I don’t buy dresses that zip up the back anymore.  I haven’t for a long time — exactly how long?  I do know that — 17 years, 6 months, 26 days.  It’s been that long since my then-husband moved out of the apartment we shared together and into his own place.

I was too wrapped up in a relationship with a man who was so unsuited to me that I often wonder if his sole purpose was to distract me from my crumbling marriage to a man I still loved so that, when my husband left, I  wouldn’t notice.  It worked for a while.

Fred, my former husband, was the steady hand holding my arm as I walked the tightrope of my life, the vigilant guide that turned down the heat on the pot-boiling-over that was my mind, the brave hero  there to rescue this damsel in distress, whether it was my upset over being a catholic mother trying to train her Jewish son for his Bar Mitzvah, or the quiet reassurance on those days that being in the fashion business was not the glamorous career everyone thought it would be.

We had husband and wife moments like everyone else  — and, none more annoying — and touching — as his checking on me as I would spend forever getting ready to go out.

“How much longer will you be?” he said, standing in the doorway of my bathroom as I applied my mascara, my head up close to the mirror, lips parted in concentration, right arm out to the side as I carefully colored one lash at a time.  “Not too long,” I said between lashes, “Five more minutes.”  I didn’t have my dress on yet, my shoes were strewn about the floor, my hair still had a couple of rollers on the top.  “Just five more minutes, Fred!”  He shook his head and walked away.

This would have happened once or twice or even three times more before I was ready to don my dress and shoes and we could walk out the door to our event.

Ah, my dress.  I’d step into it and slither it up over my hips.   I’d reach my hands behind me and start the zipper up as far as I could with my own hands.  Then…

“Fred!” It was a call out.  “Fred?”  It was a question.  He’d come into the room and I could always tell he liked what I had on – his fretful face would transform to a look of wide-eyed appreciation.  I’d turn so my back was to him, sweep my hair to the side.   “Honey, would you zip me up?”  I could feel him come up behind me, almost too close to do the task at hand.  He put his hands on the back of my dress, sliding down to find the zipper tab and slowly pull it up to the top.  I’d always turn around and reward him with a kiss, “Thanks, Honey!”

After he moved out – I guess it was some months later – I was getting ready to go to a party.  I put on my make-up with no sweet spectator at the door, no one to hurry me along, no one to shake his head in exasperation.  I thought I would like having this time to myself.  Instead, there was a twinge of lonliness – an anticipation of someone who loved me, albeit impatiently, nudging me on.  I looked towards the door – there was no one there.

I slipped on my dress, a sexy, red beaded short dress with a zipper up the back.  I reached behind and zipped up the dress as far as I could on my own – and then I turned in dismay – how was I going to get this dress zipped up by myself?

I tried wild contortions and yoga poses, but nothing worked –  I never could get my hands to meet behind me.

I gave up and sat down on my bed.  While it had already been weeks since he left,  that was the moment I realized he was gone for good.  I put my face in my hands and cried until my make-up was ruined and I was so late for my party that it would have been embarrassing to show up at all.

I slipped out of my dress and hung it on the hanger from which it had come, the curve of the top still sitting in the hook on my closet  door.  It was the last time I would ever  wear  that dress, a dress I had worn for Fred on several occasions, a dress that he had zipped up for me each time.

I washed my mascara-streaked face and didn’t call my friends to say I was not coming.  It didn’t escape me that no one called to see where I was.  Fred was the only one who ever waited on my presence – vigilantly, annoyingly, impatiently, lovingly.

I miss that about him.

17 years, 6 months, and 26 days later and I still miss that about him.

Yes, it’s the big, angry outbursts that signify a marriage  has ended, but it the missing of those endearing and intimate ordinary moments between a man and a woman in which you know that something amazing is gone for good.

Deliciously yours in the Memory of it All, Linda

“The way you wear your hat;
The way you sip your tea;
The memory of all that.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

The way your smile just beams;
The way you sing off key;
The way you haunt my dreams.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

We may never, never meet again
On on the bumpy road to love.
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife;
The way we danced ’til three;
The way you’ve changed my life.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me”  by  Ira Gershwin

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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Since posting my review on Linda Leaming’s book, “Married to Bhutan”, both Linda and I were on Hay House Book Club Radio together, talking about the story themes and what there was to take-away from reading this wonderful memoir about loving life in Bhutan and Linda’s life of love in Bhutan with her amazing husband, Namgay.  If you read the book, you’ll see that, truly, he sounds like a paragon of patience and an altogether wonder of a man!

Afterwards, Linda and I communicated via Facebook and Twitter, and then, finally, email.  I found out she was coming to New York City for an event, and I thought perhaps we could meet for coffee?  We could.

It seemed that we met as two strangers with a common ground – her book, which she wrote and I loved.  I was soon to learn that it was no accident that Linda and I met each other.

Our afternoon conversation did what many conversations between women do – it drifted into talk of relationships and love.

I wanted to know more about her romance with her husband.  I was intrigued by their relationship – Western drama meets Buddhist acceptance and allowing – it seemed at once exciting and implausible.  What did he make of her worry and frenzy?  What did she make of his silence and peace?

Her stories in person were as ripe with promise and love as they were in the book.  As in the book, she was forthcoming and authentic over coffee about how they had to take time to get used to each other and it wasn’t always easy, but very much worth it.  The story of the romance in the book is one of my favorite parts — and I loved hearing more about it first-hand.

I contributed some of my own story.  I met my husband many years ago and it was not long before I fell madly in love.  I’ve written about Fred before, my son’s father, my partner-in-love-and-travel-and-craziness, followed by some tough years and, finally, not one separation, but two.  The second one lasted 9 years before he finally walked into my apartment shortly after 9/11 and handed me divorce papers.  “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered – and I had to agree.  Our divorce was final in February, 2002.

Many years ago, after the initial anger and fights of the separation wore off, we became friends – probably because there never was much to fight about to begin with.  I’m convinced, even today, that if either one of us had had an ounce of transformation skills between us,  we would never have separated.  But, separate we did.  And, friends we’ve been – for all these years.

My friends and teachers and coaches always commented that they wondered why we weren’t together.  Not only have we been close friends, full of mutual admiration and respect, neither of us married again.  He was still my “person”, as they say on the television show,  “Grey’s Anatomy” – if something good happened to me, I called Fred first.  If something awful was going on – well, there you go…. Fred was the one I called for support and comfort.

He had been with the same woman since we separated.  We never spoke of his relationship with her.  We spoke of almost everything else, though.   In fact, our relationship was mostly conversation – phone calls about good movies, a course he or I was taking, what we thought about life and love, and, most of all, about our son, Josh, who was, and still is, the focus of our attention, our care, our love. 

We rarely saw each other.

At Christmas time, while I was in Minneapolis visiting Josh, everything seemed as usual between Fred and me – calls checking in with each other about what I was doing with Josh, where we were going, what restaurants Josh was liking those days, chirpy little conversations about ordinary “friend” stuff.

On the day before I was to leave Minneapolis, Fred ended one of our phone calls with, “Oh, I have to tell you something.  I’m getting married in January.”

I wish I could explain what happened next.  My throat closed up and I couldn’t speak, I had to hang up, I fell to the floor, sobbing, as if someone I loved deeply had just died.  Well, no person died, but something did die.  Whatever that illusion was, it was over, and mourning that death has taken the better part of the last five months.

We’ve had fights we haven’t had in years, with accusations back and forth.  I felt as if I was in a time warp and I’m sure he did, too.  We’re not speaking now and perhaps that is part of the process.

I felt,  and still feel,  silly – mourning a marriage that was over 17 years ago, but I didn’t mourn way back then and it needed to be done.   The grieving needed to be done, the tears needed to flow, a new life needed to be born out of the loss, perhaps a new love out of the acceptance of what is over.

Even now, months later, I’m still surprised at my reaction, stunned that it threw me into a grief so deep that I am only now pulling myself up the well-walls by my finger-tips, looking back down into that deep, dark hole of abandonment and loss as if I could so easily let go and fall back in and drown in the sadness of it once again.

But…   I don’t.

I’m sitting on the ledge of the well now, swinging my feet over to the outside – although, I haven’t tried to stand yet.   I often wonder if I can carry my own weight alone.

I shared all this with Linda Leaming at our coffee date.  She answered with a story about what Namgay said when he heard that friends of theirs were divorcing:  “Perhaps they’ve finished out their karma together.”

Even as she said it, I felt the tears well up and I sensed that it was true – and I was sad that it probably is true.  There’s a finality now that never was there before in any of our fights, our partings, our separation, or our divorce.

It reminded me of a story from Linda’s  book about when a baby died — Namgay told her, “Sometimes they come back and live for a year or two, then they die.  They’re just finishing out the samsara.”    Fred and I were soulmates — perhaps we came back together in this life to finish out our samsara.  

It is complete.  Part of me feels frightened to be alone for really the first time in my life.   Another part of me feels truly free for the first time in my life.

Thank you, Linda, for saying the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear it – another gift from Bhutan, another example of people coming into our lives just when we need them to — to teach us something, to push us a little further along on our journey.

I hope that someday Fred and I can be friendly, but not yet.  I hope that someday we can both walk our son down the aisle when he marries, knowing that we did a good thing there with him.  I hope that someday we can be in the same room with our grandchildren and remember that once we were in love and it was great and we meant everything to each other and we have that to give to our son and to his children.  The relationship may be complete, the karma may be finished, but love never dies, and that is the gift we can remember and give.

Before I leave you today, I want to add one thing.  I did know for about a year that what Fred and I had was somehow preventing me from being in relationship with someone else – something I finally realized that I wanted.  Last fall, I told my coach that I was going to turn that over to God to handle – and so I did.  Every night, from mid-November until I left for Minneapolis for Christmas, I prayed to God, “Please heal this – whatever this is – between me and Fred.  I want to be in relationship with someone else, and I know that this bond is stopping me from doing that.  I’m willing for it to be undone.  And, dear God, please be gentle with us – he doesn’t have to die for me to be free.  Amen.”

And so it is.

Deliciously yours in the Samsara of it All, Linda

“Samsara literally means “wandering-on.” Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live — the place we leave when we go to nibbana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it’s the answer, not to the question, “Where are we?” but to the question, “What are we doing?” Instead of a place, it’s a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.”   Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Here is Linda Leaming and me with Diane Ray on Hay House Radio:

http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=8204&show_id=235&episode_id=7208

Or, you can try this one for the mp3 recording:

http://hayhouse.edgeboss.net/download/hayhouse/freecontent/free_june_archive/hayhousebookclub_052711.mp3

You can listen for free for one more week.  Then it goes into the Hay House Radio archives.  Thanks!

 

Yesterday, my ex-husband told me he got married.  He told me in December that he was going to get married, so it shouldn’t have hurt.

It shouldn’t have hurt, but it did.  It shouldn’t have hurt because we split 17 years ago, but it did — and it does — hurt.

I thought we were best friends, and we were – and probably still are – when I get over mourning this marriage that was over 17 years ago.

I don’t know why it was such a surprise or why I am hurt or why it should make a difference.  but, it does.

I say I don’t know why it hurts, but I do.  And, it doesn’t have anything to do with him.  It has to do with something that happened with my father when I was 10.

That’s when I found the note from  my father’s girlfriend in my mother’s dresser drawer.  I don’t remember much except she said…

She said, “I know you can’t leave your family,” and it was signed, “I love you, Ray.”  Ray was my sister’s god-mother and my father’s secretary.  I knew her.

I was dumbstruck like a silly putty gob stuck to the carpet.  My mother walked in, saw me with the letter, took it…

My mother took the letter out of my hands and said, “You shouldn’t be reading that.”  She folded it up, put it in her pocket and walked out of the room.

I have been holding my whole life together ever since so that no one would leave.  And they all do.  Even if they stay, I make them leave.

I construct the leaving so they can’t stop the leaving in a certain way.  Even after they’ve left, it’s stuck like a tree stuck…

Like a tree stuck in the ground, growing away, away, away, but the roots are in the same place, giving even the growing a grounding…

That it can’t get away from.  I wonder if the leaves know they are part of the roots or do they think they’re free?

I am the earth.

I am the earth and I know better.

Deliciously yours in the Bittersweetness of it All,   Linda

“Release from the bondage of the earth is not freedom to the tree.”  Rabindranath Tagore

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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