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.

Growing & Going Deeper

He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave.

Continued from Choosing Love

“If you want to have the kind of relationship that your heart yearns for, you have to create it. You can’t depend on somebody else creating it for you.” ― Gary Zukav

I found it fascinating how easy it was to have a man in the house again. Harlan was there a lot because as a single mom, it wasn’t all that easy for me to just leave. Sara was not yet driving and so I was generally required to take someone, somewhere. Harlan lived about fifteen miles away from me and had a different sleeping schedule so the hours we could steal for any alone time to build upon the budding romance were few. Most of the time, we shared our time with my girls.

We did love to take our drives, though. We were both on a Starbucks kick back then and so to sneak in a block of ‘us’ time, we would hop in the car after dinner and run up to where it all started… our local Starbucks and take a long way home while we ran through our days. It was on those drives that we created a vision of our life together. He knew that I couldn’t get married or live with anyone as a restriction of my divorce agreement unless I wanted to forgo a significant amount of alimony and so we talked about how to navigate a close relationship but within stringent boundaries. I wanted him to wait for me but there was still seven years until I had any real freedom without financial strings. It was a lot to ask, I thought. He said he would take it one day at a time.

When I met Harlan he claimed that he was but a minute away from hopping on a sailboat and escaping the town where he had been raised. Some of the memories there were dark and haunting – worthy of burying and escaping. I didn’t want him to go anywhere and meeting me – loving me – put a huge wrench in his long-term plan. I worked diligently to help him renegotiate a vision of his future; one that included me.

His work as a Graphic Artist in a small print shop was just a ‘fill in’ job until his house sold – that was the only thing keeping him local to me. My entrepreneurial energies kicked into high gear when I realized that the community in which I lived was void of the kind of services he currently offered where he was employed. We began to build a blueprint for developing a retail business in the community where I lived so that he would be right around the corner. I figured that if he could make money and build a foundation here, the motivation to stay would be much stronger.

One of the things people say about me is that I am a ‘doer’. When I get a thought in my head, it often leads to manifestation. Sometimes, it gets ‘almost there’ and other times it gets there and fizzles but most of the time, the things I try at least get started; and I’ve started a lot of things! This wasn’t my first array into building a business so I used all of the accumulated acumens to lay out our options.

The Universe heard me and I knew God was helping when the necessary components came perfectly into play. We found a location – it came with an apartment – but it had to be converted into retail space. Harlan had a year of recent experience (and a lifetime before that) of reconstruction and so we bought a building and began our first joint project. In reality, it was the second one… the first construction project we engaged in together was building a shoe rack for the laundry room at my house. It was a shoe cubby actually and held more than twenty pairs of shoes which are nothing when there are four females in one house. It was still early in our relationship and frankly, I was on my best behavior. If the shoe rack wasn’t perfect – no biggie… it was in my laundry room.

This project was a little bigger… we had to gut a residence down to the studs, tear out walls, put in beams, construct a forty foot ramp, include a handicap accessible bathroom and shore the flooring up to fit commercial building codes. It wasn’t an initiative for the faint of heart. All the while, I was still a single mom and a full-time grad student. “No problem,” Harlan says… “I’ve got two months of income set aside and I’ll do all the work”. Our budget was strict and we began the end of June with a deadline of August 25. We were all traveling to Puerto Rico for my little brother’s wedding over Labor Day and needed to open for business – to start making money – as soon as we got back.

This is the kind of thing people who have known and loved one another for decades don’t’ attempt for lack of temperamental discipline. We had only known one another for six months and our naiveté may have been our saving grace. We learned a lot about each other in that two months. We learned that we sometimes speak a different language. We learned that we are both always attempting to help. We learned that we have defenses and triggers.

Harlan and I are well into middle age at this point – each with histories rich in disappointment, rejection, and betrayal of some kind. Each experience having left a scar and a story. The end result is an array of defense mechanisms that become exposed at the most interesting times. We learned that I am a perfectionist (cough, cough, sigh) and we learned that he is too – in a different way and with different things. I could take a shoe and pound in a nail – as long as the nail goes into the wood. He, needed just the right hammer – the one designed for that type of nail – before pounding could begin. And saws… there are so many kinds of saws! Just give me a damn blade!

We sat on the front porch a time or two ironing out a misunderstanding, attempting to reconcile how we each felt and trying desperately hard not to repeat mistakes from relationships past. We mustered respect in our disagreements in a way that had never existed in my man/woman interactions before – it was so refreshing and enlightening to see and experience a difference of opinion that didn’t end up being a confrontation and all out fight. We learned that the way we use common language is sometimes different – our words have different meanings and we learned to navigate the differences.

As we continued to learn from one another – not just construction tidbits but also how to trust one another’s judgement and value our experience, we developed more and more emotional intimacy – our friendship grew in and around the love that we had proclaimed to feel toward one another. We easily laughed with each other and continuously found topics to fill our conversations. At the end of each day we were tired and spent but found energy to cuddle as we drifted off to sleep.

Harlan was a kind of man that was new to me. He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave. He didn’t seem to have the same kind of ‘expectations’ that others had in my life… going to bed and cuddling didn’t need to lead to anything else. I literally was able to enjoy the experience of feeling his arms wrapped around me and know that I was loved even though we just laid there – drifting off to sleep – we were together and it was nice. My love grew deeper.

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.


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.


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.

Turning the Century

In one statement, God took on a whole new meaning for me and again, I wanted to experience more.

“…hidden in your deepest feelings is your highest truth” – Neale Donald Walsch

The year before and the year after Y2K were full of activity. The kids were growing and active, our business grew at lightning speed, we built a new house, moved, and consequently there was always a ‘project’. Hubby and I worked well together when a project was in the works. We both turned 40 – he got a big party and I got a new house.

We became pretty fanatical about Y2K. Yes, we were the ones who collected canned goods and buckets of flour. It was all very organized, dated, and sorted of course. Hubby made sure we had barrels of gasoline and tools that didn’t require electricity. We found a generator and I learned how to can food. It was all consuming for about eighteen months prior as we planned and prepared. Our business was even prepped for disaster. We were the ‘just in case’ people – the ones who felt it was better to be safe than sorry. I had done a tremendous amount of research on the internet back when you could believe what you read there – cough, cough. There was intelligent information from reliable sources that imparted a ‘possibility’ of global disaster so we …. were prepared.

On New Year’s Eve, I recall being a little nervous but overall excited for the memorable event and we allowed the girls to stay up ‘til midnight. We took wooden spoons, pots, and pans outside to ‘howl it up’ as a way to remember a century change. When the lights stayed on and our banks opened it was a true celebration. We were relieved and very well stocked. We didn’t have to buy green beans for three years~!

Business was good. A couple of years back we had made some professional decisions that moved us toward success rather quickly. It was an exciting time and while I wasn’t as worried about how much hamburger to buy each week, our money was predominately going back into the business as fast as we could make it. The one exception was our new house.  The old one needed new windows and a new roof. It needed new flooring and a kitchen redo. A new house made much more sense. We were the third house in a new development where we could modify the lot and building as long as we had the money to support the changes. We nickel and dimed our builder by the week with a total of twenty-two change orders. I know by the end he had to be happy we finally finished the build and couldn’t bug him more.

It was more than either of us had ever dreamed of owning. It had room – plus – for all of us and anyone else who wanted to stay. We took all of the ‘cash’ we had saved as part of our ‘disaster plan’ and finished the basement right away, giving us an additional 1500 square feet of living space. It was a true ‘family’ house. I remember standing outside on the deck one fall evening looking through the windows to the inside where my family sat on a couch facing a fireplace that was floor to ceiling stone – two stories high. I watched in fascination because it was surreal. It felt as if it was someone else’s house – beautiful, warm, and full of family. There was a moment when I felt completely disconnected from it as if I was watching from another plane, from some outside realm. And then I was back – that was my family, my home, people I loved and I was deeply grateful.

In our MOMS Club book group, we read all three books in the Conversations with God series and I found it fascinating. It was another ‘ah ha’ moment on so many levels for me. Yes, it was written by some guy who claimed God was talking to him, but that was Moses many years ago too! I don’t know what it true or make believe but I know what resonated deeply with my soul. In Book One, God says “all human emotions are motivated at their deepest level by one of two emotions – fear or love.” I knew that to be true for me then and today – as a psychology professional – I see it demonstrated over and over again. Looking back, I believe that all my behaviors were motivated by either fear or love. Fear of being left, feeling pain, being lonely, being unlovable… feelings of love for my children, my husband, my family. I can’t think of anything I did that didn’t fall into one of those categories and sadly, fear was more prevalent than love.

In this book, God says “Emotion is the power which attracts. That which you fear strongly, you will experience.”  Again – that rang true for me. I had to look closely at all the things that I was feeling and then look again closely at my experiences – did they match? Which came first? The chicken (fear) or the egg (experience)? What if my fears WERE creating my experiences?  What if God was allowing these things to happen so that I could process my fears? So that I could come to NOT fear them?  He goes on to say “there is NO coincidence in the universe” – gosh – that matches what The Celestine Prophecy says….  What if these ARE God’s messages? What if I am supposed to be learning from EVERY. THING.

I was thrust into a state of exploratory discovery. I journaled. I spoke with friends. I continued to read. I would go to the bookstore and stand in the self-help, spirituality, or New Age sections and allow the book to ‘call me’. I would pick it up – open it randomly – and read.  If it ‘spoke’ to me – if something on that page resonated deeply, then I would buy the book and highlight it… page by page.

I recall hearing Deepak Chopra speaking to women on morning television show The View answering the question “How do you envision God”? His response: “To envision God is to limit God and therefore I do not”. That one statement provided an epiphany for me. I recalled years of sitting in church, looking through bibles and hymnals, seeing religious paintings of God – the man. I was – in that moment – allowing my mind to create a different vision – or rather, erase all the prior visions that I had of the entity I called God. I imagined God as everything – everything I couldn’t see – everything I did see – all the energy that existed in the universe. It opened the door for me to consider religion in a way that made much more sense in my mind. In one statement, God took on a whole new meaning for me and again, I wanted to experience more.

I believed that we had turned a corner with the introduction of the twenty-first century. We were more connected than ever before, enjoying our new home, our family, our success. Life was good – for a while.