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

Full House


October 24, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

“Don’t you miss him?”  my mom asked me months ago.

“No,” I said and shook my head.

But my heart pulsed — Almost. Every. Day.

I miss the coming and going.

I miss having someone to bear witness to my life.

I miss the sweetness that used to exist between us.

I miss having someone to talk to about the kids.

Surprisingly, one of the hardest things is not to be tethered-together-by-technology. I know he is out there doing stuff and I have no link to him or to the kids when they are with him. (Of course he hasn’t changed his cell phone number! -but it’s no longer acceptable to text him every day and ask how he’s doing, or for that matter, what he’s up to.)

With alarming velocity I move between relevant and obsolete every week.

The volume of missing him has fluctuated over time, and other equally strong feelings flood in and replace this with that. But when the missing gets loud it reverberates off the inner edges of my skull and no other signal gets through. It is as if I have put my fingers in my ears—my inner voice becomes a flattened echo.

Maybe this is just another transition in a series of unplanned changes.

I underestimated the pain of letting go of our family home.

All seven of us lived there, though not all at once, as the oldest had started university when the last child arrived. But the walls held stories, and a few repaired holes; the floors supported us, and mapped the journey we’d been on together; and the ceiling created an umbrella that protected and contained us in the midst of struggle and chaos. We had built it all together.

I didn’t love our home even though it was spectacular. But, it provided a compass point to stretch out from and return to. It had fine bones and a solid foundation.

I feel so blessed now to have a new home—but I don’t know where the hell I am in relation to the lives we used to live. I feel lost. For weeks my car drove on auto-pilot and I found myself on familiar roads back to the “old” house again and again. The making of new pathways, finding new keys, and sustaining connections is way harder than I thought it would be.

Our house represented the cup in Yahtzee, and we—the dice—have been thrown end-over-end across the playing field.

Who will scoop the dice for the second and third rolls?

It is rare to throw a full house on the first try.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott



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



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

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