Tag Archives: marriage

Modern Love: The Podcast

My Modern Love essay finds its way to NPR!

If you liked the essay, you’ll love the book:
“This Is Not The Story You Think It Is”

 

After so many people, literally millions, read my Modern Love essay in the New York Times in 2009…and after so many people didn’t receive its message, it is just plain manna for this writer to listen to the fantastic, spot-on, podcast that the NPR Boston station WBUR, the editor of the column, Dan Jones, and the actress Alysia Reiner put together.  That essay, called “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear,” was reproduced all over the internet, and to date, it is the #2 Modern Love essay and the #1 most read article in the history of The Week.  And now…it has the kind of support and integrity that I always wanted it to have.  My deep gratitude goes out to the whole team who gave their hearts and elegant minds and voices to my essay.

What many people don’t know is that the essay was the short version of a memoir I wrote in real time, during that six month period, called This Is Not The Story You Think It Is:  A Season of Unlikely Happiness.  bookjacket_ThisIsNotTheStory_smWhile the essay was written in hind-sight, the book shows a woman going through a deep time of rejection with a very different, and in some ways counter-intuitive, approach to well-being.  My book shows a woman, in her daily life, working with what it is to live in the moment, right there at her kitchen sink, driving her kids to school, in the mundane…with a commitment to emotional freedom.  How?  By becoming aware of the way the mind works, recognizing how it does and doesn’t serve me, and choosing to claim responsibility for my emotions.  Whether they were fear-based, or joy-based, confused or ashamed, I learned in that time of my life, that nobody can control my mind or my heart and that I have choices in response to the things people say and do to me.  Emotionally, that is.  My message was never a strategy about how to stay married.  It was always a philosophy about how to live your life, no matter what hardship you face.  Thank you for listening, and thank you for receiving this message.   Click here to listen to the podcast!

To buy the book, click here.

Modern Love Podcast

To learn more about my Haven Writing Retreats, click here.

Now Booking our Fall Retreats:

September 7-11 (only a few spots left)
September 21-25 (only a few spots left)
October 5-9
October 19-23

And now booking our full 2017 Haven Writing Retreat calendar:

Feb 22-26

June 7-11, 21-25

Sept 6-10, 20-24

Oct 4-8, 18-22
Subscribe to the Modern Love podcast for more illumination!

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You Are Arriving

This is for all the brave people who have joined me at Haven Retreats, and for those who have yet to come.  The journey is everything.

There are a few poems that have kept me together in the last little while of my life as I’ve gone through the end of my marriage.  This one is at the top of the list.  Whatever end you might be coming to– the end of a relationship, the end of a job, the end of your family as you know it, empty nest…read this and know you are not alone.  The video is a wonder too.   yrs.  Laura

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

– by David Whyte

 

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My Happily Ever After: what I’ve learned from writing something that a lot of people read.

author_photos_heath 008You never really know where life will lead you, but if you live with pure intention and feed what you love with all your might, consistently and honestly…you might find yourself in places you’d never dreamed you’d go. 

That happened to me in 2009 when I published the essay version of a memoir I’d written in the New York Times Modern Love column.  The entry point was a marital crisis, but the book and the essay were not really about marriage.  They were about being responsible for your own well-being no matter what’s going on in your life.  They were about focusing on what you can control and letting go of the rest.  And they were about powerfully choosing to not play emotional victim to the things that others say and do to you.

The book (This Is Not The Story You Think It Is) became a New York Times and international best-seller, and that essay went viral.  Today, five years later, the essay is having a resurgence all over the internet and in The Week magazine where thousands of people have made comments, and over 200,000 people have shared it.  That number is increasing by thousands every hour.  (At this moment of writing, it’s at 214K.  When I finish this post, if it is going the direction it’s been going, we could be at 22K, and I write fast!)  It has been the top read article for days on The Week, sparking blog posts and ribald conversation on social media platforms from Facebook to Twitter and beyond. 

Normally, I don’t follow this sort of stuff.  I’m a writer and a mother and those things take up most of my time.  I’ve learned that media often manipulates the meaning of my message and unfortunately a lot of the press I’ve gotten spins my essay/book to make it about how a woman saves her marriage.  But it’s not about that.  It’s about saving yourself.  Turns out, people aren’t easily open to that message.  People are used to playing emotional victim, and society re-enforces that.  I see things another way, and when you offer new solutions, people oftentimes not only don’t want to hear them, they go on attack mode.  I don’t have much room for that.  I wrote that essay and that book to help myself process a difficult time in my life, and I wrote it to help others do the same.  It has helped people all over the world and when I wonder whatever possessed me to be the main character in a book (I normally write fiction), I take heart in the knowledge that I have been true to my author’s statement:  I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch black corner to provide relief for myself and others.  If I have helped one person out there, then it’s all worth it.  And I’ve heard from thousands of people who tell me my writing has done just that. 

I walked a line of integrity throughout the whole experience of book promotion, not exposing my family outside of their comfort zone, not naming names, and turning down major media when my gut told me that it wasn’t right.  And I mean MAJOR media.  My message never has been about staying in a relationship.  It’s about taking care of yourself and stepping outside of emotional suffering to do so.  Moment by moment.  Thought by thought.  Breath by breath.  Stepping into the most powerful question I know and that’s:  What can I create?  You don’t have to suffer, even under fierce rejection.  Even when your spouse says, “I don’t love you anymore.”  I’m here to tell you—this is the exact time to find the greatest emotional freedom of your life!  You don’t have to take that personally!  Nor do you have to take “You’re fired” personally.  Or “You’re a jerk” or “You didn’t win the prize.”  These are just words.  I’m not always good at it, but it’s a practice I’m dedicated to because it works.  It’s truth.  I own what there is to own, set boundaries for myself, and mind my own business.  It’s actually easy once we gain the self-awareness that it’s possible to choose our own happiness no matter what’s going on in our lives.  And that usually begins with getting in touch with our own self-talk.  Most of us speak to ourselves ten times worse than we’d speak to our enemies!

That’s new news to a lot of people and so now I find myself in the Wellness realm, speaking about the subject of non-suffering through self-awareness and creative self-expression at conferences and at my Haven Retreats, and I’m happily working on three books that have nothing to do with marriage.  I have moved on from that time in my life, and while the end of the essay and the book leave my marriage in a place of healing, that marriage needed to end, and it did.  Again, it was never about staying together.  It was about taking care of yourself in a time when society says that you should suffer greatly, fight, splay yourself supplicant.  I refused to do that.  I felt that it was his crisis, and my job was to focus on what I could control and let go of the rest, which included the outcome of my marriage.  I gave myself a stopping point.  And eventually we stopped.  And now we are divorced.  Amicably.  We are on to new chapters.  All the players are thriving.  And I’ve been given the opportunity to re-live the messages in my book/essay from a new angle.  They still apply and they are still lifelines.  And I can say that I know, without a doubt, that happiness is within.  I’ll leave it at that.

But in the light of this break-neck resurgence of that small essay I wrote what seems a lifetime ago, I am moved to respond to a few things that might help you wherever you are in your lives—in a crisis, post-crisis, free zone.  With the recent inundation of intimate, bleeding emails these last few days, for the most part about a painful marriage…thanking me for my essay on The Week, which indeed provided relief for people, and perhaps a new way of looking at life…I am moved to investigate this phenomena of the collective We. 

We are in pain. 

We are looking for hope. 

We are looking for empowering messages. 

We are looking for these things from every-day people. 

We want to know that We are not alone.

We want to re-invent our relationship with pain.

We want to know that to fight is not always the best way to win.

We want to know that the only real winning is in our ability to step outside of suffering and into emotional freedom.

We want to know that we can powerfully choose our emotions.

We want to know that no one can really make us mad or sad or feel guilty.  Or even happy.

We want to know that life is daily and that we don’t have to go to the top of the mountain to find enlightenment.  It’s right where we stand.  Even at our kitchen sink.

We want to feel connected to our loved ones, but sometimes the best way to connect is by stepping out of their way.

We have forgotten the power of deep breathing.  A long walk.  Candlelight.  A hot bath.  A singular flower in a vase on our nightstand.

We have forgotten that pain can be a terrific guide when we breathe into the groundlessness of it.

We have forgotten that life is about endless possibility.  And endless Yes.  And THAT’S where the real power lives.

Writing helps.  I have used my writing to process this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called life since I was a child.  I did it in my published memoir and essay so many people have read, are re-reading, or  reading for the first time and sharing with their loved ones. 

It’s for precisely this reason that I started Haven Retreats which were recently listed in the top five in the country!  Now I help others dig deeper into their creative self-expression on the page.  I invite you to write your way through the difficult times in your life.  You never know what might happen… 

One hour later.  219K shares.  We are 5,000 hungry for these messages and counting…

Note: As of June 4, 2014 there are now over 300,000 shares at The Week so it looks like we’re in this together!

Now booking Haven Retreats in gorgeous Whitefish, Montana. 

For more information email:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

2014

September 10-14
September 24-28
October 8-12
October 22-26

2015

February 25-March 1
June 3-7
June 17-21
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25

 

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Long Ago: Community Entry #10

North Fork of the Flathead River along Glacier National Park. Not a bad evening stroll...

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

This powerful piece has been submitted anonymously.  Please feel free to comment.  The author will be responding through me.  I continue to thank you all for creating this on-line mini community of love and support and sharing.  My grand-mother used to sing a song to me at bedtime that ended in:  In this world of darkness, we must shine…you in your small corner and I in mine.  That’s what we are doing here this winter.  I continue to send gratitude from my snowy writing retreat.  Thank you for holding up These Here Hills.

yrs. Laura

Silent Community, by Anonymous

“We are in community each time we find a place where we belong.”

–Peter F. Block

I am known as a cradle Episcopalian. My Southern Baptist family lost hope in their pastor and religion when word spread he had had an affair with one of his devout congregants. A few blocks away loomed an Episcopal church. Out of sheer convenience and at the urgings of my grandmother’s Episcopal friend, a change was made. A seed was planted.

At the same time, my birth family became uprooted. My parents struggled with their marriage from the beginning. After surviving medical school and residency, my dad left. Even my birth did not keep them together. I was four months old when he called it quits. A radiological technologist had caught his eye.

Mom kept returning to her new faith, even when her parents rebounded to their Baptist church. The pastor had been redeemed of his affair. Hope, perhaps, bloomed inside my mom. She remarried when I finished first grade. She and her new husband faithfully dropped my brother and me off for Sunday school each week. My brother and I were regulars.

My Anglican roots took hold. When I heard that the Bishop had come to confirm folks and that my stepfather and step-uncle were to be confirmed, my 12- year-old self begged to join in. My enthusiasm was met with a resounding “Yes” and I knelt at the altar and felt the weight of the Bishop’s hands on my head. I knew I needed all the help I could get.

Oddly, my original dad appeared that same year. He asked my parents if he could meet my brother and me. This mythological man was about to marry his third wife. I was not gracious and clung to my stepfather for comfort. It was easier for me to believe that this biological dad did not exist, but there he was. My involvement in church picked up. I needed stability somewhere. I was an acolyte, a member of the youth group, and did not miss Sunday school. I felt a deep need to belong.

Every week I felt part of a larger family. From the priests to the parishioners, I basked in the love given my way. Meanwhile, I sensed strife between my parents. I did not trust their relationship. I longed for normalcy in my life. Attending Catholic schools did nothing for my confidence. My friends at school had intact families and loads of siblings. I knew their parents. My biological father remained a mystery to me.

Just before I got my driver’s license, my home life dramatically changed. Again. One night we had our family meal as usual and the next day my stepfather was gone. No discussions. No preparations. Nothing but a tearful mother picking me up from school with the news. My mom found refuge in her bedroom and alcohol. Inside my anger burned deeply. My pain lost itself in sports, school activities, and youth events at church as well as drugs and alcohol. I lived a dual life. My coaches, youth leaders, and priests became my surrogate parents.

When considering what career path I should take as an adult, I chose nursing. I knew I would always have a job as a nurse and that I could remain independent. I pushed through life with my church family by my side. Instead of leaving the church, I became more grounded.

Through steady and personal struggles, I became a nurse, bought a house, kept drinking, and lived alone. While planning an eight month trip around the world, I met my amazing future spouse. He came gift-wrapped from God. Mike was a great listener, a beautiful, gentle soul, and a handsome man. We shared a faith life that added to our marriage. He joined my childhood church. Roots stretched deep beneath the soil.

After his residency, we moved to a rural town in Northeast Georgia. The first place we visited was the small Episcopal church. We had discussed visiting different denominations but never got that far. Filled within her walls were friendly, loving people. Our new church family. Our two boys grew up in that church. They have been loved and supported all through their childhood and teenage years. It was an easy transplant to our new church home.

As an adolescent, our younger son told us he was gay. Even though we had suspected he was, we did not know for sure until he claimed his sexuality. Until he was ready to tell his story, we were asked by him to keep his secret. Mike and I honored his wishes.

One night, after a meeting at church, grief overwhelmed me. I was dealing with my expectations for my baby boy. I had not yet grown to understand how love for him trumps those expectations. After all the committee members left, I stayed behind and entered the sacred space in our sanctuary. I wanted to be alone in my sadness. But God had other plans. There sat our quiet, talented choir director. She began playing music in preparation for Sunday. At first I wanted to leave, but then her presence and music comforted me. My tears flowed unbridled. My grief spilled out. She continued to practice all the while. I felt safe. She never interrupted her practice or my bereavement. I felt her silent comfort through the notes she played.

This quiet, soft spoken musician has never inquired about that night. We have a deep affection for each other that words surpass. I have gained a true sense of family from this community of everyday people. We show up, do our best, and keep coming back. The seed planted at my birth now stands as a tree, deeply rooted. The branches are not perfect, nor is the shape of the trunk; what matters for me is that I belong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Relationship Questionnaire

 

Sometimes I wonder if the divorce rate would be so high if we could tailor make a questionnaire for our love interests to fill out before we step into the abyss of a serious relationship.  I’m not talking about a Match.com sort of questionnaire.  I’m talking take-no-prisoners, pedal-to-the-metal, full-frontal, in- your-face, cut-to-the-chase, head-for-the-hills stuff you would only dare to say out loud in the woods, walking alone with your dogs.  Of course, I’d NEVER actually have the guts/gall to do it.  But making a personal, private list might serve some purpose.

Stuff like:  (indulge/humor me a little here)

1)
Do you like to kiss?  If so, do you consider it merely foreplay?

2)
Precisely how many hours a week would you like to be with me?

Please break that down into the below categories:

Talking/ Doing chores/ Having sex/ Cooking/ Watching TV/Cultural outings/ Social outings/ Dates/ Family time/ In-law time/ Physical activities (not including sex)

3)
Do you call your mother?

4)
Do you tell your father you love him?

5)
What’s the worst thing that happened to you as a child?  What’s the best thing?

6)
Who is your best friend and why?

7)
Has anyone close to you ever died and how did you deal with grief?

8)
Do you like to sing and/or play an instrument?

9)
Do you care if I gain weight?  If so how much is too much?

10)
What is your filthiest habit?  Do you drink?  If so, do you get mean when you drink? How much do you drink?  How about smoking?  Drugs?

11)
Would you say that your family of origin is dysfunctional?  If so, rank it on a scale of 1-10, ten being totally cray cray.

12)
What books are on your bedside table?

13)
What’s the kinkiest thing you’ve done, sexually?

14)
What’s your deal-breaker as far as break-up goes?

15)
Have you ever cheated on a girlfriend/spouse?

16)
In a pinch, do you lie to get yourself out of a sticky situation?

17)
If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

18)
Have you ever stolen anything?  If so, what was it?  How did you feel afterward?

19)
What kind of body are you planning to have when you’re fifty?  Seventy?  Do you plan on making it to 80?  What about 90?  If so, what’s your strategy?

20)
Do you want children?  If one had some sort of handi-cap how would you handle that?

21)
Why do you like me?  Give me at least ten reasons but no more than twenty because then I’ll know you’re bullshitting me.  (You’re about to run for the hills, aren’t you.  I can see it in your eyes.  Hang on—I’ll change my tone.  I’m flexible that way FYI.)

22)
On road trips, are you generally a conversationalist?  On road trips do you like to play music?  Can you take LOUD?

23)
Could you love a woman who listens to opera?  (not on road trips)

24)
Could you love a woman who still listens to the Indigo Girls?   (maybe on a road trip)

25)
Could you love a woman who ummm…still listens to James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Carol King and…ummm…in a rare moment…John Denver?  Or who would make a mixed CD with the aforementioned…and maybe throw in a little Violent Femmes and Nirvana for flavor?  NOT that I have ever done that.

26)
Could you love a woman who ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm—hang on I need a glass of wine for this one:  knows every word to A Chorus Line, Godspell,
Pippin, My Fair Lady, Annie, and uh…don’t worry, not Phantom or Les Miz…but maybe (slurp) Cats?

27)
Could you love a woman who would publicly mock you if you wore tightie whities?

28)
(but let’s get back to you)  Do you watch Saturday Night Live?

29)
What about Ellen?

30)
What about Jimmy Fallon?

31)
What about Glee?

32)
What about Smash?

33)
What about golf on television?  On a sunny day.  All day.  In August.

34)
What’s your Rorschach for parades?

35)
Have you ever or would you ever wear clogs?

36)
Have you ever or would you ever live in a foreign country?  Like say, Italy?  Tuscany, to be specific?  In a villa?

37)
Would you ride horses with me?

38)
Would you ever want me to play golf with you?  And if so, would you be kind?

39)
Can you shoot a decent game of pool?

40)
Do you pray?

41)
Do you know what foie gras is?  If so, do you like it?  Because that might be a deal breaker for me if you don’t.

42)
Would you ever be angry with me if I left crumbs on the counter?

43)
What about dishes in the sink?

44)
What about large piles of laundry rivaling Mt. Hood?

45)
Do you expect your woman to…you know…wax…down…there?

46)
Do you give foot massages?

47)
If your son or daughter was gay, how would you handle it?

48)
What are your top three places on earth that you want to visit?

49)
What’s on your bucket list?

50)
I repeat, do you watch golf on television?  How much ESPN do you watch in general?

51)
Do you eat bacon?  (See the foie gras question)

52)
What’s your favorite swear word and how often do you say it and do you say it a lot when you have sex?

53)
Would you ever burp/fart at the dinner table?

54)
Do you believe that chivalry is dead?

55)
DO YOU SNORE?  If so, would you be opposed to separate bedrooms?

56)
What did you get on the SAT’s?

57)
Did you think your last partner (if applicable) was better for having spent that part of their life with you?

58)
What do you think about marriage vows?

59)
What do you think about marriage?

60)
What do you think about divorce?

61)
When’s the last time you got called an asshole and why?

62)
What is your relationship like with yourself?

63)
Have you ever been arrested?

64)
Have you ever hit a person or gotten in a physical fight?  Do you have a bad temper?  Are you passive aggressive?

65)
How emotionally dependent are you, in relationships?

66)
Do you cry?

67)
What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?

68)
What is your sense of God?

69)
Wanna start this off by going to therapy with me?

Yeah…better off leaving it to the walk with the dogs in the woods.  But kind of a fun exercise.  You might want to give it a whirl.

(Thank you to my Facebook friends for helping me conjure this list.)

Yrs.

Laura

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Breaking Point: #14

Today’s Breaking Point story is one of scope, perspective, reason, seasoned emotions, personal empowerment, grace.  I hope it helps people see that what hurts now…can free you.

First, here is a lovely poem from a reader that really spoke to me.  I love that she boxes up her memories rather than trying to erase them.  No one can steal our memories.  Or our joy.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by:  Renee Garner Williamson.

There was a promise made.  A vow taken.
And with a couple of words.  Broken.
I box up the memories.
And walk the halls of where daughters became women.
I close the door on a life of laughter.
And journey to a place where the waves whisper peace.
But in my heart there will always be him.

Submitted by: Stacia Duvall, who blogs here.

“Cashmere or Lace?”

What does one wear when she is off to meet the woman who wrecked her marriage?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am hardly fashion-conscious.  But when I think about being face-to-face with her for the first time, I am stymied.

We will meet at my grandson’s baptism.  She will be with him.  I will be with mine.  We will be cordial and we will be relieved to get it over with.

I will remember meeting her once in my husband’s office.  She was the technician behind the ultrasound machine when I was called back for a second look after a questionable mammogram.   I was vulnerable.

I will remember the slap of awareness when I noticed something amiss on the cell phone bill.  I will remember how calm I felt.  I will remember my mind breaking at the moment he responded to my question.  And I will remember thinking I had not prepped for this altered future.

She will seem young in comparison to me when we meet again.  I will be surrounded by my loved ones while she will have only him.  I will strive to make everyone comfortable and she will try her best to feel comfortable.

And we will move on to this new phase of life.  We will begin anew as a family redefined by infidelity and a 30-year marriage that faltered.

And as I dress for that day I will remember that I have come to know that I no longer blame him, or her, or even infidelity, for the breakup of my marriage. There were patterns developed very early on in a marriage of very young people.   I might have done it much differently if I had known what I know now.

I will remember good times, children, grandchildren, our shared history and what we still share today.

I will keep in mind that I have come to know that the total upheaval of my world turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened. How the intense anguish steadily faded and how I started feeling stronger, sooner than I might have guessed.  And how free I felt.  Free from the grip of an emotional disconnect that marred an otherwise excellent life.  Free from a lingering unhappiness that hung on like the dull pain of a protracted headache.

I will remember how I never would have left him without stiff prompting because the known seemed far easier than the unknown.  I could envision my life 20 years down the road if I stayed. Without him, I didn’t see much past next Tuesday.

About the time she and I glance at each other from across the room, I will be thinking of how I have been able to forgive him, but not her.   As it is with friends and family known forever, I focus on his good qualities and not his serious faults.  I accept him for who he is because we have a common history and because I know him well.  I know the demons that haunt him and the goodness that is often buried.   I understand him as can only develop through years together.

I do not know her like I know him.  I know her from brief interactions when the marriage was failing.  I know how she looked when I ran into her after I found out.  She was at the video store with her husband and two small children and I was aware that her husband did not know yet.  I recall looking boldly into her eyes and willing her to think of her children and carry on as she should.  This is all that I really know of her.

Divorce is painful for most everyone, no matter the particulars.  What happens when it’s over and done has many versions.  With mine, I found a me that I never knew was there and a me that had long-since been forgotten.  I discovered strength, self-esteem and a person I liked better.  All from the unexpected window that popped open when a door slammed in front of me.

So while I may remain a bit apprehensive about getting over the hurdle of our first encounter, I am happy that my grandson will be surrounded that day with an extended family that still exists, if in different form and connection.   It is not today what I envisioned long ago it would be, but it is still a loving family.

I will wear whatever I feel like wearing that day and not dwell on it.

All I really need wear that day is a smile.

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Breaking Point: #11

We are rounding the bend toward Spring.  Each year at this time, I remember what gratitude is…in tiny things like being able to see the driveway again.  The call of the red-winged blackbird in the marsh behind my house that tells me we’re still worth returning to.  Open windows that blow out my Winter dormancy and wake me up with a wind that feels balmy, even at 45 degrees.  Each year at this time, I  feel myself losing that Winter brace against the cold.  And I re-learn that gratitude can’t be felt without a willingness to receive.  As we finish this Winter, I invite us all to actively receive the newness and hope of Spring.  We have another week or so of this Breaking Point series.  I am so grateful to all of you who have participated.  I’ve closed submissions due to time constraints, as with the first day of Spring (March 20th) I would like us to move out of whatever pain we’re in, and step into healing.  Or, you could look at it like this:  we can choose to use our pain to create emotional freedom by breathing deeper into it past fear and ideas of wrong and bad…and in-so-doing…let it go.  However we choose to view pain– teacher, guide, enemy…I want us to feel the power of the present moment with all its promise and abundance.  In other words, I want us to dance in the rain.  Thank you for sharing your stories and thank you for reading them.  We are all in this together.  yrs. Laura  

Today’s Breaking Point is from: Kat Holland at thebreakupguide.com.  (This link goes to a guest blog piece I wrote for them.) 

To go to their main page click here.

The “M” Visions

Intuition is the one thing we are blessed with – never ignore what you know inside.

My belongings are packed in a 10×10 storage unit and I’ve left my job and my community behind. As I wait for my plane to take off, I wonder what happened to my life. I had it all – a cabin in the mountains, a husband, a dream PR job and loyal friends. Why didn’t I see my life crashing…or did I?

I married a New Zealand man with disheveled sandy blond hair and a slender athletic build. He looked like Jude Law, only hotter. He was a great cook, charming and smart…or more like…a smart ass. He was a lawyer turned bartender because he wanted to live out every man’s dream of being a ski bum. You know…the kind of guy who wakes up, smokes a bowl, hits the powder in the winter, frequents the golf course in the summer, then attends his very part-time job. His profession didn’t bother me, as long as we were both happy. I loved and supported him and looked forward to growing old with him. I accepted his drug habits and his carefree lifestyle. He was my husband, the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with – I adored him and he adored me.

We had been together for 10 years, but in February 2006, my life suddenly spun out of control. I thought I had vertigo– my head whirled as if caught in a tornado’s vortex. It was my first anxiety attack. I was 38. Then, insomnia interrupted my shut eye, and when I did sleep, my pleasant dreams turned into nightmares. They were vivid and sexual. I questioned whether or not I was getting enough sex, which I wasn’t.  I witnessed my husband kissing and then thrusting himself into another woman and it became a re-occurring dream. It was never the same woman – she was faceless, and the sex appeared methodical and meaningless.

Hanging from above a cloud, I watched them in disbelief. When he saw me, he continued thrusting into her with a shit-eating grin on his face. Then I lunged forward like a tiger and bit his cheeks. My teeth sunk into his flesh and I chomped down as if gnawing on a rubber band. I hoped that I had caused him great pain but soon realized that the opposite was happening – he was mocking me. What I thought would hurt him, gave him immense pleasure. He looked me straight in the eye and laughed. The more he laughed, the harder I chewed, until I woke up.

When I emerged from the dream, I saw visions of an “M, but the name was never clear. The “M” appeared in all my dreams. It was an unusual “M” name, almost like a Mona, or Monique, though I never grasped the name completely. The dreams of my husband having sex with another woman were frequent, at least once a month. I began wondering whether or not I was losing my mind. In my heart, I couldn’t fathom that he was having an affair. He wouldn’t be unfaithful, would he? He confirmed that he loved me daily and boasted “I was his Heidi Klum.”

One day I woke up from the nightmare and confronted him. “Are you having an affair?” I explained all the details.

“No, of course not,” he said calmly.

“But, I keep having these dreams that seem so real. Are you sure you’re not having an affair?”

“Absolutely not,” he said adamantly. “You probably miss Marley.”

Marley was our 18 year-old black cat who had died a few months before. I adopted her from my best friend. She was a feisty cat and if you blew air near her face, she would jump up and bite you. We weren’t exactly sure why, but we believe smoke was blown into her face as a dorm kitty.

“You’re right, I miss Marley.”

Eight months later, my husband announced that he had been having an affair since February. I was furious because he betrayed our trust and I didn’t follow my intuition. The dreams now made sense, because the “M” was the first letter of the name of his mistress.

At the time, I knew my spirit guide (which I like to think was my cat), was yelling at me to wake the hell up and live a more conscious life. I was so caught up in being an overachiever, that nothing about me was awake. Not my spirit. Nor my soul. Nor my mind. And my identity had disappeared.

Now, as I sit here on the plane, I’m grateful to embark on a solo adventure around the world and discover a new ME. After months of being buried in the rubble and crying my eyes out, I’m in gratitude and I have found a new sense of balance. Life has thrown me a twist of fate, a new beginning. It’s a daunting journey because the “we” has vanished, but I’m about to discover who I am, what I love, and why I’m here.

After Kat’s travels, she created TheBreakupGuide.com, a blog that enriches, empowers and restores people’s lives after a break-up.

 

 

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Breaking Point: #8

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Anonymous

I thought I had everything. I had the man I loved, two great kids, we just bought and remodeled a house I finally considered mine and was in love with.  Everything was wonderful…until about a week after our 13th wedding anniversary when he walked in and informed me he didn’t love me and didn’t want to be married anymore.  I begged for counseling, asked for a trial period, begged him to think about the kids.

His mind was made up, it was done. He took a loan out on a car, gave me $3000 to “get started”.  Since the house was only in his name and he wouldn’t be able to pay enough to me to make the payment, he was keeping it and I had to move.  Since the truck payment was too expensive, he would be keeping that too, so I needed to go get a car.  I could take what I wanted from the house.

Oh, how I wish I had the soundness of mind then, but to have all your dreams and then have someone tell you they were no longer yours, by his decisions and not your own, and feeling unable to control anything in your life at that moment, well… you tend not to think clearly.  I went through the home and took pictures of the kids to take with, but everything else had a memory attached, our bed, our furniture, our artwork. Everything reminded me of our life together, so I went to yard sales and got “new” furniture, new things for my own house, and with the kids moved into a 2 bedroom apartment behind a gas station.

I was blessed to make a great friend in my wonderful new neighbor, but honestly, I was embarrassed of where I was.  I gradually started letting old friends in on my situation.  Though I have to say that none of my friends still know the full details of what I have been through, I have come to rely on and appreciate them so much.

About a year or so ago one of my closest friends recommended a book to me…written by a personal acquaintance of hers…here in our little Montana town.  As I started reading it, I felt as if she had lived my life word for word. Oh, how I wished I had her insight and soundness of thinking.  Or I wish I at least had the book for reference as I was going through this.

There were times it was too intense to read…the parts where it was affecting the children was hitting a little too close to home and I would have to put it down for a few days and pick it up later.  It was a tremendous help.  But apparently I hadn’t reached my “breaking point.”

Last year, after a long period of unemployment, my ex got a job in law enforcement.  This meant he went out of town to the academy for a three month period of time.  Me, being the Supportive Sally I always had been, readily agreed to help out and take care of the kids while he was gone. I never received a single cent in financial help even though he was getting paid twice as much as I made to go to school. I took care of the kids, made sure they made it to track and softball and volleyball.  I took care of it.  So when his graduation time came, he asked me to come to the graduation.  He said it would mean a lot to him, he couldn’t have done it without my support, it was so important to him, so of course, I went.

So I packed up the kids and drove to the capital, spent the weekend with my ex and my ex-in-laws, completely uncomfortable, but making it through.  At the final graduation ceremony, the “MVP” of the class got up and gave a speech.  He was an Iraq war vet, had been in the service 20+ years, then came back and got involved in law enforcement.  He talked about how through everything, the good days, the bad days, the scary days, the most important lesson he learned was that he had support at home.  He always knew his wife would be there to listen and support.  It was then I realized that yes, I was that person for my ex, but even though I was the one that was worrying about him, scared for him, taking care of him, at the end of the day, he went home to someone else, and not even the same someone else, depending on the week or month.  It was then I realized I had to free myself of the dependency and responsibility.  I had to be done with the guilt and the hope things were different.  It was up to me to make my life what I wanted it at this point.

I thought, “I would love to have someone get up and give a speech like that about me,” but that was not my life at that point and maybe some day would be, but not if I kept the path I was on.

So after years of being a doormat, I can honestly say I am feeling strong…looking forward…hoping for the best.  I still cry myself to sleep at times, but those are getting farther and farther apart. It is still a struggle every single day and I still feel guilt for my kids and the life they have been dealt by someone else’s decision, but we are doing our best. We will make it.

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Breaking Point: #5

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Today we have two stories, one of breaking, one of healing.

Breaking Point

Submitted by: Anonymous

In life we all have what we may consider to be broken moments, and certainly when we look back through our lives, we see times which, whilst we didn’t realise it at the time, appear to have been devastatingly painful.  I look back at the last three years of my father’s life and wonder why on earth I wasn’t there to support my parents when they were going through the most difficult of times.  But those times were their broken moments and during those times, I had left home, started my career, married life and a new family.  I lived some two hundred miles away and, I know that isn’t too far, but we get caught up trying to follow our own paths.

My own broken moment which sent me reeling into what felt like myriad broken moments which would never stop breaking me down, happened on Friday 20th May 2011.  My husband of almost twenty-one years told me on that day at about 2pm in the afternoon that our marriage was over.

We were at work, in his office, we work in the same school, he is a teacher, I’m one of the librarians.  He told me that we couldn’t carry on being married, his feelings for another were too strong for him to ignore and that he would leave me and our two daughters as soon as he could find somewhere else to stay.  He had intimated to me a couple of weeks beforehand that he had started to have feelings for this third party but had sworn there and then, seeing my reaction of fear, loss and desperation, that we could try and work out what went wrong between us, that he would be completely committed to trying to find a journey that we could take together in the future and look after our girls.  That commitment lasted for about a week and then, when he saw the object of his desire, he knew that he didn’t want me.  It tookhim a further four or five days to tell me that it was the end.

After this devastating revelation, I was distraught and he took me home.  I was anxious about telling the children and my family what was happening.  The girls, unsurprisingly, took the news extremely badly and we are still very wary of thinking too much about the future and what it brings.  They are trying to rebuild their friendship with their Dad, as well as trust and confidence in him.  They are twelve and sixteen years of age.  It’s difficult to be faced with this situation at any time of life but with one entering puberty and the other about to sit some important exams, it’s been exceedingly hard for them.  Just when we, or rather I (the girls had long since established this fact), had finally accepted that he wasn’t going to return and had established his new life, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward about forty miles away as the doctor was worried he may commit suicide.  What he’d done finally hit home and, realizing that his children no longer wanted to see him or have him in their lives, was too unbearable for him.  I think he also realized what he’d done to me.  He survived this experience and we are currently trying to find a way forward, either together or separately.  We are all still here, thankful for sunny days and trying to enjoy moments which are not broken but fulfilling and peaceful.

 

“Healing in Relationships”

Submitted by: Don Stifler

All of a sudden we find ourselves in a broken relationship. It could be broken for any number of reasons. We may have caused it or we could be just the recipients of someone else’s issues. Regardless of who initiated this failure, we experience many feelings such as:

Anger

Hurt

Betrayal

Guilt

Loss of Self Esteem

A need for revenge

And too many more to list.

 

Forgiveness is confusing to many of us. What makes it confusing is we think that we need to condone the actions of others in order to forgive. Nothing is further from the truth. Forgiveness rarely addresses condoning the transgression. In fact the person or persons we may be forgiving
rarely understand our ability to forgive. Forgiveness is for the forgiver. We cannot really forgive another unless we can forgive ourselves.

Forgiving ourselves can be difficult if we feel we are the victim and have done nothing wrong.

Christ says “Forgive your Neighbor as you Forgive Yourself.” Boy, this is hard if you feel you have been wronged.

Think about this, “Life is a Participation Sport” It takes two to dance, there must be two to separate. Rarely can you slice a piece of bread so thin that there are not two sides to it.

Looking within can be a good place to start our recovery. Whether we feel we had a part in the failure of the relationship or not we muststart the process of forgiving ourselves. It all starts here with us. It does not involve the other party. We must address what we control and nothing else.

Every minute of every day God is there to love us and forgive, even if we really blew it. Should we do any less? In our humanity we make errors. Even if on purpose, we are allowed to ask for forgiveness. Therefore, this becomes the first KEY to Healing in Relationships.

The ability to forgive ourselves. It is not an option, it is a must. Christ did not say 7 times, He said 7 times 70. It becomes a time to remove our ego and ask for forgiveness of our own deeds known or unknown. A short prayer will start the process.

“Dear Lord, I ask your forgiveness for all that is known and unknown about my situation. Help to open my eyes and my heart to myself and to your love and forgiveness. Help me to accept responsibility for whatever actions or lack thereof that could have cause this riff and give me the strength to move forward in a more compassionate way with integrity and purpose and forgiveness of myself to allow me to offer forgiveness to others. Amen”

Joseph Girzone, the author, of the book “Joshua” and “Never Alone” described a process to help with forgiving. “If you can put yourself in the position of the one who is hurting you and realize the anguish they are going thru in their life at that moment, you can allow Anger to be replaced by Compassion, and with compassion can come forgiveness.

As stated above, when we forgive the person it does not mean we must condone their actions; it just means we forgive for forgiveness sake alone. Forgiveness is really a personal act to allow us to be free. When we forgive we do it for our reasons not the other persons. Often times they do not even understand our act of forgiveness and sometimes if they do it blows their mind.

My brother mentioned this when I was going through a divorce. He said Don do you want to be free. I said yes and he said the only way to be free is to forgive my spouse and her lover, my best friend. I chewed on this and worked through the forgiveness process. I was hurt, angry, felt betrayed. At that point it was not about me and all about them. But I wanted to be free and move on. So I sent each a letter stating my wish to forgive them and in fact I was forgiving them. I wasn’t condoning what had happened but I was forgiving them for what happened and at the same time was forgiving myself for any participation I had in creating this situation. Of course at the time, I felt blameless, but it sounded good. So in reality I had not done the whole job, because I held myself outside the situation.

This played on my mind. As I pondered this forgiveness thing I came to face my responsibility as a party to this situation, simply by not being stronger in developing my own relationship with my spouse. Once I realized this, I could truly forgive. My brother was right it blew their minds but I did not cause that or wish that.

I realized that nice people could make mistakes. These had nothing to do with me personally. They felt bad and guilty. I learned the value of compassion rather than anger. I did not have to take this as a personal attack on me. In effect I did not walk in their shoes.

I learned we do not control another soul. That the only way we have something is to be able to let it go. We can only be a magnet that attracts not one that hold and smothers.

By opening up to the prospect of forgiveness and compassion in any situation allows one to be very free. People want to be around me because I respect their freedom and space. This process was not without pain, sorrow, loss, but it was with tremendous growth and allows me to be the person I am supposed to be. Healed, loving and happy. I am a better person today. I learn from life and grow. The world of would of, could of or should of does not exist in my life. This is the moment. Learn from the past don’t live in the past.

Finally, my relationship with a loving god has made this all possible. I would not pretend to be able to do this alone

DJS

 

 

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Wabi Sabi Love

I am so honored to be in Arielle Ford’s new book, Wabi Sabi Love.  (In the same chapter as Michelle Obama, no less!)  This book takes ancient principles like:  To abbrieviate suffering, practice empathy, compassion, and surrender for both yourself and your partner…and merges them with modern living. 

This is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.  Here are some inspiring words from Arielle:

 

Give Your Mate Amnesty For Valentines Day (its free!) By Arielle Ford

Sexy lingerie, romantic dinners, long stem roses, a box of chocolates, and champagne…these are typical Valentines Day gifts. As lovely and appreciated as these gifts can be, what if this year you gave your beloved something that they never expected, something that will make both of you happy and is totally free? Here’s what I’m suggesting: Give your beloved amnesty for the one thing you most complain, argue, or harass them about.

www.wabisabilove.com/vow

Decide right now to figure out how to create a new story for yourself about that thing your mate does that drives you crazy….find the beauty and perfection in it, and then GIFT them with your vow to finally let it go. Whether it’s the wet towels on the floor, the toilet seat left up, the dirty dishes in the sink, the constant texting at the dinner table, squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, forgetting to take out the trash, interrupting you when you are on the phone, or whatever transgression you have deemed unbearable.

If you are feeling really stuck, ask yourself these questions: How many more times am I willing to allow this situation to annoy me? What payoff do I get by finding fault in my partner? What does being “annoyed” keep me from having? Where did I learn to be annoyed by other people’s behavior?

NEXT: Imagine that your mate’s annoying behavior exists solely to teach you how to become a more loving and compassionate person. And then, upon reflection, please write down three (or more) gifts of the offending behavior. Looking for the gifts is an invaluable skill in a world in which we can’t control others behavior. While our partners may never change the quirks and idiosyncrasies that we find maddening, we can change our perceptions of them. This Valentines Day make a shift from “annoyed to enjoyed” and let your beloved know by sharing this free, very special amnesty vow with them www.wabisabilove.com/vow

 

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