Tuesday, September 30, 2014

when the only choice you can make is the one that hurts the most.

Photo credit: Taylor Loy
"What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs." — Rumi "The Essential Rumi"
Once something is brought into your consciousness, you can’t really make it go away. As Brene Brown says, “Once you see something, you can’t un-see it.” I try to live my life in a way that is intentional and mindful, always attempting (and it’s an attempt, at best) to avoid harmful speech, actions, and thoughts towards myself and/or others. This has been the focus of my blog, my parenting, my zazen practice, and most of my experiences day-to-day. So, you can imagine how surprised, distraught, saddened, and scared I was when I realized that despite what always seemed my best efforts, I had been blind to the fact that in order to live more mindfully, I was going to have to put myself first and even hurt those closest to me: my husband and children.
A few weeks ago, I asked my husband for a divorce. I have my reasons, obviously, and one of the hardest parts of this decision-making process has been to honor my feelings and intuition, even though they may not seem rational, or reasonable, to those around me. To hear that I’m asking for a divorce has been shocking to some of my friends and family. It most certainly has been shocking to my husband. And yet, as shocking as it is, it feels like the only choice I have.

So, I now find myself wrestling with the knowledge that in being true to myself, I’m causing a lot of pain and sadness for people I love. I’m capable of getting rid of their pain, and yet, it’s the one thing I cannot bring myself to do. For a wife and mother who has always put her husband and children ahead of herself, this has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done: sitting with the shock, the sadness, the hurt, and the confusion of those around me without doing anything to fix it. 

I'm starting to understand that mindfulness, compassion, and kindness aren't always about keeping others from feeling pain. While I was trying to be a mindful wife and mother, I was ignoring some of my own intrinsic needs and truths. In the last couple of months, I have learned that there is a fine line between being compassionate and kind towards others, and making sure you take care of your own needs. If I had been more honest with myself, and my husband, about what I wanted from my relationship, I might have saved my marriage. Or, I might have asked for a divorce even earlier. But instead, I pushed a lot of uneasiness, and longing, and resentment below the surface and led my husband to think that everything was fine. Admittedly, I convinced myself it was fine too. I now realize that I was being mindful of what everyone needed except me.  

I’ve heard a saying that the only way out, is through. And the only thing getting me through this is the profound sense that I’m doing exactly what the Universe wants me to do. If I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that, I never would have considered putting my husband and children through this. So, coupled with the pain, and guilt, of what I’m inflicting on people I love, I’m also comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that I’m following the path that has been laid out for me. It’s true: once you know something, you can’t un-know it. 

In the next few months, I’ll be writing my way through my divorce. I’ll write about moving away from Japan earlier than I expected; about moving back to my home state of Tennessee. I’ll write about the transition from homeschooling my children, to sending them off to a public magnet school. There will be posts about why I felt like I needed a divorce (while obviously trying to be respectful of my husband, my children, and his family), and what the entire divorce process entails. You’ll no doubt see posts about both the good days, and the difficult ones. And all the while, I’ll be trying to live a mindful, compassionate, loving, and honest life - not only for those I love, but for myself, too.
"Whatever life you lead you must put your soul in it--to make any sort of success in it; and from the moment you do that it ceases to be romance, I assure you: it becomes grim reality! And you can't always please yourself; you must sometimes please other people. That, I admit, you're very ready to do; but there's another thing that's still more important--you must often displease others. You must always be ready for that--you must never shrink from it." — Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady)


  1. As a friend of you both and someone who cares about your girls, love and grace will get you all through this.

    As the child of parents who tried to pretend everything was fine for many years, thank you for doing what's best for your girls, even though you're all hurting in the process. It doesn't matter when, it's going to hurt, and its going to get worse before it gets better. This way you move past the hurt faster than if you'd have kept fooling yourself.

  2. Kim, it's me. I know we haven't spoken in a while. But I want you to know that I'm here for you when you need a friend, like you were there for me when I needed one. Sending you virtual love and hugs.