Monday, August 8, 2011
Two years ago today was the first day after my "honeymoon" which followed the two year anniversary of my marriage on August 1, 2009. In just a couple of weeks it will be the one year anniversary of my divorce.
The details no longer matter, neither did the marriage, or the four year commitment that led to it. what mattered was the aftermath, the mess he left me to clean up, and the effects that had on my children and I.
Gathering the fortitude to fix this one exhausted me, depleted me and pushed me face down on the floor sucking the carpet fibers of rock bottom. Looking UP was easy. Reading the sign on the door of UP saying it was closed for rennovations was not.
In my life I have had other disappointments and difficulties but never one this intense or mentally, physically and emotionally harmful. Never one this intentional. Never one that was shared with others in such a way that in order for him to service them, he intentionally harmed me and made me feel worse. He said it would just be a quiet thing, that he "sucked as a husband" and could or would not keep his promises. I never expected my life to then be hijacked to Neverland, where the little boys play with fire thinking they are kings of men. I never expected to become a soccerball among his imaginary playthings, and for so much time be required to act as if it were all simply okay.
It was never okay. There was unfortunately going to have to be time spent at the bottom, my reward for temporary insanity. There was only one big problem. I didn't like it there, but I knew the piper had to be paid. At first it was lonely there. Then I got up the guts to look around, and choose some reasonably friendly faces to reach out to. I was surprised to find so many decent and kind people at the bottom. I began to listen to the stories, and realized that in fact I was not all alone and that no matter how bad you might think a thing is, there is always something out there that is worse. The common theme at the bottom is loss. Not just the loss of petty objects such as keys or glasses, but loss of magnitude unimaginable. For some at bottom, loss seems to just lead to more loss. In nursing school I never paid much attention to grief and its associated stages, (thank you Elizabeth Kubler Ross), but there, face down on the carpet at the bottom, I had my first real lesson.
The bottom is full of mirrors. You can try to avoid looking in them but sooner or later you are blind. No matter who you are, unless you truly die, you have to look. I learned at bottom that each mirror had a different story to tell, and a different lesson to learn. I learned at bottom that until you conquered the mirrors, you stay where you are. Now and again, someone at bottom scores big and a ladder drops down for them. If they are not timid, and are willing to risk what little might be left to them, they make the ascent to climb out. If they are scared, they remain at bottom, safe, trapped as before only with that much more regret. I was living in a house of mirrors. I did not like opening my eyes very much.
The first person I met at the bottom was a man named David. He had a colorful history and a collection of incredible talents. I did not think this man would give me the time of day because I could not see the value I could have for him. I decided that rejection would not be as bad as never knowing. I reached out. He reached back. I had no idea what to do or how to behave. I think he found that amusing. Looking back I think it was kind of funny too. He taught me quickly that there was no way around the mess I was in. He taught me that most of my mess was my own only added to by the one left by my former. He was lighthearted and kept a healthy distance but in his own way he grabbed up my hair and pulled up my head to look at the mirror that he stood beside. It was the mirror of the physical. "You are what you eat". My heart sank at what I saw. I expressed my frustration and he just looked back at me and into the mirror and said..."Na, don't worry, this isn't horrible, I can help you with this." He was not joking, he laughed and smiled when he said it but he was very serious in his tone. "So much has to change, starting now, this second, there is no time to spare for your life." I looked up at this man, who sort of looked like he could be my brother in another dimension, and instead of my usual nonsense talk, I said softly "okay". The changes he demanded were not personal they simply had to be. It was easier to swallow and be honorable to the agreement. Somehow at bottom, angry and lonely, change was less difficult to make. I did not see much of David, he seemed to have a passport to bottom that allowed him to float up and down sort of like an angel. He was never far away, and still even now, whenever I reach out, he is there. There is nothing like his smile, because you only get it when you know he likes what is in front of him. It is infectious, its delicious and when he becomes dark is not so difficult to become dark beside him. He met me at every level on the way up, and I now know I have a friend forever who will always be there when I need him to save my life. He knows the same is true of me.
Somewhere during the food wars, two other men joined David at that mirror. Ralph came first. He came and challenged my broken body to move again. I was terrified, but Ralph, while demanding and insistent on my trying, stayed close by to protect me from falling. Still, I looked at the floor every day. One day, Ralph grabbed my hair, and pulled my head up and said "Look at you. Look at what you have become." I opened my eyes and I really was not sure who was there. Then I met Robert. Robert was there to look into the core of things. Not just the physical but the spiritual and the emotional. Robert put on pads and let me hit him. I hit him hard and for what seemed like forever. I started to cry. He said, "good". I wasn't sure about this road but I knew one thing, I was doing everything that man told me to do. He was unyielding. He was unwavering, and had a great sense of humor while he tortured me. Still, I pouted all around this way and that, and one day he grabbed hold of my hair and forced me to look at myself in the mirror. "Do you see what you have done?"
I did not quite see yet, because other matters were crushing me. One day I was dozing at bottom, when a man named Albert came up and said, "Why are you sleeping? "Because my hands are tied and I am trapped". He was in his own world of hurting, but still he took the time to listen. I was broke and in unbelievable debt from the prior relational failure. More mess, with no way in sight to clean up. While I remained faithful to my physical changes, the ropes were squeezing me tighter than ever. I looked at the floor. Albert was a man faithful to God so he kept his hands out of my hair and simply said.."Mary, look at the mirror." I did not want to because the picture of my finances was ugly and embarassing. I cried like a baby in front of Albert. To this day I think he is an angel. He said. " I can help you fix this, but you are going to have to make many changes." Gee, what else is new? I thought. I had begun to pride myself on openmindedness so I listened to what he had to say. I never realized how many inappropriate things we can tie to our money. Albert taught me, along with Suze Orman, that money is not love, its not emotions, its not going to satisfy inner cravings. Money is money. Managing it correctly is the only path to freedom for most people. Albert created a budget for me, which I thought would be impossible to manage. It turns out he was right and I was wrong. There is something good about looking before I leap. Something wonderful about reaping the reward of self control and proper planning. Funny, the financial mirror started to postively impact the physical mirror, I never saw that one coming. Still, I looked at the floor, because I was internally angry. No, I was furious.
I kept hearing things, and finding out things, that I did not want to know. It kept my head focused on my losses instead of my gains and I was unable to see the balance sheet clearly. All I could do was to keep up the juggle, keep the balls in the air, so when my ladder finally dropped down for me, I almost missed it. Along came Jim. I really did not know much about him. He was only around a short time and said surprisingly little. It turns out he was only there to show me the last thing I needed to climb out. He had to drag me to that last mirror though, because I would not dare to look at it. He held me in his arms and stood in front of it. He was a man of demand and patience. He stood me in front of the mirror for what seemed like hours until I finally looked. He told me that we would stand there until I told him I could see the pretty woman staring back at me. I was stubborn, he just thought it was funny. There we stood. The next day he dragged me there again. I thought it over since I was hungry and so I finally lifted my head all by myself and took a look. There was a lovely woman in the mirror in Jim's arms. I squinted, because ...no..whoa...really??? He nodded and whispered, "really". "What do you see? We will stay here until you tell me." he said. " I see me." I said. "Not good enough." he said. I looked harder and looked at him and said "I see a beautiful lady, and she is me." "Very good" he said. When he disappeared I realized how far up that ladder I had climbed. UP no longer seemed out of reach. UP, was finally once again open for business, and I was going dressed in a pretty outfit.
I realized what a lucky girl I am to have been sent four fairy godfathers. I probably could call them hairy godfathers and they would like it better. Every girl wants to be Cinderella and experience the impossible but if you ask me to do it again I will tell you I pass. Now and again even though I officially live in UP, I feel compelled to visit the bottom, because I let my guard down and am impossible to manage or deal with. When I wallow on the bottom its because my prince has not shown up yet. Sometimes I think that is the fairy tale to begin with. The godfathers told me that I never needed a prince to begin with, and if one did come along, I should be for damn sure that he had what it took to take care of and manage me.
Yesterday a beautiful and brilliant best friend and I were talking about these things. She was the first person I met when I stepped off the ladder into UP. This is the kind of friend that everyone should have one of. One who mirrors you, and can be there, and often a step ahead. One who actually cares and thinks ahead to do the right thing on your behalf sometimes at the expense of herself. This is not an easy friend to have. Loving her is a workout sometimes and that is what makes me think she is worthwhile. This one makes it unnecessary for me to visit the bottom ever again because the mirror I need to look at lives in her. I treasure her, I cherish her. I love her. If it were not for the work of the hairy fairy godfathers, I would not have known how to notice her. One of these days, I have to thank the hairy fairy godfathers for bringing me to the place where I could recognize that happiness could come to me through a girl who would become my sister, and I could never be happier.