Friday, August 2, 2013

Sitting in Limbo

I woke up this morning with Jimmy Cliff singing to me. 

While I don't recall having extended an invitation for him to be there, these stanzas from Sitting in Limbo were floating in my consciousness while I lay abed: 

Sitting here in limbo, but I know it won't be long
Sitting here in limbo, like a bird without a song
Well they're putting up resistance
But I know that my faith will lead me on

Sitting here in limbo, waiting for the dice to roll
Sitting here in limbo, got some time to search my soul
Well they're putting up resistance
But I know that my faith will lead me on

Sitting here in limbo waiting for the tide to flow
Sitting here in limbo knowing that I have to go
Well they're putting up resistance
But I know that my faith will lead me on

I don't know where life will lead me
But I know where I've been
I can't say what life will show me
But I know what I've seen
Tried my hand at love and friendship
But all that is passed and gone
This little boy is moving on

These days—19 days into the dissolution of my marriage—I am residing in a state of dynamic stasis, where I know that I am about to embark on a different path, yet I don't know which. For now, I am simply breathing and being in the unknowing, allowing the way to become clear in its own time.

I am in a place of wonder and softness where many futures are possible. My humpty dumpty marriage was cracked open by Ma'ikwe's thoughtful decision to push it off the garden wall three weeks ago. While it is clear that the pieces of that which was before will never be put back together again (a future I'd hoped fervently to avoid), in the ensuing free fall of my soul I have found sadness and grief (which were expected), yet also grace and tenderness (which were not).

In reaching her decision to end our marriage, Ma'ikwe was deliberate and kind. She thought long and hard about our partnership and explored the key questions from many angles. Then, when she reached her answer, she was straight forward and gentle in its announcement. This quality about her—thoroughness, courage, and compassion—is something I have always deeply admired in her, even when it led to a conclusion I didn't want.

The Teacher Becomes the Student
At first, I was dismayed that the decision was announced on Day Nine of the 37-day Ecovillage Education training where Ma'ikwe and I shared primary responsibility for teaching and coordination. The thought of going through the pain of separation while continuing to answer the bell and daily share a classroom was overwhelming to imagine. How were we going to handle being in the presence of each other on a nearly constant basis? Would we be weepy and an emotional dishrag for 28 days straight? No one in their right mind would ask for this assignment, yet that was the hand we were dealt.

Amazingly, I didn't die, and neither did I dissolve. In fact, I got better. With the invaluable help of my therapist (and EMDR), combined with Ma'ikwe's incredible wellspring of compassion, it turns out that teaching together has unexpectedly helped me accelerate through my grief and help me access and the lessons of my failed marriage.

Two things are key here. First, Ma'ikwe and I have always enjoyed teaching together and we have a lot respect for each other in that capacity, which helped us access some of the more precious aspects of our relationship at a time when we might otherwise have been dwelling on our failures and our hurts. In short, teaching called out the best of us, and that live experience has been a balm on our open wounds.

Second, Ma'ikwe and I share a love of teaching and a common approach to teach from love, by which I mean bringing our whole selves and our passion to the attempt. We made no effort to hide from the students what we were going through, and our vulnerability and transparency enhanced our effectiveness in the classroom, rather than compromised it. Because we both come alive when we teach (not that we're dead otherwise; I'm talking about being in a state of heightened awareness), we had that available to us in grief management as well. In short, there was minimal crawling into a corner to lick ourselves.

Better still, with nothing to lose (all the kings horses and all the kings men will never put our marriage together again) we became more honest with each other and less defended. We have, for the first time, been able to lay out fully the ways we have each contributed to why our partnership became so brittle—something neither of us ever intended. Incredibly, and against all odds, over the last 19 days we have been able to interact and be with each other in the ways that consistently approximate what we always had in mind. What irony that it should take the death of our marriage to birth a healthy depth of intimacy!

A week ago, Ma'ikwe and I tentatively started exploring where this might lead. While we've been clear throughout that we intend to continuing our working relationship as teachers and process consultants, to what extent would we remain friends, confidantes, and playmates? We're thinking about dating to see what this tender young sprout might grow into. While we're not considering a return to the path we were on before, there might be a different path that the two us ex-married folks might take together.

Our chance of success will hinge largely on how much we can change, and there's a lot to do. At the same time, we also have a lot to work with and we're highly motivated. It's an experiment in intimate gardening unlike any I've tried before, but I have faith in what love can till when placed in harness to will.

How could a Raggae classic from the '70s have captured so accurately the essence of where my soul had wandered in the summer of 2013? While it passeth all understanding, I know that my faith will lead me on.

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