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






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



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:






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.


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

Who Am I


January 29, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

It is easy, if NOT accurate, to figure out who you are when you are immersed in an activity-defining role.

I was a child.

I became a teenager, a student, a girlfriend, a high school graduate.

In my twenties, I changed into a respiratory therapist, a clinical instructor, a supervisor, a policy maker, an advocate. I lived with independence. I protected my heart. I hurt others.

At thirty-one I got married. I became a wife without even feeling a shift; I had been heading there the whole time.

Through twenty-one years in relationship I believed I had maintained my independence despite shelving many elements of my self. But the moment we separated—unhitching my person from my husband’s felt like an emotional amputation. My heart split, my lungs compressed, and my mind—a silent soliloquy of blame, sadness, and confusion—burst with thoughts. The what-ifs and the Oh-my-Gods swept through me like stolen breath.

In a single moment, I no longer knew who I was or what my purpose in life could possibly be. So resolutely had I attached myself to my role as wife that nothing seemed possible without the anchor of marriage. Nothing.

I felt as though I had single-handedly broken up the dream we ALL had of family. Sitting in the melodrama of failure and shame is not an ideal place from which to recognize truth, opportunity, or strength.

Months later, THIS month, I arrived in California for my annual seasonal break. Through reading, writing, and walking I hoped to refresh myself, and maybe reboot my system in order to get in touch with who I AM now. It’s strange to be so uncertain at this age and stage of my life. I have focused on the needs of my family for a long time. My role as parent is intact, but changed. While my husband’s life goes on, mine seems to have paused…not pleasantly, but uncomfortably—in the midst of Triangle Pose or Warrior 3.

I brought the book, “the untethered soul” with me to California. The initial sections dealt with the exact question I had: Who am I? It reads like a philosophical conundrum—“Who hears when you hear? Who sees when you see? Who watches the dreams? Who looks at the image in the mirror? Who is it that is having all of these experiences?⁠1

The answer of course is ME. Moreover, we cannot define ourselves as wife, mother, worker, or friend because to do so would be to say that we can not exist before or after marriage, children, and so forth.

That’s a little esoteric for me. I yearn to know myself in order to live more authentically—I want to be true to myself, so that I can show up. In. My. Life.

The role of wife was something I long imagined fitting into. When I chose to step away from it, I inadvertently lost my compass point. I don’t know where true north is. I still feel the magnetic pull to connect with my husband when we are apart. Text. Call. Check in. Problem-solve. Talk. Align.

I am a runner with no finish line, a boat without a moor, a person without her person.

The magnet has merely moved. The ocean. The beach. The hills. Nature.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott


1 Michael A. Singer, the untethered soul

Bruised Ego

January 14, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

I just noticed this week that my ego is feeling bruised. I wasn’t particularly aware that I had an “ego”, but my inner voice kept on saying…Why not me? How could he not be enthralled with ME? WTF? It warranted further thought.

When I was in my early-twenties, I dated and then lived with a guy who was an avid cyclist. Consequently, I did what many 20-something girls would do—I bought a bike and took up cycling. One day I rode from our little house to the corner grocer, all downhill. I had been practicing curb hopping, so I would not have to stop and lift my front tire over the curb. I had some speed built up when I reached the square curb in front of the grocer; I lifted out of my seat and did a quick down-and-up motion that, in a perfect world, would have floated me onto the curb like a Canada goose breezing in for a landing.IMy world was not perfect.

I squarely hit the curb, which brought my bike to a sudden—and dare I say, unexpected—halt. I flew straight over the handlebars and landed with the UMPHF of a WWF wrestler on the concrete sidewalk. Directly across the street at the neighbourhood ice cream parlour, I imagined a collective gasp as all eyes turned to me. I bounced back up as if enclosed in rubber, instead of a fragile and now bleeding layer of skin. I picked up my bike and hobbled away in the direction I had come from. My unspoken words and head-down retreat said, “Yeah! I totally meant to do that.”

Many times we adults trip and fall. “It can seem worse when other people see us, and the pain is so much greater when it comes with a bruised ego. We start thinking we are the only ones struggling so much. We fail to understand what’s happening in our life and what to do about it. In short, we feel like losers.”⁠1


Remember in “Mr. Not-So Right” I spoke about being embarrassed to speak the words, “My husband and I have separated”? Yeah, that.

Now I am splayed on the cement after a big fall, like Wile E. Coyote “beaten” by the Road Runner again! Peering over the cliff-edge are scads of witnesses, saying, “Damn, that’s gotta hurt. What’s she gonna do now?” And then they call out, “Hey, do you need any help? Is there anything I can do?” I lift one bruised and battered arm into the air and say, “No, I’m good. I got this.” (Note to self: must reflect upon martyrdom.)

I have been an easy bruiser my whole life, but with a big bounce-back factor. I regularly got knocked down on the soccer field, but before the ball even hit the ground I had bounced right back up and into the fray. Somehow I could fall off my bike when it wasn’t even moving. I’ve had bruises that I couldn’t account for. It may also be said that I’m emotionally sensitive. However, I live a life of resilience, perseverance, and growth. I have (mostly) managed to stay stronger than the hurt-provoking words and actions of others.

You know what I mean? Laura Croft  merges with Dorothy.


But. . . face-down makes breathing difficult, let alone getting up.  Three of the most important people in my life are witnesses to the fall—my kids. In order to heal and move back into myself, I am going to have to acknowledge the bruised and seemingly mortally wounded parts of myself. I have to realize the experience of separating has bruised ME—not my EGO—I am not less valuable, or less important for the fact that I have stumbled.


Truly Yours,

Mona Lott


1 http://tinybuddha.com/blog/dont-let-your-bruised-ego-keep-you-down-when-you-fall/

Anchors Away


January 7, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

I have lost my way.

We had but one tradition. Each anniversary we would buy the other a gift that somehow symbolized the past year. One year I bought my husband a set of plastic child-sized tools and he bought me a 500-piece puzzle of a lighthouse. For what we spared in price, we made up for in thought.

Some years ago I bought my husband a pendant of an anchor. He had been a steadfast, logical, and clear-headed partner for most of our relationship. In moments of emotional stress, self doubt, or catastrophic thinking, he became my anchor. His wide shoulders absorbed my disharmony without getting caught up in the emotion. His deep voice reassured me that things would get better. The upright, balanced manner in which he carried himself gave me confidence when mine faltered. His sturdiness became a bedrock upon which I stacked my struggles and inadequacies.

Somehow our lives moved from thrive to survive, capable to chaotic, and unified to disconnected, without our noticing. It was as if a course had been set and we only noticed once we had already arrived. My struggles stacked ever higher, but the anchor stayed fixed.

A few years ago, I read an article that referred to an anchor as a negative thing, something that holds you back. I was gobsmacked. An anchor—something that stabilizes and supports—could not be bad. No way.

And yet?

Over the last decade I have unceasingly engaged in professional and character development, in the hopes that my role as wife and mother would become easier. As if by bettering myself, those that I was in relationship with, would also be better versions of themselves. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Moreover trying harder made me lose touch with what it was I wanted to achieve. I realized that using my husband as an anchor made me align with his values, and conflict arose when I could feel myself drowning my values in order to maintain much-needed peace. I compromised to stay attached.

Exhausted and with little left of myself, I left the boat, slipped off the anchor, and swam away.

Becoming untethered is a form of release. However, being afloat in a sea of memories, emotions, and decisions while feeling alone, makes the release bittersweet indeed.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott


The Arena



December 30, 2016

Dear Cherished Heart,

Who knew?

That separation was an event—a main event that other people would feel the need to attend, in voice or thought, with opinions for or against.

We have been married for a long time— together for twenty-one years. Some people came to be my friends and family through him, and some people befriended and loved him because of their connection to me. So it goes, each person a ripple in the pond of their community, touching a myriad of people. I thought that my ripples created concentric circles that would not be broken.

I am by nature naive and most often believe in the inherent honesty in others, and that people are offering their best. So my legs get kicked out from under me when this basic notion is challenged or flipped on its head. Some people are mean. Things get said that are hurtful, whether intentional or not.

I didn’t know that separation meant my husband and I would stand in an arena, staring through all the joy, debris, admiration, disappointment, confusion and heartache, like an ever-changing weather system. How could I have known that there would be people who would stop cheering for “us” and only cheer for him? The fact that my presence in the arena still contains elements of loveliness, commitment, intuition, uncertainty, success, failure, and grace, no longer conjures up thoughts of my inherent goodness—for those few.

I am fifty, and I have only once felt the need to choose between him and her in a divorce. People may move closer to one side of the arena or the other, given their history with and affinity for one person. But to support one does not mean to condemn another.

As a teenager, I chose my mom—who stayed, over my dad—who walked out. And though I may have originally condemned him, I’ve kept the hope that my dad would one day turn back toward me; in other words, I continue to believe in his goodness whether he choses to act on it or not.

Right now, I don’t believe my husband or I have given anyone a reason to choose victim or villain. Our mutual admiration and respect continues, despite all else. Separation was not part of the master plan for either of us. Who—after all—gets married with a notion that “growing old together” will not come to pass? We got married with the conviction that it would last forever.

So when those that I have known and loved turn toward my husband and unnecessarily against me, it hurts a lot.

I’m sitting in a Cochrane coffee shop, Dejà Brew, and a song by Jim Croce has started to play. “Time In A Bottle”—a song I have long loved. Today its melancholy lyrics have slipped out of the bottle, and smashed all over the arena floor.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott