Sunday, April 27, 2014

Offering Up A Life Lesson


A Korean scenic designer in college told me that each person could expect 3 very difficult periods in their life.  I mention that he was Korean, because he gave me the impression most Koreans believe this.  I don't think he made it up personally.  It sounded reasonable to me.

In my experience, when a person (or even a whole country) goes through a truly traumatic experience, we can become unusually flexible and adaptable of thought.  When we are in those moments, we can be more open to making lasting changes in our habits and our perspectives.  We face Truth in a way we normally avoid.

If what my Korean friend told me is true, and we really do get 3 exceedingly trying times in our life, 2005-2006 was one of my 3.

In the Spring of 2005, a colleague that I thought was a close friend and whom I loved, turned on me professionally.  It broke my heart and sent me into a tailspin of fear and self-doubt at work.

In the Fall of 2005, I fell in love with a woman who was not my wife.  I'm going to focus more on that in a minute.  In the meanwhile, It is important to me that you know I never cheated on my wife (and, in fact, have never cheated on anyone).  PLEASE NOTE: The wife to whom I am referring is not Cindy.  I was married and divorced once before I married Cindy.  Cindy and I are both on our second - and final - marriage.   Still, the process of facing the fact that I had married for the wrong reasons and wanted a divorce broke my first wife's heart and shook my own sense of identity to the core.

In the Winter of 2005, my beloved grandmother succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease.  To me, Alzheimer's is a slow, unstoppable thief.  I felt robbed.

Twelve days later, my best friend, Aimee, died from cirrhosis of the kidneys and liver.  Her family and I watched her undergo this process for the 4 days that it took.  She was 38.  It was another terrible robbery.

Over the coming months, there were times when I was so sad, guilty, confused, full of longing, and full of grief that I wanted to pee, shit myself, vomit, and cry simultaneously.  It was a desire to evacuate my body until it was as empty and hollow as I felt emotionally.

In the Nichiren Buddhist tradition from Japan, "shakubuku" is the sometimes-forceful process of breaking one's misguided attachments and facing Truth.  The practice can be done to you, or you can do it to yourself.  In historical point of fact, it is used as a method for Buddhist conversion, and I suppose without knowing it, that's what it did to me.  But that's neither here nor there.

A more American perspective can be found under Urban Dictionary's alternate spelling:
And, from there, we naturally come to this scene in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank:

What could be more like a swift, spiritual kick to the head than heartbreak, death, and divorce?

During this time of personal tragedy, I had no spare energy.  I had no spare brain space.  Everything that I had in me was spent on the act of survival - keeping myself (relatively) functional at work, putting one foot in front of the next as I walked down the street, trying to find the stomach to eat...  My feelings were too giant for me to ignore, so I was forced to stop and feel each one as it came and went.  As we say in Buddhism, I was fully present in each moment, although I would never have been able to put it in that context at the time.


The trick is not to waste it.  When you've been kicked, don't ignore it, don't waste your life in ignorance; a kick is a fact.  Kick.  It's the Truth.  The Truth is never not true.  You might as well quit your bullshit and really look at it.  If you look deeply enough, you'll see Truth you've probably been ignoring for a long time.

One of my newly discovered, un-ignorable Truths?  I had organized my life and my career so that I was "Lory The Strong".  I was "Lory The Rescuer".  I was "Lory The Fixer".  I spent so much of my life needing to be needed, seeking approval and validation, I wasn't paying attention to or taking space to express my own needs, aims, feelings.

Let me highlight that for a second:
In many ways, I was purely focused on discovering and care-taking the needs of others at the near-complete expense of my own.  I didn't even know what I felt or needed.

Deep down, I was afraid my own feelings were too big.  I was afraid they would hurt people.  I was afraid expressing my feelings would be seen as impolite or selfish.  I was afraid that by focusing on my feelings, I would disappoint others who needed me.  I didn't understand that care-taking one's self is really the only person you CAN care-take.


The whole construction of my self-identity (who I thought I was) broke open in 2005-2006.  I was married, and I was in love with a woman who wasn't my wife.  You can ignore a lot of kinds of feelings, but love is impossible to ignore or suppress.  I was finally forced to listen to the unspeakable voices in my heart that had been telling me all along that my marriage wasn't right for me.  I knew I had to break the most important promise I had ever made in my life - my wedding vow... When I finally faced THAT Truth, when "Lory The Fixer" wasn't fixing someone else anymore; I was, in fact, breaking and dismantling my own marriage - doing the things I had been most afraid of: hurting someone's feelings, tarnishing my own identity... Well, I realized no other Truth I could face would ever be so destructive, and if I could say THAT Truth - I wanted a divorce - I could finally say any Truth to anybody - even myself.

Bold statement: There is never any benefit to delay when facing Truth.  Now is always the answer.

There were other life lessons from that difficult period, but learning to make care-taking myself my top priority, learning to make space to identify and (when appropriate) to express my feelings, and learning to stop avoiding Truth - those lessons have been the foundation for everything good in my life since that time.


Our apple tree has blossoms for the first time.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written - and absolutely true! I'm going to have to think about his one for a while...I think the last 8 years have been difficult for me, mostly because I wasn't facing up to my bullshit, just as you say. One thing I've notices, just because you face up to it doesn't mean anyone else is going to like it. Kind of like you describe with the breakup of your first marriage - when you face your truth, it can cause more pain, but in the long run, it is the only path to recovery. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. Loved this post ;-)


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