Monday, February 9, 2009

Living the dream 24/7

Last night I returned home from an awesome visit to Calgary, where I had lived for a cumulated total of 27 years prior to moving to Nanaimo, British Columbia in September 2008.

I saw my two sons, who are in their twenties, and a handful of long standing friends. It was lovely to catch up with them all. It was a special treat to spend some time with my older son, whom I had last seen in September. (My younger son, in contrast, had visited me in Nanaimo just the previous weekend.)

But the very best part of the trip was the sense of resolution that my ex husband and I achieved.

When we'd separated in August 2008, exactly a month short of our 35th wedding anniversary, we had been determined to be civilized about it. We definitely wanted to avoid what I would describe as a divorce from hell, which was a phenomenon we'd witnessed a couple of times amongst our friends.

We both were extremely polite. My husband was kind enough to help me pack the belongings that I wanted to ship to Nanaimo.

He really went above and beyond the call of duty when he gave me his water colour painting of our sons. It portrays them on a lakeside vacation in BC's Okanagan Valley at the ages of approximately eight and five. I was very touched by that gesture.

Nonetheless, the courtesy between my husband and me was stilted.

The strain in our politeness haunted me as I got increasingly involved in consensus decision making, compassionate communication and conflict resolution both inside and outside of my cohousing community in Nanaimo.

I felt like a fake, because I did not believe I had achieved a state of peace in all areas of my life. I really wanted to walk my talk. As long as I was feeling so guarded and defensive in my very few communications with my ex husband, it did not feel to me as if I was living up to the standards that I claimed.

Then a few things happened. I had planned to visit Calgary for Christmas, but extreme weather had prevented me from doing so. After that, I still wanted to see my sons. That wish partly was fulfilled when my younger son visited Nanaimo, but I also wanted to see my older son.

Then a friend passed away, and I wanted to attend his memorial service in Calgary. I timed my trip to coincide with the planned memorial service. For complicated reasons, the date of the service was changed. As it turned out, I did not manage to attend it. But when I committed to the trip, it was one of my motivations.

Finally, I wanted to sell my vehicle, my ex husband offered to buy it, and I offered to deliver it to Calgary. I discussed that in my previous blog post entitled, "Molly's Farewell Tour."

As I headed to Calgary, I dreaded interacting with my ex husband. He later shared that he too had been nervous about my visit.

But, once we saw each other, our fears melted away. We discussed many issues, we gained clarity on a lot of points, we reminisced, we laughed and we cried.

We confirmed our original decision to separate. We agreed that, in some fundamentally important areas, our values were sharply different. We had very distinct ideas about the ways in which we wanted to spend our remaining time on this planet.

We felt that, as long as we had been in more of a "survival mode," our busyness had masked our disagreements. But, once our kids had left home and we had had more spare time on our hands, our differences had become more apparent.

By the time of my visit to Calgary, my ex husband and I had had a five-month break, and we weren't driving each other bonkers any more. We both were cheerful and relaxed. We got to see each other in a favourable light again. Each of us thought, "Wow, you really are a nice person."

That radically changed the atmosphere in which we parted this time around. We felt goodwill towards each other. When my ex husband dropped me off at Calgary Airport late yesterday afternoon, he gave me a card in which he had written a beautiful message wishing me the very best for the future.

The sense of closure that I now have is indescribable.

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