A Friend at the End of the World

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Meeting a kindred spirit is a profound moment; it’s like finding a piece that’s been missing from your puzzle. Unique from a best friend or even true love, a kindred spirit is a connection on a whole different molecular level. Trust me, you know if you’ve ever met one. You just know.

They come into our lives precisely when our spirits need nurturing the most. In fact, they often act as guardians of our spirits during a crisis. They honor the need to care and be cared for, and it’s been said that their intention is to create the support needed to uplift the human spirit.  “Kindred” literally means “similar in kind” so it isn’t surprising that we share many of the same life tests, themes and challenges as our kindred spirits. They see the world in the same shades and colors as we do.

Recently, Gwen Stefani spoke to CBS News about the sudden end of her 13-year marriage and how it left her feeling “like I had no skin, it was so raw.” She said, “I was down all the way; you don’t go down lower than that. It was rock bottom.”

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But then she found a kindred spirit in Blake Shelton, her fellow judge on NBC’s The Voice.

During this past year, the country singer had also been through a very painful and public divorce.

“In all of this craziness that happened, like unexpected horrible-ness, I found a friend that was going through literally the exact same thing as me,” she said. “And that is a miracle, you know? And it just saved me so much, and I feel so grateful for that.”

That resonated with me. I’ve felt that exact same gratitude too.

I met P. upon signing up for a divorce support group. Like me, he was still inside-out raw. He’d been suckerpunched at the end of his marriage too, a relationship also nearing two decades that produced two children. From the get-go, P. and I clicked; it was as if our energies were abuzz on the same frequency.

It’s hard to explain what it was like other than to say it’s similar to that ethereal feeling when someone crosses your thoughts and suddenly, you hear their name or bump into them out of the blue. You’re aware of it happening on a deeper level of consciousness. With a kindred spirit, you and a perfect stranger have instant compassion, shared knowledge and an intuitive sense of what the other person needs before they ask for it.

If divorce was a hurricane, my friendship with P. was a safe harbor. We were free to share our feelings, trusting that we would be understood and accepted even at times we did not understand ourselves. It felt good to have P’s hand to hold, shoulder to cry on and arms to hold me. When I felt dejected, he would remind me that I was worthy of love and happiness. When I was on the verge of exploding in anger, he’d talk me down from the ledge. When I cried, he would comfort me, wipe my tears and tell me what a fool my ex was for letting me go.

We truly enjoyed being in one another’s company, and spent as much time laughing as we did listening. The fun times P. and I had going out for dinner, taking a walk or seeing a movie were not only a welcome distraction from the pain we were going through, they were truly uplifting moments and just as good for our emotional health as leaning on one another.

A need, at times, to be together and talk, 

And then the finding we can walk

More firmly through dark narrow places,

And meet more easily nightmare faces;

A need to reach out, sometimes, hand to hand,

And then find Earth less like an alien land;

A need for alliance to defeat

The whisperers at the corner of the street…

(Excerpt from “Not Love Perhaps” by A.S.J. Tessimond)

Our friendship didn’t last long, maybe six months. We both came to a point in the road where we knew we’d have to go our own ways, ever grateful for those few precious months together that enabled us to gather up the strength to walk the rest of our journey to healing alone.

I believe that P. saved my life. He was a companion heaven-sent in my darkest hour; a confidante I could reveal my true self to; a friend at the end of the world. It was as if he was intentionally plunked down in my path because a Higher Power knew I needed someone beside me. Gwen Stefani is right; it is a miracle.

Kindred spirits cannot easily be described, but their purpose can be defined. Looking back, I know that I met P. to receive a flow of support, encouragement and love through a traumatic time so that I could make the transition from darkness to light. We were so much alike because he reflected my own goodness.

Most importantly, I know that P. came into my life to expedite my healing. He opened my heart so that when the time came for me to meet the right person, I would be ready to accept love again. I can’t think of a higher purpose nor a better gift.

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Grow Old With Me

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My partner and I love to fantasize about what the next chapter in our life will be like.

It’s become a favourite pastime to dream about our idyllic retirement in a lakeside cottage. We have it all planned out: sipping morning coffee out on the sundeck, taking our future dogs (a Golden Retriever we’ve named Charlie and his brother Max, a German Shepherd) for games of fetch-the-stick at the shore, enjoying hammock naps listening to the waves roll in. When the grandkids come to visit, we will do arts and crafts, explore the beach for treasures and spoil them with ice cream before dinner.

For the first time in my life, I can clearly picture myself and my partner in our twilight years. Whether it was merely a factor of youth or a symptom of a more deep-seated issue, it was never an image I was able to conjure with my ex. Despite having known him for more years than I didn’t know him, I’d never been able to see our future together.

It was one of the first things that flooded into my mind amidst a swirling vortex of questions and emotions the day he left. As I watched him pack his bags, I thought to myself how strange it was that I’d never pictured us growing old together. All along, that’s because we wouldn’t.

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This is a photo of my mom and dad in their courtship. In October, they will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary. Even in the third act of their marriage, they are a beautiful example of the relationship I’ve always wanted to have.

They are partners and friends who genuinely like one another. They have grown together and know each other’s rhythms and moods intimately. While some of their interests intersect, they also have their own independent pursuits and give each other the space and support to enjoy them. As the John Lennon song goes, they are two branches of one tree. There is respect, there is trust, there is appreciation, and there is still playfulness and affection. Most of all, there is a deep love that leaves no doubt that they are soulmates. This is how “grow old with me” should be, I think.

Growing up, my parents’ relationship was one to aspire to, but tough to live up to. Don’t get me wrong, no one put any expectations on me other than the burden I placed upon myself by yearning for the kind of love they shared. I foolishly thought that if you invested yourself in your marriage, the reward would be the love of a mate who would be by your side for better, for worse, for richer, for poor, in sickness and in health. Someone to grow old with until we both simply fell asleep and slipped away in a Notebook-like ending.

Did a wonderful childhood in a happy home with two loving parents become a liability as an adult? That sounds preposterous to even consider, but I do admit to sometimes wondering if being the product of a good marriage meant I went into my own with rose-coloured glasses.

My parents’ relationship is by no means perfect, but it did define marriage in my eyes. Maybe that lead me to assume that my marriage would simply follow their example. As our 5th wedding anniversary passed, followed by our 10th and then our 15th, I thought, hey, maybe we had the hang of this marriage thing after all. We were making it work like Mom and Dad did.

But when it all came to a crashing halt just shy of the 20-year benchmark, I was deeply disappointed that I fell short of the marital standard Mom and Dad had set. They had given me the blueprints to follow and I still couldn’t replicate what they had built.

Thankfully, another thing about being the product of a good marriage is that it gives you an unshakable foundation of love. Although I had to take time to heal my heart after the marriage ended, I never grew disillusioned about my capacity to love and to be loved – and that is a direct result of my parents’ influence. Whether they beat the odds or just got lucky, the fact is, it’s because of their enduring marriage that I never stopped believing in love and never lost hope that it was not too late to live happily ever after.

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My partner and I found love in mid-life. Our love narrative is our own yet, it is reminiscent of what I have witnessed in my parents’ marriage. There is mutual respect and kindness, genuine interest and support for one another and a soulful connection that includes playful and lighthearted aspects of intimacy.

One of the joys of our relationship, I think, is a deeper appreciation for what we have at this stage in our lives. It’s a reality that there are more grey hairs and wrinkles, not to mention aches and ailments, and that making a commitment to love and cherish one another until death is a lot closer to fulfillment in our late 40s than it would have been in our 20s.

My partner’s love is like a serendipitous affirmation that hey, bad things happen in life but that’s only to prepare you for something much better. It’s helped me to move on from my first marriage by accepting that it was never meant to be more than what it was.

When something in your life is this good, you can’t help but be excited for what comes next. It’s no wonder I like to dream about growing old with this man. When I look at him, I can imagine our future and know the best is yet to be.

Divorce Tattoos: Ink-spired to Move On

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Inside my left wrist, I wear a simple tattoo: 41.

The number has great significance to me. Not only did I turn 41 the year I got the tattoo, it marked my declaration of independence post-divorce. It is also meaningful in that “41” happens to be the name of my favorite song by Dave Matthews Band. The lyrics are about coming out the other side of a soured relationship a better person, having grown and learned something about one’s own strength.

I will go in this way

And I’ll find my own way out

I won’t tell you what to be

But I’m coming to much more me  

Rituals help us to process and to honour major events in our lives, and in 2016, tattoos are now considered a customary rite at junctures from births to deaths, and the marriages and divorces in between. A divorce tattoo can be a powerful and empowering gesture; a bold symbol of your change in status, a celebration of newfound freedom and a means of taking your body back. Yes, it hurts, but hey, it’s only a needle. We’ve been through much worse and this too, shall pass.

Tattoo.com says that while getting a divorce is painful, it is also a catalyst to starting a new chapter in life. “Because there are many emotions that it carries, getting ink to commemorate this change in life makes complete sense. It’s a way to re-claim who you are, now on your own. It’s also kind of a rebellious act, to get this display of freedom permanently inked on skin.”

With Pinterest pages devoted to inspirational divorce tattoo galleries, it appears that the choice to wear one’s heart on their sleeve is growing in popularity as divorcees get inked in a deeply personal way. Divorce tattoos have been dismissed as merely being part of the “survival trend,” as if people accumulate skin-deep badges of experience the way soldiers of war receive medals of bravery. Some say the ink will only lead to regret if the recipient chooses to get one while in a heightened emotional state, and that part is true. Always think before you ink.

Cynics may scoff that a divorce tattoo is a reminder of heartbreak that will only cause additional grief; but when someone gets a tattoo in memory of a loved one who has passed away, do people ever say, “Gee, won’t that remind you that your best friend/grandma/dog is dead and make you feel sad all over again?” No, of course not.

Yes, you will someday move on from the pain of divorce and be able to love and be loved again, but your tattoo will forever take up real estate on your body. So choose wisely. Make sure the design reflects who you are and who you will become, and not only the circumstances that forever altered the geography of your heart.

As for my own ink, I am glad that I chose to permanently commemorate my new beginning. Each time I see it, it serves as a reminder of what I’ve been through, how strong I am and how far I’ve come. It is as personal as it is meaningful to me. When people ask me what the tattoo means, I smile and simply tell them it’s my lucky number.

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I’m only this far

And only tomorrow leads the way

Jennifer Garner Speaks (Some of) Her Truth

Jennifer Garner’s beautiful face is all over newsstands this week, as magazine headlines herald her first candid, post-divorce interview since the demise of her 10-year marriage to Ben Affleck.

I have never been a huge fan, but am reconsidering that stance after being impressed both by what the actress said and what she didn’t say here.

Conducting herself admirably, Jen does not shy away from unavoidable questions regarding the lurid details of the high-profile breakup while still upholding her ex-husband’s privacy and generously acknowledging that he too, is dealing with his shame and pain. She does, however, use the Vanity Fair interview to demystify the fairy tale of her marriage without further sullying what she still considers sacred.

As a celebrity, Jennifer Garner has a platform for spilling her guts to the point of decimating her ex, but she keeps it in check knowing that a tabloid is not the forum to express the depth of her grief and grievances. She speaks her truth, at least a well-controlled portion of it, while still taking the high road – which means choosing to do what’s right even when it’s not the easiest.

I found that out early in the legal process. When filing for divorce, I wanted an opportunity to speak my truth by citing the reason my marriage ended. Not only because it would ensure an expedient judicial process, but because I wanted there to be an honest, God-as-my-witness record of what had transpired. However, I was strongly advised against that by a lawyer who urged me to instead choose a prolonged separation and a “no fault” divorce to spare anyone, especially the children, from ever knowing the full extent of the situation.

Gee whiz, I thought, if a court of law isn’t the place to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – when else would it have a chance to be made known?

The answer, as it turns out, is never. The judge doesn’t want to hear it, your friends don’t want to hear it, your children don’t want to hear it, your ex’s new partner doesn’t want to hear it, and frankly, neither does yours.

As I came to realize, you need to make peace with the fact that the only living person who knows, and will ever know, all of the intimately gory details of your divorce is the person that you’re divorcing. I guess that’s why I found it particularly gratifying when Jen Garner disclosed that Ben is “still the only person who really knows the truth about things. And I’m still the only person that knows some of his truths.”

I read that as a wink-wink to anyone who has ever found themselves walking a tightrope between talking about the truth and taking the high road. Yes, of course there is much more I can say, but I won’t. Oh, but if only you knew.

Perhaps that is enough, then; to simply acknowledge that we live with unspoken truths that are very real, even if we are restricted from ever fully revealing them.

Celebrity or not, we may have more story to tell, but sometimes it’s best if we never do.