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I like the phrase that Glennon Doyle Milton wrote in “Carry On Warrior”, which says, “Reading is my inhale, and writing is my exhale“. This blog is my exhale.

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Taking Stock

 

Sept. 3, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

The end to our first year of separation came and went silently . . . right up until the final song at the Garth Brooks Concert on Sept. 1st.

Looking back on the memory of 

The dance we shared ‘neath the stars above 

For a moment all the world was right 

How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye 

And now I’m glad I didn’t know 

The way it all would end the way it all would go 

Our lives are better left to chance 

I could have missed the pain 

But I’d have had to to miss the dance 

Garth Brooks, “The Dance”, 1990

We had lived apart for six months prior to “separation”, trying to rebuild our relationship through counselling, conversation, and date nights. There is no doubt that hope and tenderness existed during the first of those months, but I don’t think either of us thought we could fix the repeating issues that impaired our ability to connect.

We used to dance. I came alive on the dance floor, while he gave me the strong lead I had been missing. We took several classes together; I loved the latin beats and he found his pace in swing and foxtrot. In those days it seemed that the dance would never end.

With twenty-one years together the dance included many amazing things. Closeness and space; a shared work environment; activities we both enjoyed; travel and adventure; conversations, religion, and spiritual exploration; material wealth; supported independence; and five of the most unique, delightful, challenging, and wonderful children.

Parenting and marriage are two of the most difficult relationships to navigate. Put them side-by-side or on top of one another, and you have a dance pattern that would challenge the most fluent of dancers.

For the last several years we performed in-solo on the dance floor—not aware of what the other was doing or how beautifully they carried out their steps. We synchronized our movement and came together only during times of upheaval and crisis, of which, we had plenty.

And now I am stumbling through dance patterns on my own and it just doesn’t feel the same. The decision to separate was neither good nor bad, not mine or his. Our relationship no longer worked.

The last year and more has been tough; hardest of all was the intensity of heart pain I’ve felt, even while knowing that this was the path to take.

“I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Thank you Garth Brooks for the memory of The Dance. I realize now that the dance continues but the music has changed.  

Yours Truly,

Mona LottIMG_1872.jpg

Shell

 

August 17, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

When house shopping, people ask you — “But did the house have good bones?” I love metaphor but I have a really hard time seeing the bones of a house when they are covered up. Let’s say the bones are the things that hold the house together; they create a structure to wrap the sinew of our lives around.

This week, after months of laborious work alongside of loving friends and family, our spacious home emptied completely over a three-day period.

Movers came and carried out our boxed-up and wrapped possessions.

Mom came and helped me re-purpose (more) items to Goodwill and to random strangers.

We loaded a truck of all the miscellaneous crap and recyclables that were no good to anyone and headed to the dump. (This was the fourth and final trip to the dump over the months long process.)

We took two car loads of stuff to a friend’s garage so that I can fill the kitchen and organize the office in our new house next week, before the moving truck arrives.

And all through these three days we cleaned. I touched each and every surface of the house as if preparing a daughter or son for marriage. Tender loving care.

Yesterday my mom and I careened through every room—touching up and making sure we had everything. Our remaining goods poured out the front door, draining the house  of our essence.

I met my first hermit crab years ago when my kids went to preschool, guided by the creature-loving, animal whispering Mrs. Dobler. Hermit crabs are crustaceans but have a soft and vulnerable abdomen that they need to protect – at all times – by carrying around and living in a vacated seashell. As they grow they abandon one shell and move to another. Theirs is a physical growth but I would suggest that we humans need to do this too, change shells as we grow.

As our house moved from a living home to a shell that had held us, the sound inside changed from whispered memories, to creaks of relief as the burden lifted, to the hollow echo of a seashell.

It reshaped under my hand like a sculpture that takes its own form. Not my plan, some master plan.

Late in the day we walked through the house with our realtor before closing the doors for good. I felt pride in the care I had taken to prepare this shell for the next hermit crab. I felt sad walking through the emptiness with the person whose life I had shared there. Leaving the house was like the ending to the end of our marriage; a waxed seal irrevocably sealing our separation.

There can be no doubt that the waxed seal, empty shell, and strong bones signify an ending. It hurts and I think I will stay here for awhile. But my new home is being transformed into a shell right now, and soon we will fill it up and rattle the bones of it.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott

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Spirited

August 7, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

Sometimes traits that are valued in others are the hardest ones to live with when they show up in your significant other. It could be said that I am a challenge to live with.

When my siblings and I were young, the word spirited referred to a plucky horse, a full-swing party, or a lively debate — but not to children, especially a shy one.

The term “spirited child” was coined in 1992, with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s eye-opening book, “Raising Your Spirited Child”. In 1997 I married a man with two children, at least one of whom was spirited. I would graze the words in Kurcinka’s book as if they were the appetizers I needed to make it through to supper.

The word spirit comes from the latin word spiritus, which means:

breath,

spirit,

soul,

courage,

vigour.

Sounds like something to aspire to, doesn’t it?

However, “the word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is the word more. They are normal children who…..possess [certain characteristics] with a depth and range not available to other children.”  –Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Raising Your Spirited Child

Spiritedness has to do with temperament—an inborn (not learned) behavioural style. It conveys MORE in the areas of activity, intensity, irregularity, moodiness, perception, persistence, sensitivity, and adaptability to change. I don’t remember what I was like as a child except that I did get sent to my room for my big emotions . . . on occasion.

As an adult, I am MORE in almost all of those areas.

A few nights ago I played a rousing game of cards with my cottage neighbour and her daughter, my daughter, and their friend (two adults and three 15-year-olds). A night or two earlier my teenagers had said, “You don’t even like cards, do you mom?” HORRIFIED, I  stared at them, and then in my Minnie Mouse voice I said, “I love cards.” Then, I went to bed.

But the next time they asked, I showed up. Big time. (Embarrassingly BIG)

Adults who have known me since my twenties would immediately recognize the arrival of my spirited self at the card table, or on the dance floor, or in the kitchen. But the more recent additions: my children, their friends, and my new friends have rarely seen the intense side of me. She has been hidden for a long time, which brings me (finally) to the point of my letter Cherished Heart.

For what feels like A Hundred Years I have justified the self-imposed gagging of my MORE in the name of being GROWN UP. Hear me loud and clear . . . That Was A Mistake.

Through working and being a responsible employee; through marriage and being a loving wife; through parenting and being a dependable mom; through friendship and being a reliable friend—I gave up the essence of myself.

WHY?

I thought there was something wrong with me; and I tried to make it right.

Sometimes we change so slowly, it is as if we are only losing dead skin—but then the pain of walking around without skin finally hits and we must make a change.

My partner-in-marriage seemed completely able to accept my flaws and imperfections over our many years together; it was my gifts he had a harder time with. And so I behaved in ways that were MORE tolerable.

Sometime in the last decade I watched the movie called, “A Walk on the Moon”. It was set in 1969, the period of history which claims Woodstock, and also the first moon landing. In the movie, the female lead—a married woman on summer holidays with her family—has an affair with the “Blouse man”.

There is much going on. Love. Risk. Faith. Family. Rules. Change. Loss. Reckoning.

The husband finds out about the affair. Eventually, the wife chooses to stay with her husband. There is a scene near the end that sticks in my head (I purposely did not check the internet for accuracy)— The wife is trying to explain her actions to her husband on the porch of the summer cottage. The radio is playing. When she tells him how much she has had to change herself within the marriage, I could feel the pain on the edges of her words. The husband says something like, “But I never asked you to change.”

Those words hit me hard.  Are we supposed to change FOR others; are we supposed to live to an IDEAL the other holds; are we supposed to be THANKFUL for all that we have, and bury the dead?

I knew I had changed; I could see and feel the missing parts like apparitions in-waiting.

What I realized after the card game, and as I slowly see the spiritedness return throughout my life, is that he never asked me to change, but he also didn’t welcomed all-of-me to stay.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott

Renovate 

Dear Cherished Heart, 

Why do I wake up feeling broken, and then spend the day re-building, putting myself back together again? Why not instead wake up feeling whole, and then wear down from passion and joy and living and hard work? 

Your Truly, 

Mona Lott 


Best Friends

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June 29, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

We stood at the kitchen island. I asked him a question and he needed to look something up on his phone. He reached over to the built-in wine rack, pulled out my gold-rimmed reading glasses and put them on. Such a familiar action.

I looked right at him, instead of at the space between us. He has lots of grey hair in his beard now. Though it must have started some time ago, I expected to be alongside for the changing of every hair. We had been growing old together.

I long to go back and find the exact moment when the rope of our marriage began to unravel and pinch the fraying thread between my finger and thumb and force it back into position. But, there is no rope and no moment.

If a marriage is not bad, does that automatically make it good?

Though I still believe that love is the key ingredient in a relationship; it is not the only ingredient. If you put flour into a bowl, will it turn into cake? Not without a bunch of other stuff and the right conditions surrounding it.

It felt like we had all the necessary ingredients to make our marriage last.

1 cup of Love ✔️

1 cup of Respect ✔️

3 cups of Abundance ✔️

2 tsp of Admiration ✔️

4 Tbsp of Commitment  ✔️

Add Pepper to taste ✔️

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According to one psychologist, philia—Greek for friendship—is the most important component of a long-term loving partnership. To be friends with your mate includes all of the above, but also means risking conflict by being honest even when it feels uncomfortable, because it builds intimacy⁠1. And it means dreaming and planning together, instead of winging it.

For the length of our marriage, we behaved as if conflict would undermine love and connection. If Narcan is the antidote to Opiods; then avoidance was the antidote to the harmful effects of conflict and disagreement. If we disagreed that must mean we were not meant to be together.

I have friends who describe their husband as their best friend, and I have seen it on Facebook around anniversaries and birthdays. I felt confused by this, and pretty skeptical. It didn’t feel that way for me.

But now, I feel it as ABSOLUTE truth—as if it just got carved across my forehead.

How can it work any other way?

Words cannot describe how much I miss my hasband*, and how much sadness still pervades my weekly living. I don’t mention it because it takes me by surprise. I wasn’t fulfilled; we had unwittingly forsaken our relationship for our primary work—his outside the home and mine inside. Neither person known to the other. Best friends, not.

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Yours Truly,

Mona Lott

* has been + husband = Hasband

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1 https://michaelhyatt.com/what-really-keeps-a-marriage-together.html

Which one shall I feed?

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April 20, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

I chose separation over marriage. It was a decision that took months or maybe years to make. Therefore I assumed this would be easier than that.
I imagined I would handle the change with internal grace.
External grace? Yes. Nearly always.
But internally—there’s a freaking war going on.

I am reading the third book in the “All Souls” trilogy—“The Book of Life,” by Deborah Harkness, which is an historical fantasy novel depicting a life where creatures (vampires, witches and demons) live alongside humans. While reading, I was reminded of the legend of the Two Wolves.

Native American Legends: Two Wolves: A Cherokee Legend
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

In “The Book of Life”, one of the characters asks, “What if I can’t stop feeding the bad wolf? What if I fail?”

What. If. I. Fail.

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I have heard and seen the story of the two wolves many times, but the message has always been the same. Feed the good wolf; starve the bad wolf; maintain order. How does one actually do that when the vibes of the bad wolf are so strong? My life seems messy and out of control at times. It’s a feeding frenzy.

The message in the Two Wolves story seems a bit too tidy to me…it reads well and it’s logical, but it hasn’t resonated. So after reading it again in “The Book of Life”, I did another search and found this by Teaching of the Ancients.

“In the Cherokee world, and in the original story of the two wolves that has been passed down through Native American tribes, the story ends this way:

The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right they both win.” And the story goes on. 

“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities: tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong will and great strategic thinking that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength, and the ability to recognize what is in the best interests of all. You see son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will soon become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. 

Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention, and when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing. How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.” 

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Later that week I read a post on “Zen Habits” by Leo Babauta entitled, “Find Beauty in Every Freakin’ Moment, No Matter What.” He writes about the human habit of “rejecting the experience”.  This is me. I don’t want this to be happening to me, therefore I am going to push it away and dream of something better. I’m going to HOPE for a different past, and “what if” myself to death. 

Babauta writes, “The problem isn’t the situation. We’ll always face difficult situations in life, some dire and drastic, others small and irritating, but we can’t rid our lives of difficulty, pain and struggle. The problem is that we reject whatever we face. It’s not good enough, it’s not wanted, it’s not welcome. I don’t want it that way . . . I want it that way.” (Zen Habits)

What is the answer in all of this? What wolf should I feed? How can I find beauty when life sometimes looks like a sculpture carved out of shit? How can pain reflect goodness?

For me, it is nature, it is yoga, and it is a community of “yeah, me too” people. Pause…Be honest…expand…be mindful…and then accept this life, in pieces, one at a time.

“The future is completely open, we are writing it moment by moment.” Pema Chödrön

“When we reject pain, sorrow, anger and loss . . . We are saying we don’t want all of our lives. We only want the good parts.” (Leo Babauta)
The white wolf.

“What if I fail?” (The Book of Life)
We won’t let you.”

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Yours Truly,

Mona Lott