The end of the affair

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Today I am writing for those of you who want answers to the questions, ‘How will I ever move on from this affair? When will the ache disappear, and when will the shooting pains that make me catch my breath stop? When will I get through a day without tears? When will I stop missing him or her? Why do people with no idea at all keep telling me that time will heal?’

I’m writing for you and for me. I’m writing to place a marker on the highway.

I’m setting down a stone to say I’ve made it this far. I don’t know how much further I will travel, but I am Here.There is a part of me that wants to hold back from writing this because it feels very private and I always wonder if someday he, or someone he knows will read this, but I’ve reached a place where that doesn’t matter to me. I’m writing for me and for you, not for him or her, or them. This is for us.

Measuring the healing or the hurt or the heartbreak doesn’t happen every day, but significant days tend to bring it to the forefront of my mind.

For weeks I have been dreading a day which passed recently. It was the birthday of the other in my story. His birthdate was the password on my phone, my login at work. A date I won’t be forgetting in a hurry, no matter how much I would like it to pass by unnoticed.

Two years ago on his birthday we exchanged texts and messages, as he was away, and my gift to him was a slightly crazy cooking experiment that I’d embarked on following food that we’d shared. I’d photographed it, and led him through the whole experience via fb messaging. He loved it, and a few days later sent me a ‘thank you’ gift of a number of songs I should listen to.

One year ago I found myself buying him a present ( 6 months after I had last seen him), and crying when I realised that of course I couldn’t send it to him. Every part of me wanted to be with him that day. Even though progress was being made with my marriage relationship, I still wanted him more than I could bear.

This year, things were very different.

I’d worried that I was going to feel the pull towards him again. That I was going to ache. That my life would feel incomplete and I would feel dissatisfied.

I’d put in place protection for myself so that if that pull happened I wouldn’t act on it by phoning or messaging. I’d told friends about my worries and I’d sought company for the day.  I knew in my head that I didn’t want any further contact with him at all. I knew that what I have in my marriage is not worth risking for anything. I just wasn’t prepared to trust my heart to do the same. I’d told my husband how I was feeling.

The day passed. I didn’t feel any of the things I had worried about. I thought about him; I’m still thinking about him, but the thoughts were not what I was anticipating. As I held up my thoughts and emotions for inspection I realised that I was curious. Curious to know what his life looks like. Curious to know if he has told the truth to the people in his life who should know the truth.

I also realised that not a single part of me felt any regret that I was not part of this birthday. He is no longer any part of my life. He is my past. I’m in my present, and I don’t want him in my present. Partly that is because of his behaviour since things ended, but that is only a very small part. The main reason is that I love my husband. I love my children. I am content in my life. I am better than content – I know that my life is very, very good. I know that it is the life God has for me. I am not saying that life is easy or painless, as there is much in my story that remains painful and unresolved. Somedays I feel as if I keep knocking scabs which I’ve forgotten about but then they bleed again and I realise the wounds haven’t yet healed and I need to give them some care.

But I think this part of my story is starting to heal. The part where I loved somebody I wasn’t married to.

I don’t understand why or how but I know it is changing.

I don’t think time heals, but I believe that God does.

The blue that isn’t black

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My bicycle leaned against the railings and I unlocked it to the background chatter of people leaving the cinema. I looked up – the sky between the buildings was my favourite kind of night blue. The blue that isn’t yet black. The blue that says there is light somewhere. The blue that says night isn’t about darkness but about beauty. The tears began to fall. The something-ness of the emotions without name overcame me.

The last line of the movie:

‘What was it about Mom? What was it about?’

‘Love’.

‘Yes. It was about love’. (Still Alice)

Love, families, the mother /daughter relationship where the real questions are asked and answered. Where the memory loss leads to bad jokes about not being able to remember the private journal entries she read the day before. The child who the other siblings dismiss is the one who shows up to care for her mum leaving the father to say ‘you’re a better man than I am.’ The story that no matter how much one loves, caring for another can be too much to bear. That we cannot judge another for the choices they make.

We are all doing our best. We are here but we are flawed and we are real.

All the time, ‘How to save a life’ by The Fray is playing in my head, but I keep thinking what makes a life, not just saves it? I think through the hours of the day that has just passed; how my time was spent, I was spent, in connecting with other people – mostly in meeting their needs, as a mother, a friend and as myself.

And I feel complete and incomplete all at once. This yearning for more, it’s right at our centres. It’s the pull of the eternal. It’s the part within that resonates with the soul at the heart of the universe and pulls us from our daily consciousness to a longing and understanding and KNOWING that cannot be articulated.

It’s the blue of the night sky. The bit of the darkness which isn’t dark. The perfection of the colour. The depth pulling us in to itself.

Promising …

I cry for the sadness that I have relationships with my family which have included those real questions and real answers, and it’s all about love. I cry for the extraordinary privilege , almost like a win, when I realize that I have those relationships with my family. I am saying ‘how fortunate am I’ whilst also wishing that it were not so. What is it about this life, that as we get closer to the deep, destructive things – sickness and death – the richness of our humanity blossoms like the most beautifully perfumed flower. Is that the deeper magic? The magic before time? The resurrection glory? The surprise of the gospel ?

That His power is so great that it has worked to change the stench of death? It hasn’t stopped it, but I has made it part of a chain reaction which can look and feel beautiful and like blessing.

I am confounded and perplexed and grateful.

And it seems to me that the secret is not to stand in the way of the magic. Don’t hold back from the loving. If you find yourself caring for a person you love, allow yourself to see where the magic is bringing the blossoms. Smell the aroma of joy when you laugh at the unfunny together.

Today I took my child to school and told her that she had to stay at school for 2 hours. Not the 1 she wanted but the 2 we’d planned. ‘Goodbye’ she said as I dropped her off, ‘I quite love you.’ I got that jump of joy inside. She loves me. Our love has become so deep that even in the moments when I am definitely not doing what she wants she can’t not tell me she loves me.

How rich this life is; but until you find yourself in the depth of it you don’t see it.

Keep looking for the blue in the night sky.

The blue that isn’t darkness.

The blue that isn’t black.

And I am loved

I haven’t wanted to write much in the past week. I’ve had an urge to hide away and become invisible. I didn’t feel able to put my life out in a space where others could see it. 

I’m not altogether sure why I’ve felt like that but it may be to do with the range of issues I’m dealing with right now. If I stop to think about them for too long they become overwhelming, both in the joy and the pain.

This morning I went to church again and as I joined in with the sung worship I knew that tears were coming. Once they started they would not stop; each song leading to a fresh surge. A friend had slipped into the back row beside me, and without even glancing in my direction her arm went round me; I relaxed into the tears and stopped trying to hold them back. 

I was crying for the pain of my child. I was crying for other situations of need within my extended family. I was crying because the election in the UK this week has left me concerned for the way the poor and marginalised will be treated in my country. I was crying because yesterday I did new things, with new people,  and through it all my husband was with me, and as we finally went to bed in the early hours of this morning he whispered, “I am so proud of you”, and I knew how loved I am within my marriage. I cried because returning to church is painful. I cried because as the church celebrated a week of community engagement, I had no idea what had taken place because I still am in some sort of self imposed hiding. I cried because I am still hurt and wounds haven’t yet healed. I cried because God loves me. I cried because He understands. I cried because I’m forgiven by the maker of the universe and He wants me to be in His Kingdom. I cried because I want to be salt and light and the job is so big and I am just one person.

The music and the tears ended and the preacher began to speak. Maybe I have heightened sensitivities right now, but within minutes I was wincing at the ‘in/ out’ type language, and the sexist jokes (against men on this occasion) . I got up and left the service. I couldn’t leave completely as my children were elsewhere in the building so I found an empty room and  began to pour my feelings onto the pages of my journal,

‘God I want to be part of the church but does it have to be this one? Must it look like this?’

I felt so alone in that moment. There I was, making a determined effort to return to the worshipping community I’d been part of, and yet it was proving so difficult. Was this really what God was asking of me? Did He understand just how tough this was?

My phone buzzed to alert me to a new email. It was from a fellow blogger – someone I’ve never met, but who shares a story with similarities to my own. She had sent me an image.

“This is for you. We all got one at church this morning, but it made me think of you. I’ve missed you around. I wish I could send you one.Thinking and praying for you.”  

 I responded,

 “I can’t download the image… I have no idea what it is but I know that it is God letting me know that He sees me sitting alone here – so desperately wanting to be part of church, but finding it so impossible as well.”

 Later I saw the image.

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She wrote to me ,

“You are family in Christ. Massive hugs to you. God will wipe your tears. Stand strong… He sees you. God sees you and loves you.”

I believe it. I believe God does see and know. He is there. He can prompt someone I have never even met or spoken with to send me an email at the moment I’ve just told Him I feel alone and unable to keep going with what I think He’s called me to.

My belief in God is not because the bible tells me He’s there, or because the church says I should. I believe because daily He gets involved in my life, and demonstrates his profound, unchanging and intimate love.

I’m a mess.

A crying, tired, sometimes despairing, sometimes joyful, brave mess.

And I am loved by God. 

Today I am linking with #givemegrace hosted by Lisha Epperson . And I am grateful to the blogger Conflicted Love for being my family.

Think your way to success

I’m someone who tends to believe that if there is a problem I will be able to think my way out of it. It’s my Ace. My skill. I use logic and reason to analyse, and the analysis provides me with the  knowledge I need to find a solution and success.

Recently I found myself answering a therapist’s questions, and in the course of that phonecall I felt feelings I’d not allowed myself to acknowledge for a while. They flattened me. By the end of the call I was bent over with my head on my desk. The feelings weighed so heavily that I didn’t even have the strength to sit up.

Over the next few days I worked at reasoning my way through the feelings. I wanted to get rid of them, and so I needed to understand them in order to work out how to dispose of them. Firstly I tried to work out which of the various complicated issues in my life was causing the feelings. They were linked to the other and a feeling of imbalance and unfairness in the way things have been communicated to other people about what happened between us, and the consequences of that. I began to think that if I could have the chance to say some things to him, not directly, but via another person reading him my words, then I would be able to let go of the hurts and the anger and the difficult feelings would disappear. 

I sat in church on Sunday morning thinking about the letter I would write, and realised as I scoured my heart and mind, that it was going to be a very lengthy epistle. My brain kept turning over ideas and thoughts, and occasionally I’d feel a stab of pain as another jagged fragment of the past would slice at me as it made its way from my memory to my present consciousness. I thought I was coming up with a good plan. It seemed to me to be the way to find some of the healing which has eluded me so far. I would reason my way to redemption. 

That was two days ago. Today, writing a letter is not on my agenda. It seems laughable that I thought that my own redemption was within my skill set.

I don’t know how or why, but without any action on my part, other than being rooted in my family, God ambushed me before I had a chance to attempt my own redemption.

He brought healing in the form of a paintbrush as I spent a day re-painting spaces in our home with my husband. IMG_0030

Because painting walls was not just about painting walls. It was about investing in a shared life; trusting each other enough to make decisions about colour; knowing that each was doing their best and if the painting wasn’t perfect – that was ok. It was about committing to the future and repairing damaged spaces which held difficult memories.

As I painted I couldn’t get the radio to work and so I turned to the music on my phone. I’ve not listened to most of it for well over a year, because much of it was purchased at the suggestion of the other, and the songs held messages and affirmations which first thrilled me and then destroyed me; but my hands were covered in paint and I needed music. The songs which had once been so familiar to me had been forgotten – I didn’t recognize them from the 4 bar intros. They became like songs I was hearing for the first time. The music was just music, and became the soundtrack to the day I painted walls and another part of my shared life was restored.  

 ‘Faith is work.

It is a struggle.

You must struggle with all your heart.

And on the way God will ambush you.’

Walter Wangerin

God heals.

In the most unexpected ways.