It was a particularly emotional day for me, for a number of reasons. First, I was buying tickets for my daughter's dance recital - picking up a group of tickets for myself (I will be attending with my parents, my son, and a dear friend/new love) and offered to get some for my ex-husband. When I asked how many he needed, he said "just one". This brought about feelings of guilt, no matter how much self-talk I applied, that I have a loving group to go with while he has no one. Now I know he could take any number of people along with him, and that this was no doubt be a manipulation tactic to make himself seem more sad and lonely, and it makes me both angry and sad that I allow him to be so successful with these strategies. I need to be stronger in not letting these kinds of things penetrate.
Also, I was taking my daughter in to Toronto to have lunch with good friends in honour of her birthday. They have always taken the kids out for a birthday meal, just on their own, a really lovely tradition. Today it made me sad, though, because I never quite know how I will be received by our friend. Her partner, while very cool with me back in the fall, has been fine with me since. But with her, I never quite know. Sometimes, it is like old times, but then often I find her a bit cool and distant. This always makes me deeply sad, and somewhat resentful, because I know her feelings are entirely based on what my husband has told her, his own distorted view of what happened in our marriage. When these friends were going through a devastatingly rough patch in their relationship, I spent a lot of time talking with our friend on the phone in cross-Canada discussions. When they decided to reunite and work to rebuild and heal themselves and their relationship, there were many people who could not understand it. My husband was one of them. He had nothing at all good to say about her partner, and questioned our friend's judgement in returning to the relationship. My position was that if she was able to forgive him for what had happened between them, who were we not to? My husband held a very negative view of her partner until two summers ago, when we ourselves had a 3 month trial separation. Our friend's partner (who is also our very dear friend, but for the sake of clarity I am referring to him as her partner) spent time with him, they went out to pubs and they talked. My husband told me that our friend was not likely to be comfortable with me anymore because he had a very strained relationship with his first wife, and that he lost 20 years with his daughter because of her ... so he would have trouble staying friends with me since I would remind him of his ex-wife. This left no question in my mind as to what their conversations were at the pubs that summer. The part that is so tough for me, though, is that my friend and her partner seemed so easily led by my husband's story. I did not help my friend during her time of great distress, nor did I welcome back her partner and share with him my feelings about their reunion (that they gave me inspiration and hope, and that I was so glad they were able to find the strength to forge ahead even stronger than before), I did not do any of that with any expectation that I would receive the same from them in return. Yet, I was so deeply saddened to think that they could not stay connected to the real me, the one I'd have thought they knew was behind my husband's vitriolic stories.
Also also ... I am now very much falling in love with a man who has been my good friend for 25 years. We have always known there was a certain chemistry between us, but it was never accessible because at first, he was married, and then I was, too. But we were always very close friends and our spouses came to know each other. We even had a number of family get-togethers where our kids played together. What is taking root between us now is nothing less than amazing and profound and incredibly wonderful. But he is a kind, compassionate and loving person. Is that a problem? For me, no. But for him ... what it means is that he feels deep sadness and responsibility for having ended his marriage a few years ago. His ex-wife has not coped well, and he feels totally at fault for causing such sadness and disruption to her and their kids. No amount of self-talk can help him shake this entirely, the invitation is so strong for him to feel it. While our blossoming relationship is incredible - we are compatible in every aspect of life, it seems (I have discovered things I'd long since given up ever having in my life again). The problem is that he feels very guilty about finding happiness, when he feels that he is the cause of such sadness in those he loves. Today, I felt very afraid that he would just pack it in with me. That he would feel such crushing guilt about being happy with me, that he would end our relationship. I could take it if he said he didn't really feel for me the way he thought he might. Or that since becoming involved in our relationship, he realizes he doesn't love me in "that way", or does not feel emotionally ready for any kind of relationship at all. But to say he doesn't want to continue because he doesn't feel worthy of happiness, or because of "stuff" ... that would be so hard to take. I would know it would never be with malice, and I know I would continue to love him as I always have. I would be profoundly sad at the loss of what we've experienced together but also at the loss of our potential - we really could be amazing together, and happier than I'd thought possible at this stage of life. I shared with him the fact that I was feeling emotional, and he was, in a word, incredible. His texts throughout the day were loving and supportive, and made me feel so secure and happy that the worries faded away. We had an absolutely amazing evening together - first half with my kids, second half just focusing on each other.
So where was my solo spot? When I dropped my daughter off to have lunch with our friends, I made my way down to the beaches area of Toronto, heading to my favourite little corner of Ashbridge's Bay. I sat on the rocks, with no one around me at all. You'd never have known the city was rumbling along behind me. I heard song birds behind me, seagulls out in front, and the sound of the most gently lapping waves on the sand, and burbles of water moving in and around the rocks at my feet. I could look straight across at my hometown on the horizon. There were millions of diamonds out on the water, twinkling almost to my feet. I allowed myself to just be very much in the moment, to feel the sadness fully - for a while, I did not even try to understand it or put anything in perspective. I just leaned into the ache of it, gave myself the time to cry until the tears were done. There was nothing to make me suddenly pull myself together or hide my feelings. I could just sit with them. And as always, when I came to the natural endpoint of this expression, understanding and perspective fell into place.
I understood the difficulty I have with something that feels so unfair and asked myself why I think any of it should be fair. My husband has judged me harshly for years and he has never been one to take responsibility for his actions, instead consistently blaming others for creating situations in which he is forced to behave badly. He has never given me any indication that he can respond differently, yet here I have been expecting him to tell our dear friends what really happened in our marriage, to share the truth so that people would understand why our path to separation was the inevitable one, allowing them to love both of us and show compassion for what they would know had to be a painful and heart-wrenching decision. It is important to him to be seen as a martyr (always has been), yet I expected him not to jump on this perfect opportunity to be seen as the victim, with me as his villain (the bonus). I have expected him not to be mean and manipulative in his communication with me and with our kids, while experience should have taught me to expect him to behave exactly as he has.
As this awareness washed over me again (not the first time I have thought about this - I hope it sticks at some point!), it was as if the diamonds on the water became brighter and more sparkly. Just being there, listening to the water and the birds, feeling the sun on my face, I felt such contentment. And throughout the entire morning, even as I sat there on the rocks, I was receiving these text messages that were loving and supportive and generous. I knew as I sat there, that whatever comes of our relationship will be good. If he allows himself to fully experience happiness in the face of other people's sadness, and to give up feeling responsible for that, then I really believe we have the potential for one of those relationships that I dreamed of all those years, in which there is true, deeply felt love and acceptance. True happiness. If he is unable to give himself that, while I will be unspeakably sad, I would be grateful for the time we have had together and would do my best to be with him on his journey, holding his hand as his friend. He is such a remarkable man, with such a generous spirit and loving heart, that I am simply happy to have him in my life. He and I have had conversations about the notion that he does not deserve to be happy. I have had these thoughts, as well. I sometimes worry that he might give up on our relationship and that this loss would happen because I did not deserve such a partnership. As I prepared to leave my solo spot, I watched a sailboat out on the lake turn sharply and circle into the little bay where I sat. It was as if it was coming by to see me, then completed its loop and headed out to the open lake again. The name on the side of the boat caught my eye - "We Deserve This"!
We really do.