March 3, 2018

Dear Cherished Heart, 

I am just catching up to the fact that almost everything changed with the separation.

Slow to the race.  It’s been two years.


“Are you ready to order?” asked the server.

“Yes. I’ll have the teriyaki chicken.”

“Do you want the baked, mashed, or stuffed potato with that?


“Do you want sour cream, bacon, butter, and chives?”

“Butter, bacon and chives.”

“Do you want a tossed or caesar salad?”


“Do you want ranch, thousand island, or house dressing?”

“What’s the house dressing?”

“It’s a balsamic vinegar with dijon mustard and a hint of anchovy paste.”

“Oh . . . what were the other choices again?”

There is a shifting palette of go-withs for many aspects of our lives.

A twenty-one year relationship has a smorgasbord of go-withs. During the time of our marriage we had begun to take these trappings for granted, hardly noticing what or who went with what—or who. In fact we so often picked and chose things off each other’s plates that I could no longer differentiate between what he brought and what I could claim as my own.

I did not just let go of a partner in human form, I lost all of the things he added to the plate of my life. If we needed to construct something, he added the tools and the know-how; when we were going to buy, build, or renovate, he added the finesse of a carpenter and the precision of an architect; when someone was sick, he provided the answers; his hard work and dedication came with financial security; and in times of crisis we came together like brick and mortar. Of course some of the go-withs were like lemon juice  in cream, otherwise we’d still be together.

Letting go of the power tools, the physical strength, and the sounding board was only as hard as it was inconvenient. I have to do more for myself and feign confidence until I feel it, but it’s not especially upsetting.

There have been times however that I’ve felt a depth of pain I can honestly say I’ve never felt before.

Family. Each time they gather and I am not with them I feel a searing pain through my heart that I am certain has left an indelible brand. I cannot fathom that they are still getting together without me. (Logically, I get it.)

Deep pain is difficult to describe . . .


She sat with her back to the front window; her long blonde curls cascaded down her back. In front of her, her three-year-old daughter jumped and danced to an audience of aunts, uncles, and cousins, while my father-in-law sat in the pillowy rocker taking it all in. She turned and looked out the window as my daughter Laurèn got out of the car and scrambled up the steps setting off the motion light. She waved. I dropped my head and backed out of the driveway as if tip-toeing away from a conversation I had been eavesdropping on. It was my third time picking up or dropping the kids off at their dad’s, in as many days. With both of his brothers in town for a short week, the whole family gathered at his house for meals and games and who-knows-what. I would join them in a few days to celebrate Laurèn’s birthday, but until then I looked through my front window with naked longing. 


In my lengthy contemplation about separation, it never dawned on me to take specific note of the people that he had brought into my life and who would follow him when he left. Honestly, given the pain and stress under which I felt myself living toward the end of our marriage, I thought mostly about what would be best for me, and how to mitigate the pain and change to our kid’s lives.

The whole menu has changed—though I can still order the teriyaki chicken, the go-withs are not the same. When I removed myself from my husband’s life, I let go of the privilege to enjoy the baked potato, sour cream and so forth in the same way. If you have not been through a separation or divorce you might say, “But you can maintain all of these relationships . . . You just have to work at it.” It is true that with well-placed intention and willingness on both parts, a relationship can continue, however it will not be the same in quality or depth.

I did not expect such intense pain around the family losses. I had felt like such an essential component.


Recently, I walked and talked with a good friend to process these thoughts and emotions. She told me of a friend who had divorced some years ago. He told her, “I knew I was separating from the person, I didn’t know I was separating from the life.” That is it. I didn’t anticipate that the life we shared would change as much as it has.

“Hold on,

hold on to yourself

for this is gonna hurt like hell.”

Sarah McLachlan, Hold On

 Yours Truly,

      Mona Lott




Umbrella Grace


Dear Cherished Heart,

When I got married I took my husband’s last name because it represented the umbrella under which we would exist as a family. I was thirty-one and fully independent. However, tradition felt like a comfortable bedfellow and I sunk into my new last name as if it were God-given.

Now, friends have asked me why I changed my name so quickly after separating from my husband of two decades. I think most mothers presume they will keep the last name of their children regardless of marital status. I thought that too.

I have had protective coverings for my kids and myself throughout our lives. When they came to watch me play soccer, I threw a pop-up tent into the air and we watched it land softly on the sidelines creating a little house, safe from the elements and filled with pillows, blankets, snacks, and games.

Whether the kids watched me play soccer from their nylon haven or I watched them play in rain, sleet, or snow, we were protected. At one game the rain fell as if the pipes in heaven had burst; if not for the over-sized golf umbrella I kept in my vehicle year round, we would have been soaked. My husband and I stood side-by-side underneath the wings of the canopy, held momentarily secure and dry.

But with separation, someone has to move out from underneath the umbrella.


When we gathered our kids together after a seven-month trial separation to tell them that the counselling, date nights, and attempt to re-build had fallen short of its goal, and that we were separating for real, our thirteen-year-old son had one question, “Will Mom have to get a job?” 

The air paused, I mean it COMPLETELY stopped swirling. 

“Your mom’s job hasn’t changed,” my husband said, “She is still going to look after you guys. Because of my job your mom has had to work harder. She does her job and part of mine because I have to … no, I choose to work so much.”

We had decided long ago that I would manage the home-front; I wanted to be a full-time mom and it made everyones lives more manageable if I “stayed” home. My husband appreciated how hard I worked and often applauded my efforts given some difficult situations. Never had he spoke of his propensity for work as a “choice” before, nor had he stated that I covered for him.

My take-away was that we all understood my “job” would not change. The umbrella of support would remain. 

Six months later we sat across a large glass table from each other working with a financial divorce specialist. In the middle of the table sat a small mason jar filled with red heart-shaped suckers—a caustic joke. Beside that, a magazine, Divorce: Is Your Life Changing? flashed like a beacon, lest we forget why we were there. 

This place of discussion would not provide a legal document but one that would reveal our intentions and sort through twenty years of shared living. Over four meetings we catalogued assets and debt and then divided them like pieces of a rich chocolate bar, neither of us wanting to part with the goodness but knowing that sharing was the right and only option. 

My heart’s position beneath a plate of armour allowed me to stay emotionally balanced. My has-band* came dressed in a jacket of starched professionalism. Given our long-standing ability to get along no-matter-what, conflict retreated to the corners of the room until the final moments. And then my has-band leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands together at his chest and spoke to the financial divorce specialist about me and my job. As each syllable rounded and fell from his lips, time slowed down and I became aware that everything had changed. 

The ribs of the umbrella snapped as if a fist crushed them from above. My head and heart slammed into the wall of my own denial. I never imagined a life without him. I knew that separation meant we would no longer be married, that we would not live together, but I had no idea that I would lose the backbone of him in my life. I felt like a fool. 


I see the family name as an umbrella that guards and protects as well as creates a secure base from which to fly out from and return to. When I realized that this was no longer my base I had to step out into the elements, feel the full force, and then open up my own umbrella.

Part of that was changing my last name.

Yes, our family unit has been shaken—something every parent tries to avoid. I spoke to my teenage kids about changing my name and they understood. In re-claiming my maiden name, nothing has changed my connection to my kids. A new canopy opened in my life and at first if felt pretty lonely; all the people connected to my previous name have changed or moved in other directions. But I find that I can invite people in or leave my sanctuary and move safely under the umbrellas of those who care about me.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott


*has-band= has been + husband

Which one shall I feed?

Image result for two wolves

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.


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.” 

Image result for two wolves

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.”


Yours Truly,

Mona Lott

Composting Death

IMG_7024March 23, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

I have suffered an emotional death. That sounds so melodramatic. And no such thing even exists. I have not died, for I still  breath. But . . .

If you could see me—really see me—you would see a hole right through my chest. How can that be explained?

The day we got married was filled with sunshine, love, laughter, and promise. Something inside of me opened up to a soul-filled kind of love. I leaned in. I am on a search for that blessed day, the one where we created affirmations of love and authenticity, and an intention to be together for a lifetime. Our people filled the pews and cheered for us as Handel’s Hornpipe, Water Music Suite,  danced on a breeze.  Hornpipe for God’s sake: optimism amidst playful banter.

But what was my point Cherished Heart?

Oh yeah. Living and dying simultaneously. Waking. Cooking. Driving. Crying. Walking. Loving. Eating. Aching. Washing. Buying. Petting. Playing. Flailing. Talking. Listening. Smiling.

Can I not curl into a ball on a feather-bed and sleep until the edges of the pain have softened?

Can I not be held up by others and shuffled through life like cattle in a chute—moving to a rhythm outside of myself?

Can pen and paper not manifest a set of agreements that are fair to all, and written with kindness and lingering admiration?

Can I let go and float wherever the current is meant to take me?

How can emotional death compost and support growth, when I am rooted to it?

When will the weight of it ease up? I am strong but weary.

Who am I outside of this grief and felled marriage?

Beside my writing chair sits a solid wood table holding the accoutrements of writing. Coffee. Candle. Cross. Cards. I had pulled a card earlier, which I immediately disregarded as bullshit.

I’m taking a second look.

You can recover from anything. You can heal from anything. There is nothing that has fundamentally damaged your spirit, your will, and your heart, no matter how broken those parts of you feel at times. They have only ever been broken to heal stronger. They have not been broken beyond repair, and never will be. You are breaking out of something, rising above it, trying to transcend a pattern within yourself, or one in relation to another person— and you will succeed. Focus on your integrity and truth. Be yourself. If you have forgotten who that is, don’t worry—that true self has not gone away, and never will.  It is ready and waiting to rise up, in original gorgeousness and glory, and be alive. It is never too late for you.” Wild Kuan Yin, Alana Fairchild

It is with utmost relief that I learn I am not going to die or be permanently broken by this experience. My soul will compost my pain, and that is a slow process indeed.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott



February 26, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

What is next?

A good friend of mine forwarded a blog post to me, by Renée Magnusson. I love the ripple effect. She has a different story to tell; we are not experiencing the same manner of loss; and yet, some of the characteristics are the same. Living in the midst of struggle can rob you of your essence, your spirit, the things that keep you whole and make you quintessentially you. Grief is not only about the loss of a person, a dream, or an environment; it is, at its core, about a change to, a sacrificing of, or a burying of self.

The blogpost, “Sunday Sin: I saw the light and didn’t die…”, held sage wisdom for me, and maybe also for you. Read it. No adult exists who hasn’t known loss; we are connected to it, and by it.

I may have mentioned before that I feel stuck, welded to the onerous process of grieving. Every direction I turn toward seems to hold more sadness. When I contemplate “what is next” for me, it looks a lot like a grown woman stumbling and falling flat on her face into quicksand. Slow. Steady. Suffocating.

But after reading “Sunday Sin”, I wonder if falling apart is the only option? I wonder if there are other paths that intersect with the falling apart one—and I could, at some point, step over to that path. The imaginary doing of that fills me with breath and air and lightness, and the pressing emotional fatigue simply drains away.

Now, I’m just wondering how to take that first step.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott


Good Grief


February 5, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

When my husband and I decided to separate, it could be said that I felt more ready than him. He followed my lead through a trial separation, counselling, date nights, and then full separation as if he already knew the whole dance pattern. Once we actually separated, he took to it better than I did—or perhaps that is just how it looked.

I leaked emotion. He sealed his gates.

I became paralyzed. He worked harder.

I isolated myself. He played badminton.

I baked cookies. He bought a FitBit.

This week, he moved out of our family home. Up until this point we have been “bird nest” parenting: each one of us moving in when it was our turn to be with the kids, and moving out when it was the other’s turn. It’s a child-centred way in which to deal with the transition of separation, and all-in-all it has been good for the kids.

We own a cottage just outside of the city, so we had two homes to rotate through. Prior to our separation, the cottage was a place of retreat and rejuvenation for me, which I used monthly. We spent holidays and most of the summer there. I loved the cottage space. However, continuously shifting from home to cottage and away from the kids, created a rollercoaster of emotions after separation. I plummeted toward despair with every arrival, and even though I bolstered myself with music and positive self-talk, I could not stop the descent. At the cottage, the alone time that used to refresh my soul, became a continuous reminder of the failure of my marriage. There was nothing to hide behind; no task large enough to camouflage my pain.

By the end of December, I knew I needed to advocate for my mental and emotional well-being, and I asked my husband to find a place in the city to rent, so I could stay home during his parenting time.

With each new change to our lives, I feel body slammed into denial. This isn’t really happening. To me. 

A couple of months after separating, the depth and breadth of my emotions along with experiencing conflicting feelings made me wonder if I were going crazy. Not crazy though . . . just grieving.

Almost eleven years ago, we adopted our son from Ethiopia. I had been single-minded in pursuing adoption. It would be fair to say that my heart felt like it would break if we didn’t adopt. However, after the adoption became final, and we had our energetic and engaging son in our lives, I became depressed. That confused me just as much as this. How can sadness, grief, irritation, and anger enter my life when I am striving toward something I desire?

According to an article in “The Guardian”, giving yourself time to grieve is one of the most important parts of surviving separation or divorce. “Perhaps you have not just lost a husband, but a lightbulb changer, a chauffeur – or someone who brought danger into your life. You may also have lost your sense of identity and aspirations. […] You may have had an unhappy relationship, but you have also lost a dream: the idea that you would be together forever. Never try to stop your grief – it’s a necessary reaction. Grieve with a friend that you trust – the best time to cry is when there’s someone there to hand you tissues. Not to reassure you it’s OK, but to help you get past your grief.”⁠1

Acknowledging that grief is necessary, normal, and healthy doesn’t make me feel even one iota better, but at least I’m not going crazy. Hand me a Kleenex, will you.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott



1 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/09/ease-pain-of-separation