With morning light, the emotional breakdown and decision to divorce the night before seems a very distant reality. Did it even really happen? Making decisions when tired is always a bad idea, right? Let’s call this one a mulligan and start over. Surely when we examine “Who I Am” we will discover our marriage can survive Rainbow’s emerging feelings.
A New Beginning
The next day we discuss the impact of getting a divorce. I don’t recall much of the day or the conversation details. I’m sure the kids are around somewhere. Daily chores and eating also happen.
Quickly, we both rebound from the emotional divorce discussion. Concluding we both like – and want – what we have. There has to be a way to make this work. Surely, we can find a path to stay married and happy in our little white picket fence cocoon.
We seek out the resources Frieda suggested and discover others to answer the “Who I Am” question.
Meditation videos clear the mind and create a path to focused thoughts.
A master of all things in list format, I compile a list of shared hobbies and interests. Separately we create individual “Who I Am” statements intending to share with each other.
We will find a way to remain together despite diverging sexuality!
Rainbow stumbles on the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I jump on the idea of identifying self-limiting beliefs. After all, it could be my own belief system that prevents me from accepting a more flexible marriage arrangement than the traditional one I was raised to believe.
I snag a copy of The Four Agreements, its companion guide, and The Five Levels of Attachment: Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World from the library.
Armed with our initial “Who I Am” statements, we head to the lake for a weekend of celebration. All three books make the trip with us.
A Relaxing Weekend
With a week’s worth of fresh commitment to each other and new-found knowledge in hand, a relaxing weekend at the lake sounds heavenly.
It’s my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary and we are going to celebrate with some family time. All four of our family, my mother and father-in-law, brother-in-law, my brother-in-law’s roommate, and, of course, four family dogs will be there.
It’s a good thing the lake home has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living spaces, and two outdoor decks.
The first morning, I sit on the upper deck with a beautiful view of the water. A cup of coffee is in one hand and the book of four agreements in the other. Rainbow sits next to me reading about the five levels of attachment.
I hear the kids tossing the ball and playing tug-of-war with the four family dogs inside the house behind us. Giggles are frequent. Soon enough my son wanders off to play on a screen. My daughter gradually ceases playing with the dogs too and quietly watches her screen sitting on the cool leather couch inside.
My mother-in-law busily sweeps leaves off the deck. She then determines what we will eat for lunch and preps the food she can right now. All this flurry is immediately followed by a walk with the dogs. My father-in-law sits next to me with his own book on the deck before being called away for lunch prep and the dog walk. My brother-in-law and his roommate are on a run.
Mid-way through the morning, I lay on the soft cushions of the outdoor couch. My hair flows in the soft breeze. I hear the squirrels dashing through the trees just off the deck. I meditate. While in a dream-like floating state, my daughter joins me for a bit.
“Are you sleeping, Mom?” she gently inquires.
“No, sweetie. Just relaxing.” I softly whisper.
We lay quietly together. Her warm body pressing against me is sunshine for my soul. She pops up and on to the next thing much too quickly for my liking.
Soon it’s lunchtime. Rainbow puts down his book and grabs plates and silverware to set the table.
I hear my brother-in-law and his roommate asking for everyone’s drink orders. Previous experience tells me they are brushing shoulders as they work and sharing glances about my mother-in-law’s running monologue to the room.
Kids take up a game of chase with a couple of the dogs; based on the sounds they are weaving in and out of the lunch prep zone.
Directed by my mother-in-law, my father-in-law thumps his un-even cadence back and forth from the kitchen to the table. He really should lose some weight. It would help his bad ankle and foot.
Slowly I roll off the couch, pulling my heavy limbs behind me to join the fray. It’s time for me too to listen to the monologue and pretend any tension in the room doesn’t exist.
Thankfully lunch is quickly over. I’ve been filled in with the latest on-dits of my in-laws’ life. The high school girl’s basketball team won’t do so well this next season. The local restaurant everyone adores is moving to a larger town; all the locals are upset. No, my brother-in-law decided not to apply for yet a third employment opportunity this year – though he wanted to. The next big project will be re-doing the kitchen. The coral colored flooring really must go.
“Does everyone want to go on a family boat ride this afternoon.”
Somewhere along my mother-in-law’s career path, she lost the ability to use question marks. At least it feels this way to me when she seemingly dictates family activities. I’m likely just being a grumpy gills since I would rather return to the sunshine warmed cushions on the outdoor couch. Out there the squirrels have no expectations of me of to socialize.
The mother-in-law bustle resumes after lunch. She recruits my father-in-law and the rest of us to assist. All too soon, we are on the boat “cruising” at 40 mph. The wind whipping away any words before they can reach the intended recipient’s ears.
Who I Am
Despite the ever-moving in-law tornado, Rainbow and I manage to spend the majority of the weekend alone reading or with each other. The weekend is one of the most relaxed spans of time I can recall in the past ten months.
Somehow in the chaos, we even take two long walks together.
Holding hands we stroll along the asphalt road running in front of the houses surrounding the lake. We discuss what we have learned from our reading and how it impacts our marriage.
Maybe we are being held back by our definition of marriage. The four agreements talk about scripts (beliefs) placed in us by society and faith. These scripts are not conscientious decisions made by us. Marriage only being a monogamous relationship between a man and woman is a script, right? Now that we are aware of that script, do we want to agree with it or forge our own path?
“I love you. Do you love me?”
“That’s what matters then. We don’t need to agree with our current script of marriage. Let’s create our own definition and a new script.”
A day or so later, relaxed in the teal Adirondack chairs on the house’s lower deck, Rainbow and I continue our walk discussions. We have one more day of vacation before we resume our daily lives.
Rainbow is enjoying a strong, tall adult beverage as we share our “Who I Am” lists.
I am sentimental and care more about people than stuff or current events. I am a minimalist. I enjoy creating which is why my career feels so limiting at times. I am a romantic. I am a people chameleon – I will mold myself to my environment. I’m passionate about helping others and seek out the best in people. I am an optimist. I am serious but can be silly and occasionally ditzy. I like to be doing something and love a good personal challenge. I am a planner.
The list continues but these are main areas for me. I finish and slump back into my chair. Turning my shoulders slightly toward Rainbow, my legs pressing together at the knees, I attempt to settle my body. My heart is thumping a rapid beat from the intense self-examination and being vulnerable to another person. My brain is still churning, so I take a deep swallow of Rainbow’s now half-finished drink.
Rainbow then shares his “Who I Am” list.
Opening the notes app on his phone, he leans back in his chair with legs crossed. Looking at his screen, he begins: I’m married to my best friend. I’m a dad of two amazing kids. I’m good at my job and enjoy it…most days.
So far, it seems he has focused more on the tangible aspects of who he is. I dove deep into the core of myself – bypassing all surface levels details of being a mom, volunteering, etc.
Rainbow continues: I care about people and enjoy helping others. I sometimes need help but usually, don’t ask for it when I do. I constantly struggle with fear of disappointing/ hurting people.
“When I strip away all fears, I’m a gay man but I haven’t always known that.”
And there it is…the soul-deep self-discovery of Who I Am.
He glances up from his screen to look at me. I catch his gaze. There is sadness reflected back at me, but a flicker of fire I have never seen before. It’s a flicker of relief and acceptance of self. The truth is out and the feeling of freedom it brings, tiny as it is, is shining from his eyes. Freedom from a living an unauthentic life is staring back at me.
I am grateful for the little bit of mellow the alcohol has provided. I’m not sure I could handle this raw statement from Rainbow without it.
I realize it is the first time Rainbow has directly told me that he is gay. Not “mostly gay” or bi-sexual statements. Just the unfiltered truth. A truth that the two individuals he told before me heard despite the words he used.
I take another swallow of Rainbow’s drink. The glass is empty. Rainbow hops up and refills it. We sit in the chairs and more equally share the second glass.
The Last Walk
A short while later we go for a walk. The sun is beginning to set and the lake view belongs on a postcard. A gentle breeze blows bringing a slight chill to the warm day.
Holding hands we wind down and around the beach area and along the trail right next to the water’s edge. Rainbow stops at a large boulder where the edge juts out a little.
“This is where I sat last May in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about the feelings The Other woMAN had started in my heart.”
We climb onto the boulder together. Arms wrapped around each other. Tears flowing down both our cheeks.
I didn’t know his feelings had started so long ago. I was under the impression his feelings began just before he told me last September. He has been struggling with his shifting sexual emotions for over a year.
My stomach churns. I didn’t have a clue. I feel terrible he dealt with this alone.
A smaller speedboat with an older couple and their dog races by. We softly whisper about how that’s what we want. A partner to share life with to the very end. I want that partner to be Rainbow. I can’t fathom it being anyone else.
Yet how does my envisioned future fit with what he has just shared with me?
Can I really change my “script” of marriage to allow for Rainbow’s homosexual feelings? Do I want to?
We resume our stroll. Rainbow wraps his arm around me whispering he wants our marriage. He wants me. He doesn’t want to lose me. He can’t imagine taking his life journey with anyone else.
My chest physically aches. I am certain I left my heart sitting on the boulder behind us.
On some level I’m aware this may be the last walk I will ever take around this lake.
In the middle of the night, I wake up sobbing. I sit up in bed wrapping my arms around my tightly curled legs. I rock myself slightly.
I am here celebrating my in-laws’ 40th wedding anniversary. A fairytale ending I have desired since childhood.
My brain is lagging behind, but the heart rules the land of dreams. My heart knows and wants the “script” of marriage to be a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. It also recognizes the odds of me having a 40th wedding anniversary have slimmed to almost none with the fearless truth Rainbow shared earlier.
Rainbow sits up with me. Wrapping his arms around me. He does his best to comfort me.
It is terribly difficult to accept comfort from the person causing you pain. But he is the only one who knows the emotional torment we are dealing with. I take what love and comfort he can provide.
I am starting to understand the emotional chasm I’ve felt for years is because his love for me is not the same type of love I have for him. How can it be if Rainbow is a gay man?