Sunday, July 21, 2013

Walking the Edge

As I reported Thursday, I obtained significant and timely benefit from getting EMDR treatment from my therapist last Monday—just 24 hours after learning from Ma'ikwe that she was ending our marriage.

While the relief I got from that session has sustained me through the week—which I figure has to be the hardest week in an unwanted divorce: the first week—my centeredness was sorely challenged Friday morning when Ma'ikwe and I started exploring how to separate financially. 

Even though we readily agreed on the disposition of most assets and liabilities there were still some sticking points, and we rapidly got sucked into tension that bogged us down. While we didn't get nasty (thank god), we did get tense and after an hour we agreed to stop. We weren't getting anywhere and it didn't appear that either of us had an insight that might move us past the logjam.

I was pretty shaky afterwards. Both because I didn't want tension over how we sorted out the money—frustration over which might linger for years, poisoning our chance for a warm and collegial post-married relationship—and because I was afraid that I might descend into the swirl of misery that I had heretofore been so successfully avoiding. Maybe I wasn't doing as well as I'd thought. Maybe EMDR just taught me how to whistle in the dark.

I took a break from being with Ma'ikwe over the noon hour. Though I needed to be back at her house for a 1 pm conference call as part of FIC's Development Committee, I needed a change of scenery. (Yes, Ma'ikwe and I have incredibly interwoven lives and that has never been more evident than this past week, when we've needed to function well together on multiple levels immediately on the heels of her decision to divorce me.) On the drive home I was able to back away from the repetitive loops of our dialog and recognize that part of what was infecting the conversation was that finances were a sore point with Ma'ikwe, and unresolved tensions around how we interacted around money was one of the things driving her decision to end the marriage. Duh, no wonder our conversation didn't go that well!

That gave me an inspiration about how to enter the dialog in a different place. Instead of returning to where we'd left off, it seemed more fruitful to attempt a summary of what I understood about what Ma'ikwe has found challenging about partnering with me financially. I figured that even if I got some of it wrong and needed to try more than once, it would be better if I first established to her satisfaction that I understood her frustrations before attempting to resolve the remaining aspects of our financial separation. There was no benefit to either of us if the underlying tensions were distorting our ability to hear each other, yet neither would it serve to pretend that our rocky history wasn't in play.

I told her about my plan when I returned for the Development call and she reported interest in seeing what I'd come up with. The next morning I wrote up my summary and emailed it to her right before heading over for a planning meeting with her to discuss how to handle our regular Saturday morning check-in and evaluation with the EEUS class. On her part, Ma'ikwe used the pause in our financial discussion to rethink what she was asking for in the way of financial support, and emailed me a revised request.

Thus, by the time we met Saturday morning we had both done work to shift what had been hard Friday morning. Ma'ikwe accepted my olive branch and we were able to reaffirm our strong intent to address our separation issues with as much care and grace as possible. Whew. From there we were able to work productively on planning for the Saturday morning class and we had a good session with the students. While we haven't yet returned to the topic of a financial settlement—which means there is important work yet ahead—we successfully navigated the tensions that arose around it Friday morning. 

It was notable how much I was renewed and buoyed to have gotten back to a caring and heartfelt place with my ex-wife—which is much better than the raw and triggered place I was headed toward, and the extended visit to the penalty box for the emotionally distraught that might have ensued. While I'm not so naive as to think there won't be hard patches still to come, I've been able to return to that place I had gotten to Monday afternoon, where my heart remains open and I can feel the hurt, yet I am not swamped by it. I can walk on the edge of the abyss without falling in.

P.S. I won't see Ma'ikwe again until Monday and Tuesday, when I'll be teaching on—get this—"economic sustainability" and she'll be in the classroom observing. It's a trip how life seems to unerringly know when to present us with a cosmic fortune cookie containing the not-so-hidden message: don't take yourself too seriously!

1 comment:

Terry Edlin / New Community Vision said...

What an interesting journey - even separately and together.