Scott put pen to paper to share a little bit about his journey through our three-year separation. I'm so thankful and grateful for his willingness to be this vulnerable. Love you, Scott.
The story goes like this…
There was a Zen master by the name of Hakuin. He lived in a village where he was praised by his community in having achieved a pure life. Enter a young Japanese girl of the same village. One day, her parents discover she’s hiding her pregnancy. They were a prominent family in the village and served as the main food store owners. Ashamed, they demand that their daughter confess and identify the man that made her this way. Knowing it would only hurt the young fisherman to reveal his identity, she remained quiet at first. Ultimately, the pressure is too great. Rather than telling her parents and the village the truth, she reports it was Hakuin. When they confront the Zen master with her accusation, his response is simply, “Is that so?”
Once the child is born, it is delivered to Hakuin to raise. By this time, Hakuin had lost his reputation with the villagers—now vilified, he is no longer celebrated. Neither seemed to bother him. He accepts the baby as his own and cares for the child as if it’s his own.
Eventually, the young Japanese mother can no longer bear the weight of her lies and being away from her child, so she tells her parents the truth—the the name of the real father. The mother, father, and the girl all rush to Hakuin to ask for forgiveness. They apologize at great lengths and ask to have the child back.
Despite raising the child for a year, losing his reputation, and receiving ridicule from the villagers, Hakuin was willing and responds only with, "Is that so?"
I share this only to say that in the past three years of my personal journey and separation from Kiersten, I found great solace in NOT reacting and taking it personally. Of course, it was difficult at times. She said some harsh words to me, to my face. I would listen and with verbal or non-verbal cues respond with, “Is that so?” Intuitively, I somehow knew this was HER journey. I felt as if I even knew how the story ended. Once, I even confidentially stated that to her—but in that particular moment—that declaration only fueled a stubbornness within her, so I learned. She needed a good listener and a friend, not a consultant.
As time passed, I would find her at my door. These visits would be under the premise of dropping or picking the kids up, but they usually allowed for a bit of lingering on her part. And, in these moments she would exhale, give me a sweet smile, and through no-verbal or verbal cues, tell me how she was doing. I knew my place was just to listen- not to fix. I saw her struggling with things that had happened to her in new relationship that I recognized as abusive. It was hard to witness. I remember her asking me if I ever thought she had too much eye contact with men, because she was being told that does. Being made to feel like she was doing something wrong. I told her no, that’s not who she is. She’s a kind, open-hearted woman but not a flirt. In addition to dealing with losing her, it was hard to watch the woman I love becoming a shell of herself due to an abusive relationship she didn’t understand.
Finding this Zen space did not happen for me overnight. In fact, I would suggest I spent the first 4-6 months operating out of a very raw and emotional space. I was reacting. I was working from a headspace of mostly “taking it personally.”
Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” started me on this path.
The Four Agreements are:
These rules have a way of resurfacing in my life; they are similar to when you exercise and are reminded to work on your core. To me, these agreements make up the mental core.
I can by no means say I have mastered any of them. But, for the purposes of addressing the common question I receive from friends and family who have read or heard about our love story (and it truly is a love story)…
“How are you (meaning Scott) able to take Kiersten back?” or “How did you manage?”
…I defer to the second agreement. I never took it personally.
But, I can also honestly say that because I also tried my best in our 18-year marriage to not break the other three agreements around issues of integrity and intentions when it came to her specifically. I do feel like you could take the second agreement too far if you set out to do harmful things to others maliciously, not caring for others in general, and then becoming offended that you are not personally liked by those people. So, one does have to have a working moral compass when abiding to the agreements; otherwise, it’s like playing with chess rules when your opponent is playing checkers.
When Kiersten surprised me with her new direction in life, I also did not immediately go to this centered way of thinking to process what she was saying. I was a raw, emotional mess. Her news shocked me. It felt as if I had entered a completely new universe and was now living in a body I was familiar with but a life that was unfamiliar and strange. I couldn’t grasp the “why” of it. Why this? Why now? Why us? Why him?
Because I was asking her these questions, she was giving me hard-to-hear answers. Some of her answers flowed out like personal attacks on me, some were more introspective, and some came from a place of matter-of-fact reasoning. To her, they all had to be convincing since she was changing her path in life.
There have been many times in my life when I need to justify a decision I’m about to make or have made. The higher the stakes and choice of my decision impacting others, the greater the sales pitch. It’s human nature. We’ve all done this. That inner monologue we all have is a great motivator for action in ourselves; the more self-convincing we can do betters the chances we get started at doing that thing.
Over the course of months, as she tried “selling” me on her new path, I learned to distance myself from the more negative justifications (Is that so?) and provide support to the “child” within her that needed a supportive “man” role. Before I continue, I may need to also inform you that just four months prior, Kiersten I started coming to terms with the fact that she had been sexually abused by a male family relative as a young child. With that realization, I knew there was a chance that I would take a few proverbial “hits” if something I said or did triggered that “little girl.”
I say all of this because intuitively I felt as if I understood. Despite the personal pain it was causing me to potentially lose the woman I loved, I knew it was a process of healing I was witnessing. In the big picture, these were chapters of self-discovery and healing in her life book that she needed to experience and it had very little to do with me.
Were there lessons, healing, and improvements that I needed to make? Of course, there were. I’ll tell you what they were.
I could go on; the list continues to evolve, because I do, too. For the most part, the improvements I needed to make one could consider cliché when it comes to relationship breakers. Only from experience and life come lessons that move the needle forward and continue self-growth. But, for many of these, you don’t ever actually stop working on until you are in the ground. There will always be areas for improvement.
I recently read another book called “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. In the book, they have the reader create a dashboard that measures (0-5) the fullness of one’s life in four main categories—love, play, work, and health. Essentially, in designing a life you will make unknowing sacrifices to one of these four pillars at any moment in your life IF you are unaware that they exist and can be measured. A balanced life is a happy life and one with complete fulfillment and all 5’s in each category.
Let’s look at a car. If cars were built without gauges to tell the driver they had no fuel, were almost out of oil, the tires were running low on air, or there’s little to no coolant left, you would have a lot of bewildered, surprised and possibly angry drivers sitting in cars that don’t work. Throw into the mix a surrounding condition that exists outside of the car (like weather) and you’ll have further levels of complexity generating even more confusion. With a car, you need a dashboard that helps you understand what you are doing to the car. And, with life, at the very least, you need an understanding of a theoretical dashboard that brings awareness.
Do you know what also brings sudden awareness? A divorce, a DUI, being fired, and a stroke. With Kiersten’s latest news, I was about to check the box in my lifetime for 3 out of 4 of those. While a DUI had personally never happened to me, it would have not been without effort, so for arguments sake, let’s say all four boxes had now been checked. If that’s not an awakening slap, then I don’t know what is.
The irony is that in my dashboard “love” reading, I would have felt it had always been steady in the 4-5 scale. The sudden announcement from Kiersten that she now wanted a divorce should have killed me, but instead I went inward.
Again, I didn’t know about this data as I am writing this today. But, as I look back on this time in my life and with the lens of this dashboard—love , play, work, and health—I can guarantee that I had too much weight in the love area. I had lost focus in managing the play, work, and health pieces. I had become too reliant on Kiersten in helping me stay “happy.” She did an awesome job of that for years as she is a pleaser by nature, but maybe her work on me had resulted in a deficit in her scale of fullness.
With her news, I woke up. I started reading. Two books found me—The Four Agreements and The Untethered Soul. Both books allowed me to “escape” from the day-to-day of still living under one roof with her but at the same time stay emotionally grounded while being spiritually elevated. I also started meditating, walking in the woods, and briefly stopped drinking. I started listening to my body. I noticed that when I had more than two glasses of wine I could feel the weight of depression add a layer. I started bringing fun experiences to my children that we could share. These experiences didn’t even have to cost money. I made it a point to just be present for them and keep smiling. Eventually, I was strong enough that I no longer worried about what the future brought but instead created this sense to just float. To float; however, did not mean you couldn’t manifest good things in life, so I also got really good at manifesting opportunities. Those opportunities included all the areas of love, play, work, and health. In other words, I got my mojo back.
But, in the end you’ve asked some variation of the question, “How did I manage to stay with Kiersten through all of this?” You can clearly see it was a mix of borrowed things I had read and perhaps experienced through observation of others. I created very little of this, only absorbed it. There really is no simple answer.
Well, I take that back. There is. I love her.
And, to borrow from someone else’s teachings, I know what love is. Thank you, Forrest Gump.
Scott and I had a date yesterday. At the doctor’s office. We sat impatiently in uncomfortable chairs waiting to find out the results of a whole slew of tests I had done to detect STDs. Looking around the sterile room, I noticed a lack of Highlights magazines but then again, it’s a family healthcare center. We clearly got the room reserved for adults on dates.
I admit, it’s not really my favorite date we’ve ever been on, but he held my hand as we thumbed through pamphlets of diseases we don’t have but thought we could have in the future and one brochure about how to detect colon cancer. Did you know you can mail #2 in a box? You can.
Sorry…STDs. I need to stay on track. Where was I? Oh yeah, so it turns out that sometime between my last Pap test in 2014 and now, Mr. HPV has become part of my DNA. Not only do I have HPV, but I have lesions on my cervix that will need to be taken care of so they don’t make their way to full-blown cancer. I know I’ll be OK but boy is it a real kick in the gut to realize that most likely, according to my doctor, it’s a sexually transmitted disease I likely contracted two to three years ago (although it can lie dormant in your body for up to 20 years), given the state of the abnormal tissue growth. Apparently, cervical cancer is slow growing and I’m at the mid-way point. I’m very grateful for Pap tests every three years even though I hate them.
So what does all of this mean?
And if I’m lucky, we’ll get the adult “date” room at the doctor’s office again. Dinner and a cervical surgery doesn’t have the same ring as dinner and a movie, does it??! :)
I’ve been a huge Dixie Chicks fan for a long time. Their song, Truth No. 2, sprung to mind as I started writing this. The first part of the song is, “you don’t like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth.” Yep. Who likes truth when they don’t want to accept it?
Over the last few months, I have discovered so many truths about myself and about my past relationship that I didn’t want nor thought I would discover. It’s truly life changing. We know reality is based on our personal perception of events, people, and situations that we process through our own filter but does that mean truth is really truth?
I’ve come to the conclusion there is REAL truth. There are some things that just aren’t subjective. They are fact. Here are just a few “truths” I’ve learned over the past few months as I’ve been healing and growing:
I have always been WAY too trusting. It’s a lovely idea to have blind faith and believe what comes out of someone’s mouth but it’s also naive. I have learned that in order to not just take someone at their word, I have to listen to my intuition and the physical reactions that spring up—pay attention to the signals my body gives when someone tells me something. This happened repeatedly during the abusive relationship I was in but I ignored the kick in the gut feeling and overall body shakes. Instead, I would go back to earlier times in my mind when I felt supported and loved and believe the words, not the actions. Never again. Your body tells you what your mind and heart don’t want to comprehend.
I’m not a victim. I own what I did—falling into a relationship while married—was so wrong but I also finally see the big picture. I made choices based on false reality. I believed in who he presented himself to be with my whole vulnerable heart. That’s not wrong nor is it playing the victim card when I talk about what happened. I’m wiser now and I own the pain I caused my family but I also recognize that having never dealt with anyone who operates this way, I didn’t have a way of knowing that what I was experiencing wasn't new to him. Past affairs and relationships told the story of manipulation and control and I chose to ignore the warning signs and believe the facade.
The next woman in my ex’s pipeline will have specific characteristics and will likely endure similar behavior/tactics. How do I know this? Patterns. And proof/truth coming out of the mouths and computers of different women from his past.
So here goes…
I couldn’t have avoided this. I truly believe I went through what I did to heal and to learn lessons for growth in this life. As a medium, I have an advantage of hearing from spirit who want me to fulfill my soul purpose and who guide me along the way. Warnings were given and encouragement to believe in myself was handed down in subtle and then eventually, very pointed ways over the last year. Unbeknownst to me in 2014, one of my life contracts includes enduring what it means to be in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. And how to climb out of it. The climb out of it part was my choice, and a choice I had a very difficult time making for three years. Read: I struggle with truth #1.
Fear is an illusion and truth will set you free. I felt so much fear for so long. Fear of letting people down. Fear of my dark side. Fear of speaking up. I feared what would happen when I told the truth of my work with spirit and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feared talking about this relationship. I feared getting out of it. I feared losing everything including my kids, if I stayed in it. I don’t fear anything anymore. Telling the whole truth, even when it’s embarrassing and humbling, truly sets you free.
Click here for earlier posts on the subject:
Protect and Serve
I Had An Affair
Part 2: Wounded Attachment
With a shaky voice and a pit in my stomach, I told the judge what happened and why I needed an order of protection.
It was a surreal August day. The 18th of August, to be exact. After waiting hours to speak with a judge, I was ushered into a cold courtroom and led to a seat up front with a lone glass of water and a microphone. Much to my surprise, “you will meet with a judge” meant you will testify in a courtroom before a judge. I had it all worked out in my head hours earlier as I sat patiently on the hard benches of the courthouse—I would simply be meeting with him in chambers.
That was not how it played out.
I sat nervously next to my pile of harassing emails, a police report from a domestic disturbance call in May of 2016, and screenshots of online harassment that my employer shared with me. While I waited for the judge to enter the courtroom, I read over the papers for the thousandth time. I took deep breaths. I teared up a few times as the weight of the situation covered me like a heavy blanket. I willed myself to be strong no matter what I had to go through.
Just a few days earlier, unbeknownst to me, the man I gave my heart to for three years was reaching out via email to about 50 colleagues at the university (including the President) where I work, performing acts of cyber harassment on university-owned Facebook pages and much to my surprise, posting the article I wrote multiple times on my in-laws Facebook page under different page names he owns, like Ottomology and Question Mark. He was trying to defame me by sharing my personal blog post about how we met and the relationship that followed where I openly shared abuse I allowed, mistakes I made, and revelations that came (from other women telling me they had experienced similar) after the break-up. The university supported me 100% and blocked him on their servers. Publicly, he had written he was moving on from me—the woman he claimed suffers from borderline personality disorder—with peace and clarity. Privately, he was clearly quite busy behind the keyboard.
In addition to reaching out to the University, I was also threatened with an email stating that he was going to press charges against me for me writing about the relationship and “he would NEVER stop until he gets justice.” That was a day or two before he started his email campaign to the university.
Lawyers and local police took a look at what I was dealing with and advised me to go to the Justice Court and apply for an order of protection stating he could not contact me whatsoever anymore.
After I nervously spoke with the Judge and the court reporter for about thirty minutes, based on what I presented, the Judge agreed that an order of protection should be granted. I don’t know about other states, but here in Arizona, it’s not easy to get one of these. With mixed emotions, I gathered up my pile of papers and waited for the order to be handed to me by the court reporter. In those moments between the announcement that the order would be granted and when I walked out the door, I saw his face in my mind’s eye and I teared up. No matter what he had done to warrant a restraining order, I didn’t want to hurt him further. It was as if my heart and my head were in a tug of war.
Now that I had the official order in my hands, it was time to have it delivered to him and the only way to do that is through a constable (if he was local) or a process server in his area. All of this was new to me. I’ve never been through the court system so I asked a cop friend of mine if he knew anyone in that area. He recommended a great guy who held my hand through the process via email and text.
It took four tries, hours of surveillance, and close to $500 to serve him the order of protection. When he was finally served the document, he denied his identity when asked who he was, took the closed envelope, and left it on the ground. Photos of him were taken at the scene when he was served and are in the affidavit that the server sent back to me to file with the court and police.
On September 14, Flagstaff Police called him to reiterate the protection order—which he had not read because he left it on the ground—was active. He again denied his identity and the fact he was served. The cop emphasized that no matter what his thoughts were on the situation, the order was active now that he’s been officially served and there’s legal record of it.
Being a human really hurts, sometimes. Being a person who loved a person who is now legally prohibited from communicating comes with a mixed bag of emotions. My head knew I needed to stand up for myself and my heart still wanted to protect him. Maybe that’s part of recovering from an abusive relationship or maybe that’s just who I am—I don’t want to hurt others.
I am not comfortable being the proverbial bitch but I’m realizing that in some cases, standing up for myself no matter how scary or uncomfortable, is what is needed. And for the first time in my life, I realize doing so does not make me a bitch.