A few weeks ago, I was on a weekend yoga retreat here in the Texas Hill Country with my two all-time favorite yoga teachers. Even though it was just two nights away, it was luscious space to sit in the sun, journal and laugh with girlfriends. In short, heaven.On Saturday, one of our teachers asked us to ask ourselves what it was that we were saying “no” to in our lives. The sort of theme of the weekend was how to enlarge our emotional/spiritual containers so that we can hold all of it…even the parts that cause us pain or disappointment or even shame.Of course, for me, it was the thought that the current state of my life and my business would stay the same. I felt great resistance to the idea that “this is it” and that just raising my boys, writing blog posts and leading monthly circle was all there was ever going to be. I wanted more. I have more to give.After a short practice, we were invited to wander off into nature and listen to what it had to say. Earlier that day, this same teacher had commented that, of all the scriptures she had ever read, nature was by far the wisest.So, with journals in hand and determination in heart, we all set out. I walked outside of the studio and started looking around everywhere for inspiration. “Come on, Mother Nature,” I said to myself, “Show me something awesome. Something profound.”Off in the distance, I saw the tree line that led into the woods and I headed towards it. “Yes,” I thought, “THAT’S where I need to be.” But on the way, I happened to glance over at a small, metal sign that was sticking up out of the ground. It read:
In loving memory of Janet and Ken Anderson.
May all children and parents be so loved.
Or something like that. I started walking on, but then I noticed that just in front of the sign was a barely visible, metal landscaping border. You know…the kind used to section off flower gardens.It suddenly dawned on me that the sign was sitting in what used to be a flower garden. Obviously, someone had taken the time to dig the bed, place the metal border and plant beautiful flowers in loving dedication to their parents. But now…It was a total, shit show. Whoever planted that garden walked away a long time ago and never came back. It was overgrown with dying and dead plants. This, I decided, was my place to contemplate.
“I have no idea how this happened. All my maps have been overthrown. Happenstance has changed my plans so many times. My heart has been outgrown.”
~ Wilco (of course.)
I plopped down my blanket on the grass and practically demanded that this overrun and exhausted garden show me something. Anything. What story did it have to tell?At first, I thought that maybe I was supposed to look for signs of life in something that seemed to be so obviously dead. I stared intently. I saw a spider that had made the garden its home but not much else.By staring intently at two bedraggled bushes for several seconds, I did eventually realize that they were actually rose bushes. But they were so neglected that they had become all scraggly limbs and thorns with not a petal in sight.Slowly, my lesson from nature began to emerge into my mind. Essentially, it was this…You can’t plant a garden and then just stand back (or even walk away) and expect it to grow. Sure, creating and planting a garden takes a lot of initial planning and some sweaty implementation time. The real work, however, is in the aftercare. It is in the coming back to care for day in and day out. Even when you’re tired. Even when you don’t want to. Even when the kids are crazy and you just want to run away.And this metaphor works for just about all good things in life. Marriage. Kids. A business. A ministry. A garden. You name it. If it’s worth having, then it’s going to take work to maintain it. To grow it. To keep it alive.At this particular time in my life, the metaphor of marriage spoke the loudest to me. You plant your garden with a wedding. All your hopes and dreams and well wishes go pouring into the soil. I think that most of us believe that’s all we need to do. We found our soulmate, made it to the chapel and now we can just sit back and relax. Anyone who’s been married for more than a second knows that’s not how it works.A marriage takes work. Mine included…and at different times during its course, I have shown up to tend to it with varying degrees of success. There were periods when I went all OCD and tried to keep out every weed. There was a year when I almost completely turned my back on it while trying to grow my coaching business. I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m human after all.But the question on my mind today is…when is enough enough? Is there a point where it’s too much work? Where you are too different? Or too hurt? Too betrayed? Can a marriage reach a point where trying to keep it going at all cost becomes an exercise in masochism?As always, I have movie quote. This time from the move The Mexican. The homosexual hitman played by James Gandolfini asks Julia Roberts…
“If two people really love each other, but they just can’t seem to get it together, when is enough enough?”
The answer, at least in Hollywood, is NEVER. But I just don’t know. I’ve also been reading Conscious Uncoupling by Katherine Woodward Thomas and her explanation of the brain as a social organ that is driven to keep us in a relationship at all costs. Even to our own detriment.I left the retreat with this question. I have shared openly that my marriage has had its troubles. Two days after the retreat, through the most bizarre set of circumstances that it could only have been the hand of God(dess), my marriage revealed that its garden…its bed…had deteriorated far beyond my wildest dreams. I was left asking myself the bottomless and shapeshifting question of whether this time it is enough. Enough sadness. Enough pain. Enough lesson. Enough awakening. Enough.This reality was truly the thing that I could not be with. It took me three years to fully awaken and allow in the truth. It was more than I could live with.I ask my husband to move out. We are separated. Enough is enough. The marriage we had is dead. I buried it in the backyard underneath the fig tree. I am not filing for divorce and I’m not really even angry with him anymore. He has always done the best he could. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have to stay. I am in limbo with my questions and just waiting…for what truth has yet to be revealed.In the meantime, the separation has given me this incredible sense of spaciousness in my life. Every day I feel like I have found myself again. I have plans for the future that light me up inside. Am I sad? I am heartbroken. I am grieving. And yet I also feel so completely fucking alive. My motto for 2016?
“Out with the old…In with the True.” ~ Jeff Brown.
I know. I can’t believe it’s not Wilco either.Please trust me. I’m not telling you all this for your sympathy or even your empathy. (Well, maybe your empathy. I mean, that’s what being vulnerable is about after all.) I’m telling you this because I am a story teller and that’s what we do. We use stories that are sometimes made up and sometimes the truth to teach, inform and inspire. I do it because it gives meaning to what otherwise could be such a devastatingly dark time in my life.I also do it so that you know that you are not alone. Even in the stickiest, messiest, no idea what’s going to happen next week much less tomorrow situations… I am here with you. I truly believe that all my experiences are part of God’s great plan to make me a better writer, mentor, parent, and human. They better equip me to serve…especially other women who walk a path similar to mine.