Tuesday, June 2, 2015

No Regrets

I've just returned from a whirlwind four days in North Carolina, where I attended the National Cohousing Conference (in Durham) and got a sneak preview of Joe & Maria's third floor apartment in Chapel Hill, where I will be moving in a week. I'm excited.

After half a year of trying to figure out how to cope with a series of curve balls (first lingering back pain, then my wife's decision to divorce me, followed in short order by costochondritis and the realization that I needed to start looking for a new home), it felt good to be proactive—to be taking a positive step instead just trying to stay afloat emotionally in storm-tossed seas.

I'm going to try building a micro-community with my housemates (both community veterans) and see what comes of it. I don't have a timetable; I just have curiosity and a clear sense of what it means to be in close connection with people—a fundamental building block of resilient community.

The three of us—Joe, Maria, and I—had fun together delivering two pre-conference workshops in Durham. One on Facilitation & Leadership; and another on Conflict. It was an auspicious start. If we can generate enough interest in the Southeast, Maria & I will conduct a two-year facilitation training there.

As I type this, I am back in Missouri for a one more week, to select a carload of clothes, books, paperwork, tools, and stuffed animals to bring with me to North Carolina, and to place the remainder of my stuff into storage so that Ma'ikwe can rent out a room in Moon Lodge.

While I'm still somewhat shaky from all the recent, unexpected changes in my life, it's now been almost four months since I've been served notice that my marriage was over, and the amplitude and frequency of my grieving is tapering off. Incidences of anger and/or shame have both decreased substantially, and I'm starting to imagine a positive life ahead. While it's far more conjectural than substantive at this point, it's nonetheless a start.

While there remain parts of what happened to my marriage that I still don't understand (and perhaps never will), I'm happy to report that I look back on my last 10 years with Ma'ikwe with no regrets. While it was devastating to have her walk away (I had never invested more heavily in a relationship than I did in my marriage, and it's been excruciating to see that founder), it wasn't like I wasn't trying, nor do look back over the last decade and wish I'd held anything back.

In the end, whenever you commit to creating something with another, the only thing you get is the opportunity for relationship—there's never a guarantee that it will last or go the way you're hoping. What's more, you have to commit to the attempt before you know the outcome (and there's a non-trivial risk of the attempt failing if you decide to hold something back as a reserve against things going poorly—this can be a tricky calculation).

In my marriage, I was all in, and even though it ultimately failed, I'm glad that I made that choice. Not because I enjoy misery, but because it would be awful to be wracked with doubt about whether the outcome would have been different if I'd only committed all that I had. This does not mean that I didn't make mistakes, or have no thoughts about what I might have done better; only that I have the satisfaction of knowing that I was trying as hard as I knew to be forthcoming and constructive, moment to moment.

Further, I'm far enough removed from the initial pain to begin to see how this experience may make me a better facilitator, as there will undoubtedly be times ahead when someone will be struggling as a result of having been unilaterally cut off from relationship, and I'll now have something parallel to draw from in empathy.

Today—at a deeper level than I ever imagined—I get the power of the old adage:

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

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