Experiential, Nonexpert Opinions and Advice

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Crossing the Holiday Finish Line

I did it!  I made it through Christmas, and New Year's, and...I'm ok, even better than ok.  I knew I had a minor breakthrough when I didn't want to take down the Christmas decorations this year.  It was a bit sad, putting away the ornaments, stockings and mistletoe.  The lights will stay up outside for another few weeks, yay!

This was the seventh Christmas since my split with my ex.  Holidays have been excruciating since the breakup.  Why was this year different?  Time.  For one thing, it just takes time.  These healing years cannot be rushed.  I read in one of my divorce books that for every five years you were with the person, expect at least one year of recovery.  So, I was with my ex for 25 YEARS putting me at a healing/moving on timeframe of 5 years post breakup.  Or, is it post divorce?  Whatever it is, it isn't a hard and fast rule, just a guideline.  

My people.  I was able to spend just the right amount of quality time with my boys, my niece, my friends and my man-friend/main squeeze.  I made a lot of effort to buy and wrap gifts and to cook delicious meals.  This kind of thing makes me happy when it's appreciated.  I felt all was appreciated this year.  That is meaningful to me.

We watched "It's a Wonderful Life,"  we played a silly dice/gambling game, we hiked on Christmas day, we played bocce ball, we listened to Christmas tunes, we hung out, we laughed, we cooked together, we just enjoyed each other's company.  All of those things bring meaning to holidays for me.

I stumbled upon a poem I wrote the first Christmas after the split.  It is raw and even reading it now brings up sadness for me.  But I'm including it here because I've come so far since writing it that it feels good to know moving on (even during the holidays) is possible when you keep using those healing tools in your toolbox.

Here's the poem I wrote in December, 2011.  I split with my ex the previous April.

Stolen Moments
The carved wooden bar

A towering Christmas tree

Annual cheer, smiles, hugs, chatter
Dozens and more, tapering to

Now I know
Now I know

Stolen glances, secret moments

Now I know
Now I know

Ghosts of holiday parties past
By: Kerry Lea

December, 2011

This poem is filled with the sadness of "how could I have been so naive, so trusting?"  I performed at all of those work parties for him.  I wore black gowns, I had my hair done, got a french manicure.  I played the part.  I wasn't miserable, but it was an effort, and one that I can only hope was in some way appreciated by him.  

The intent here isn't to go back down the rabbit hole and relive the sadness of that first holiday, post breakup.  The intent of this post is to be thankful that I've come as far as I have and can honestly feel that I had a really good Christmas and New Year's this year.  

But it takes work, and time.  It takes a ton of resilience to bounce, or crawl back from a loss like a betrayal.  If you keep working at it, it does get better.  The things I do to keep moving forward are: writing, reading self help books, yoga, chats with friends, trying new things (like Pickleball!), meditation, prayer, creating art, taking new classes, exercise, cooking new foods, going on yoga retreats, hiking, going to shows, getting out of my comfort zone, and expressing gratitude whenever I think of it.

I'll close with a picture of a watercolor I painted (from a class) just before the holidays.  I love it and am excited about continuing to create art this year.  It's very healing for me.

Snowy Cabin in the Woods by KLTD

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!