Experiential, Nonexpert Opinions and Advice

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Rule Book

One of the most insightful things I learned in my yoga training from my mentor Mynx was that we all carry around our own Rule Books. We have our own set of rules that govern the way we live each day. My Rule Book is individual, it is mine, and it is different from yours.

When my ex and I were in marriage counseling it became clear to me that his moral compass had changed. It was certainly different from mine. But at one point (or many points) in time we seemed to have shared a moral compass.

During a good portion of our marriage we both agreed that:

  • Marriage was a sacred vow
  • Infidelity was not acceptable
  • The kids took the highest priority
  • Kindness and respect for one another was paramount
  • Work and social life was important, but not more important than our relationship
You get the idea...

We saw some of our dear friends going through separation and divorce. We talked at length about it and vowed it could never happen to us. We were better communicators, we were more in love, we were more faithful, more devoted to our family, more honest with each other, etc.

I thought we were playing by the Same Rule Book. Or, at least a very similar one.

But then life went on and near the end of the marriage he confided in me that he had been "unhappy for the last ten years of our marriage and miserable for the last three." A few months later I found evidence of his infidelity and now we are divorced. That was five and one half years ago.

I am still saddened, hurt and confused why his moral compass and Rule Book changed so drastically from mine. I've done a lot of work on myself these past five years and know more about my personality type (#2, The Helper, on the Enneagram scale and Blue on Color Code) and I learned more about his personality type (#8, The Challenger and Red). I know why my Rule Book is what it is, and I know that it's terribly difficult to be with someone who has a vastly different set of Rules than I.

It still confounds me, however, that people can change their Rules so dramatically.

  • Marriage was a sacred vow became "I broke a social contract."
  • Infidelity was not acceptable became "I'm no longer in love with you and she fills my needs."
  • The kids took the highest priority became "Why do you pay more attention to the kids than to me?"
  • Kindness and respect were replaced with cruelty and the ultimate disrespect.
There's no guaranteed happy ending here, but just an acknowledgement that we each carry around our own Rule Books and live by them. We are also editing and re-writing the rules as we go. Life changes, our Rules change.

I guess the idea is to surround yourself with people who share similar Rule Books, but also know that at any time, without warning, they can update and change their Rules.

In yoga we are reminded to Live Our Truth. Your truth may be a drastic edit of your Rules (as it was for my ex). Your truth may be confronting a loved one who re-wrote his or her rules. Your truth may be supporting the loved one no matter what his or her rules are. Your truth may simply be standing by your original set of Rules. Your truth may change daily.

And, if you have children, know that they are designing their Rule Books based on what you model in yours.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Resurrecting Easter

I considered calling this post, "Why I Hate Easter" but decided that sounded too harsh. And, the truth is, I don't hate Easter, but it is a trigger for me, so it's another tough holiday to get through.

Five years ago on Easter Sunday morning my ex husband and I were intimate for the last time.  Later that morning he went on a "bike ride" - I'll let you read between the lines here (hint: mistress, hint, hint: he wasn't sweaty from a bike ride when he returned).  And later still that same Easter Sunday he and I bought a lovely meal from our local gourmet grocery store, prepared and cooked it together and ate a delicious Easter meal together with our boys.

Two days later I discovered he had been cheating on me for almost 3 years, and then my world fell apart.  (You can read more about this in my earlier blog posts.)

So, Easter kinda sucks for me.

BUT, the good news is, five years later I DO feel resurrected in some sense from the difficult parts of my former life. It has taken time, and I'm still not fully healed, but I am on my way to feeling like this was a blessing for me.  Do I miss my former life?  Yes.  I miss my Plan A - I miss being in a marriage with the father of my children, I miss being a family of four, I miss working through issues together, I miss gazing at our boys with pride together, etc etc etc.

I do realize there are many plans for my life, however.  There's Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, Plan E...

We can get stuck when we think there is just one path, one plan, one journey.  My life has taken so many twists and turns in the past five years.  I've moved three times, and I am about to move again. I've started and ended a business.  I've met several communities of new people (singles, yogis, friends of friends, new neighbors, students).  I've taken classes and received certifications.  I've dated.  I've reconnected with people from my past.  I've helped a lot of people.  A lot of people have helped me. I've grown.

I don't know what lies ahead, but I do know I 'm in a better place now than I was five years ago on Easter Sunday.  I also know that Easter still kinda sucks for me.  I wish it didn't, but I'm not going to beat myself up thinking I should be fully moved on by now.  I'm going to be patient and know that someday Easter won't suck for me.  It won't be a trigger.  It will be just another holiday.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I LOVE Self Help Books!

I hate labels, but I will admit to you that I was an English major in college.  So now you immediately have a judgment about me.  Well read.  Smart.  Literate.  Poetic.  Good writer.  Whatever.

I LOVE SELF HELP BOOKS!  Can English majors love self help books?  Hell yeah!

A short history of how I came to love self help books. 

I don't remember having lots of books around when I was a child.  I don't remember my parents reading to me.  Maybe they didn't?  I have a vague memory of Dr. Seuss books in my house and the Highlights magazines in Dr. Bush's office where you'd try to find the hidden objects in the trippy, distorted images. 

I definitely remember reading romance novels in junior high with my best friend, Allison.  We would sit for hours at different places in her house and read and talk about these silly, amazing, wonderful, exotic novels.  I loved those days. 

In high school a class called College English led me to appreciate 18th and 19th century authors like Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Hawthorne, Twain and many more.

In college I was infatuated with the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Keats, Walt Whitman, T. S. Elliot, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound and Shakespeare.

And more favorites through the years, thanks to book clubs and recommendations of friends - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Woolf, Orwell, Steinbeck, Irving, Dillard, Tyler, Wiesel, Golding, Atwood, Maugham, London, Cather...

But in all of these books from early childhood through my 30's, never one self help book!  What?!?  I guess I thought I had my shit together and didn't need them.  Oh, but I did read the Bible a couple of times, I guess that's a self help book.

When the time came for me to gaze at my navel and realize I didn't have my shit together like I thought I did, I easily gravitated toward self help books.  This was the same time I was trying to save my marriage and figure out what the heck was going on with my soon to be ex husband.

When I started reading these books, right before, during and after the breakup of my marriage, I made a list, with notes!, to help anyone else who might want to check out some of these resources.  I just pulled out this list for a dear friend who is sadly going through a marriage breakup right now.  She suggested I share the list.  She also said my notes were hysterical and I should re-read them with a glass of wine.  So here goes, with the top 3 listed first (because these 3 helped me the most):

I particularly liked this book because the author did not cheat on her husband, but was the one who was betrayed.  It’s written for women, but men who have been cheated on could gain much from it.

2. Meditations from the Mat by Katrina Kenison and Rolf Gates

I’ve re-read this book many, many times, reading one short passage a day.  It is full of yoga inspired messages have helped me enormously through many battles.  Another great bathroom book!

3. On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Kubler-Ross developed the 5 stages of grieving.  Even though I didn’t lose my husband to death, I found this very relevant and helpful as I learned about DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance).

Even though the author cheated on her husband, and that bugged me, I still got a lot of practical age-appropriate advice from this book.

Even though the author was the one to cheat on her husband (and that still really bugs me) I still gained insight from this book, once I got past judging her for her infidelity.

Good resource for parents, covers many scenarios and all age children.

7. After the Affair by Janis and Michael Spring

Recommended for those truly wanting to reconcile after an infidelity, not the case with me.

Talks a lot about the division of power struggle within relationships.  Gives lots of scenarios.

9. Conscious Living by Gay Hendricks

For anyone, divorced or not, doing self-reflection and trying to achieve personal growth. 

Short, inspired chapters with daily reminders about how to achieve an authentic, happy, good life.  This is one of my bathroom books!  I’ve re-read it dozens of times.

11. The Power of Intention by Wayne W. Dyer

I not only read this book, but also bought the CDs and listened to him lecturing about the book on many road trips.  Lots of positive affirmations about life, making good choices, rethinking how you look at things.

12. The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D.

If you think your mate (or ex-mate) may not have a conscience, read this.  It’s a very interesting interpretation of sociopaths.  I could relate to much of what the author said about being with someone who has many of these characteristics.

13. Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston

If you suspect your mate, or someone you care about, has bipolar disorder, this is a good read.

If you suspect your loved one has bipolar disorder, this is a great read because the author was diagnosed with bipolar and is very frank and thorough about her experiences.

I liked this book on bipolar because it was written from a medical and personal perspective.

16. Why Men Must Lie to Women by Philip B. Storm

This was a silly, irritating book but it still intrigued me.

17. Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

This was recommended by my therapist when I thought I was working on the relationship, before the divorce.

18. The Female Brain by Louann Md Brizendine

I loved this book.  I think every woman should read it, especially the chapter on female orgasms.  It covers lots of mental and physical health issues. 

The author describes the healing process through five stages.  I found it helpful, especially for those who have been betrayed.  It describes how abandonment is, in some ways, worse than death, according to the author.

Short, inspirational chapters with daily mantras.  Helpful and insightful.

An exploration of the 7 chakras of the body and what that means for us each of individually.

22. Change Your Brain Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Ideas for changing your brain by changing your life patterns.  The focus of this book was on weight, nutrition, exercise, energy, stress, sleep, memory and passion.  A good read for those suffering from depression and neglecting their bodies due to divorce or other trauma.

So there you go.  Twenty two suggestions to let the healing begin!

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Jig Is Up, Don't Come Home Tonight

My life changed dramatically the day I uncovered firm proof of my husband's infidelity.  Of course I knew something was really, really wrong, and I was in serious CSI mode for several months trying to pin point exactly what the hell was happening. 

I found clues.  A woman's perfume on the passenger head rest of my car.  The same perfume on one of my husband's collars (He always told me he hated perfume, and loved my natural smell).   A stained pair of his biking shorts (I won't elaborate, but use your imagination).  Odd stories that didn't add up.  Really bizarre behavior on his part.  

I questioned him at the bottom of the stairs one morning before he went to work.  "Look at me. Have you ever, ever in the past, or are you now being unfaithful to me in any way?"

"N, no," he stammered, "Wh, whhat, do you want me to say?" followed by a quick exit.

But in April, 2011 I nailed it.  He had accidentally left his laptop at home that morning.  I was dutifully backing up our family's computers after the kids went to school.  I saw his laptop, opened it, took a few turns at his password, but couldn't crack it.  I gave up, plugged it into the external hard drive and began backing up.

After I finished the back up, I accidentally clicked on an old file on the external drive.  I kept clicking deeper and deeper until I saw the file for his password-protected journal.  One more click.  Miraculously, it opened.

I remember exactly where I was standing and what I was wearing when I opened the file.  I started reading explicit details of their deception, and the sickness crept in.  I felt my knees wobble, my pits began to sweat, the nausea brewed from the bowels of my gut.  I looked at my chest and my incredulous heart leapt out of my chest.  

My therapist would later describe this as a traumatic event and warned me that I would feel these symptoms in my body again whenever I had a trigger.

I told myself, "Be calm.  You cannot have a heart attack.  You have two boys.  Calm down and breathe. And live... for them."  

In his journal, I learned my husband of nearly 21 years had been having an affair (with a nearly 20 year younger colleague, big surprise) for going on 3 years at that point (it began when he turned 50, can that be more cliche?).  

The instant I read the journal, I called a friend to verify this woman's existence.  My friend confirmed, "Yes, it's true, she does work with him and she does exist.  Oh my god, I think I'm going to throw up."  This dear friend became a life-line for me during the hardest part of my recovery. 

The initial shock subsided long enough for me to stop uncontrollably shaking when I texted my husband. "The jig is up.  I know all about [ - - - - ].  Don't come home tonight."

He replied, "OK, just let me know when I can come home for a change of clothes."

Not, "Oh my god Kerry, I am so sorry, please let me come home to try to explain.  I am so sorry. I'll be right home."

No remorse.  No apology.  No explanation.  No guilt.

In fact he probably felt relief.  A huge burden had lifted for him.  The unfaithful spouses want to get caught, and they get sloppy.  He was getting sloppy.  And now the jig was up.

He moved into a hotel.

I lived with this new, devastating reality trying to devise a plan to stay sane for three, excruciatingly drawn out days before my eldest son looked up from dinner one night, "Hey, where's dad?  I haven't seen him in a while?"

Running interference, I chimed, "Oh, he's at work.  He's been really busy."  

My therapist advised me to make a plan with my husband to tell the kids together we were splitting up.  I shared this with my husband.  My husband, however, dismissed this idea. One night, five days after I kicked him out, I left the house and sat in a Starbucks parking while he went back to our family home to gather some of his items.  That was the plan. Just drive home, chat with the boys, get some clothes, and tell them you have to go to work again, and on another day we will sit down together as a family and tell them.  When I returned home, my eldest was in bed trying to study for a vocabulary quiz (yes, I remember this) and my youngest was in the upstairs guest room watching TV.  

I walked into my eldest son's room.  He was 17.  He turned to me confused, "Dad told us, Mom.  He told us he slept with another woman and he is moving out."  I sat on the bed with him, he began to cry.  With everything I could muster I tried to soothe him, even as my own heart was breaking, "You know what?  We have lived a very charmed life, you, me and your brother.  Up until now.  This will hopefully be the worst thing that ever happens to us. Your dad is a damaged man.  He did this horrible thing because he is fighting demons and has been for a very long time.  I am so sorry he did this to us, but we are strong, and we will make it through this."  We held each other and cried. 

I walked into my youngest son's room.  He was 15.  I had a similar, heart-wrenching conversation with him.  He blurted, "Dad just sat us down at the kitchen table and told us he slept with someone and was moving out.  I thought he was kidding, but then I looked at his face, and realized he was serious."  His slight body shook with pain, confusion and sorrow.  "I'm not going to have to live in another house, am I?"  He was deeply frightened.

My sons and I were in shock, but this was to become our new "normal."  They had to get up and go to school the next morning.  I had to get up and make them lunches.  Their dad would not be coming home, ever again, to be a part of what was our familiar, "normal" family.

Up until that point, we were an upper, middle class, suburban, "normal" family.  We were the blonde haired, blue eyed, athletic, attractive, intelligent, successful, fun, talented family of four. Our first names even rhymed.  My boys had, by their own admission, a very happy childhood with just minimal times that truly sucked.  My ex and I rarely fought, even though life wasn't perfect, and we almost never fought in front of the boys.  Later, a few months after the split, I checked with my oldest. "On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you have rated your parents' relationship? He said, "8."  

"Damn, pretty high," I thought.  I gave us a "6."  Still, a "6" was not bad, in my mind, for a couple married for 21 years and together almost 25 years.

This breakup was shocking to most of our family and friends.  He hid it very well.  (At least I wasn't the last to know. )  When this happens to you, you go back in your head to all the conversations with friends, family, with him, and try to piece it together.  How did I miss that?  I suddenly remembered his best friend telling me a few months before the split, "Kerry, whatever happens between you and him, just remember, this is NOT your fault."  I didn't know what he meant at the time, but his best friend must have been in on the duplicity.

On the bright side, our kids didn't grow up with screaming, fighting, abusive parents that then got an ugly divorce. They went from an 8 out of 10 ... to an ugly divorce. Better than many other scenarios, actually.

The days, weeks and months immediately following the breakup were unbearable.  My therapist assured me it would eventually be ok.  "Just take it one moment, one hour at a time," she texted.  "You are suffering from something similar to PTSD.  Allow yourself to grieve."

I did the best I could in those days right after the fall out, but it was difficult when everything I knew was suddenly different.  A good friend told me, "You have to stop thinking of yourself as a Mrs., and start thinking of yourself as Kerry."  I screamed, "Geezus, give me a minute to digest the fact that the last 25 years of hopes and dreams with this man have disappeared."  

Break up songs destroyed me.  Songs that reminded me of him were brutal reminders of my former (just days ago) life.  I stopped listening to NPR.  Current events? Osama Bin Laden was killed a few weeks after my trauma, and I honestly have no recollection of this.  I was in a fog. 

Suddenly I had real empathy for people (like my mom) who suffer from clinical depression. I got it.  It was real.  Before this experience, I didn't get it.  Depression can take you down, and keep you down.  But I couldn't stay in bed.  Being depressed was too depressing.  I got up each morning and put one foot in front of the other for my kids, and for myself.  It wasn't easy.

This happened four and a half years ago.  Two and a half years ago the divorce become final.  He is remarried (with the same woman) and expecting a child.  I'm still healing, still processing, and still grieving my Plan A.  I'm also trying to forgive.  It will continue to take time.  Certain things even now trigger the PTSD.  Finding out about the pregnancy, for example, put me in a tailspin for a few sad, confusing, self-pitying days.  And then with the help of my friends, my beau, my family, my yoga, myself, I get out of the funk, again.

Ask anyone who knows me well, I'm definitely moving more forward than back.  Many wonderful things have come out of this dreadful experience: I have a new job, I have a whole new set of single and yogi friends, I'm dating a great guy, I'm more empathetic and less judgmental of people, my relationship with both of my boys is deeper, I'm closer to my true friends and family members who have supported me through all of this, I'm more complete than I ever was when I was married.

Each day, I try to find the joy, freedom and blessings in my new "normal."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Your Relationship WILL End

Although you may not like to think about it, your current relationship with your (current) mate will end. 

He (or she) will leave you.
You will leave him (or her).
He (or she) will die.
You will die.
You both will go down together and die (or go into a coma) at the exact same moment.

This is not meant to be morbid.  This is not meant to be negative.  

When I was married I never allowed myself to think these thoughts. I felt solid in my (less than perfect) relationship with my (then) husband.  I felt a loving, deep, spiritual and soulful connection to him (especially in the early years) and I believed he felt this toward me.  He said he did.  I believe he believed he did.

Today when I see beautiful, young love I think, "Oh, I used to feel that way, if only I could show you how things may change in your lives as you grow older together (especially after kids)."  And then I think, "There's still a chance for you two, but you have to keep your eyes OPEN."  And then, "You DO realize the divorce rate is higher than the stay-married rate, right?"  And, "Just be realistic and take care of YOURSELF."

Yoga teaches me the most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself.

The most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself.

Religious folk may deny this and say the most important relationship you have is the one you have with your god.  OK, but think of God as your mate. Even if you have a spiritual, soulful connection to your Lord and Savior, or your Yoga Sutras, or Mother Nature, or whomever your higher power is, you still must be in a totally bitchin' relationship with YOURSELF before you can give yourself to that other person, spiritual entity, or Whatever or Whomever.

Your relationship with your mate WILL end.  Someday.  Somehow.  When that happens (not IF) will you be ok?  

Now, if you feel freaked out, you should. This is tough, important stuff. And, BTW, if you've ever considered yoga, beware, it forces you to look inward like this. But it also reminds you that everything is already ok.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Blogs and Bereavement

Because 2 Blogs and a Website Aren't Enough

When I told my 19-year old son I was considering writing a blog called Betrayal, Divorce & Yoga he burst out laughing. "Of course you would write about that, that's what you know," he said. And then I burst out laughing with him.

He continued, without missing a beat, in perfect ADHD fashion, "and what about parenting? And, do you still write that homework blog?"

I continued to chuckle with him and reminded him that my homework blog is really about parenting.

These are my current blogs and website:

East Bay Homework Blog (my soapbox about education and parenting - if you don't agree with my views, you will REALLY DISLIKE this one)

KT Yoga (my blog about...wait for it...yoga)

ADD Focus Yoga (my website describing my business, do you get the little play on words? ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

Betrayal, Divorce & Yoga (my therapeutic, healing blog for me and hopefully for you or someone you know)

In this blog, I will often refer to at least one of 5 stages of Grieving. (From the model by Kubler-Ross) DABDA, or as one of my clever friends calls it, BADAD (Bad Dad, get it?).


This is not linear, (note the wavy, circular line) yet those of us grieving over a loss (death, disease, debt, divorce - why always those damn "D's?) will try to reach ACCEPTANCE someday. Hear a chorus of "Hallelujah" as you read the word "acceptance."


One day (one minute, one hour, one season) you may feel rather accepting and the next totally pissed off, or depressed, or confused, or in complete denial, or all of these together at one time. THIS IS NORMAL. Staying in one stage, or funk, for too long is not healthy, but allowing yourself to go in and out of these five stages is vital to recovery.

How long will recovery take?

I read in one divorce book that for every 5 years you were with that person, expect at least 1 year of recovery. I was with The Man I Chose To Have Children With for almost 25 years, thus, according to this totally random and unscientific formula it will take me five years to recover. I am four and a half years out from separation, but just two and a half years out from the actual divorce. Do I feel almost healed and moved on? Some days, heck yeah! Other days... Not even close, goddammit! WTF?

Take more steps forward than back. My family and friends assure me I'm moving more forward than back, phew! I rely on my family and friends to remind me of this.

Speaking of family and friends, surround yourself with people that make you feel good about being YOU! Set aside all the others. The other sorts of people will suck the positive, healing energy right out of you. You don't need that crap. You need to be filled up with goodness and love. Find it in your peeps, and don't worry for one second about peeling away those old friendships or family members that were not serving you well. That was the old you, this is the new you. As wounded and broken as you feel in this grieving process, know there is so much beauty ahead, just waiting for you when you are ready.