized that many of my recent actions had been driven by anger and disgust. When I did talk to Hubby, accusations and attacks dominated my communication. I needed to choose a different tactic, one more consistent with the person I wanted to be today… someone who could love through difficulty. This task was way, way harder than it sounds. I struggled almost hour by hour to stay in a ‘love’ place and frankly, I failed more often than not. I was new at this – new at thinking of life as something that could teach me, help me even when I felt so much pain.

In a strange way, it helped to have mom be angrier than me. She was incredibly ugly, spiteful, hateful and it was so contrary to her normal, true self that when she talked to me sometimes, I was taken aback. Mom was loving and gentle 99.99% of the time but in this case, the father of my children had behaved in a way that splintered her family – her children into a bazillion pieces… and as such, she was inconsolably fractured. I found myself defending him, not his behavior but him – as a person… I tried to share my new (to me) theories with her, speaking about loving people – all people – and understanding that they are each taking their own soulful expedition.

Basically, she told me it was bullshit.

Discovering My Soul

I knew that I could look at each hurt and place it into a perspective of how my soul needed to grow.

Continued from Welcome Back

“I value and honor the way that my suffering brings me to further search and surrender.” ~ Maureen Brady

Thanksgiving was right around the corner and I had promised mom that I would try and get to a place where I was at ease enough with Abee so that we could come together as a family. Twin Emma came with her family to help bridge the crevasse and we got through it. I’m not sure who was pretending more that day Hubby, mom, Abee, or me… I had eagle eyes on them the entire time and knew that my heart raced several times an hour as one of them entered or exited the room and I searched quickly to see where the other was. It was hard to relax but I love Thanksgiving and everything it has always represented so I kept trying and reminded myself constantly to ‘give thanks’ that we were all there, beginning to heal.

My spiritual journey was continuing to evolve as I dove into the hypotheses of what constitutes a ‘soul’. My religious teachings from the Catholic church taught the Blessed Trinity of ‘Father, Son & Holy Ghost’. I had always inferred Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) to mean our soul – although I’m not sure that’s the direct correlation that religious scholars have in mind.

I started to think about our ‘soul’ in a new way. In Conversations with God – Book 3, the author asks God “what is a Soul” (Chapter 11).

As a side note, I don’t believe it is important to debate whether this author was actually talking to God or not. For me, simply reading and opening myself up to a new understanding of my own spirituality was immensely helpful. Who are any of us to tell this man that he was NOT talking to God?? The truth is – we cannot absolutely know for sure. Consequently, reading and asking questions, being open to thinking more broadly, was extremely valuable.

The idea that one’s Soul is the essence of God, a life force that is immortal and evolving across all time, not only made sense but resonated deeply within my own spirit. Suddenly, my religious teachings made more sense. If I took my human body out of the equation and thought of myself as an ageless entity born of the universe and moving through time with for the sole purpose of learning – everything was clearer. My curiosity became almost insatiable and quite naturally, led me right to the concept of reincarnation.

I gradually began to develop a clear vision of how a soul could travel through many human lifetimes, each one designed to teach another lesson much like we Americans move through classroom grades geared to address the knowledge we have accumulated along the way. I considered the term ‘old soul’ – often attributed to someone who had seemingly acquired wisdom, patience, and humility. I thought about people like Gandhi and Mother Theresa, modern day prophets who emulated everything I had learned to want from a spiritual perspective.

I thought about Jesus and his living example of soulful perfection – the goal of a Christian conscience. Surely one could interpret that Christ was born to demonstrate the ideal personification of what our ‘souls’ had the capacity to achieve and that by believing that he was ‘the son of God’ (a perfect representation of the purest soul) and who died for our sins (allowed persecution as a demonstration of perfect love) so that we may live (aim for that example) – I was IN!! Wow, that made perfect sense to me. I want to be like Jesus Christ. I want to learn how to live with the purity of love and humility of his example. If it meant coming back to this world over and over again, learning and growing – bring it on!

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain”. ~ Carl Jung

Now I had a reason for all the pain. I knew that I could look at each hurt and place it into a perspective of how my soul needed to grow. I hated to think that growth was only possible through painful experience but hey – we are human and we are not paying close attention generally unless we are in pain. Of course, more evolved souls know that this is achieved through meditation and prayer but I wasn’t there yet!  In any regard, I was wide open to learning and forgiveness loomed broadly in front of me. Crap… this learning stuff is hard!

Forgiving Hubby for some reason was much easier. I don’t know if it was because I already had practice with it or if my expectations for him were just so much lower. Maybe it was because he was there every morning and as the father of my children, the motivation was much stronger. In any case, I opened my heart and allowed God in, which just meant that I lowered the drawbridge that had been so tightly chained and authorized my heart to be vulnerable once more. I understood that to be vulnerable, God has to be at work in your spirit – you must be open to learning (potentially hurting) and that is the work of spiritual growing. I came to believe that if I was hurting then God was growing me. Any tears I shed really were watering the seeds of love and wisdom that were being cultivated in my soul.

The work of forgiving Abee was much more difficult and I needed a ton of help. Our joint therapy sessions continued and I had derived what I thought was a good idea. I had a bag of polished stones that one of the girls had gotten from one place or another. They were in a purple velvet bag about three inches long and two across, with a drawstring closure. I think there were about ten stones. My idea was that the bag represented the relationship I wanted to have with Abee. While I was not under any delusion that our connection would ever be the same, I at least wanted to be able to be together without stress or emotional duress. The stones in the bag represented building blocks to me and after each counseling session or family time where I believed there to be an advancement in my trust of her – I would give her a stone. The control of rebuilding positive interactions between us became mine and it worked for me.

In December, mom and I traveled to Notre Dame to watch Frank swim in one of his last invitationals. I loved watching that boy swim! It was a good trip for mom and I as well, allowing us uninterrupted time to distance ourselves from the family drama. I was nervous about not being there to ‘monitor’ interactions between Hubby and Abee but mom assured me that she knew Abee’s heart, which apparently was beginning to ‘beat’ for another guy. I hadn’t heard about him but I was working on being ‘like Jesus’ so I practiced letting go… I believed that Hubby and I were in a good spot having made it through so much crap… I assured her that we would probably be married forever. I mean, what could possibly be worse than what we’ve already been through?

Silver Linings

I knew that the loving energy of God worked in mysterious ways and we were learning how to love despite the tremendous pain.

“We must assume every event has significance and contains a message that pertains to our questions…this especially applies to what we used to call bad things…the challenge is to find the silver lining in every event, no matter how negative.”  – James Redfield

It’s challenging to write about this time in my life because literally, every day felt difficult if I moved outside the protective walls of my home where my children provided the padding with their smiles, hugs, and loving presence.

To emotionally survive, it was necessary for me to adopt a way of thinking that provided encouragement and hope. I used the basic tenets of my belief structure which are embodied by the quote I use in this post – that ‘in each negative experience, there is value’.  I found strength in the notion that my role in this experience was to search for the lesson and grow.

Our therapy took on a different structure as we began weekly individual sessions and I started to look at myself more closely. I wanted to understand my role in the craziness that was my current life. After the first affair, I could accept that I had room to grow as a wife and a partner and I worked hard to ‘shore up’ those behaviors that contributed to more harmony in our lives. I believed that we had grown as a couple and had become stronger partners, better parents, and good business partners. Our remaining challenges focused on the differences in our sexual needs and I had surrendered myself to the extent that mine were unrecognizable.

This second affair suggested that our problems were less about my ability to be a good partner and more about the individual psychological deficiencies that kept us engaging in dysfunctional behaviors; Hubby having affairs and me staying in such a relationship.

Today, I teach people that behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it interferes with your life and/or your relationships. If it works in your life – great. If it doesn’t – fix it.

Something about me had to change. I discovered that my self-esteem had suffered considerably throughout the course of my marriage. Indeed, it hadn’t ever been tremendously strong but the erosion over time in this relationship had diluted what little there was. In therapy, I was able to identify body ‘issues’ that were triggers for me and understand how emphasized they became with the sexual discourse that reigned in my marriage. She helped me define sexual boundaries that were healthy for me – based on my interests and pleasure. Most importantly, she helped me know how to communicate them and stay grounded there.

I judged myself very harshly. The more aware I became; the more devastated I was about the behavior I had allowed myself to tolerate. I was a smart woman, a product of the Women’s Liberation Movement, independent and reasonable. How in the world had I evolved into a woman who had allowed herself to be so blatantly disrespected?

My therapist introduced the term Gaslighting.  It is an effort of one person to ‘overwrite’ or reformat the thoughts of another person with their own. It originated with the 1938 play Gas Light where a woman developed a belief that she was crazy when her husband manipulated information about reality. It has been used psychologically since to describe the manipulation of someone’s sense of reality. Gaslighting is common in cases of infidelity, the continuous denial of the cheater can eventually undermine the affected partner’s sense of reality – leading one to question what, often most, of what they believe to be real.

Learning about Gaslighting was a turning point for me. I was incredibly grateful that I wasn’t crazy!! I allowed myself to reflect on a proliferation of memories and see them more clearly. I slowly relearned how to trust my senses and how to validate myself. The flip side of this was understanding just how deeply my trust in Hubby had been dismantled. I found it difficult to believe anything he said to me, which didn’t help in the process of restoring some semblance of a relationship. I started to see myself differently.

I continued to read every self-help book that called to me. I was hungry to learn about myself and to understand why I chose this relationship – this difficult – seemingly impossible liaison with a man who was also, in his own way – broken. I wanted to comprehend what it was that brought us together and discern what potential there was for us. I grew to believe that we were together ‘for a reason’ – that we had chosen one another for the lesson that existed in our union. What was it??

The Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch continued to provide inspiration for me and I found my spiritual instinct more pronounced, more substantial. I found that as I stepped away from what I perceived as a ‘religious’ view of God – some man on a throne – and thought of God in a universal sentience, the creating energy of all things, existing everywhere at all times, the purest vibration of love – I was experiencing God in a very new, consistent, and comfortable way. I found peace in the idea that I was constantly shrouded with a universal energy that consisted purely of love. I would imagine myself in a God bubble, healing my heart by its grace.

In this spirit, I could get up each morning and look at my husband. I was able to go to work and engage with my sister. I could imagine a time when my extended family might again go on picnics and gather again for Thanksgiving. Our healing was slow, the growth sometimes painful. It was exceptionally challenging for me to begin to trust Hubby. First, I had to trust that he and Abee had terminated their personal entanglements. We rearranged the work schedules, which presented a myriad of complexities and frankly, wasn’t as successful but I was unwilling to have them interacting so closely together any longer. I became a private detective; keenly observing every little detail and deciding about its authenticity in context to my reality. I developed an ability to honor my instincts. I noticed every little detail and was constantly on guard. My therapist taught me how NOT to file stuff away in disbelief but to present information and check for its accuracy. I learned the danger of assumptions and developed a process by which I could fact check and dispel accusations.

Hubby was learning too. Not long after this all blew up; he took some time off and intently addressed his emotional composition. He immersed himself in personal growth also, delivering him to a point where he committed himself to me and to our family in many of the ways I had been yearning for, for years. Maybe this was it – maybe we had been brought together so that we – both – could grow. Perhaps we were catalysts for one another. I knew that the loving energy of God worked in mysterious ways and we were learning how to love despite the tremendous pain. I believed that was part of what Jesus taught us to do… love and grow through pain. We were doing just that.

The transformation for both of us was far from complete but we had risen from the ashes of this debacle deeply scarred but hopeful for our future. I was far from trusting. In fact, the absence of trust contributed negatively in our rebuilding efforts and for every five or six steps forward we moved, there was two or three back. However, I believed in our advancing momentum.