Just another day. Having Priorities. And Love, Of-Course Love.

The rain is falling while the sun gets cloaked by nimbostratus clouds that promise to stick around for the morning hours. It’s 8:44am, Hal just left for work. Max and Bella are still slumbering – Max in his own bed, BellaGrace in mine. I have the next four days off and a small To Do List. Grocery shopping, clean the bathroom, vacuüm, laundry – the usual domestic stuff that has a modest but meaningful role in my life.

With the kids… when the weather clears up (it’s been raining a lot here in Florida) I want to take them out to TreeUmph before the Summer is over. Some Geocaching is in order for the week, we get excited to hunt and find hidden treasures. Swimming at Grandpa and Lola’s house with the cousins.  Lounging around the house, watching movies together, wrestling, laughing, hugging each other, kissing those little faces. These are the activities that fill the days I’m not at work. These are the activities that give meaning to my life.

But they are not the only activities that give meaning to my life.

Priorities in life look like this (as long as there are no emergencies that require me to put friends and extended family before work – because if either of those people told me that they needed me, I’d call off work or forego a solo walk to be there for them).

#1 Family – #2 Solitude – #3 Work – #4 Friends – #5 Extended Family

Solitude is vital (as I’ve shared many times before). And now, work gives meaning to my life. I work part-time because work, no matter what, gets categorized as a matter of importance behind family and solitude. I am able to work part-time because my life partner has taken on full-time hours and values the work of parenting. We also have managed to keep our debt within a manageable range. I love that Hal has a strong sense of responsibility towards his family. We have set our family up so that one of us is the primary caretaker. Like most people, Hal would work part-time hours in a heartbeat if he could still get all the benefits that come with working full-time. Hal grew up with traditional family values and decided to hold on to the ones that benefit him and his family. He doesn’t have to, but he does. His dad worked full-time and his mom part-time so she could manage the home and kids. Fortunately, Hal contributes to domestic work and child rearing – the modern man that he is. I do most of the domestic stuff, but he helps when asked and sometimes when I don’t ask. We have a traditional family arrangement but with a few upgrades to that design.

I have to make time for family and solitude for the sake of my mental health. Friendship gets prioritized behind family, solitude, and work – but that is only because work requires me to give it scheduled time that I may otherwise give to friends. I wouldn’t call off work if I was already scheduled in order to hang out with a friend but I would schedule my work around spending time with a friend. In other words, because work contributes to the well-being of my family – which is priority #1 – I put work before socializing. But socializing is still a priority in life.

I place experiencing solitude before spending time with Hal because we live together and he knows that without solitude I’d be miserable. He doesn’t see it as I am putting solitude before him – we understand it as I’m able to give and love because I experience solitude.

“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m not sharing this to impress or disgust, I’m writing it for myself – writing organizes me. We all have our ways. Knowing my priorities in life has made a huge difference in how I choose to spend my time. Knowing my priorities prevents me from feeling like a leaf in the wind.

Love is an action word – telling my kids I love them but not doing anything to show them feels empty. Primarily, I give love by spending quality time with someone and accepting them as they are, as I accept myself as I am. Areas where I’m hard on myself, I am hard on others (self-acceptance helps me to love unconditionally but I am far from ideal in that practice – and that is okay, too.). I will also use touch to express kindness, affection, and love. I take this love everywhere with me, even into my working hours with patients and colleagues. Other ways to show love is by giving gifts, words of affirmation, and acts of service. (There are prolly more ways to show and receive love but I haven’t thought about it beyond the truths that I gleamed from the book in the link.)

How we give love mirrors what we need from others to know how loved we are. I am learning how to meet the needs of others who experience and give love differently than what I naturally give. I’m learning to listen to what the needs of my kids are instead of assuming I know what is best. I’m learning. Still. Forever.

I struggle the most with my husband because he is the human who I am closest too and we experience love differently – don’t we all? Being so close to him but still feeling an ocean between us is weird. We are two separate people – marriage did not make us one (that is a bullshit idea, IMO, by the way). Just because we have enough in common to be compatible for the long haul doesn’t mean I always know what is going on in his inner world and vice/versa. We are friends, we are not each other. Witnessing this distance is a strangeness that I also respect. Distance exists in the same space as closeness. Like giving birth. Those closest to me are with me but not in actuality able to reach being there. They are an ocean away while I’m by the shore feeling the waves crashing against my body or while I’m floating on my back relaxing, or while I’m struggling to not drown. Distance is also in closeness with another.

I can see the appeal of science fiction bringing two minds together as if you’re operating with one. I can see the poetic romanticism of two becoming one. But love is a sort of togetherness with separateness…

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart.” ― Pema Chödrön

Bella’s arm brushes mine as she’s moving the blanket to gently slide into bed next to me. Her warm body snuggles close to my heart and instinctively I turn the upper part of my arm into a pillow for her head. My girl is eight years old. This is our morning ritual. Max no longer “sneaks” into bed with us, as he puts it, “I’m a big kid now and can sleep in my own bed all night. Thankyouverymuch.”  My ten year old big kid. Max offers full-body warm hugs throughout the day, randomly, and sometimes he’ll say, “Mom, will you lay down and snuggle with me for five minutes?” Of course I will. I’m always looking for a reason to take a cat nap.

As the Summer nears August, Max, Bella, and I are sleeping in later and later. It’s nearing 9am, and I’m up having coffee alone as Hal has already left for work. M&B go to bed anywhere between 10:00-12am. Originally, Hal and I thought we’d keep them on a schedule for bedtime, assuring we’d get some adult time together to watch movies or do adult things. We’re so on top of it during the school year, kids are in bed by 9pm. Time is more micro-managed during the school year. And while we liked the idea of having the kids in bed by 10pm during the Summer months, neither of us wants to manage the task. Yeah, fuck that shit. WE need a break from routine. Summer rebels.

I realized at the beginning of July, that it worked for us to relax about bedtime. Hal is still able to play video games or write a review without interruptions. And if I want to watch a grown-up movie, I tell Max and Bella to stay in their rooms, “mommy is watching a grown-up movie.” And THEY DO IT. They stay in their room and do their own thing. It’s crazy! And I love it. But, most of the time I’m the first one in bed, the family tucking me in with long hugs and lots of kisses, walking out of the room and closing the door behind them so mama can rest in the darkness that lulls her to sleep.

Hal and I need more alone time, we both realize it. This is my first Summer working every weekend (with one or two days during the week). Right now I feel we are distant from one another, checking in emotionally when we get the chance, but not having those date nights alone is hard. The kids go to their grandparent’s or to a close friend’s house (Thank you, Corinna!) when we both work. Hal is home with them on the weekends. Our schedule is working for us but only because it’s temporary. Once school starts we will all experience a change in rhythm. I think one of the hardest tasks of becoming a parent is not loosing sight of yourself or of the person you partnered with.

Overall, Summer is moving along with ease. My days with Max and Bella are enjoyable. I can now say, my experience is that mothering gets easier in many ways as the kids grow. Lately, I’ve moved through the typical stressors of mothering two with a sense of humor and the knowledge that stressful moments will pass within minutes.  Because, oh yes, there are still those moments where I’m like WTF??? SHUT-UP KID. But yes, those moments are easier to cope with now and pass relatively quickly.  I’m pretty sure it’s part the kids have grown and part so have I.

I still go on solo daily walks when I have the day off from work. I leave home for anywhere between 1/2 hour to up to two hours just to move into the space of solitude. I need solitude. In solitude, I clear my head. In solitude, I think about everything or focus intensely on sorting out one thing. Solitude is when I let clinging stress go. Daily walks have become a part of who I am. I have intense gratitude for my friend, Shannon, for reintroducing me to the benefits of long walks (a subject I have to write more on but this post is long enough!).

The beauty I get to see while walking.

I also plan on writing more about what it’s like being an on-call (AKA: PRN) certified occupational therapist assistant. This is heart-work and I experience A LOT of various emotions during my work and have A LOT of thoughts about how our culture interacts with the aging process.

I plan on writing more about love and the various ways it shows up in my heart.

For now, au revoir.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” ― E.E. Cummings

Setting appropriate boundaries with people is notoriously the most difficult skill for me to fully master. I’m still working on it. Setting good boundaries requires listening to how I am feeling and honoring those feelings the moment they surface. That part is hard to consistently practice, honoring my feelings, but not impossible. Listening to how I feel has required slowing down to what sometimes is experienced as a snail’s pace, an _oh my gawd the world is passing me by and I need to get back on that train!_ snail’s pace

Allowing feelings to have an internal voice is getting easier at work, home, and with friendships. However, I notice the closer to home a feeling hits, the harder it is for me to give it the space to exist. And by closer to home, I mean a trigger to an original feeling that was hurtful in my youth, specifically the feelings of rejection or abandonment. I wonder if rejection and abandonment are somewhat easier to cope with when you are raised in a family with healthy emotional attachment and healthy boundaries?

My theory… I avoided feelings growing up. My home life as a young person was confusing, inconsistent, and emotionally unpredictable. I was rejected in a million little ways. I didn’t feel safe talking about feelings because the pain, confusion, and fear experienced was related to my primary parent. Eventually I stopped listening to my feelings to survive – TO MENTALLY SURVIVE. I went through life for a long time expressing what I thought about everything in order to avoid quieting my mind long enough to listen to how I was feeling.

“Whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”
~ E.E. Cummings

It’s not easy for me to listen to how I feel, but it’s becoming easier. It’s becoming more of a daily act. It’s becoming more of a moment to moment act. My feelings are threading into every second and seeming less and less overwhelming. However, it’s still difficult to do the right thing for myself all of the time. It’s difficult for me to listen all of the time. Sometimes I try to ignore feelings, put them off until later, or take a lot of time to decide what the right thing to do really is because feelings can be hella confusing.

I’ve always been good at detecting and responding to the feelings of others. I’m hyper aware of the feelings of others. It’s part of learned co-dependency, it’s part of my survival mode. I had to learn at a very young age how to detect the mood of my primary parent so as to not ignite an attack. I can see other people’s underlying feelings with a kind of clarity that either moves or angers – I usually keep those insights to myself and I know my observations are not always accurate or welcomed.

I went from always responding and moving around the feelings of others to giving all the focus to myself. From one end of the spectrum to the other.

Now, I’m in this space where I want to honor my own feelings while doing the right thing. The right thing sometimes includes disappointing others and myself because ya can’t always get what you want.

I’m learning to let go of the ownership of other people’s feelings. I’m learning I no longer have to protect myself to survive the day to day. I live in a safe space. My home is filled with love, laughter, and joy (and currently, a coughing ten year old). It’s almost like another universe for this girl who grew up on planet Instability. It’s taking me some time to settle into this safe space, to know my place within it, to know how to honor it, and to learn how to thrive in it. I’m still learning.

Honoring my feelings and respecting the feelings of others while I move through what is right for me is a difficult balance to understand, but not impossible to actualize. It’s also a bit of a shock for me when those I love respect my boundaries. I used to take that as a sign, they don’t really give a shit, because if they cared they’d be upset and I would know how much they cared about my choice because of how upset they were – because that is what I grew up with – when you care you explode. I grew up with adults who didn’t know how to respect my boundaries, didn’t know how to handle anger, and didn’t honor feelings of self and others. I had one parent who was struggling with a few debilitating mental illnesses and one parent who was emotionally unavailable.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
― Frida Kahlo

I’m not living in an unsafe space any longer but that is where my internal world was built. It has taken me years to deconstruct and reconstruct that landscape.

That history has shaped my life in many ways but does not presently define me or the future.

I’m an adult and I’ve managed to build a life with emotionally responsible and intelligent people surrounding me. Somehow I did okay with creating my life! Somehow the stuff I did to survive and protect myself REALLY WORKED.

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.” ~ E.E. Cummings

My husband has been standing by as I learn about myself, as I dismantle and restore my psyche, as I learn what is important to me, as I grow, as I struggle with my feelings. I’m grateful to him and his love. I don’t always understand how he loves me so much, but I’m happy he does. I often feel as if I don’t know how to love him the way he deserves to be loved. Working on it. It’s easier to love an idea than do the work of loving the person. Love, after all, is an action word.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen

There is a dull sound of white noise under the surface of my skin. It feels like healing but aches like the crash of water on rocks a thousand feet below. I’ve decided, this undertone of painful curing is better than the pangs of being broken, or lost, or a leaf in the wind. All of those tones know the underside of my skin too, but the leaf in the wind is the worst for me… the feeling of loosing sight of the ground… of bouncing off every brisk breeze that hits my skin… of not having roots.

Yes, feeling the harsh moan of healing is decidedly a more desirable sound in my body.

Still a mom…

I took the kids Geocaching today for the first time. I think we’ll be doing this again, but periodically so as to not wear out the fun of it. Max and Bella are a bit competitive and there was some moaning that “we are never going to find it,” but we persevered and found our treasures. We are hooked now and are planning to hunt for more on, Friday. Once or twice a week over the Summer is more than enough. I’m sure after a few weeks there will be a long lull before our next hunt.

The look on Bella’s face says it all. Max found this one…

Now that Hal is home, I have got to get outside for a walk. Alone with some music.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” ~ Frida Kahlo

“A succulent wild woman is one of any age who feels free to fully express herself in every dimension of her life.” ― SARK

Long and all over the place so if you read it, keep in mind I’m working shit out in my brain, hence, long and all over the place…

I’m of the mindset that experiencing a series of disappointments in the same area of life has more to do with my choices than that of others. This leads me into a space of questions, why do I keep choosing the same when clearly it doesn’t ever work out like my fantasy results suggest? What is this story trying to teach me???

It feels like I’m following an original blueprint. I’m going in a direction that takes me in a spiral, a map that started getting drafted before I was born and the center leads back to generations of women in my family. It’s a map that takes me through a path of feeling loved and cared for only to be abandoned at a cliff … and to continue moving forward I need to jump off or I have to turn around … I need to fly off the cliff and make it back to the ground, but there are no instructions on the map for this act of courage. The legend does’t explain this part of my journey.

Oh this cliff, this void I am scared to cross… regression is not the only path.  I feel abandoned when coming up to this cliff. I look out over it and there is a void. It’s scary.

As a child I learned: Love = eventual abandonment. The Cliff of Abandonment. How do I jump off it? What will happen? What will it feel like? Will I turn around and see the end of a story? Will my life flash in front of me and all make sense? Will I find forgiveness with that jump? That proverbial leap of faith?

As a 40-year-old woman… I am working on drawing new paths on my map. This cliff is familiar to me now. I’ve come up to it before. I am soaring through the air right now because I am jumping. I’m flying through the air.

I’m no longer alone on this journey. I have immense gratitude and love for my husband, who is patient, a fucking rock, my solid foundation of support and love. He has taken the time over and over to tell me and show me that his love is real. He’s on the ground waiting for me to land, waiting for me to find my footing, to start on a new path. His path is next to mine, but it is not mine.

I also have to thank my friends for giving me opportunities to see where healing is needed most. They are part and parcel of this hike through a life.

The relationship I have with my life partner, my husband, is the reason I have any belief in love between adults. I actually almost hate admitting this… my ego hates admitting that learning how to love is not something I can learn on my own. I have to allow another adult into my space, into the home of who I am, to learn about love. I have to test out love and the different ways of showing and receiving it. I have to trust that I can go through life independently and interdependent with another person who will always have my best interest at heart. I have to trust that this other person has my best interest at heart. I had to learn how to trust.

I have learned to consider Hal’s feelings, his best interest, and that of my children alongside of my own and before making decisions. That act of love took forever for me to learn. I’m still learning how to love myself. While I was growing up, the adults in my life did not appropriately respond to or acknowledge my feelings. The result of that experience is that I have often neglected my feelings and the feelings of others. I don’t remember feeling heard after the age of 10. My mom was suffering from a mental illness that completely disabled her. My step father was emotionally unavailable. My bio-dad was absent. My aunts and uncles were not in the picture. I am an only child. I wasn’t close to any of my cousins. I grew up emotionally and intellectually alone. I had one or two friends here and there, but mostly my stuffed animals were my best friends.

But, I’m not alone any more.

I don’t have to “cope” with life – I can live life. It took me about eight years after having my first child to realize, holy shit I’m living my life – I’m not merely surviving anymore. I am a survivor, but I am not in survival mode anymore.

But … HELLO CLIFF.

I walked up to that cliff again, recently. I am here hurdling through the void because to grow requires dealing with this fucking cliff and the void between me and the ground. This void is where the growth happens. I chuckle as I type this because I’m in full awareness of my options but still somewhat paralyzed by fear. In a way, this fucking cliff, is a gift. An opportunity for growth.

“You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them”

~ Iyanla Vanzant

It is hard for me to let others into my little world. I have been so afraid of being hurt that when I feel close to someone, it doesn’t take much of a slight for me to pull away in fear (my husband can attest to this – it has taken many years for me to let down my guard and humble up with him). In this way I haven’t been a great friend, to myself or to others. I haven’t been committed to friendship. I let them go. I ice them out. I turn my back. I treat them as expendable not because I dislike someone but because of fear. Fear that I won’t ever know their love. Fear that they will leave me because I’m not enough to make them want to stick around. Fear that they don’t really care. Fear that eventually I will not be enough.

Fear is a destructively insidious little fucker of an emotion that has led me to choices that didn’t have to be.

That is one path of fear.

Another path is that fear is a window into a room that needs some attention. Fear is a gift of possible insight. Fear is an opportunity for courage to show up.

I have these fears because I learned that love = eventual abandonment. That is the narrative I was born into and the narrative that I, until recently, have unconsciously chosen to keep going.

The first thing I have to do is forgive myself for the mistakes I have made with people. For hurting others.

Then, I have to forgive those who have hurt me.

My therapist once told me, You can’t expect someone to hand you a book if it’s not on their bookshelf – no matter how many times you ask for that book, need it, desire it from them, if it isn’t on their shelf – you’ll never get it and that is okay – it’s not wrong of them to not give you a book you need, think about all the books that are not on your bookshelf. Think about the books you don’t want to loan out. People have that right. You have that right. You are not the only person who is protecting yourself, she would say.

It takes a lot of trust to care about someone.

And TRUST historically has been very hard for me to give to others.

I hide the parts of myself that I think will scare others away. Specifically, my feelings of sadness or disappointment. I’m scared that if someone sees how sensitive I am, they won’t want to be my friend because, OMG, she’s so sensitive.

I am slowly letting myself open up. I am allowing myself to feel sadness and pain. I am learning how to choose whether I want to take part in a relationship and what kind of participation I feel good about giving.

I started reading Iyanla Vanzant and Sark while in my 20’s, I’m revisiting the wisdom of these women because I’m continuing that work I started 20 years ago.

“You don’t get to tell people how to love you, you get to choose whether or not to participate in the way they’re loving you… people are gonna love how they love based on the information they have at the time.”

~ Iyanla Vanzant

Anyways, that’s all I got this morning. All over the place but making my own path.

“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

I work with the elderly population, many of whom have been in 60+ years of commitment with the same person. Occasionally, when they seem rather happy about discussing that commitment, I will ask them, “so what’s the secret to staying together for that long?” They always say without hesitation:

Compromise.

There is some truth to that answer, it’s really the easiest way to answer the question. However, I think the truth is a bit more complicated. The secret to still loving your partner after 60+ years is kept secret with the answer of “Compromise,” because let me tell you in my experience, compromise alone is not enough. 

Something unexpected happens in the home of your mind while in a relationship… it’s unavoidable if you choose to interact and live with another human… every corner of every room in your house eventually gets visited, often uninvited and by surprise. You get to decide in that moment the door is opened if that room is nurturing and part of what is right about you, if it’s time to remove the door to make the room an open space people feel invited to walk through or if the room can be ignored, if you’re going to put a lock on the door (which can and usually does get broken into), OR if you’re going to take some time to clean it up because the mess is preventing you from feeling at peace in the rest of the house. No door gets left unopened when you are with someone for 20+ years – at least that is the case in my house, where there has been 21 years worth of doors to unlock, open, or break down. I live in a complicated house with a complicated history.

But, don’t we all?

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe you have to be with the same person for years and years for all your doors to get opened at different points in your life. And I don’t think when you are with the same person for years that THAT is the only person who will knock on your doors. I am also aware that many people walk through their lives never feeling the need to go there with those rooms.

Often people will knock on your door, or open it… friends, love ones, your children (who are especially adroit at finding the rabbit hole doors that lead into your own childhood)… and you’ll ignore the knock while you’re adding a few more bolts and directing them to the room that is easy to keep neat. Sometimes, your significant other will stumble into the room by shear accident, and you’ll shoo them out and slam the door as they leave. Sometimes, a friend will open a door to a messy room and you’ll spend some time with them cleaning the space so it’s just clean enough. Sometimes those friendships will change, grow, or even end over those messy rooms. Or, you’ll open the door for a therapist and work together to sort through the stuff worth keeping, the stuff that requires forgiving, and the memories that can be let go of – you’ll remodel the shit out of that room.

Our house can hold a lot of rooms and there isn’t just one person who will help you find those doors or one way to interact within the rooms. Sometimes, it’s not even a person who shows it to you – you’ll find it because of something that happens, something you read or heard, something new that you learned about the world and how you move through it.

The thing about your home and all those doors is that the rooms that are shut are the very rooms we need to spend time in, maybe not right away, but eventually. Maybe not for months at a time, but for moments or days. Sometimes they are dark or crowded or both. And sometimes they are the most beautiful light-filled rooms in the house and we’ve forgotten how beautiful it is in there OR we didn’t know that the room existed in the first place.

Anything or anyone can show you the door, but it’s always a person, either myself or someone else, who opens the door and enters the room – and it’s always me who decides what happens in that room.

Being with Hal for 21 years and still wanting to be with him, still feeling deep love and appreciation for him, has everything to do with him learning how to soften his walk through those rooms. He’s helped me to clean the rooms I was ready to clean and he’s respected the doors I’m not ready to open. He has even helped me find the doors to the rooms that are beautiful, the rooms I didn’t know were in my house in the first place. And he gives me the space to explore my home without him.

But that’s not all… he has given me the honor of walking through his home. He has allowed me to sit in his dark rooms, his beautiful rooms, his messy rooms that need cleaning – work only he can do. He’s learning how to respect me while in his dark rooms and is teaching me how to respect him. I am learning how to respect him while he’s in my dark rooms and teaching him how to respect me. We have both grown into adults who value respect and strive to respect each other as individuals first and interdependent partners, second.

We’ve had some difficult years. We have moments where I think WTF? And he’s like, OH NO SHE DIDN’T. There was that year I thought about divorce (last year). And we’ve had some fucking amazing years. We have some really great days and meaningful moments. We joke around and laugh a lot. We’ve found our amazing years pre-kids, and we have found them with kids – but good gawd, our relationship takes periodical upkeep and maintenance – like any home.

I wonder how I will answer when I’m asked, “what’s the secret to being married for 60+ years?”

It takes a lot of work: patience, compromise, self awareness and the willingness to learn and communicate.

HAVE FUN. LAUGH A LOT. TRAVEL: with and without your kids, with and without each other.

“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

*This is my truth – it may not be yours and I’m not declaring it as a Universal Truth. I use the word “you” in the proverbial sense, because it’s useful when expressing my thoughts.

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

I experienced depression last year. BIG TIME. Hello age 39.

There were times I wondered if the melancholy would_ever_let_up. I had never experienced this design of persistent sadness. My therapist suggested it was Grief. I went to her, um, twice during the year. That suggestion of grieving stuck with me, gnawing at my gut like denied truth tends to do. It was a do or die feeling, I had to know, what the hell is really going on? I began to sit with it. I invited it over for a cup of coffee. And slowly, with help from Hal and a couple of friends who listened as I muddled through the confusion, I began to carefully unpack the most motherfuckingpainful feelings I’d ever experienced. Grief is an insidious little fuck that ignoring only makes louder.

This is what I realized through my unpacking process…

Certain kinds of “freedom” experienced pre-kids and pre-marriage were really over and done for me, never to return unless I leave my kids and/or husband.

I was grieving sexual freedom, that ability to just go for it. I was grieving those experimental days of zero reservations about sexual experiences with strangers and friends – unless Hal and I become swingers or opened our marriage or started a poly pod, that freedom ain’t happening again (none of these options works for me, believe me, I considered them. But I FULLY SUPPORT ANYONE ELSE making these choices).

I was grieving the power to choose a life-mate or a temporary fling or a friendly make-out session or a passionate fuck because I was yet to be hitched with two feet in the door.

I was beginning to see in a different way, TEN YEARS INTO MARRIAGE AND KIDS (20 years into our relationship), that time had really passed. I was grieving the passing of time and a past life.

I was grieving the good years between Hal and I *pre-kids* while living in Chicago, when _every_single_day_ of my life was a walk through a romantic photograph with tall buildings and tulips and symphonies of grand violins with charming snowfalls.

I was grieving the freedom to pack up and move thousands of miles away from home just because I had a wild hair and a friend to crash with in another state.

I was grieving all of this knowing that if I REALLY WANTED ANY OF IT, I could choose to make it happen.

I was grieving all of this knowing that the most sustained and deepest happiness I have ever experienced is in the depths of passionate, non-sexual friendships, and through my commitment and love for Hal and our children.

I was grieving because so many aspects of my past life are no longer a good fit.

The grief went deeper, too. It always does. It went further back to my original family life. I mourned for the girl who was and all she didn’t get to experience as a child and teenager because she didn’t have a choice in the matter. Because kids don’t choose the family they are born into. I comforted my younger self the way I comfort my own children in moments of big feelings. I spoke gently to her and assured her she didn’t do anything to deserve this suffering and that I would stay with her until she felt better. I crawled into that dark cave with her and held her tight. Many of times I cried myself to sleep. I healed her with those tears of grief. I healed.

Time sure can fuck with a woman.

I could divorce Hal. I could be polyamorous. I could have casual sex with or without love. I could move. I could live alone. I can do anyfuckingthing I want to do.

But is that what I really want? What do I want right now? See, I have to ask specifically, “right now,” otherwise I start to contemplate what I may want in 10 years and really, how the hell could I ever know that?

How do you decide what you want? when you know of so many options? because you can clearly see all the possibilities? and you even realize there are some you haven’t thought of? and you contemplate the pros and cons of it all?

Hal would support what-ever I decided I needed to do to be happy – he just wanted me to find that space of feeling good about life (Yes, this was his position during all the muck. I talked, as much as I could. He listened. He stepped back and leaned in. He let me figure it out. He loved me through it all because I didn’t abuse his trust or him during my shit-figuring-out. THAT, I fully know, is some right-as-rain-love.) This time in our marriage was pretty fucking difficult for us both.

Hello existential crisis, you fucking painful gift of sight, thought, and awareness. You stayed for about 1.5 years – long enough to pry open my mind a little more.

And then I turned 40.

And then I started to look at what feels good and right. A list I am not going to make for you because it is long and this post is long enough already.

I started to look at the choices I have made to lead me to a good life and the choices I CAN STILL MAKE to enrich life.

I can still make choices! I am not stuck! What a concept to fully realize! I can even LOVE OTHER MEN. I CAN LOVE MY WOMYN FRIENDS, TOO!

I meet the most amazing people and fall in love with them. Being married and having children has not changed this part of who I am. I fall in love with people differently than for the reasons I love my husband. I fall in love with my male friends differently than I fall in love with my womyn friends. I experience my sexuality and my sexual orientation on a spectrum that is fluid. My romantic orientation has been consistent throughout my life. I have a poly heart and a monogamous yoni. The origin of my marriage is a different story than the origin of any one of my friendships that induce feelings of wild-glow-around-them LOVE.

After about a year and a half, the depression started to lift. I was activity participating in the lifting of this depression. I DID THINGS to help myself through it because that’s just how I am about emotional stuff anyways.

I fully realized that I can have a multitude of experiences and that I do not have to run away to have them.

I do not have to run away.

I made it to the other side, a little better off for the experience of depression.