Trickle down.

He taught me that love was real. He taught me that the movies and the love songs and intimate sonnets are not a bunch of bullshit for a party I was not invited to: they can be real. The lesson of it healed deep wounds and perhaps even saved my soul, once headed down a bitter lonely road of disenchantment. Being loved for the truth of who you are is a miracle. It is rain on a drought-stricken land.It is mystic, it is communion, it is sweet. It is all the things I knew I needed and I gave myself over to it completely. We are about to mark 3 years of deep love, of the most intimacy and compatibility with another human soul I have ever known or dreamed was possible.

It’s possible that right now he’s also teaching me that love is not enough. As I recall, there are a few themes through history along that vein as well.

Brokenness is a hideous thing. It warps and cracks and hides itself deeply. I recently read that diamonds have inner characteristics known as inclusions. Marks and cracks and cloudy spots that obscure clarity but also render a stone unique, like a fingerprint. Inclusions can only be seen under magnification but the effects of them still influence a perception of beauty, that kind of “feeling” or “knowing” one has when they declare something pleasing or not without quite understanding why it is. In order to know them, one has to look straight down into the diamond, spend time examining it from every angle, and use a lens that makes tiny aspects larger.

My diamond has cracks. He has broken places that I couldn’t see. He has wounds that obscure his clarity. He has reached a fissure he can not cross.

Two weeks ago he told me he is very sure he can not marry. He is sure he can not do it while there are children at home to parent. He is very sure he could not do it for at least 10 years, then 5. Then he said he is very sure he can not do it yet. By three days later he was very sure he wasn’t sure.

I listened while that hung in the air. I listened to the painful fear, the awful place that memory came from. The haunting he carries that new children will hurt him like his own have, like they cruelly continue to do. He was amazed I was not angry, that I did not cry and writhe and beg. He forgot, I guess, that I am not like his once-wife and am not prone to those kinds of selfish reactions. His phobia is not about me, there is nothing to be angry about.

After I listened we went on with our life as we know it: a happy family routine spread over two households and two respectful, loving people who will not coerce or force another into something they are not ready for. They have been beautiful days.

But I have carried those words heavily for these days, feeling the them trickle down into my own cracks, my own inclusions beneath the surface, like oily sludge instead of refreshingly pure water. It presents me with an impossible choice:

1) accept his words and leave the truest love I’ve known, tearing my children away from the truest father they have, and disrupting every single aspect of our tender new life. Or

2) accept being a long term companion without the security and benefits of a commitment, with all the implications of that choice and the necessary re-frame of my entire paradigm.

I can’t do it. Either of them. I have known great, great losses in my life, enough to have seen my own thresholds taken to the breaking point. It would be an exaggeration to say I shy away from pain: I flinch at it’s mere breath. Conversely, I also know how to carefully tread near it’s sleeping form, to creep past in silence, for an excruciatingly long amount of time.

I know how to hold on until it’s absolutely certain it’s not possible to continue.

What’s being born is that I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be facing this choice, let alone trying to creep past the pain of both options. I don’t want to form the blisters of holding on until I’m nearly broken again. What’s being born IS an anger, an anger that I thought life had healed past this, that I’d done the work to prevent it, that I’d surrounded myself enough with trustworthy, safe people that wouldn’t hurt me again by presenting me with inescapable corners.

I did, I have. I know that.

This is why brokeness is so hideous. And I don’t know if this is repairable or not. The crack feels like it’s widening more than healing. This first distance we’ve known has left such a mark. There has been no replacement of vision in the wake of such a declaration; I only feel a void. A future-less, open, boundless void. My compass is broken, there is no North.

I think I am only afraid. One day at a time is never very satisfying to those who held a vision. ODAAT is steps on a path, a trail that always leads somewhere. The destination was less important to me than the hand holding mine on the way. And now maybe there is neither.

Right now I grieve my loss of a vision. It was a new one, to replace the old one, which went so horribly awry. There really isn’t strength left right now to grieve anything else.

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To the woman who will soon marry my ex-husband….

Dear Cathy,

You don’t know me, yet if we met under different circumstances, we’d surely be friends. There’s so many things we share in common that sometimes looking at your facebook likes is like looking at a mirror. That’s irony of a sort; we (the women that he chose) are all cut from the same swath of linen. We’d be sisters and confidants and smile in the sunshine over coffee. Our little boys would play. We’d be that way, if we began another day.

I saw that you met him just weeks ago. I saw that you changed your first name. It took my breath away, seeing that. You’ve sworn over so much of your identity so quickly. And your friends…they gently asked why. Surely you’ve been, “Cathy, not Catherine” to them for ages. And I know where you are. If the deepest and most loved of them all came to you with concerns over this man, you’d not be able to listen. It’s because you are happy. He’s charming and is playful with your son and brings you flowers. He has Big Ideas and is Great at Conversation.The attention is intoxicating.

You probably didn’t see him angry until the day I said, “hello”. I heard about that day. He told our son that he needed a restraining order to keep me from prying into your life. I heard you were scared (though you thanked me for my kindness and we had a sweet exchange). Maybe a little voice inside you wondered at the ferocity of his reaction to such a simple thing…(would you not say hello to someone soon to care for your child? or who you met in passing?) and maybe it didn’t. Maybe his paranoid anger seemed rational. But by the time you’d seen him angry you were already engaged to him. You’d already told many. I know that place as well.

The next day your picture changed. The sweet, smiling, apple cheeked face full of light changed to a dark, coolly warning countenance. That marked the first day I cried for you. You’ve known him 6 weeks and have changed your face, your name, maybe your plans. He seems like a dream (you no doubt waited for love like this) and I know (have the scars) that a dream is soon all you’ll be left holding.

A little blog you started has just two posts. It speaks of your love and your plans and of what you’re beginning. It also speaks of having to work things out. Dear Cathy, do you know that after being heady in love for just a few weeks, there should not be anything to “work out”? Do you know that it shouldn’t already be hard? Do you have any, any, any idea how hard it’s about to become?

You are about to risk drowning. And I say that without malice or hate. He has a diagnosed personality disorder, a history of violence, a history of being unable to maintain a single long term relationship. Do you ever wonder why there is no one from long ago yet in his life? Even his “best friend” and he went almost 10 years without speaking. They are new again to one another.

I cry for you. And I cry for your son. Because I made a poor choice for the father of my children. The damage that they carry from his erratic, dramatic, paranoia is not small. There is no way I can really say any of this to you. There is nothing I can do but watch it happen and try to help my children understand. Understand what? That their father announced a new step-mother and step-brother through a 10 year old. That their father is marrying someone they’ve never met, on day they are not invited to attend. That this is being hailed as an example of love and stability though it flies in the face of all they know to be true and trustworthy. That once again they are denied one very simple little thing that most children need: time.

You are 35. That is old enough to have lived and learned and understood. You are a mother. And yet you are making this choice before anyone can stop you. He’s pursuing you with a speed that isn’t being questioned. You’ll never see these words. But something inside me requires I send them to the universe. Watching you is like watching a movie of my life at 19; watching myself voluntarily evaporate into someone else until years later, I could not recognize who I was. You swim out to sea because it feels free… until one day, you look back to shore and see you’re too far out to return. And when he’s angry, and the back of his hand throws your head into the door, or you “fall” down the stairs in a fight, or he won’t touch your body for months because he’s disgusted, you will wish you could swim back. You will cry for a guard, for a friend, for anything that will help you to shore.

On 5-6-11 it’s supposed to “all come together”. I would like to be the optimistic person I once was and believe he has changed. That can not be. I hoped that every day for 15 years until it was dead. No one like you, like me,  has 5 babies and bleeds, sweats, and cries with him over their dead without clinging to the hope that one day it won’t be that bad. He only changes by getting worse. So on 5-6-11, something will start, I promise it will. I hope for you that someone in your life has a raft and that you are not too proud to reach out and take it.

And this week, before the wedding day comes, if a sober moment settles in your heart and you wonder, I pray that you grab it, seize it. Anyone who truly loves you, who is truly not who I say he is, will not have a problem in taking a little more time. He will not mind if you go by the name you wore for 35 years. He will not mind enough time for his children to meet you. He will not mind if you shake their mother’s hand and smile.

We are not supposed to say these things to people. We may sometimes not even say them out loud. Yet, staying silent about truth is how tragedies are born. It’s not my intention to harm though I know this truth hurts. I only feel in my bones that it needs to be said. Maybe it’s for someone other than whom I intend. Maybe some other girl whose rushing in secret will question her steps. Maybe women who value their worth will bind together. Abusers fear that, they do. They do not like contact and shared experience and power other than their own.

“Time will tell”. That, unfortunately, works two ways. He knows the power of time and the value of a short courtship. He’s been here before. This story has a script and you have the starring role.

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Once One Learns to Listen, They Sometimes Begin to Hear.

And so we had the perfect holiday season.

Thanksgiving posted below. Then, a Christmas dinner with my parents and the children a week early. The following Saturday, “Santa”. On Monday we went to court and the judge awarded me *everything*. Very healing and validating after almost 4 years of no child support. The next day the babies left for a visit; on Christmas I was without them having my first “adult” yuletide with 11 others. Later that week The Love’s adult children moved to their own home. The babies (well, I wonder why I call children 14, 13, 10, and 6 “babies”) came home with glee, no anger, no tears, no grief.  On New Years’ we combined it with a football party for our Seminoles and had a big group of friends. Teenagers laughed and played poker and listened to old 45’s from the 70’s. Adults ate and drank champagne. Our team won.

Somewhere in there some kind of threshold was crossed.

We are happy. And giddy, the kind of early love that you expect not to be revisited by…except we continually do. After a year of being “happily unmarried” and gathering critical information and analysis only possible in a mature relationship, I find myself on a precipice of sorts.

It’s because he’s as in love with the children as he is with me. And this, when one is part of a package deal, is the hinge. In the previous week, the air is different, the pace is different, the very road we are traversing seems different.

Part of me is afraid. But mostly, I am sticking to my program, going One Day At A Time, and trusting in the rightness of Time itself. I always knew it would be right when it was right. I believe that. And if it doesn’t come as soon as it feels like it will, that’s okay. Life is so good right now that I have no reason to complain.

And the icon, you may remember the icon I wrote about, when I was sure I heard it speak to me in August. And then in September was granted the miracle of healing I needed.

This is my parish. The Jesus icon on the right is the one.

On January 1st I was standing in church with The Love. It was his name day, for St. Basil, and he was the Reader. His sonorous chant is like a warm blanket of comfort to me; it’s something I hear every night when we pray, when we read. I’ve never prayed with anyone but him before, finding it too intimate and too in need of trust to allow for that vulnerability. Hearing him in church was sort of like sunshine. Like a blessing. Knowing he loves me and I him and that we are in such a wonderful place right now was almost too much to contain. Kind of a “my cup runneth over” moment. I could feel the eyes of that icon  ahead of me.

I have not taken communion since October. This is because I haven’t been to confession. And I can’t do that until I am sorry. And I can’t be sorry for what I need to be. And I can’t make myself be sorry. And I can’t go back to confession one more time with that same conundrum.

Much wrestling has come through this. And after the wrestling, a peace that has carried me over the past months of weekly liturgies, of abstaining from the cup out of reverence for What Must Come First.

And then I stood there before that icon and the tangle began again. I am thirsty.

I want the Blessing to honestly take communion with The Love. I want the removal of the need to be sorry for something that should be sacrament. I want to stand in honesty and drink the cup and eat the bread and be One.

Jesus and I (and I’m sorry for how charismatic that sounds) went over old ground.

Then I looked up. The Jesus icon has his hand raised in blessing.

Read it again. “his hand raised in blessing.”

It wasn’t audible. It was a Knowing. The blessing will come. It has come, it is coming. Orthodox time, cyclical as it is. The blessing is right there before me every week. It’s an image, an icon. A projection like the photos we keep of loved ones. I take this as a promise.

Today it’s raining. It’s an ordinary day in the life. Children are playing, I’ve been working, dinner is cooking. Quiet assurance is an undercurrent that supports the otherwise mundane routines of our lives. The confidence of knowing all will be well because all is well is a miracle.

Christos Anesti

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It’s quiet now.

I keep writing in my head. I guess that’s inevitable; words make me tick. Projects and goals keep me disciplined and accountable. Without them, my time fills. This is reflected both in my quiet blog and in my growing backside. Not enough time in the gym, not enough time purging thoughts.

In the interest of fitting into my clothes I’m looking for a race goal to work for. In the interest of making room for new thoughts, I’m  getting over the paralysis of “what to write” and freewriting. Now.

I did have the best Thanksgiving of my life last week. The Love declared me the “Thanksgiving Boss”; he was the Host. He honored me and blessed my efforts to freely decorate and cook any way I pleased. My family came as guests and contributed but didn’t dominate. His scrutinizing children were elsewhere. His estranged brother became less so and joined us; a friend going through a divorce came as well. My children and my sister’s little babies bonded and ran freely. It was divine.

It was a holiday free from criticism, conflict, yelling, tension, or pain. Later I cried. It was the answer from a question asked long ago, “no, that is not too much to ask”.

The next day The Love and I shopped. My baby turned six. The day after that our team won and we hugged our friends and screamed ourselves hoarse. At the end of it all, I came home. That’s beautiful you know.

I’m working, I’m writing. I’ve got two large paintings in progress. I’ve decided to submit one freelance project a month, totally unrelated to work. And I am making two appointments with girlfriends a month, for coffee or lunch. I’ll find a work out to raise my ass and keep date night to raise a toast.

My little life is in the happiest niche right now and even blowing on it won’t scatter it away like dandelion seeds. I feel a permanence, a rooting taking place. Gravity. Contentment.

The other day my Love marveled at how calm I was through the holiday, through lots of changes he was afraid would cause me stress.  I think maybe it’s harder to faze me now than once before. I think too that I’m resting in how trustworthy his protection is: he has proactively shielded me from what could do harm. This is a Big Thought that requires more time. It’s been an autumn of seeing him defend Us, protect us, provide for us.

I keep having a memory I have of being a very small girl, mid-way up a very large pine tree in the north Michigan woods. I am singing and looking through the needles at puffy white clouds and blue sky. I am very high. I would probably not do this now, afraid of Pine Snakes that climb and heights and of creepy crawlies camouflaged in the bark. But when I was young, I spent hours dreaming in that tree.

I dreamed of a little home and a little family. Of happy times and holidays. A place with no yelling or fighting. A place filled with art. I had to climb the tree to have the dream; it was a safe place where I could take it out of my mind and examine it, turn it over and over.

I won’t attribute too much meaning to a recurring memory. It’s a sweet little thought though, a calling from way back there and a little bit of a link as to why I’m happy  here.

Today at lunch my meal was $8.88. Those infinite numbers again, that little sign post I mark rightness by. Most likely silly. You’ll have to pardon my smile.

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Infinity Loops.

I did get my miracle. It was nothing I ever saw coming. It was nothing I recognized. My inner chemistry has shifted. I’m still absorbing and looking for words to describe it. A month later, I have only told 3 people and that’s because they know me well enough to understand between the lines what I am trying to say.

But today I’m thinking about something else.

I’m remembering what it was like to be a young mother with my first baby starting to crawl and discover the world around him. We had gotten our first house that season; our wedding was a year and a half past. I was sad and lonely and spent long hours gazing at my nursing baby wondering why there was a dark shadow cast over my dream.

By then I knew that I didn’t love my baby’s father. This was the result of realizing that the trust I’d had that he loved me, that we had ever been “in love”, had been a cruel illusion. Not only was first love a temporary, fleeting benchmark for a young relationship…but it had never truly existed.  I hated myself for failing to see it. I knew that while my baby was my life, he was also quite permanent. While my friends were doing what college girls did, I was 21 year old mother with an abuser for a husband. There would be no easy leaving anymore. Our friends fell away. The most relieving moment of my day was when He Left For Work and it was just me and the baby at home.

I threw myself into it. The baby and I gardened and took long walks and read stories. Somehow the random times my husband turned to me resulted in siblings for that baby.  I threw myself into domestic life without the love I thought would have been the anchor. My dream was marriage and family: I had the family without a real marriage. I did the best I could.

It turns out there are a lot of resources out there to reassure someone living like that. My friends became women older than me with children and families always a step ahead. They were settled and calm in their 30’s, living busy lives that had little room for romance anyway. I think every sermon I heard or book I read said at least something about how “love” is a feeling that wears off and that real love is a decision. It’s something that is there when you don’t “feel” loving.

It became a mantra. There came a day when I didn’t think about how little affection I felt for him anymore. It was automatic, that “duty”, that thing you are committed to when you have no emotion to fuel it. That lasted for years. I accepted it as normal.

Of course that is unsustainable and the rest of the story played out. And now we are free. We are forging our new path, this one, in the light. I don’t listen to sermons or read books that try to quiet my screaming instinct anymore.

I’m also in love. Writing that, it sounds like I just met him. But I didn’t. This is The Love, the one I’ve been loving for two and a half years. The effect of this love on my life rarely can be put adequately into words. But just today I was overwhelmed again and so I must try.

We have been working through a challenge. Nothing as hard as we’ve been through in the past and it’s just the kind of challenge that is normal and expected at our ages. We stole an available  hour mid-day for an unexpected lunch together, just because. When he asked me, we both felt sort of giddy and happy, like it was a first date of some kind.  I watched us, more devoted than ever to figuring this out while respecting each others’ boundaries and needs, and felt that deep, deep reassurance that I love his company more than any other. I would clear a day just to sit and smell the warmth of his neck. Our fingers entwine reflexively when we walk and we still talk about Interesting Things.

Like disappearing farmland in China. And how we still believe Obama deserves 8 years. And electric cars. And how good smoked whitefish salad tastes on a cracker. And how nice it is to sit outside and watch little Jewish old men pick at their dentures with fat wives eating pastrami on a Friday at mid-day.

He’s my best friend.

So, if I could go back in time and whisper anything in the ear of that young mother rocking her baby in the dusty sunlight of that yellow nursery, it would be to trust her instincts. She still knew somewhere inside her then that the sadness was unnatural. She knew Things Were Wrong. She could have been reminded that love is real, even love that has to endure through gritty reality and challenges that threaten to divide.

Love is not just a giddy electric start between two people are new to one another. It doesn’t go away and never come back. It can roll like a tide, like a circle, like our favorite number: 8. An infinity of cycles.

Who knew?

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These days are tender.

These are 18 hour days. Long days, with multiple tracks and twists too complex for me to do anything but smile and continue moving forward. There is not energy nor time for untangling confusion that is designed like a net.

For instance, the puzzles that are my ex-husband’s long, historical emails. Those are not worth my mental effort. He is where he Was and where he always will  Be.

Or, The Love’s tiptoe’d dance around those he wants to keep happy. That is not a dance for two. He may have the stage, having made that choice, and I will wait in the wings to hold him when he asks. That is something I can do, when the rest is something I can not.

My children have a rollercoaster of emotions; their life is either “completely over” or they are having “the best day ever!” There is not much more to do than smile and listen and make them a hot supper of meaty Bolognese over wide pasta and topped with cheese.

The work list does not end, the household is a cycle. There’s a rhythm here, a measured sense of rightness even though I’m tired. Every time I pay a bill or cross off a task or catch the light coming between the giant leaves of the sycamore tree that shades my car I’m aware that I’m living What Is.

I’m content and grateful for these days. I am earning, I am providing, I still have enough juice in my tank for creative thought. My little home has an order and sunshine that streams through the windows. This week we had our first dinner guest; a story teller who stood up tall and animatedly acted out ancient tales from Africa. Her heart is broken yet she came and was part of us for a bit.

This quilt that seems to be our days is pretty. The stitches are small. It’s funny how in September you can start to see how the year will unfold. Very little mystery left and calm resignation breezes in. Florida tosses September, alternating summer’s end  heat with grey, hurricane winds. Migratory geese fly over and sort of look down at us as if we’re crazy; this is not a place where they can stay.

The hour I took for myself this morning is over. The kids have all gone to school and my coffee is cool. I’m going to spend this day doing just what I did every day this week: the job that is before me, the job that is mine to do. They are not all comfortable, they are not all prescribed. But somehow they are right and I know this is in my bones.

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Happy Friday.

I love me some things about Fridays.

I love that they are date night. And if they aren’t date night with Some One Else, I make them date night with Me. And I’m too blue to do even that, there is always an Al-Anon meeting on Friday evening to fall back on.

I love that they are Grocery Day after a long week of Scraping To Get By.

I love that when the kids come home, the pantry will be full.

I love that I must clean on Fridays because no matter what, for at least an hour and usually longer, my house is completely clean once.

I love that my inbox is light. I love seeing old people meander through the store aisles. I love that the phone only rings with calls from friends because most of the people I work for take the day progressively off.

I love having a moment to take the time to walk through a new grocery store, try a new food, and do so just because I knew I needed to nurture myself a little this morning.

I love finding new plants on clearance sale as a result of merchant’s mad rush to get Christmas things up. I love being able to walk into my landlord’s office and Pay The Rent.

I really love knowing I have more tools to fall back on as we head Back To Court than I did last time.

It’s Friday. I’ve been ready since Tuesday. And I want to savor every gift the day has to offer.

(I also want to to discover what is causing that persistent smell in my kitchen! It smells like unpacked lunch box!)

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