During the two years Corky and I were apart, we mostly avoided each other or approached each other warily. At times we probably badmouthed the other to sympathetic friends. And yet we sort of stayed in touch.
I will keep the backstory short. Two years ago Corky and I were at a dinner with friends on Valentines Day and each couple talked about their love. We skipped over the subject. The following night, we went to a movie and after the movie, she bought me dinner when suddenly I behaved badly. Mild violence ensued and that was the end. The twosome called Corky and Allie came apart.
Then other things impacted me — a broken marriage wherein my oldest son went to the East Coast. A daughter-in-law struck and killed by a car, leaving my youngest son distraught, my three-year old granddaughter composing emails to her mommy in heaven. One son had moved on to a new life, leaving behind grief. The other shut down and was unreachable in his grief. Both my parenting and partnering selves felt broken. Along with feelings of remorse and anger, compassion and bewilderment, I perceived loss as failure.
Experiencing such pain, I went into therapy to be “fixed”. Of course, fixing was never a real option; rather, therapist Jennifer pointed me to John Welwood and his Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships: Healing the Wounds of the Heart. Over the ensuing year, under Jennifer’s kind eye, I befriended my grief, ceased to fight nor doubt the worth of the weeping. Fortuitously, my friend Kate shared Buddhist teacher Tara Brach’s podcasts and blogs. Tara guided me toward the possibility of gentleness toward the self. Then I gobbled up dharma talks, Tara’s wisdom replacing the yuck of my own mentation.
Tara’s talking led to meditation and with sitting came silence and equanimity. Proverbial mountains became proverbial molehills. Silence in just sitting gave me access to “the sacred pause,” that brief moment before a lit limbic system sends out the fight or flight impulse. It is the moment for the gentler prefrontal cortex to come to kindness and reason. Studying Buddhism brought me to a Zen teacher to guide my meditation practice. She too had known grief in her life and could remind me that my suffering was “the suffering” and we are all in it together.
Though I did go into therapy with Jennifer to work on being in relationship, that was not the outcome. Ultimately recognizing my defenses and strategies became the desired goal. Uncovering my Buddha Nature, you could say. My hope was and is to accept who I am and not regret who I am not.
And despite what I did or didn’t think could or should happen between Corky and me, books about love say that in relationships when one person changes, the other’s changing is not a requirement because the source of love is in oneself. Meanwhile, all credit to Corky for chiseling down her own mountains to molehills her way. As for me, it has been powerful to acknowledge my part in the unhappiness that marred our five-year relationship. There were so many ways I had not nurtured her.
All the time we were together, I knew that the majority of problems between us were her fault. I thought if only she understood me, listened to me, gave me what I needed, etc. etc. Of course, I was mistaken. Now with two years of slow growth and gentle moving toward each other, I find us both to be vulnerable and affectionate women capable of giving and receiving love. And I said to her and she liked my saying so: “You are giving me everything I have ever wanted in a relationship.”