A Lesson Learned From Walking In The Rain

I walked to the gym tonight to do some yoga. It’s about .5 mile each way.

I’d been in a funk and I needed to breathe. I realized once I got there that I only had about 20 minutes because of a cardio class that was coming in. That frustrated me but I carried on with my practice, feeling rushed. Not quite what I had imagined.

While I was there, though, a giant rainstorm rolled in, quickly, as they do in Florida. It was so rhythmic and calming that the storm actually brightened my mood. It made me slow down my practice. It made me breathe deeper and longer. It made me more mindful somehow.

There’s just something about a good, evening rainstorm sometimes.

As I finished up my practice, it was raining so hard that I couldn’t walk home. Only, no. It wasn’t that I couldn’t. It was that I didn’t want to. There was no lightening, so, no danger. It was simply that I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to get wet and soggy and cold and uncomfortable.

So, I sat there. 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes went by.

I started to wonder when the storm would pass. I grew impatient because I was getting hungry. A gentleman sitting next to me, also waiting out the storm, looked at me and said, “I just looked at the radar and this storm isn’t going anywhere. Might as well make peace with it”.

What wise wording. Make peace with it. Make peace with the discomfort, essentially.

His comment sent my brain down a metaphorical highway and got me thinking…

Our species isn’t very good at making peace with discomfort- physical or emotional. We are beings that will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. We’ll pop a pill at the slightest amount of pain. We’ll write off friendships or relationships when things get complicated. We’ll guzzle alcohol at when life gets stressful.

We don’t want to sit with the lesson. We don’t want to learn what’s being taught. We just want to make things easier on ourselves and take the path of least resistance.

A very wise friend once said it so eloquently, though, “Nothing truly goes away before it teaches you what you need to learn”. And she’s so right.

Whether it’s a reoccurring bad dream about someone you’ve wronged, a romantic partner you can’t let go of, a friendship that you can’t seem to reconcile, a job that you know isn’t right for you but you stay…the lesson hasn’t been taught yet. Or more likely, the lesson hasn’t been learned yet. We must listen carefully.

And you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to work through it all.

That storm wasn’t passing tonight. So I took off my flip-flops, yanked up my yoga mat and walked through it.

It was simultaneously exhilarating and fun to walk through the rain. I felt like a kid walking barefoot through puddles. I was wet and soggy and cold when I got home. But the discomfort? It was momentary. It was fleeting. That feeling of freedom and airiness while I was walking in the rain far surpassed my discomfort. I felt really good when I got home. I felt lighter.

I needed that release of walking in the rain. That was my lesson. Right in front of me, yet hidden in my reluctance to be uncomfortable.

But. You just can’t get to the lesson without testing your comfort zone boundaries. Lessons are never easy. They’re never uncomplicated. There doesn’t seem to be much of an education in things that come easy.

It stopped raining five minutes after I got home. That storm wouldn’t pass until it taught me the lesson. I just needed to listen.

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The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

In Support of Unconventional Relationships

If I had to guess, I would say that those who know me at all would describe me as “unconventional”. It’s definitely been said about me. I’m not sure if that’s a nice way of calling me bat-shit crazy but it’s an adjective that I’ve learned to embrace.

I’ve never liked conventionalism or rules of any kind, really. I remember my dance team coach from high school particularly hated that about me. She would have a certain dances choreographed, coached us in a very methodical way, and if I saw room for improvement or an opportunity to interject an opinion, I wouldn’t let that moment pass. I wanted to do everything different. I’d speak up with my unsolicited opinion and it was usually met with an eye roll and a reprimand. She called me “un-coachable”. I called it “thinking outside of the box”.

And that’s the way I’ve lived my life: outside of the box. Relationships included.

After leaving my first marriage and falling in love with a man who was almost 8 years my junior, (who would later become my second husband), a friend said to me, “You always just do whatever it is you want and things just seem to work out for you”. Well, yes. Things do work out. Because they have to. But I think what she meant was, I don’t play by the relationship rules.

But everyone has their opinions on others’ romantic relationships. Imagine if we didn’t have such opinions. Where would our entertainment and conversations come from? Reality television was solely founded on the premise that we must know, and have intimate details, of others’ romantic relationships. The popularity of soap operas, movies, sitcoms, celebrity gossip shows… you name it, most forms of entertainment are centered around who’s fucking who. Period. We are a species with gross curiosity of how others manage their romantic lives. And it clearly  must be discussed amongst the masses.

I’ve recently noted quite a few headlining relationship changes, and not just because someone of notoriety got divorced from some humdrum marriage. Nope. Unconventional relationships are becoming more the thing these days.

Best selling author, Glennon Doyle-Melton shocked us all after revealing she left her husband and soon entered a romantic relationship with another woman who she will now- gasp- marry! Good for her. I think this is amazing news. Love wins.

More recent news revealed that the founder of Scary Mommy, Jill Smokler, stayed in a marriage after learning of her husband’s homosexuality for more than a decade.  Jaw.Drop. But, guess what? I get it. He was her person. There was love. Love won.

Talk about unconventional.

I mean, I don’t know if I can top these stories but I’ll try, only because it’s all the rage: I’m currently dating my {second} ex-husband and father of my child.

The background: We started dating in late 2002. He was just 18, I was 25. You read that correctly. May-September at it’s finest. Mrs. Robinson. Cougar. Robbing the cradle. Yes. That. Whatever you’d like to call it. It was chemistry and it was tangible and it was real.

We moved in together in 2003, got engaged in 2007, got married in 2008, had a baby in 2009.

I publicly bared my soul in writing about our split in 2014. They were very dark days. We divorced in early 2015.

After I started to rebuild my life and the pain subsided, I still felt as though I was missing a limb. This feeling went deeper than just that of divorce grief. He somehow felt…inevitable to me. The divorce felt more like a hiatus and a time to take a breath, as odd as that sounds. That portion of our relationship needed a finale, an ending point. I had to let go of what it was.

I really searched my soul for my stake in our relationship failures, learned so much about myself, and dug deep for what it was I wanted from someone else, from a partner. The answer was: I wanted him. He is my person. I didn’t want another person. I was fine being alone but also wanted this person. Flaws and all. I wanted all of him. And I didn’t want to change him like I previously thought I did.

It took me awhile to process what this looked like and to make sense out of loving someone, still, who might not have made the best choices in the past. I’ve previously written about being addicted to him, so perhaps some of it is that piece, but it also really comes down to plain, old-fashioned love. It can be difficult to delineate the two, but I digress.

If I’m being honest, it’s very much a work in progress. Old issues don’t die easily. I’m not simplifying it or dismissing our past. None of this happened without thinking and over-thinking and discussing and over-discussing. We are two imperfect people who love each other.

So, we currently date. We do family days at the beach. We take vacations together. We even own a house together in a foreign country with intentions of someday living there. Together.

No, we don’t currently live together, we’re not married, and we really don’t discuss these components of our relationship or what our future looks like. I don’t know that we have a label, which seems to be what outsiders looking in want to make them comfortable and cure their curiosity.

But. We just…are.

We love each other. We raise a child together. We enjoy each other. And when we don’t, we have our own spaces to retreat to. We came back to each other in an unconventional way and had to learn a new path because love persisted for us. It was never lost. We just had to redefine it for ourselves. And it just works for us this way. It might not work forever. But it might.

It’s weird. It’s different. It doesn’t make sense to almost anyone else and, listen- it doesn’t have to.

Everyone’s relationship journey is different but you know what’s the same universal truth? No one likes being judged or ridiculed for their relationship choices. And…everyone loves to be loved.

That love looks different for everyone.

And no love goes without trials and tribulations. Not one person reading these words can say they have a perfect relationship. It doesn’t exist. We all recognize that judging, commenting and ridiculing others’ love does not make sense. Love is not one dimensional. It’s multifaceted and certainly complex. Unless you live it, breathe it, sit with it everyday, you cannot say you know what’s best. You aren’t allowed that opinion, no matter how right you might be as an outsider looking in. It’s not yours to have. We complain to our friends and family about our relationships because we’re looking for support, commonality, an ear, a shoulder, an ally at times. We are not looking for definitive answers because there aren’t any.

Love persists. It ebbs and it flows. It gets messy. Sometimes you can clean up the mess… but it will look different when its put back together. And that’s ok because it might still work. It might get lost but it could be found again. It might have some road blocks but it might create a new path. You just never know.

So, the next time I hear a news story with someone else’s relationship truths or a friend comes to me with relationship woes, I will try to find the amazing in the story. I try to find the why for them; what was- what is– the why of their love? I try to find the love in their story. I will support that love when they want me to and I will hate that love if that’s what they need. No matter what the story is, it isn’t my story to tell so it won’t look the way mine would.

But love is an amazing thing that has a way of working itself out sometimes.

And we should all hope for that for one another.

Love wins. No matter what it looks like to everyone else.

 

 

Being On Both Sides of Infidelity

I hear and read debates on why people cheat so often. How a woman’s reasons for cheating are different from a man’s. How women seek attention and to fill voids and how men look for the physical. The truth is, everyone’s reasons for cheating are different. Everyone’s path to cheating is different. Some couples’ willingness to work through cheating and stay together are all different.

There’s no formula to cheating. No matter how many articles are written to analyze or predict it, no matter how many red flags there are in a relationship, no matter how many lists we read about the signs of cheating, no matter how much justifying is done, it happens and it will continue to happen. It’s terrible but it happens.

I believe the simplified answer as to why it happens is universal: we are selfish beings that want and crave attention. Period. It’s an act of selfishness that begs to be judged, (and trust me, I do still judge when I hear stories of cheating spouses), but few realize, or will admit, that it could be any one of us on either side of infidelity. We want to believe it would never be us or happen to us, yet it is and it does.

I’ve been married twice. I’m now twice divorced. I choke on typing that in solid print. It’s embarrassing to me that I failed at marriage twice.

Many people in my life might not even know about my first marriage. I even tend to forget. I was 24 and was in a rush to be in love, to be loved, to be married, to do what all of my friends were doing.

I met a wonderful man that I was set up on a blind date with. He was kind-hearted, funny, and he adored me. Our relationship moved much too fast. We moved in together after only 4 weeks of dating and we were engaged within months.

If I’m being totally honest, I never loved him. I knew that from the start and I ignored it. I wanted the wedding, I wanted the adoration. I was really good at pretending. We had very little in common but in retrospect, I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what my needs and wants were at the time. He was a good person and he deserved more. I was on a rebound from a long-term love when I met him and he paid the price. It’s unfair and it was shitty but it was the reality.

I made a conscience decision to cheat on him only 3 months into our marriage. Clearly, not to be confused with a premeditated plan to cheat. I don’t know that anyone actually does that. Not many look to outwardly and blatantly lie and live a double life. How many times have you heard, “It just…happened”? And it does, just happen. This is not a dismissive or excusable fact but it is the truth.

I met a guy at work, a much younger guy, that I had a ridiculous amount of chemistry with. Because he was so much younger, I didn’t notice the chemistry immediately but when I finally acknowledged it, it was over. I was involved. I was emotionally cheating from that moment on and physical cheating wasn’t far behind.

Once the physical relationship began, I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize and one I absolutely hated facing in the mirror. I hated myself but not enough to stop the affair. I knew I was in love with the person I chose to cheat with. I knew I had to leave my husband, and I did, after only 5 months of marriage, 2 months into the affair.

It was awful, being on that side of infidelity. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t an adventure, and it didn’t feel good. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and the lies felt like razors punishing my lips each and every time I had to tell a lie. It wasn’t in my DNA to pull this off, nor did I want to. I was too consumed with how people viewed me to be honest with myself, and with him about not being in love, about not wanting to get married, and about what I needed from a relationship.

Love stole all logic from me. That’s not an excuse but it’s what happened. I allowed that to happen. I should have stopped the affair, been honest with my husband, left him, knowing I wasn’t in love, and stayed on my own until I gained complete clarity. But, I didn’t. I was too afraid to lose love.

I left my husband for another man.

I’ve never outwardly admitted this to anyone before. Not to my then husband, not to my friends or family, and not to myself. But that’s the truth. I live with guilt about this every single day, still. I never forgave myself completely. I broke someone’s heart in the worst imaginable way and it was unforgivable.

I married the man in this story. And infidelity came full circle 5 years into our marriage, 12 years into our relationship. Only this time, it was me on the receiving end.

I’ve never been quite sure about the concept of karma. We all speak about it as though it’s real but I’ve, more often than not, thought of it as a coping mechanism. However, my second husband’s infidelity sure did feel like karma. It completely broke me as a person. I allowed it to completely break me and it felt awful. I hated myself. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My self esteem wouldn’t let me. And I felt like I totally and completely deserved it.

It felt eerily familiar. As much as I wanted to play the victim, and at times I truly did, it was undeniable that this happened for a reason.

My darkest moments lie within both sides of these infidelities. And within dark moments lie truth and learning. I learned what I am capable of. I learned what rock bottom looks like. I learned what complete loneliness feels like.  I learned what self hatred is. On both sides, all of these same lessons took place and looked very similar.

Oddly, this all brought me to a path of self acceptance. It was all within the learning. I just needed to pay attention. Cheating is simply a symptom of much deeper issues and if it happens to you, no matter which side you’re on, you just need to try to pay attention to the message. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but you.must.listen.

I forgive myself. I forgive him. It was all part of a much bigger process.

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