Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Month: August, 2016

Trying Not to Laugh

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When my therapist first asked, “Can you picture yourself married again sometime in the future?” my immediate response was to laugh. My signature was barely dry on the divorce documents. I had been told every reason imaginable why I was terrible to be married to and miserable to live with. I was still transitioning my love for my now ex-husband from that of a spouse to something else. I had had my heart broken, seen every dream crushed, and every hope dashed. It sounded impossible and probably foolish to ever consider marriage or even a romantic relationship again.

But my therapist was not being insensitive. He was asking me how broad and deep my vision of healing was. He was asking me to consider what seemed impossible now, being possible some day in the future. He was asking me to stay open to options that seemed risky or foolish because they looked scary and uncontrollable. He was asking me not to close myself off to possibilities just because redemption of parts of my story seemed too far-fetched at that point.

I am thankful for the question. It is one I have returned to often in the last year since he asked. Honestly, I still do not have an answer. I have a hard time imagining falling in love like that again. I do not believe in soul mates but I also do not know how many people you can love as deeply as I loved him. I cannot picture moving through the relationship stages that take someone from dating to engaged to married with someone else. I know how that happened for me last time but I imagine it would be different with a different person. I do not think this is a situation where having previous experience really helps all that much. (In fact, sometimes I worry it could be a hindrance.)

I want to be open to whatever and wherever my life might lead next. My journey has already looked drastically different than I had expected it to (more than once) in my short 30 years. I did not expect to get married and then getting divorced was never even a possibility for me. Love and hope and healing have come to me in packages I have not always recognized as gifts. In some ways, my dreams have been too small and in other ways, there are things I wish for that I will probably never see.

I am an advocate for sharing stories while you are in the middle and not waiting until you know the end. This is a chapter that I am just at the beginning. These past few months since I have been open to dating again, I have been reminded what a humbling process it is. For me, it takes skills that do not come naturally and reveals aspects of society I would rather not confront. It is also stretching my heart and mind and soul in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable.

The stretching can re-open wounds that have only just healed and reveal places that are still raw. I am willing to go through whatever discomfort is necessary for greater healing but I also want to be wise and gentle with myself. So I am taking baby steps. I am aware that I am re-learning how to walk certain paths and hope in certain outcomes. I am giving myself time to get used to this world again and giving myself permission to pull back when it feels like too much or too soon.

When I am sitting across from someone new, as interested as I am in him and his experiences, there is still sometimes an ache for the depth that comes with the familiar. Sometimes it is difficult not to just wish for the story I thought I knew – the story I would have written for myself. Dating and getting to know new people pushes me to be open to a new path that is full of risk and uncertainty. I know that with that risk also comes the potential for something really wonderful and beautiful and life-giving which is the only reason I am willing to try at all.

If you asked me today, “Can you picture yourself married again sometime in the future?” I think my answer would still be, “It seems unlikely.” But I will not say it is impossible and I will not laugh. My story is unfolding in ways I would have never imagined and all I hope for every day is that it will be a good story – whatever that may mean for me.

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A Wrinkled Moment in Time

In the shaded curved driveway of a grand hotel, a young woman in orange silk steps out of her car, hands her keys to the valet, and makes her way to the large door. She has only ever been here once before but her stride is confident and her heart beat is soft. She is happy. Not with the giddy euphoria of youth but in a much quieter harder won way. Distracted by finding a place for her valet card when the doorman opens the door, she looks up just in time to smile and say thank you before turning to look into the room. Then like being ushered through a magical portal, suddenly time wrinkles and without permission she is transported back to that vivid moment from the past – six years ago almost to the day. Her heart picks up speed and the room swirls as she loses track of the date and time and why she is even standing on plush Persian rugs in a hotel lobby.

Her beating heart, her excited step, his strong arm, his adoring face all come back like an augmented reality experience. She watches again as the uniformed doorman opens the imposing door and they step into the historic hotel lobby. She sees her smile sweep up to the corners of her eyes, crinkling her nose. Her hand squeezes the young man’s forearm tightly just to make sure it is all real. His eyes are proud and his hand is firmly clasped over hers. She is carrying her sparkly heels in her free hand but still standing tall and lovely in her ivory gown. Her breath catches as she takes in the expansive room – the chandeliers, the 1930s furniture, the wall-sized mural behind the reception desk. He feels her startle a little and looks down at her beaming face. He is grinning, pleased with his grand surprise. They are king and queen, if only for today, and this evening the whole world is their kingdom. It feels like just the beginning of a long and fortuitous reign.

And then, in seconds, the wormhole closes up as suddenly as it opened, and she is back in Los Angeles today. The effervescent young bride and groom only a memory. A peek back into that alternate reality that was once her life but no longer is. Her mind casts speculations over how that other life might have played out differently but it is only a game. She does not know if that life would have been happier or healthier or brighter or in any way better than this one. She is living here and now, alone, but peaceful and grateful for everything that is her real life. So she just keeps walking through the luxurious lobby to the other side. Her shoulders squarer and strides longer. Always wondering but seldom worrying how this reality will play out. It will be whatever it will be.