I asked my therapist to talk with our couples counselor to get a sense about what he would say about our interactions, in theory, to know if there's anything I can learn from this pain and this experience. That is (both on the surface and deep down) why I want her to talk to him. If I have some growing to do that could have prevented all this, if I could have been a better partner in some way, I want to know, so that someday if I get a chance to love and be loved again, I won't make the same mistakes (if I was making mistakes). But in between the surface and the core, there's a murky middle ground, where I recognize that I'm just looking for validation that I did everything I could have possibly done to be a good partner and to hear people (especially experts) tell me that there's nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening. In the weeks after he left I began to realize he was a ticking time bomb. He was bound to implode at some time, it was only a matter of when (Thank God, I think, that I got all three of my boys before it happened, instead of only one or two.), but then I flip flop from that perspective and lose my morale, wondering if I'm just being prideful and unwilling to learn from my mistakes. Where's the balance? I don't want to err on one side or the other.
I was sharing all this with my insightful mother (who knows me better than anyone in the whole world, as a mother might), and she made me realize how I'm looking for validation from the therapists, and even if they give it to me, I won't be satisfied, because I think they don't know me (or the situation) well enough to judge it. So it doesn't matter if I get their seal of approval, it's my own that I need to earn. "$100, please," she said with her hand out and a smile as the tears ran down down my face. "I know, I know," I said. (As an aside, I thank God for insurance, because I think my therapist is more like $200/hour, which is just crazy. She may be fabulous at what she does, but why should she make $200/hour. I too have a master's degree and am quite good at my job, but I only make about $16/hour. Where's the reality in all that? Never mind about that though.) The point is that I'm my own harshest critic, and I need to accept for myself that I did everything anyone could have possibly done. No one telling me that will satisfy the hole in my heart until accept it for myself.
I watched a clip from an Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong today. Actually I watched it three times. I was moved by his eloquent description of God and religion and glad that someone else was able to put my own inner musings into much better words than I could. Rather than staying like we are as children, we need to grow up, he argues. To which I'll add, what is our purpose if not to walk through this life being grateful for all the beauty and doing our part to contribute to it by helping alleviate the suffering around us. And there's so very much of both. I believe it's our calling to become fully actualized, authentic human beings, in tune with life and all its interrelationships. I went to see the movie The Quartet this evening with a friend (since the boys are at the beach with their father and his sister and family). Though perhaps most people wouldn't have come out of the movie with this in mind, I saw the movie as a vivid picture of the work that we are given the opportunity to do in our lives. It is about an assisted living facility/retirement home for musicians in England. The aging characters clearly each have their personal journeys they've been on. As I watched them, it connected to the Bishop's Spong's statements about growing up and becoming more fully human. Indeed, what's our purpose but to figure out how to balance our gifts and our ego, to leave the world a brighter place and help others. They aren't easy lessons, and many of us are still struggling with them as we head into our 70s, 80s, and even 90s. My beloved grandfather is turning 97 this summer. He's an amazing man, who's lived a fantastic life, but even he may still have some learning left to do. My mother and I hypothesize that perhaps he's not quite ready to go (even if he thinks he is) because he still has some forgiveness to work through. Anyhow, the film and the brief clip by Bishop Spong, reinforce my beliefs that our purpose is to use life to become our best selves, making the world a better place as we go along. I believe that marriage is the most powerful opportunity to do that. Through intentional long-term commitment to one person, you are challenged, tested, and given tremendous opportunities for personal growth. I suppose it's my steadfast belief in that that makes it all the harder that my opportunity (my marriage) was wrenched from my hands without my permission. Not only did I lose my husband, and my image of a happy nuclear family, but I lost the opportunity to become my best-self through the experience of a marriage with him. It's much easier to be your best self when you don't have to really do any compromising with a spouse, when you can forge your own path, make your own choices. Sure, I have my children to consider, but largely I can do what I want, how I want now in accordance with the undesired freedom that I've been granted by his abdication. And there are undoubtedly things that are appealing about this. I'm already learning to take advantage of it. New household decorating to MY taste. Taking a trip with my boys that I'VE wanted to take. Going to bed when I want. Doing projects that I'VE wanted to see get done. But the satisfaction (while strong) isn't quite enough to overpower the profound loss I feel.
I have to know inside, even without a therapist reinforcing it for me, that I was willing to do that hard work. I loved him for all the good in him and was willing to work even harder to make sure we created a beautiful life together. I was willing to stand together in the forge of marriage and be transformed to something even more positive together. I know that in my heart. Nothing his confused mind can say to me can change that. A therapist telling me that isn't going to help if I don't believe it on my own.