Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cracks in the Facade of My Potemkin Village

Yesterday I forgot my daughter's birthday, spaced out an FIC conference call (that I had primary responsibility for organizing), and flared into a heated exchange with a fellow community member over a casual comment—all in the space of three hours. When I shared this trifecta of embarrassments with my counselor today, she took it as a good sign. Huh?

How can that be, you ask? In a word: divorce. It's not for wimps.

While I've been doing a fairly good job of holding it together to teach the Ecovillage Education course with Ma'ikwe—since she told me July 14 that our marriage was over (nine days into the 37-day immersion training)—yesterday's uncentered behavior showed that I've definitely blown an engine gasket.

As the administrator of a national nonprofit, a process consultant and trainer, a member of an income-sharing agricultural community, the father of two, and the husband of one (at least until 10 days ago), I've prided myself on being about to manage multiple threads at high output. Unfortunately, that positive can-do image is a distortion. I'm not really that person. While I do get a lot done, my work is not always on time and I drop balls with regularity—sometimes important balls (just ask Ma'ikwe). 

Now, grieving the loss of the best intimate partnership I ever had—while simultaneously juggling a high octane teaching load—I'm slipping gears like never before. Last night was not my finest hour.

• • •
It all started tumbling downhill yesterday afternoon, after finishing the fourth and final day of teaching the Economic Dimension of the EEUS course with my good friend, Terry O'Keefe. After wrapping up class at 5 pm, he and I strolled over to the Milkweed Mercantile and enjoyed a celebratory beer. It didn't realize that I'd spaced out the FIC conference call until I got home 30 minutes later and checked my email. Oh boy. From there it got worse.
After scrambling to patch together an impromptu plan to recover from my botched call, I ducked into the kitchen to whip up a light supper. While frying potatoes and onions I got word from another community member that I wasn't going to get help finding a replacement for my Saturday cooking shift (so that I could attend a clearing called for Saturday afternoon), and I just lost it. Ordinarily these kinds of logistical issues are sorted out at our regular Thursday afternoon community, but I can't attend these while the EEUS course is in session because Thursday afternoons I'm overseeing student projects. Grr. In frustration I lashed out at the messenger. (That was mature.)

The capstone for my evening farce came an hour later when my daughter, Jo, called to find out how I was doing. We'd last spoken the night that Ma'ikwe had announced her decision and Jo was calling to see how her favorite father was faring. After about 20 minutes of listening to my litany, she casually mentioned that it was her birthday. OMG. How pathetic is it when your own daughter has to call to remind you that it's her birthday? (Don't answer.)

There was no doubt about it; I was leaking crankcase oil.

When I bravely related last night's misadventures to my therapist, she smiled—which was not the reaction I was expecting. She saw my misfiring as symptomatic of a breakdown of my old coping mechanism under stress: blame myself and wear a hair shirt. Instead, I was riding it out, keeping my heart open, breathing through my grief, all the time noticing the inviting swamp of misery close at hand yet declining the invitation to go skinny dipping.

In my effort to change patterns, I was breaking up—which the counselor saw as a solid step on the road toward developing a consistent healthy response. Chaos before healing.

Oy vey. I hope I get there soon… I don't know how much more good news like that I can stand.

No comments: