Experiential, Nonexpert Opinions and Advice

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Holidays Still Suck

I wish they didn't.  But over six years out from my separation, holidays still sting.

I thought I could be strong this Thanksgiving.  I told my younger son it was fine if he spent it with his dad and friends he grew up with. I still had my older son with me, after all.  But it wasn't fine.  It was tough, even though I tried to make it light and fun. 

I got out old home videos and my eldest son and I watched them.  It was wonderful to see him laughing at what a goof ball he was when he was little.  He had a great childhood, and he tells me that regularly.

It was bittersweet (painful, even) for me to watch those videos and hear my ex calling me "his beautiful wife" on film.  I was happy then.  Those were great times, and I wouldn't trade them.  

I will not allow what he did to me, to us, to our family, destroy my happy memories of my boys' childhoods and of my married life. Nope.  He has taken so much from me, but he will not take that from me.

My sons were 15 and 17 years old when my ex left us.  I feel like they have really great childhood memories up until those ages, and then this horrible thing happened and they have had to navigate this new, bizarre life, post childhood. They don't seem to equate the divorce with their awesome childhood, and that is good.  It didn't change their views of how they were raised.

My ex and I rarely, if ever, fought in front of them.  And we didn't even fight that much behind the scenes. According to me, I had a happy marriage.  I didn't ever want to get divorced.

People ask me, "Yeah, but aren't you glad you are no longer with him?"  Honestly, no.  I thought we were the usual married couple with normal married issues.  And, working on those issues is what marriage is all about.  Right?  We had a 25 year history together.  He was madly in love with me for many of those years. All of our issues were worth working on, in my opinion.  There were no deal breakers...until he became unfaithful.

Of course I don't want to be with someone who is unkind to me and unfaithful.  So, yes, I wouldn't want to still be married to him if he were cheating and unkind.

But when I get in the dumps (during holidays especially) I just keep asking, why?  Why did his feelings for me change so drastically over the years?  Why did he chose this other, strange life over the beautiful one he had?  Why do I still care so much about him?  Why am I still in love with the fantasy of my former life?  Why can't I fully move on?

It's the damn turkey.  Those holiday smells, flavors, traditions all bring up such fond memories of holidays past that I cooked for him, for our family, for his parents, his friends.  It's a trigger.  And so, I go into a hole for a couple days and have my pity party and then I emerge, ready to take on life with a more positive approach, and with more gratitude for all the blessings I currently have that I wouldn't have, had I still been married to him.

In yoga we are taught that suffering and happiness are two sides of the same coin.  It's the same energy that creates both.  Both are what they are, neither good nor bad.  Being honest about having these difficult feelings is healing.  I always feel better after a good cry.  I allow myself to grieve and be sad.  I have a lot to be sad about, but on the flip side, I have so much for which to be grateful.

Yet, even though I know these things and I am getting better at moving through the sadness and confusion, I still see Christmas looming...

But thankfully, the calendar has way more non holiday days than holiday days.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A. F. T. on Sexual Misconduct Revelations

I have so many feelings about the recent onslaught of sexual misconduct revelations I don't even know where to start.  So I'll start with today when I heard one of Charlie Rose's co-anchors, Gayle King, say she didn't know how to move forward.   How could she have been so misled, and what is she supposed to think about this person she cared for, and thought she knew?  She was horrified, sickened, angry, astonished, hurt.  She was speaking on very little sleep and sounded rocked to her core.

I know that feeling.  Unfortunately.

Six and one half years ago I was similarly rocked to my core and punched in the gut when I discovered my husband's infidelity.  It is a trauma from which I still haven't recovered, but healing takes time, and it does get a little easier with each passing year.

After I discovered the affair, my ex and I were in discussions about how to move forward in this newly separated life.  I remember him saying matter of factly, "lots of men did it" (had affairs) and our boys would be fine.

He's right.  Lots of men do cheat on their wives and families.  Lots of men do lead double lives.  Lots of men are duplicitous and engage in egregious behaviors, but that doesn't make it right or even close to ok.  (And for the record, women cheat too, but for the purposes of my rant, I'll stick to men as the cheaters, because that is my personal baggage.)

Side note: you know what really irritates me?  We don't even have a word in the English language for a male mistress!  Boy Toy?  Gigalo? 

When a man cheats on his woman he is engaging in sexual misconduct.  While we were still married and I suspected something seriously wrong, I remember confronting my ex, "If you are engaging in behaviors that you wouldn't want you mother or boys to see, chances are, it is behavior that is wrong and hurtful."

Why do men feel they have a right to treat women this way?  In my ex's case, (and in many cases) he has a reputable career, one that pumps him up, makes him feel god-like, gives him power, fuels his ego, fills his bank account well (and subsequently means I have a healthy alimony payment each month, for which I am thankful, even despite everything - silver lining, I guess).

In the recent revelations of sexual misconduct I am encouraged by all of these women and men who are coming forward in droves and finally speaking their truth.  I am so sickened they were hurt, abused, used, mistreated, manipulated and harassed by men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Louis C. K., Kevin Spacey, Bill O'Reilly, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump... and the list goes on endlessly.

It's About Fu**ing Time (AFT) these horrors and injustices are brought to the public.  I can only hope that in the wake of this upheaval similar sexual misdeeds, like infidelity, will also become abhorred, and not normalized.

I cannot separate values from deeds.  I do look at the content of one's character and value someone's inner qualities more than one's paycheck, or career, or fame.  (Sadly, MLK who coined this phrase also cheated on his wife.)

Many people we love do these horrible things and we have to reconcile this somehow.  Will my boys, who are now young men, be fine?  I hope so.  Like Gayle King, they woke up one day and were slapped in the face with a different image of someone they loved, looked up to, trusted, thought they knew.  They and I have been working through this for over 6 years, and we will continue to our whole lives.

In yoga I have learned I can't control anything, other than my breath.  And when I work on a calmer breath, the calmer thoughts often follow.  This is much easier said than done, but it has helped me in my healing.

I couldn't control my ex's behavior, and I can't control my boys' behavior, but I do try to model respect, kindness, compassion, honesty, morality, love and, of course, the benefit of being a yogi to help when life throws all of these unexpected obstacles our way.

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."