Saturday, June 11, 2016

My husband. The other woman. And I .....

My husband is involved with another woman.

A sentence I never in my life thought I would be writing, much less that it would be the truth about my marriage. But it is. He is out with her tonight, as I write. While we live in the same house, trying to unravel our life together. While our children played and waited for dinner this evening and the afternoon sun glowed so beautifully outside and i thought we could have a barbecue and the kids would love ice-cream, he left. To go to her.

They met at work. The story as old as the hills .... they started talking, became friends .... she confided the details of her difficult divorce, he listened. He told her his marriage was dissolving also (because suddenly that seemed true), and that he was not happy. Their friendship grew ... little by little. And then one day it was a drink after work and then one drink became three. White wine and Zucchini sticks. And then they were dating, a proper courtship. And so began their affair. Late night calls and early morning texts. Hiding his phone and carrying it everywhere with him. He lied and lied and lied again, to make room in his life for this new chapter, to fit her in. He was out with friends, he said. He had to work late. He was staying over in the City. For work.

I knew. But I had no proof. Only the stab in my gut and the gnawing certainty that there was someone else. I had to find out the hard way, by searching and digging and using my intuition. And every step a painful discovery that the marriage I believed to be strong enough to weather any storm, was ending.

The past months have been a time of deep grief and confusion ... of feeling angry and desperate, quite and despairing. My head and heart in constant warfare, each looking for proof to show they are right. Each kindness a reminder of what we had, each fight another nail in the coffin. I have howled and sobbed and lain motionless for hours. I have sat and let my thoughts wander. I have walked and run and thrown paint and written and emailed and texted and called .... and screamed. And whispered. And thrown things and pushed and pushed and pushed. And lit candles to sit vigil in the night, with my memories. 

Somehow, 18 years ended here. Like this. With me dismantling our wedding album tonight, while he is out. Tearing up the photos because the memories are too painful. Saving a few - for the children, so they know there was love there, once upon a time. And that I too believed in happy endings and fairy tale ever afters.

Every marriage is different - a complex, multi-layered, beautiful living thing ... it has to be watered and pruned and given attention to, and maybe sometimes life gets busy and we get wrapped up in the day to day ... the juggling of household and children and money and work and obligations and other people's demands and not enough free time .... and your needs and my needs ..... and what about ours.

We forget to water. The weeds start to grow. 

I thought the plant was still alive, it would flourish again. It was just struggling a bit - maybe it needed more light, less water. He decided the plant had died, and no amount of love or care would bring it back to life again. There was no longer any point in trying. For him.

I have had time to think about my role in how this came to be ... the things i said and did not say, the years and months of habits that built up and the hurt that was caused. From both sides. We have talked more in the past months than in the past years, and that has been painful to realize. But important for closure. We have tried to understand each other but at the bottom of it all, the fact remains that he has moved on ... and with somebody else.

To those of your reading who feel overwhelmed in your relationship - who feel there is no way to connect, to reach out .... that it's easier to start again, to find someone new, to leave that door open instead of drawing a sacred boundary around your partner and yourself ... deal with your relationship first. I beg you. Before you let someone else in. Talk to your partner, no matter how difficult it seems. Tell them how you are feeling, allow yourself to be vulnerable, even if there is no guarantee they will understand. Even if you think it is over. Especially if you think it is over. Try for this not to be an angry conversation - for it not to be a time of accusations and a list of wrongs and hurts. Find a safe place to talk. Just start. Light some candles and sit quietly ... under the stars at midnight, in bed with your Hello Kitty pajamas on. On the couch, on a beach, walking. Find a way to tell each other how you feel. Write the words if you cannot speak. Sing them, paint them, weave them. It might not be too late. It might just be that all the words disappeared along the way and it became easier not to speak, not to be seen, not to be hurt. And so the years went by and the hurt built up until the layers became firm, trodden down each day, so hard to break through. But it's worth trying. It's always worth trying just one more time.

In all of this, my faith in the world and in love and marriage have truly shattered. I trusted him not to hurt me. I trusted that he meant it when he said till death us do part. This is a death indeed, but not the one we meant in our vows. I see the world differently. Him differently. Our entire marriage differently.  Myself differently. This has changed me.

In so many articles I read as I was searching for answers, it struck me how people who cheat could always justify their choices. It's OK to start an affair with someone who is married because it's his / her decision, their marriage must be bad, their partner a nightmare who doesn't understand / appreciate / see / love them anymore. Pick your adjective, every excuse exists.  Or it just happened. Just like that. And so of course, one must act. The new lover / partner is not at fault, in their own eyes - they are not forcing the married partner to do anything. The one who is married can justify his / her dalliances in a million different ways. They were unhappy. Their marriage no longer met their needs. They needed a change. Midlife. A new start. Bored, stifled, not understood. Not seen. Not wanted. Life got too hard. They just wanted some fun, while staying in their marriage until their children were grown.

Marriage is hard. It is up and down and good patches and bad patches so bad you feel you might end up an alcoholic or pack a bag at midnight and hit the road speeding, desperate to be anywhere but here.

Marriage is also beautiful and stormy and tender and it's meant to hold us, to be a harbor and an anchor and a safe place. I think our culture has become too casual with marriage, with lifelong vows. We marry because we like the idea of it, but the actual reality - the difficult part of working through the rough patches .... not so much. It's easier just to give up, start new, find someone else. When the universe presents a different option, don't we have a right to find out happiness .... to live life to the full, we say ? We are entitled to happiness, we tell ourselves. We forget about the hard work and sacrifice that often go hand in hand with lifelong commitment. And the rewards to be gained by staying. Sometimes.

Don't we owe it to our partners and children to really try ? To fight for something deeper and more meaningful, to allow for the love that truly holds and mends and really knows another person, their shadows and their light ? Don't we owe it to ourselves not to give up just when we are tempted, but to remember that building a life and a family takes self sacrifice sometimes ..... we have to draw a circle tight around our marriages, and keep that line secure - no one should cross over.

It seems to me that in the world around me, people have become entitled and demanding. They want, and so they take. They help themselves, even if that person belongs to someone else. They treat marriage vows as if they are casual promises, able to be broken anytime it's convenient. I don't want to be part of that world ... where promises are taken lightly, where families are destroyed for selfish pleasure. Where self restraint and integrity are no longer valued. I believe we do all deserve happiness, and I also believe that not all marriages last and sometimes it is for the better. But I also believe in honesty, and in communication and in openness.

I know from personal experience, watching friends and colleagues around me, that sometimes marriages truly are not right and no one is happy and it's best to part ways ... and I have seen new marriages bring real happiness and a wonderful new life together. I know it's not always clear cut and simple. We're messy complicated contradictory beings. We're human. We change. We fall in love anew. I think what I am struggling with is the ease with which i see marriages cast off .... the ease and self-justification with which marriages and families are destroyed. If it really is time to let go, then let it be done kindly and honestly ... let that relationship be resolved with respect for a life shared and built together. Let there be compassion, even if love has died.

An ending before a beginning.

If it's going to happen, let it be done cleanly. 

But life is messy. People want what they want. This is the stuff of music and art. It gets complicated.

I wish marriages could be ended before new relationships began. I wish new relationships didn't end marriages. I wish there were no affairs and nobody thinking they had a right to tempt someone out of their marriage. i wish married men and women could not be tempted, not until they had resolved the issues making them want to look outside their marriage in the first place.

But wishes are dandelion whispers blown on the wind, and not all wishes come true. 

And so here we are. Living under the same roof because needs must, for now. And because of two beautiful children who don't understand what is happening, not understanding why we can't just make up. Here we are. Fighting and crying and talking and at odds with each other and grieving. Here I am, watching him leave, again and again. Here we are, rattling around the home that was meant to be our forever ... and now it's a reminder of where everything fell apart.

Death by a thousand paper cuts.

Here I am - learning to keep getting up, no matter how many times I am knocked to the ground. Here I am, grateful for my friends and family. Grateful for the sisters that have held me up and walked this journey by my side. Here I am, grateful for children and how the busyness of life can sometimes make me forget. Just for a moment. Here I am, grateful for time to grieve and lament and allow the sorrow to flood me. Here I am, grateful for quiet nights with a dark blue sky and the moon shining through. Here I am, grateful for time healing. For learning to listen to my own voice again. For remembering who I am. For my sense of humor. Here i am, grateful for life's journey, even though this detour took the wind out of my sails and nearly killed me. Here I am, grateful for new beginnings and endings and all the life that happens in between.

Here I am, grateful for my memories. Grateful that there was love. Friendship. Laughter. Here I am, still holding on too tightly, but slowly learning the necessity of finally letting go.


Monday, May 2, 2016

When Marriages end ....

I wrote this post 3 weeks ago but decided after posting it, that it was maybe a little soon to be sharing personal parts of my journey before my own children knew what the situation was. 

Now that things are a little more definite, I am posting it again - apologies if you subscribe to my posts and have received this more than once.

* * * * * * * *

May 3rd ....

I have been very very quiet in this space.

The past 3 months have been some of the hardest I have ever been through.
My marriage is at the brink and I didn't see it coming. 

I am holding so much grief, and the tears do not stop flowing.

The words are stuck in my throat. They fill me up, strangling me inside, but I cannot spit them out. They would be pure venom.

I need to swallow them whole and wait until I am calm and forgiving. But I am not there yet. I am trying to hold space for us both in this story but it is a day to day battleground, and I am losing. 

For now there are tears and sorrow, and taking each day one step at a time. 

It is all I can do.

I still believe in Love. The real, true, honest-to-goodness love of marriage vows that are not broken, the kind that sticks through good and bad, that talks and opens up when there is pain, not the kind that closes off and goes searching in other places. The kind that stays True. The kind that does not lie. The kind that wants to stay. That sees value in 17 years and 2 children.

I still believe in Love.

Only maybe no longer for me.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Today .....

There are so many words wanting to be spoken but I am waiting for the waves of anger and pain to recede, for the page to feel safe again. Spring is here and slowly, the winter is letting go her hold. In my own life, the past few months have been some of the most devastating and turbulent I have experienced but I'm still standing. I'm still in the forest but I see the light shining through the trees ....  one day, maybe soon, I'll be laughing again.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Today .....

This i know ....

You can wake up in pieces
and still find yourself whole.
Pour tea and wander through
your day, 
Even though your heart is 

Your world can fall to pieces
where nothing makes sense,
But you can add groceries to the cart
and drive the kids to tennis.

I sit outside cradling my tea
in both hands.
The first break in the winter cold ...
It is a gift. This day.

The woods whisper in the morning light:
You will overcome this.
Stand tall little one.
Stretch your branches to the sky.
Push your roots deep deep into the earth
to keep your balance.

The sun warms my back and
kisses my bare toes.
You will find warmth again.
You'll feel alive. One day.

The breeze gentle on my hair, 
Like an old friend, soft soft.
My grandmother's hand when I 
was still a little girl.
Take heart, it tells me.
Spring is coming.

This too shall pass.

The neighbor's dog, tired of chasing balls
sinks heavy weight onto my foot.
Don't run, don't race, he pants.
Don't leave, even though the urge is
Just sit, and feel the weight of it all
in your hands.

Hold it. 
Feel the sun and the breeze
and sip your tea.
Rest a-while and
gather your strength
for the new season.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A poem ....

Music in the snow

The lilt of her voice as i drive,
soft strum of a guitar, 
A drum.
The hanging notes.

If not for music stories wine songs,
what is there ?
Sometimes just the need for company,
a lonely silent walk through the snow.

The air so heavy I could hardly breathe,
these past weeks.
Weights like stones upon my shoulders.
And then ....
Driving into the evening 
and the music.
It courses, a river of sound
around me.
I weave down the road to the ebb 
and flow of her voice.

Alive again.
In another life I would be on horse back,
tearing across the fields,
hooves pounding on white earth,
my breath a plume of smoke.

Down the hill to where you might
or might not
be waiting,
And I, out of breath, 
would laugh and fling myself into the snow.

Walking on air.
on the music.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Happy New Year and around here lately ....

I have a friend from long ago. I see her Facebook updates from far across the sea and every time, her beautiful positive energy shines through. She has a love  for life, a joyfulness in life, that I don't often see and it's contagious - all that beautiful shiny energy. She radiates passion in her approach to her work, the way she parents, the way she spends her free time. I have another friend, also from long ago. She practices her art and has found a beautiful balance between work (which is also her love and her passion), family and home. She writes beautifully. She rides horses. She drinks wine and sometimes battles to sleep because of all the things in her head.

I have been thinking a lot about New Years Resolutions .... some people make a list : eat healthily, exercise more, stop carbs. Some lists are more serious of course.

Some people choose a word: Mindful. Creative. Brave. 
A word helps them to stay focused when life is busy and projects are swirling and they feel pulled in different directions. It helps them to remember what they want for the coming year. It helps them stay clear minded.

I don't make lists. i don't choose words. But I do find myself reflecting on the year that passed, and the one that lies ahead. 

The past year was a difficult one in many ways. It had beautiful highlights ... my trip back to South Africa in May and getting to catch up with friends and family I miss so very much .... my mother's visit in August ... weekends away .... but there was a lot of heartache and soul searching too. There were people who I came to realize did not really know me the way I thought, no longer valued spending time with me ... no longer wanted to make the effort. People who had moved on. It happens. They were painful, these realizations .... but I know the value of moving on and letting go .... sometimes there is no other way, sad as it is.

There was a  lot of soul searching. The feeling of being lost and out of place which I have had ever since our move, and my little one's starting Kindergarten, has not really changed. I still feel as if I am waiting for life to start again, only I have no idea of which direction or path to take. The things I used to take for granted have slowly disappeared ... my love of painting ... my need to express myself. It's been a long walk, this past year .... and I find myself looking around, wondering where those parts of myself have gone.

And so as I think about the year ahead, I think of those two friends from long ago. I think about how beautiful it is to be fully engaged in one's life. To really live. Fully. With heart and open eyes. To go on adventures, even if they are little ones just down to the end of the road and back. To find joyfulness again. To live with passion, fully. To really truly be alive, not half-living only.

And so I hope to see new places. To go on adventures. To take the kids camping. To drink more wine. To try new foods. To read more books. To watch more movies. To make new friends. Try a new hobby. I hope to travel more ... but if that doesn't work out as planned, to learn to live fully right here - where I am ... to be grateful for the life I am in ... and to find my own passion again.

Here's hoping for you that it's a beautiful year. Here's to dreaming and living. To sandy toes and late nights dancing. Here's to all of it.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

No place like home ... South Africa in May

At the end of each year I spend a few days going through all the photos from the past year. I create Memory books for the kids online ... and then I put together an album for myself ... family memories, photos I want to keep, memories of places we visited or just every day moments that stand out ... it's a good way for me to remember the year, and to reflect on the highlights ... think about what I want to do differently in the year to come. Sifting through the months today, I realized that I never got to share photos from my trip back to South Africa in May. I've felt really homesick this Christmas ... it's how it is at this time of year, and I know that ... sometimes it's just a case of keeping head down and getting through ... but these photos brought home back to me today and I thought it was as good a time as any to share them. It is the country I love best in the world. Hands down. No competition. No matter how hard I try, my heart is still there - fluttering between the light and shadows, refusing to leave, and I always feel a little empty, living so far away from the heat and chaos and beauty that is South Africa.

In May I flew back there on my own for a week. I needed time with my family and friends, especially my grandmother, and time to myself, away from the day to day. It was a very special trip for me ... I got to reconnect with  the people I love and miss, to remember my history, to explore new places and to revisit old ones that are part of my story. What struck me the most on this trip was the creativity and originality all around me ... the coffee shops in Cape Town with their beautiful menus and funky decor ... the little stores we wondered in and out of ... the way creativity and inspiration are all around. And of course, the landscape, which never fails to take my breath away when I am back.

So without further ado, this ... is my South Africa. 

Beautiful craft store in Kloof, KZN

Below: Sculpture in the Gardens at Makaranga Lodge, Kloof

A night in Ballito

On to Cape Town: Blouberg Beach below, with a view of Table Mountain

Below : At the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Below : Farm School

Below: Driving to Greyton, we stopped in at my favorite farm stall


Farewell breakfast, Cape Town