Today is a gorgeous, sunny start to 2012. As I type this, I am sitting in a comfy leather chair overlooking the ocean from the balcony of my apartment. I got my slippers on, and some reggae playing. Perfecto. A great way to bring in the New Year. (For the full effect, you can listen to some reggae jams along with me here and here.) Looking back, 2011 was a pretty wild year. To put it mildly. Some of you have asked me if I was going to write about some of the things that happened this past year. I have been waiting for the right time, and today feels like the day. Here it goes…
2011 was the year I got married. It was a full-on, save-the-date, seating-chart, welcome-cocktail party, three-day affair in Tulum, Mexico. It was a beautiful three days. I had been together with my partner for five years. We met in law school, and had a lot of mutual friends. Eighty-five people celebrated our union in bare feet on the sand. I truly believed I was committing to a lifetime with this person. I loved him.
Four months later, I left him.
That still sounds crazy to me. But it is real. Out of respect for my former parter (we never legalized the marriage, so I struggle with the correct term… my ex? my former symbolic husband?), I will not go into the details of why I found it necessary to leave. I’ll simply say that he was not ready to get married, even though he wanted to be. Were there warning signs? In hindsight, yes. Like the fact that he impulsively proposed to me in Greece, without buying a ring first. Or that at the wedding, he went around telling everyone that he felt “more responsible already.” And the fact that I spent a lot of energy in our relationship helping him to grow (yes, obviously that does not work).
Because he was not ready to get married, some pretty self-destructive behavior emerged about two months after the ceremony. Front-line report from the trenches: it is entirely possible to love someone and also realize that your relationship is not healthy. During the two months or so when things were really going downhill, I was living those two truths. The only thing I could do was leave him, but I was not yet willing to do that. I felt helpless, because I was. I was stuck.
When I was in that helpless phase, this great thing happened. I got a Buddhist meditation instructor. I love how totally cheesy that sounds, but it is true–although not for the reason you might think. We actually did no work on my meditation technique or practice. Our very first session, he simply asked me what was going on in my life. I told him. He said, “Holy shit, your life is a mess.” And then he cracked up. I laughed with him. Holy shit, my life was a mess.
The homework he gave me was to pay attention to my life and get real about what was happening. So I took all the energy I was using to worry, to plan, to hope, to argue…and I put it into bearing witness. Sounds simple, but this was an amazing and deep practice. Rather than trying to control a very difficult situation, I just let. it. be. And I watched very carefully what was going on both externally, and internally. I listened hard to what life was saying, instead of just nodding along and secretly thinking about what I wanted to do next. You get a lot of clarity when you shut up.
I learned that his choices were not my fault. I learned that I could not change him. I learned that as much as he told me he wanted to change, his actions said a different thing. And I learned that I was not crazy to feel sad, or scared. Instead of running from these truths, or trying to make them be something else, I just felt the pain. But it was a refreshing, simple pain, free from the tiresome and idiotic delusion that everything was my responsibility. Along with the pain, I also felt more compassionate and tender, for both myself and him.
What came out of all of this listening was that I finally, truly accepted the fact that I might have to leave the relationship. I got unstuck. Acceptance is a beautiful thing. It is like this thing you have been fighting so hard against turns out to NOT be the end of the world. When you stop fighting fear, you discover your own strength.
But feeling free to leave and actually leaving are two different things. I still wondered whether the situation might get better. So I consciously, and clearly, told Spirit: “Look, if I am supposed to leave, just give me a sign. I am ready to accept whatever is the right thing to do.” I think when you ask from that completely surrendered space, Spirit will respond because it know you are ready to hear the truth. I definitely got my answer. More on that, how I handled it, and what else I learned, in the next post.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you have a beautiful start to your year.