Saturday, June 21, 2008

POEM: Leap

You are afraid of leaving him because who you are has been defined for so long by the inconvenience of not being there one day. Truth be told, despite your acuity with the Twelve Steps, change and how to initiate change, is not covered by any of them.

From so long ago you believed the stories that the men in your life have told you that every woman needs a man to take care of her. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see the woman they told you to see?

It’s not about love at all.
It’s never about love – love has nothing to do with it. You love him and weren’t we told that love would find a way? You never stop loving him, even during the bitter arguments; even during the most hateful moments, you love him, the history of the good times, piled like his dirty laundry of oversized and rough construction worker clothes that sits by the washer in the basement.

I often wonder what becomes of those good times in a divorce? Where do they go? Did they not actually happen in the first place? Are they just photographs in an album somewhere and does his image become a ghost, wearing that look of someone who has passed on to the next life, how they wear that look in pictures of being unaware that they soon would become a vapor to you?

You can hire a lawyer to divide up your assets, but what do you do with the emotional assets of those true and legitimate happy moments? Who divides those up? Where do they get stashed? Did they ever happen at all?

But knowing that you still love this guy doesn’t help does it? It just makes it worse – sadder really. You both sit with your finger on the red button: you, about to annihilate the “Soviet Union” of him, while he points his emotional ICBMs at you – each never once believing the other would push the button. This “mutually assured destruction” theory of marriage has gripped you like the long, cold New England winters for so long, you almost forget the definition of “happiness”.

You believe that he is sick. You ask me how you can leave a man who is ill? What sort of woman does this? What if this were cancer? Or Lou Gerhig’s disease? What stories would be told about a woman who left a man in his condition? You believe you are abandoning this poor lost soul whom you still cherish and would live out the rest of your life with in this static hell if he only would seek treatment. Or you see yourself as judge and jury, ultimately condemning this man to wallow in the mess that is himself.

But do you remember that day when you showed me the Mary Oliver poem:

…there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

You know how this works. You deal with addicts and alchies every day of your life. You hear the stories that break lives into a million shards of tiny, irreparable glass; ones that ruin the very fabric of a person’s humanity. But you have also seen the healing.

You ought to know that you have nothing less than a whole army of people to support you no matter what you do. I promise you only that you will heal, in time, and if you want to and if you work at it.

So look deeply into yourself for the courage you need to be content – not ecstatic, not zealously joyful – just content to be where you are. Can you imagine contentment, my dear? For nothing ever becomes real that is not first imagined. What is it you imagine for yourself?

Can you imagine rewriting your own story so that you, at long last, are the protagonist of your story?

Take the lesson of the nail which is powerless but is given the power to hold heavy boards together only after the relentless hammering. The difficult part – that step off the ledge – will feel like a hammer to you. But from this you will have the strength and staying power of the nail. You will rebuild your life from the lumber of your confidence.

So gather up all of your gifts and your talents. You will need them all. Wrap them up in the threadbare remains of the dreams of what you thought being a grown up woman was going to be like when you were just a little girl. Eat hearty for the journey is treacherous and you will need your strength.

I will be here all the time on your path to Golgotha. I will be your Veronica wiping your face. Your Simon to help you carry your tree part of the way. It is not love you seek or love I offer – that always abounds. It is survival. It is a meaningful life that we are trying to wring from the murky waters of a marriage that is long overdue to have its bucket emptied and refilled with clean, fresh soapy waters.

And when it is all over you will sit over a quiet, aromatic cup of coffee and realize that this was the biggest thing that you have ever done. We will go find church bells to ring and proclaim a year of favor, proclaim liberation, proclaim a new and insistent spring like no other you have ever encountered.

Life will ebb and flow and it will continue to bring its normal share of aches and pains – because this is what life does – but you will even be able to enjoy the bad times that will come just a little more.

Then when you drop to your knees before bedtime at night and offer up your prayers, even God will smile a generous smile, for you - His most beloved sheep - has finally come home. At long, long last, His sheep has come home.


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