If you've read Too Relieved To Grieve, you will know how essential my War Council was to me when my life shifts hit the fan.
For the uninitiated: "... my War Council is compromised of those who coalesced around me at the point of impact and wouldn't let go. These are the nutters who listened to and counselled me for hours and hours for months on end. They patiently waited for me to work things out in my head, for my emotions to settle, for my vision to clear and for my logic to return. These are my platinum level angels, without whom I would probably have lost my mind". My War Council is made up of Hayley, my brother Paul, oldest friend Lauren, Carrie, Dawn and my auntie Eve.
INTRODUCING THE FRYING PAN OF CLARITY
So how did all this lead to another moment of great big clarity? Well, it started during a chat with Lauren, and was compounded by chatting with Paul shortly afterwards. Lauren was talking about someone she's not particularly fond of, and never has been, before stating matter-of-factly: "Have you ever seen a dog turn into a cat?" In that moment it felt like I'd been whacked in the face with the Frying Pan of Clarity. No, that's not a real thing, but let's pretend for a moment that it is. As a hugely visual person, this conjured up a powerful and profound mental picture in my mind's eye and gave me pause. Lauren continued to talk about the events in her world, whilst my mind swirled.
I was surprised by the effect this one short statement had on me. I tried to catch myself on, telling myself the statement came from the same stock as leopards not changing their spots, but here's the thing. We have all heard about leopards not changing their spots so often, that we've detached it from its inherent wisdom. It's like we've gone 'nose blind' to what it's trying to teach us, and we're now failing to digest the nutrients contained within, which are essential for our growth. Maybe it's just me, but Lauren's new way of saying something old, wise and proverbial hit me like a ton of bricks.
Then I pushed back and asked Lauren if I could challenge her thinking, which she agreed to. I stated that my now ex-husband, Steve, had pulled a complete 180° from the man I fell in love with, to The Imposter he is now; he had turned from a dog into a cat, to borrow her analogy. Steve had become the exact opposite of everything I had ever known and loved about him, so it can happen, I asserted. Lauren countered with: "But did he though?" Confused with her reply I asked: "Are you suggesting he faked who he truly was for the 24 years we were together?" and this is where it got interesting.
Lauren theorised that Steve had indeed worked hard whilst building a home, business and family with me, but it had been fuelled primarily by my energy and vision. I argued this point, stating that the size of the business had grown entirely from Steve's vision, drive and immense talent. Lauren agreed in part, but parried that he was only as successful as he was because he had me behind him. To further enhance her point, Lauren then asked me to consider where Steve is now, with the business, success, family and family home all gone from his life. He's actively regressed, resorting to moving his new family into his mother's house (complete with mother in residence), because he's blown up his credit rating along with everything else and can't secure a place of his own.
Steve's natural inclination was always towards the comfortable, so it's easy to see why he considered me too much of everything: too opinionated, too focused, too driven, too demanding and too much like hard work. As a young man he could keep up and was sufficiently energised and inspired by our shared goals. However, as he got older - following almost a quarter of a century of slogging his guts out - he now wants comfort and ease, and that's entirely his perogative. This is why Helen is such a perfect fit for him now, because she has never met a path of least resistance that she didn't like. Steve and Helen are now like two overstuffed peas in their little granny pod, with the height of their shared ambition being nothing more than the dream of owning a caravan again. Safe to say that owning a caravan doesn't even make my list. My ambitions take a completely different path, and mostly screaming in the opposite direction of chemical toilets and temporary sofa beds. But hey, each to their own.
RESCUING OTHERS STUNTS THEIR GROWTH
Lauren had made her point well. Steve and I had been right for each other for a while, but not forever. We achieved what we needed to achieve, learnt what we needed to learn and he has gifted me the two most wonderful children to raise. We grew apart, and for this I must accept a large dollop of responsibility. You see whilst I was happy to race in and bulldoze away many of the challenges his childhood had scarred him with, by doing so I was stunting his growth. I certainly didn't mean to, and I genuinely thought I was helping him at the time. In many respects I didn't let Steve master his scars, and he certainly never asserted any need for independence; what with his penchant for comfort and all. The upshot of this is, I grew by mastering my challenges and protecting him from his, whilst he remained cocooned in an ego-salving comfort bubble, which Helen gets to administer now. If this is enough to make them truly happy then who am I to argue, I wish them every success and a caravan.
But let's review Lauren's theory again for a moment. If Steve had truly been his authentic self whilst with me, the trajectory of his life would have continued on an upward trend even without me, but it didn't. At the first opportunity he got, Steve opted for the soft options all the way. It was only when Helen offered him a big soft landing did he choose to jump from our marriage. With me forcibly evicted from our family business, Steve then chose to downsize and cauterize essential business and marketing functions to save money. I can't know for sure because he severed all contact, but I'm guessing these decisions were made to support the less money I spend, the less money I have to earn mentality; which of course equals an easier life. And again, this is all his perogative, it's his life to lead as he sees fit. If he found the going too tough and not in the least bit exhilarating, why in the hell wouldn't he stop the world to get off? I understand.
So then I discussed this with my brother Paul, who agreed with Lauren. Paul told me to think about the blog I'd written entitled Artemis' Boulder, in which I recounted an unapologetically unsubtle tale that had plopped into my head on the day Steve had our former family home repossessed. The gist of the story details how Artemis (me) pushed a boulder (Steve) up a mountainside (growing a business), because that's where he said he wanted to go. They spent decades climbing higher together, but as they approached the pinnacle, the boulder was disappointed with the view and willfully rolled back down the mountainside, taking Artemis' legs out from underneath her. The boulder sat at the bottom waiting for someone new (Helen) to push him up a different mountain, whilst Artemis dusted herself off and started to climb again.
I was curious, what was Paul's point in reminding me of this tale, and on the back of Lauren's theory? His point was also well made. In Paul's mind, following many years of quiet observation, it was his opinion that whenever Steve had any kind of 'wobble' (of confidence, mainly), I would redouble my efforts, hold us together, reassure him and keep us on track. However, the moment I had a wobble (where I had acknowledged how stifled and dissatisfied I felt within the marriage), Steve bolted and ran. Whilst the dust settled at the bottom of the mountain, I had gotten up and started again, but it appears Steve has pitched tent at the bottom. In Paul's opinion: "You can't see the top to get over it because your ambition is so high, and if you were too much for Steve then, you have absolutely nothing to offer him now".
My moment of great big clarity, following these two discussions with Lauren and Paul, can be crystallized into this realisation: for the most part of our relationship I was too much for Steve, and then in an instant I became not enough. How can you possibly salvage anything from that? At no point was I just right (to make like porridge in the story of Goldilocks), and this is how I can let him go. We were right for each other then, but we're not right for each other now. Neither of us would make the other happy, so the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to accept the truth for what it is, rather than what we might otherwise want it to be.
This is how and why I am too relieved to grieve for the end of my marriage to Steve. The alternative would be to stay together, unhappily, for another 30 - 40 years and then have the nerve to call it a life. No thanks! I'd rather accept this opportunity to climb without an anchor weighing me down.
And if all this strikes a nerve with you, and sounds a little too familiar in respect of your own circumstances, then I urge you to give your situation a lot more thought. Don't be afraid to think and feel it all through, for fear of tears and snot bubbles. So you cry, so what? Those emotions are better expressed than repressed, because they will eventually manifest into some form of toxic nastiness if left to fester. Ask yourself if there is any room in your personal circumstances, for you to be (eventually) too relieved to grieve, like I am.