Assignment #2. In 5 minutes write down 20 experiences you have had in your life. Pick the one that has the most interest to you and write for 15 minutes without stopping. Do this 3-4 times. Then pick one of the free writes and develop it into a personal essay.
Here is the one I choose to write on..
I know I could have found a more psychologically astute way of deciding the fate of my marriage. Wisdom from an elder aunt. Perhaps an article in the Huffington Post. Maybe a TED talk about how to decide when to end your marriage. Hell, even a Dr. Phil episode. In the absence of such guidance, I was left to my own devises. I did what I knew how to do.
Several years earlier, Pete and I had separated for 6 weeks, a trail separation…of sorts. He rented a recently renovated, off season vacation cabin. It was lovely. A small stream ran along side the back deck and bedroom. At the end of the 6 weeks he moved back home. I was glad for the illusion of being happily reconciled.
In 2001 we separated again. This time more seriously. He rented a dull apartment with a years lease. The plan was clear. This was to be a “working” separation, not to end in divorce, but to solve my 20 year long dissatisfaction. We agreed not date other people. We continued with weekly marital therapy. I was hopeful this would work.
At the end of the lease Pete came home. Our relief was palpable. I am not sure our love was. I just know I wanted it to be.
A year later we were back where we relationally started. I was full of blame, silence and not so veiled hostility. I began to notice my fantasies while driving my commute to Pittsburgh…maybe this will be the trip that the oncoming truck crosses the grass medium and hits me. I didn’t really want to die, I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I was desperate. I had been for a while. I was finally letting myself feel it. I couldn’t imagine making the changes that were needed to afford me my happiness. So these fantasies filled in.
About the same time I had begun working with a new doctor. During one of my visits, while we were discussing an “area” in my left breast that was of concern to her, she asked if it were possible that I might want to “check out” using breast cancer as my way to go. I straightened my back defensively, pulling myself away from the chair. She assured me she held no judgement. She simply wanted me to be conscious of the choice I may be making. She knew I was unhappy. We had talked about it in previous visits. I had told her that my marriage was empty. That I lived in a remote area where I was lonely. That I was overwhelmed, anxious and very, very sad. I settled a bit back into my chair. I agreed to think about it.
I don’t believe we give ourselves cancer or any other illness. I do believe that illness is a wake up call, an opportunity to make changes in ourselves and our lives. So I let myself get curious. What if I did want to check out? What if I got breast cancer? Breast cancer was certainly an honorable way to go. No one could fault me for dying of cancer and leaving 2 kids behind, but they could judge me for blowing up a 23 year marriage and family.
What if this was my unconscious plan?
I decided my kids would fare divorce better than my death, so on Halloween morning, 2003, I knew it was time to deal with me…this…it. I had to decide whether or not to end my marriage. So I did what I knew how to do.
On two small pieces of paper, each the same size, I wrote STAY on one and PREPARE TO LEAVE on the other. I knew I wasn’t ready to leave-leave, because of the kids, but I was ready to begin to prepare myself.
I folded each precious piece of that white note pad paper exactly the same way. Over the years of developing this technique I found uniformity important to prevent conscious or unconscious choosing (resulting in invalid conclusions). I cupped the prophetic squares in my hands, said a prayer for wisdom for the highest good for all involved and tossed my pending future together. I opened my joined hands a bit wider asking the Divine to allow my answer to leap to it’s freedom. I shook a bit harder.
Within seconds one hit the floor.
I stared at it. My fate was in it’s folds.
What if it said Prepare to leave? My heart caught. Could I?
What if it said Stay?
In that moment I knew. I was more afraid of the words stay than leave.
I had my answer. I knelt down and gingerly opened the folded white paper.
Prepare to leave.
10 months later we separated and then divorced…for good.