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You Can’t Hope and Grieve at the Same Time

(written 02-18-2017)

 

So many blogs, so little time.

 

Never thought, in my wildest dreams, I’d ever say that.

 

I have so many ideas that are percolating in my head that I want to talk about. I just don’t have the free time to get them out. Shoot, I haven’t even had the free time to start publishing my blogs.

 

Wait!

 

By the time you read this you’ll be like, “Hey, what do you mean you don’t have the free time to publish? I’ve already read over 20 of your blogs.”

 

I mean, as of this writing, I haven’t started publication yet.

 

Up to this point, the theme of my blogs remains the same: they’re a way of learning how to let go of my marriage, work through the grief of my divorce, integrate my adult with my inner child, and learn to love myself.

 

You’d think that learning to love myself would be the hard part. Nah. That part’s getting easier every day. I’m no longer engaging in the addictive behaviors I had before; I don’t even have those old thoughts.

 

Without all the lies, the guilt and shame of engaging in behaviors that go against my morals, the fear of getting caught including the high stress of juggling all my lies, I let go of a lot crap in my head. Not only is there a level of peace that comes from that, but there’s also an inner confidence and sense of love that I’m now becoming the person I want to be.

 

Every day I find more about me to love.

 

Unfortunately, I still struggle in one area of my life. Maybe the craziness thinking is normal for me, so I gravitate towards it. I cause it. It’s what I have always known.

 

I’ve normalized craziness.

 

 

I Struggle with Acceptance

What I’ve resisted is the inability to let go of my marriage. I have wrestled this tiger for years and the tiger keeps winning. I’ve fought the current until I’m drowning from exhaustion. I’m afraid to go back and reread my blogs with the thought, “it seems like I got it then, so then why do I keep going back to square one?”

 

Will I ever accept and get it in my fucking head that my ex is NOT coming back?

 

I want to cut everything off completely and maintain co-parenting communication only. But that feels passive aggressive and anger based. It feels like black and white thinking.

 

When I distance myself from my ex she always notices.  She’ll comment on how off I sound. She’ll ask if I’m ok, which opens the door to me spinning both of us again. Or she’ll point out that I’m being passive aggressive and the kids are recognizing it and asking about it. I regress easily into shame and guilt that I did something wrong.

 

Do I put up solid boundaries? Didn’t I complain about her “wall” in our marriage? Putting up a wall doesn’t show empathy and compassion for the healing she needs from my past.

 

Rafiki reminds me, “There’s a difference between putting up a wall and putting up a boundary. Putting up a wall is hiding behind something. It’s avoiding and passive aggressive.  A boundary is when you state to the other person, this is what I need to take care of myself and both parties know not to cross over that line.”

 

Putting up a wall is hiding behind something; its’ avoiding and passive aggressive. Click To Tweet

 

A boundary is when you state this is what I need to take care of myself. Click To Tweet

 

But, I still want to be her friend! I don’t want to lose that.

 

Ok, ok. I want more. There’s that piece of hope that if she can see the changes I’ve made and recognize the friendship that we have, that she’ll want to try again.

 

Rafiki had said a few days ago, “Picture the relationship you want with her ten years from now and make today be a baby step towards that vision.”

 

 

Spinning Harder

She wants a friend. She has asked for a friend. A couple of years ago she even said she could see me being the one to walk her down the aisle when she remarried.

 

STOP!!!!

 

Holy Shit Phoenix! See the light my brother! What the hell are you doing to yourself?

 

You’re only her friend, her buddy, the person she knows she can rely on when there’s no one else there for her. You want a marriage. She wants you when she needs you. She said she gets annoyed by you and has no empathy towards you. Her empathy bucket was drained years ago.

 

Can’t you see that she doesn’t even give you a friendship. If she has no empathy or concern about your well-being, she isn’t a friend. She’s using you for her needs! Friendship goes both ways. It’s only one sided with her.

 

No wonder her friendship hurts me so fucking much!

 

This brings us to my 2nd EMDR appointment.

 

Notice though, this is not a continuation of To Find Connection, I Must Remove the Poison. That’s because this EMDR session came to a screeching halt and changed course altogether!

 

 

Car Screech Sound

 

 

EMDR Last Week

Last week, after EMDR, I was finally centered.

 

It was extremely weird to notice old thoughts coming up in my head. Old obsessions. The want and desire to talk with my ex. The looking at my phone to see if she’s texted me. The wanting her to share the fun I was having with our daughter at the beach. The obsession that the family spent the evening at her male friend’s house while watching the Grammies.

 

But then, there wasn’t the physical energy that followed those thoughts. Without the pain radiating throughout my body, the thoughts kind of like, floated away. Like a flower down a gently rolling stream. Bye, bye!

 

Well, until…

 

 

16 Hour Step Back in Time

I have a week of vacation coming up where I was planning to go to a job fair to further my career. Since I had gone to one last month, this one wasn’t as important. My ex realized I had vacation and thought it would be fun to pull the girls out of school and do a family trip. Last we had talked, a few weeks back, was the suggestion to spend the week at my family’s cabin and all of us learning how to ski.

 

Do you see why I get confused?

 

“Let’s pull the kids out of school so the four of us can do something together.”

 

Oh, hell yeah! That’s what I want. I’m not going to turn that down. Not at all! It’s all I want. The four of us. I love the four of us. Like a damn dog excited to see his owner come home. <insert wagging tail, jumps, and little nips here>

 

Then, two weeks ago, even though our divorce hasn’t been finalized, she told me she was ready to start dating. Not actively looking, but not going to pass up the opportunity if it happens.

 

In my mind, the idea of a family trip was instantly shot down. She may be in the state of mind to maintain a friendship while keeping her prospects open for another, but I know that would fuck me up. I’ve been messed up for a couple of years knowing she wasn’t looking for anyone else, but now she’s “healed” and ready to move on in her life?

 

So, I started thinking to myself, what would I like to do? How do I take care of me?

 

Maybe I should take my vacation by myself. I’ve never done that. And, for the past couple of weeks, I was looking at options.

 

Really, I want to go somewhere so I can get finally have the time to publish this blog. That’s my main reasoning for getting away. To start posting these. To start reaching out to others. To send hope and strength so that we can all work together to heal some of our deepest wounds.

 

Well, this opportunity just lands itself in my lap. I get an email for a discounted last minute 4- night cruise. (Guess I’ll have to blog about that trip huh? – An upbeat blog that isn’t focused on my interpersonal struggles).

 

I email the company for more information.

 

I find out this trip is extremely reasonable, and since I was paying for the room double occupancy, it would only cost an additional $25 processing fee to add one more person.

 

I’m so sorry. The cruise has already departed. I know. I know. Many of you would have joined me. That would have been awesome! But, I had a great time (At least I hope I do).

 

Once I found out that it was not going to cost as much as I thought, I had this incredible longing and desire to share this experience with my ex. I had been prepared to go on a trip alone. I was excited to go on a trip alone. But as it got closer and more realistic that it may happen, just like going to Europe six months ago, I want my ex to go with me. She’s the one I’ve always wanted to travel the world with. She’s the one I want to experience life with. She’s the one I want to be with.

 

It didn’t help that I hadn’t talked to her in a week and she called me shortly after I booked the cruise. It didn’t help that we had a great conversation while I was driving home. The urge to invite her became overwhelming.

 

Going against my better intuition, I called her a couple of hours later and asked her if she wanted to go on a vacation with me to the Caribbean. (I didn’t mention the cruise part of the trip – I figured that would be manipulating). We both agreed that even though the two of us would have an amazing time together and have a lot of fun, it was not a healthy thing to do. As she said, “It would mess me up and I need to stay my course.”

 

Oh, it would mess me the fuck up too. But there was a part of me that would take those four days of fun and deal with the chaos later, because “something is better than nothing.”

 

 

 

I Feel It in My Body Once Again

Of course, those pesky bodily sensations have now come back. In my gut. The adrenaline that flows through my body to my fingertips. The mind that spins and tries not to think about her, but I can’t get her out of my head. The sadness and pain that radiates on top of everything else when I realize I am deluding myself once again.

 

I bring this up to my EMDR therapist, who was our couple therapist two years ago. This was before she pushed my ex to make a decision. “You’re either in or you’re out! You can’t have both! You have to get off the fence and decide.” That angered my ex and we never returned to this therapist as a couple.

 

I can’t believe that was two years ago! Where does the time go?

 

And I can’t believe I’m still in the same emotional space as I was back then. Wanting to do everything to salvage our marriage.

 

Part of me wants to say pathetic. But that’s an attack on who I am. That’s not loving myself.

 

 

“Baby steps Phoenix. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Progress not perfection. One day at a time. You’ll get this. It’s the journey, not the destination.”

 

 

God, I may not be the person I want to be.

And God, I may not be the person I can be.

But thank you God, because I am not the person I was.

 

 

It’s heartening to know, that, at times, my automatic response to negative self-talk clicks into affirmations and sayings to ground me. My automatic response in the far past was medicate with pornography or other compulsive sexual behavior.

 

Well, in a way, I guess you can say, negative self-talk is a type of compulsive behavior.

 

 

 

My Challenge

In my recovery, when I’ve been challenged by my therapists, I initially resist and don’t want to do it. But eventually, I’ll suck it up and think, there’s a reason for being challenged.

 

Maybe it’s because I did thirteen weeks in-treatment. They aren’t very nurturing during that process. Maybe it’s because I thrive on challenges and overcoming them. Regardless, I’ve learned that when I dig in and accept those challenges, there is much growth on the other side.

 

In couple therapy, I’ve observed that when my ex is challenged, she ends up doing what she thinks is best, not what has been asked of her to do. And, I have followed her lead. Kind of like the conversations both my daughters had with me last night, “Dad, you always give into Mom, whatever it is.”

 

The other day I was challenged by my therapist like I’ve never been challenged before.

 

I need to do something I’ve been resisting for years. Thinking about what I need to do brings tears to my eyes. So much pain and so much sadness.

 

There’s also guilt and shame mixed in with the hurt since I haven’t listened to what I know is healthy for me; what I’ve been screaming at myself to do for two years now.

 

My fear is overwhelming. I am so scared. And way down below all that is a pool of anger that I’ve held at bay. It’s like a volcano waiting to explode. Something that I also need to address.

 

While talking during our 2nd EMDR session, my therapist found out that our divorce had not been finalized yet. She had no idea.

 

She didn’t realize that we still sit in limbo with the custody plan, the separation of assets, and the attorneys to review our paperwork. She didn’t realize that we still have much of our money comingled.

 

She does know how much I love my ex and hold on to the fantasy that we will get back together. She does know that two years ago my ex decided to opt “out” instead of “in”.

 

I have this vision of me standing by the fence. I watch my ex run free on the other side. The grass is greener. She comes back to the fence to tell me how great it is out there. Then tears off, like a happy puppy, leaping through the spring flowers. She falls briefly, sprints to the fence. “Hey, help me out with this.” I don’t say no. She came back. Maybe she’ll stay this time. I help her. And then off she goes again.

 

Two years ago, she sat on the fence trying to decide what side she wanted to be on. Today, she’s on the other side, spending less and less time at the fence. But I still fucking stand there and wait for her to come back!

 

My therapist looks me in the eyes and firmly states, “You can’t live in hope and grieve for your marriage at the same time!”

 

I just sit there and stare.

 

My therapist repeats LOUDER this time, “You can’t live in hope and grieve for your marriage at the same time!”

 

You can’t live in hope and grieve for your marriage at the same time. Click To Tweet

 

This became the theme for our hour and a half session. Over and over and over and over. She became the pit bull and would not let go. She became Rafiki and pounded my head like a drum.

 

No EMDR. No working on childhood issues. It’s time to attack the one branch of my tree that’s killing me. It’s time to cut that fucking thing off. After that branch is gone, after I grieve the loss of my marriage, then I can go back and extract the poison from the limb so I will not make the same mistakes again in the future.

 

My therapist explains, “Phoenix. It’s no wonder you struggle. You have hope that things will change, that she will change her mind. You are here.” She holds out her right hand and shakes up and down.

 

“When you two hang out you have fun. You guys have tons of fun. You love her. This is what you want. But then, after the fun…” She holds out her left hand, “You have to grieve again. You start that grieving process all over. Your day or two of fun causes you weeks to recover. You spend so much of your energy, your time, and your emotions managing this grief. It’s killing you.

 

It is here that I must take a quick break. This is what my friends see. This is what they have told me for two years now. They see me happy, glowing, and floating on air. Then they see me crash down hard and withdraw. It hurts them to see me do that to myself time and again.

 

Many of my friends have lost respect in my ex. They point out to me that if she wants a divorce and she knows you don’t, she needs to hold her boundaries. She’s not being fair to you by dangling a carrot, then pulling it away when you try to grab it. She’s not being fair throwing you under the bus in front of your girls. Your girls didn’t need to know anything other than Mom and Dad have adult issues that they’re working on. They didn’t need to find out that you cheated on her and that you were a sex addict while they were in middle school.

 

I defend her. I protect her. I don’t want them to think badly about her because I was the one that damaged the marriage. I was the one that caused all the problems. It was my fault!

 

IT WAS ALL MY FUCKING MY FAULT!

 

The guilt and shame washes over me like a wave dragging me back into the undertow.

 

“Phoenix, you screwed up in the past.” My therapist brings me back to the present. “You are NOT that person today! You have done the work. Your girls are so much better because of the person you have become.” She pauses.

 

“But you’ve done all that you could to save your marriage. Your divorce isn’t about who you are today or how much you love her or how much you’ve changed. It’s that you broke your vows back here.” My therapist points behind her.

 

“That was your responsibility. But you don’t have to take 100% responsibility for the death of your marriage. She made a choice. You have done all that you can, but you can’t keep blaming yourself for ALL of it.”

 

She repeats, “You can’t have hope and grieve at the same time.”

 

My therapist scoots forward in her chair. She grabs at me. “Phoenix, I need you to do this for me. Can you help me cut the cats nails?” I feel the energy as she’s close. I can picture that feeling of being needed. Like Mom needed me. My ex needs me and I’m there for her. I won’t say no.

 

Then my therapist rolls rapidly away from me as her chair slams against the back wall, arms crossed, protecting herself. “But you can’t have me. I need space.”

 

She inches forward again, arms reaching out. “Phoenix, let’s take the family on a trip.” Then when she gets so close our knees practically touch, she rolls away again crossing her arms.

 

She scoots forward slowly once again, repeating the process. “Phoenix, let’s have coffee.” Then rolls immediately back again, arms crossed.

 

I argue, “I’m usually the one asking for coffee.”

 

“Of course, you are!” my therapist screams at me. “That’s what you want! And she sees it as manipulation. And blames you. But when you ask for coffee, does she say no to you? She comes in to you. And afterwards she claims that you talked her into it. She’s not going to own that piece because you always take the fall for it.”

 

My therapist leans back in her chair, “Phoenix, you’re on a roller coaster. Up, up, up you go, excited and then,” she leans forward arms flailing behind her, “You come crashing down screaming in fear all the way. You can’t keep doing that to yourself!”

 

I can’t help but laugh. She’s so animated. She’s trying to make a point. She wants to make this stick in my brain. It hasn’t wanted to stick for years.

 

Two years ago, I said “I can’t let go.” My therapist had told me, “There’s a difference between can’t and won’t. You can let go, you just won’t let go.

 

There’s a difference between I can’t do something and I won’t do something. Click To Tweet

 

Rafiki says, “Can’t is an excuse to blame the external world for our own personal choices. Won’t forces us to take responsibility for the choices we make.”

 

Can’t is an excuse to blame the external world for our own personal choices. Click To Tweet

 

Won’t forces us to take responsibility for the choices we make. Click To Tweet

 

“You can’t have hope and grieve your marriage at the same time.”

 

And I thought Rafiki hit me with sticks. I am getting pummeled today1

 

Here comes the challenge my therapist gives me. “Phoenix, you need to divorce your wife. You need to finalize the divorce. That paper means nothing to her! But it means something to you. You need to grieve your marriage. You need to stop hoping that it will change. It’s over!”

 

“But…we don’t have the money,” I complain.

 

“Put it on a fucking credit card!!!” She throws up her arms, then she leans in. “You need to get this done. You keep hurting yourself. Over and over. You NEED to heal!”

 

I’m trying so hard to maintain my composure and not go into guilt and shame. I know she’s right. I’ve been saying this for quite some time myself. I’m ready to do this now, but I’m so afraid. So scared. I fear this divorce. I fear losing her.

 

“But you have already lost her,” a voice whispers in my head.

 

“Phoenix, you put so much energy and effort in managing the grief. You need to release yourself from that. You need to take care of you.”

 

Another voice whispers in my head, “I need peace.”

 

Instead I say, “She points out that ‘I can’t be around her’ in a way that makes me feel like I am bad because of that.”

 

My therapist leans back and crosses her arms patting her chest, “You’re right. That’s my issue. I can’t be around you.”

 

My voice whispers, “that is so cold, so harsh, and yet seems so easy to say.”

 

I’m fighting the tiger again. I’m fighting the current. I’m tore up. I’m drowning.

 

I want to be free of all of this! I don’t want to be an asshole.

 

Somehow the subject turned to the formal disclosure that our other couple counselor had suggested a year ago that was needed for my former spouse to heal from the trauma I caused.

 

“Why does she need a formal disclosure Phoenix?” my therapist asks.

 

“Because that’s what she needs to heal. It’s what has been told is my responsibility. As the sex addict, I need to learn to listen and help my partner heal.”

 

And once again my therapist becomes animated, eyes wide, emphasizing each word. “Phoenix. She. Is. No. Longer. Your Partner! She made that decision two years ago.”

 

My therapist’s hands come out clasped together, voice increasing in volume. “If she chose to work on your marriage, you BET YOU’RE IN the dog house! You will do everything you need to do to help her heal. That is your responsibility. That is how you rebuild your relationship. You will support her in every way you know how.”

 

My therapist leans back in her chair. Her voice softens, “But, you are no longer in a relationship with her. This is not about rebuilding a relationship. You are a co-parent. You are a co-parent ONLY. It is no longer your responsibility to take care of her. It is no longer your responsibility to help her heal. By deciding to leave the marriage, it has dissolved your responsibility to take care of her. She needs to take care of herself now.

 

“But, it is YOUR responsibility to heal yourself! You need to take care of you. You need to take care of you so you can take care of your two precious girls. Maintaining a friendship with your ex is killing you, Phoenix! It…is…not…doing…you…well.” Again she emphasizes each word. “You are not taking care of you keeping her as a friend. You can’t hope and grieve at the same time. You need to let her go.”

 

 

Pain and Fear

The pain is overwhelming. Take it the FUCK away! Please, just let it go.

 

“Phoenix, you need to divorce her. At this time, there is no clipping the cat’s nails. There is no borrowing of the truck. There is no helping her out. There are no family dinners. There are no coffee dates. There are no family vacations. It…is…co-parenting only! Discussion topics are only around the kids, nothing else. You need to grieve your marriage. You can’t do it being her friend.”

 

So much fear. So much sadness. I know she’s right. It isn’t about black and white thinking. It isn’t about trying to find gray. It’s about taking care of myself. It’s what I need to heal. It’s why I spin. It’s why I blog. It’s why I have six different workbooks going on trying to work on myself. I have done more work on myself in the last year than I did in the previous five.

 

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference.

 

I’ve been changing me. That has taken courage. But I’ve been hoping, praying, and trying to change her. I cannot change her decision. I need to accept it. I need to know the difference.

 

Interesting how my Higher Power speaks out to me.

 

I took our dog into the vet yesterday. One of the technicians had Star Wars tattoos on her arms. As I looked at them I noticed a quote. It’s weird how something I’ve heard for years changes its context when I open my mind to it.

 

Fear leads to Hate

Hate leads to Anger

Anger leads to Suffering.

-Yoda

 

I’ve made excuses in my therapy session. I’m still making excuses.

 

I hate to admit this, but it’s important that I put it out there and don’t hide from my thoughts. There’s a part of me that hopes I’ll get a phone call asking if the offer to go on a vacation together is still on the table.

 

Would I be able to say no?

 

Ugh! How can I think that after my session and the creation of this blog? I create my world. I create my chaos. I need to stop the chaos that I continue to make.

 

I have always had excuses why I can’t do it. This is what I did in my addiction. I justified my actions and excused my behavior. The other night my girls and I were journaling and my oldest daughter picked the topic of the night: “What are you most grateful for?” and “What do you most fear?”

 

I am most grateful for the connection I’ve had with my daughters these past couple of months. What I fear the most is my divorce. I fear being alone. I fear breaking up my family. I fear starting over.

 

But that fear leads to hate. That hate turns into anger. And my anger causes me to suffer.

 

I have been suffering for much too long now.

 

My favorite Batman quote is, “To conquer fear, you must become what you fear.”

 

To conquer my fear, I must become it. I must divorce my wife. I must co-parent only. I must grieve the loss of my marriage. I must grieve the loss of our friendship.

 

I can’t have hope and I can’t grieve at the same time.

 

I turn my back on the fence and walk away…

 

PS:

I had an interesting observation. I wrote this blog mid-February and used the analogy of feeling guilt and shame like a wave dragging me out in the undertow. At the beginning of August, when my ex and I opened up and became vulnerable once again, I woke up with a nightmare that I blogged about in sucked into the undertow.

 

I had forgotten about that blog.

 

What I’ve noticed is, triggers will always happen. As Rafiki says, it’s what we do with them that matters. I’m grateful that I’ve learned how to recognize and manage my triggers rather than letting them run me.

 

My hope is that my Fledglings can learn to do this too. Rise up from the ashes and soar with the eagles!

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