The last time we sailed together aboard our sailboat, Prima Donna, was July, 1997. Nepenthe was a thirty-six foot fiberglass sloop made in Maine. We had purchased her about ten years earlier and had spent many happy times aboard her. It was customary for us to take a week the early part of July and sail up or down Lake Champlain revisiting familiar places while exploring new ones. It was an adventure we both looked forward to each year. Sometimes we were able to carve out another week in the latter part of the summer but most of the time we limited our sailing to every weekend. We had decided to sail leisurely northward towards Canada.
As stormy weather approached, we put into Plattsburgh Yacht Basin on the New York side of the Lake. After settling in, we sat down facing one another on the settees and finally began to speak openly and honestly with one another. I was grateful for an honest exchange at last, after much silence or hedging on the subject. He said he felt like I was his mother in our dialogues. He felt my powerful spirit and was intimidated by it. Then he said he had memories of the way I looked in the past as a younger person and how I’ve put on weight and how and how and now - I listened carefully, I accepted his honesty, but my heart closed down. We spent the rest of the day doing what we do in port on a stormy day. We played scrabble as the storms rolled through. I beat him soundly, a rare occurrence. He was angry with himself, he blamed the letters, and he blamed me.
We went off to the movies to see Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding; it was quite good. We decided to walk the distance from the cinema in the mall to an Italian restaurant. After the movie, he charged from the theater, stopped to ask for directions, and then charged onward. The image of me trotting along behind was not lost on me as it always seemed that has been my position with this man for much of our twenty-five year marriage. There I am, stumbling, tumbling along behind him. I felt the anger and resentment rising in my throat. There was a great deal of pain in my abdomen and solar plexus. My heart was still closed from our earlier discussion. I picked up the pace and stepped along with him. He went faster so I decided to stay with him if it took all I had. We burst out the doors of the mall, each to his own door. I silently wished I had worn my sneakers rather than my clogs. By now, I was breathing rapidly. I gritted my teeth and decided, I will not allow him to cut me off, nor will he sway me from my path. I watched him out the sides of my eyes; he was a man with a mission. He strode easily for a man with short legs. I have long legs but I had to run to keep up with him. As we went on, I became breathless and tearful. I was so frustrated. I kept repeating over and over to myself, why do we have to do this? Why must we race from one place to another, never cherishing the journey? I finally dropped back as suddenly as I had sprinted forward with him. I realized at that moment that I could no longer walk with him. The journey is over! Our paths separated and I was given total pure insight. I then saw clearly the shallow, insensitive nature of the man and the superficiality of his love and respect for me. The whole picture was revealed to me as if I was watching a movie script. We were seated and served before I could speak. I was unable to finish my dinner, the food seemed to stick in my throat and swallowing was impossible. The pain in my lower chakras (energy vortices located in the abdomen and the pelvis) had become so intense by this time, that I excused myself and headed to the rest room to clear the heavy sticky energy that had engulfed me.
The previous two years, he had been representing a divorce client in a bitter and hateful process. As often happens in life, our lessons or challenges come in multiples. He was confronted with issues including not only our relationship, but also the relationship with his brother, in addition to the representation of a client who mirrored many of the same issues. This amounted to a painful crunching “bring him to his knees” type of lesson. I like the image of an athlete who must crouch down deeply to center himself, and then pull in all his energies so he can make a powerful leap upward. Sometimes when one is dealing with these strong lessons, it is as though we are being shaken by the shoulders and told to face up rather than just the gentle tap on the shoulder that reminds us we need to listen. He had become terrified of the aging process in himself and in struggling fearfully with various physical ailments; he projected his fear on me. He had reached out for some thread of spirituality through vain attempts at meditation and prayer. Meanwhile, his anger and resentment grew and was spent on me. The more he could dump on me, the lighter his load would be temporarily. Then it would build up again and the same process would be repeated. I was having great difficulty functioning in our relationship. It all seemed out of sync. There was definitely a lack of respect, admiration, friendship and love. It had become almost impossible for me to remain loving and appreciative in this union.
He seized on loving-kindness as my weakness and therefore I gave him permission to continue his yo-yo behavior in our marriage. His armor was in place and the sword was raised. He finally had stopped drinking but his behavior hadn’t changed. He ran from his real life challenges by throwing himself into other people’s problems to the extent that his own need and the needs of his wife were often neglected. I continued to pray for him and surround him in white light. Perhaps a separation for the month of January will propel both of us to work more diligently towards positive growth. We are alike in at least one way, which is we don’t know our own honest heart feelings. When we do listen to our hearts, we don’t know how to honor those feelings. We have denied ourselves for so many years, that we don’t know who we really are. It is almost like accepting a wardrobe from some stranger. We try on the things, they seem to fit at first due to our excitement over their newness but then we realize that these clothes are not right for us so then we try on some other things. What is real? Where is the honesty? We had ridden this emotional roller coaster together for two years while we both began a transformative healing crisis.
We left the restaurant in a huff. Once outside, he began to hound me about how I have ruined a great day. I said little as a feeling of peace and calmness had replaced my earlier panic. I did note the sun was out and it was clear at last. It was very lovely, the rain had stopped. I smiled and said; “Life is about opposites, contrasts and polarity isn’t it?” When we got to the boat after a silent taxi ride, I told him it was over. I could not suffer this pain anymore. I told him I was tired of his excuses for everything he did or said.
The boat is damp and as I bent to pull on my socks for sleeping, I caught the only fingernail I had left in the scab of a rope burn I had received a few days earlier as a result of being tangled up with my daughter’s dog. The scab came off and the wound bled profusely. How appropriate I thought. I needed to bleed at that time. Bleeding and birthing, painful but productive pain. I will birth my true self at last. No more sway, push, pull, and run after, just me as I am, maybe fat, maybe thin, white hair, no makeup if I choose, me, just me! Productive pain, I knew this pain, it was familiar. I can take it. No more destructive, useless pain, nagging, sucking out my life force. And so the birthing begins. The following day was Independence Day, July 4, 1997.