Why doesn’t love live here anymore?

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One of the many perks of spending my summers in Spain is running into old acquaintances. Such was the case last night when the elevator I was waiting for opened to reveal two old friends.

After exchanging excited greetings, we found ourselves sharing a bottle of cheap Spanish wine while catching up. We discovered who was pregnant, who had a new grandchild, and sadly, who’d passed away. We found out who tied the knot, remarried, or filed for divorce. While this may sound like a typical gossip fest, I assure you it was not.

Why? Because what started off as a simple exchange of information, deepened into a high order discussion of identifying “the why.”

One minute, one friend was revealing details of her brother’s marital break up, and the next, the other was admitting she’d been in a loveless marriage for twenty years.

Wine glasses were quickly refilled to cover up the awkward silence that ensued. However, the question hanging in the air was, “Why?” The friend in question did not have an answer.

The conversation that followed was so interesting, my friends have allowed me to share our results. But first, I should point out that our first question was, how different is staying with someone in a loveless marriage from an actual divorce? The answer is, not much.

We identified that in both cases, the individuals have become distant; estranged. They no longer share common interests and exchanges of affection are either rare or nonexistent.

Conversation is limited to current events, the weather, and the daily conundrum.

They never make time for one another and everything else always takes precedence.

Romantic, intimate moments, and sex are just a hazy memory. They claim to be busy, tired, or stressed. One has a headache, the other has to get up early the next morning.

Time continues to pass. One year turns into five, then into ten, and before long, they’ve spent two decades in the company of someone who is nothing more than a roommate.

You’d think all things considered, they wouldn’t want to spend a moment in each other’s company, let alone a lifetime. Yet together they remain.

Our discussion revealed the typical reasons for this being so: religion, financial difficulties, and the famous, “it’s in the best interest of the children.” However, we wanted to go deeper. Much deeper.

We wanted to discover what had the power to hold two peole hostage and force them to wake up in a state of misery day after day.

We were convinced a justifiable reason existed.

I want to tell you we were successful. I want to tell you we had an “aha” moment, that one of us screamed, “Eureka!”. But alas, such is not the case.

We were more confused at the end of our conversation than when we started. We bid each other farewell, disheartened and frustated.

This morning, an empty coffee cup by my side, I continue to look for answers.

My brain tells me perhaps it’s fear.

Fear of the unknown.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of starting over.

Or perhaps it’s conformity–blind acceptance that this is the hand destiny has dealt.

Or maybe people are just too tired, lazy, or believe themselves unworthy of something or someone better.

I’m certain each case is different. Individuals in these circumstances are sure to have personal reasons for remaining. However, something tells me many, if not all, have one thing in common. They all want to know why.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation, and if so, why do you stay?

XOXO,

Is this what poets call affairs of the heart?


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Audringje

A humble attempt at flash fiction.
Honest critique most welcome!

Dear Diary, no, that sounded too childish.
Dear God, no, definitely not. This one was too Judy Blume.
Dear Friend. Yes, this one sounded right.

Her pen dashed across the page, filling it with words, feelings, emotions.
Everything she’d kept bottled inside for so long.
She felt good at finally being able to tell someone.
Even if this source was as much a secret as Damian.

Damian.

She inhaled deeply.

Why hadn’t she met him first?
Wait. She had.
Only at the time, he didn’t have the courage to meet her in person.

She continued to pen her thoughts.

Dear Friend,
I have a secret; a secret love I’ve never met.

She had only been acting on a dare when she sent him the first message.

His profile was perfect.
Tall, foreign, and handsome.
He was witty, intelligent, knowledgeable.
His line of work was exciting, daring, and dangerous.

Everything Wesley wasn’t.

In the beginning, she had pondered if any of it were true.
But after a few weeks, she stopped caring.
The anonymity of the Web allowed people to turn themselves into super heroes, and at this point, it didn’t matter.
She was lonely.
Very lonely.

Damian seemed the perfect gentleman.
And he listened
He really listened.
In a short time, she had managed to reveal more to Damian, than she had ever told anyone else.

He knew about her first crush, her first kiss, her first love.
He knew about her family’s dysfunctional habits, her mother’s need to control her, and how her parakeet kept her awake at night.
He knew how long her hair was, how many cups of coffee she drank, and how she hated to be called Lizzie.
But most of all, he knew of her feelings of entrapment; of how she awakened every day wondering if this was all there was to life.

Yet there was something Damian didn’t know.

He didn’t know how lonely she really felt.
He didn’t know he was the bright spot in her day; that his letters gave her hope.
Hope that life wasn’t as bad as it seemed; hope that perhaps she wasn’t destined to be lonely forever.

Her sister had accused her of having an affair; an “emotional affair,” she’d called it.
But she had refused to listen.
It wasn’t true.
She wasn’t really having an affair, or was she?
Perhaps this is what poets called an affair of the heart.
Because Damian surely was in her heart.
He was part of her alternate reality.
Thinking about him was what got her through most days.

Yet she knew she would never act on her feelings.
Wesley was a good man, even if he was boring, detached, and self-centered.
He had married her twelve years before, given her a new home, introduced her as his wife.
It was a shame that this sense of pride had lasted so little; that he’d put her on a shelf with the rest of his collectibles.

It was his fault that she had felt the need to reach out to Damian.
Wesley had pushed her out of his life with his detachment; with his apathy.

But she was past caring.
She knew he would never change and she had made peace with it.
She had accepted that he wasn’t a resource, emotional or otherwise.
Life had forced her to understand that you don’t always get what you want.

She smiled wistfully and carefully laid the pen on the desk.

Yes, life wasn’t fair.
That’s why you had to cheat and do whatever was necessary to make your circumstances better.
You had to chase after joy until you were breathless.
You had to cling to moments of love and laughter as if your life depended on it.
You had to have the courage to look at destiny in the eye and say, screw you.

She picked up the pen, took a deep breath, and exhaled.
Finally.

Dear Friend,
I have a secret. A secret lover I have yet to meet.

***************************************************

Do you feel that an emotional affair is ever justified?

What can you do when your marriage is over?


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Troy B Thompson

Someone very dear to my heart called today and told me that her husband of twenty-one years had asked for a divorce.

I was floored.

It took me a few minutes to make sense of what she was telling me.

I tried to internalize how two people who have been together for so long, who have two children and three dogs, and who just last summer vacationed with us, had suddenly decided to call it quits.

As I heard my friend weep on the other end of the line, I wondered why she had called me.

Having known me for a long time, I was certain she knew that I wasn’t the comforting type.

Nor was I the savvy financial adviser who could instruct her on how to get her affairs in order.

Even worse, I couldn’t even give her the name of a trustworthy lawyer.

And then it dawned on me; she already knew this.

So why was my friend calling me, of all people, to tell me about her marital woes when she knew how prickly I was in all things deemed “affairs of the heart?”

I struggled to find the answer to this question and suddenly, there was silence on the other end.

“Bella, are you there?”

Without hesitation I answered, “Of course I am. I’m here. Go on.”

I smiled slightly, realizing I had discovered why this heartbroken soul had called me: She needed to be heard.

She didn’t need financial, legal, or marital counseling.

She just needed to be heard.

As our conversation continued, I could hear the pain, the confusion, the anger, and above all, the uncertainty.

Her uncertainty regarding, what would happen now?

How would she survive? How would she make it on her own? How would she raise her children as a single mother? How would she make ends meet?

While I didn’t have all the answers, I was able to say something that appeared to bring her solace.

I said, “You’re going to be okay. I believe in you.”

And like magic, I heard her exhale.

Even now, I’m amazed at how a handful of words hold so much power.

I believe it’s because in our darkest moments, when we’re held hostage by fear, what the majority of us want to hear is that we’re going to be alright; that there’s no turning back; that all we can do is move forward.

The fact that someone believes in us, in our ability to jump back from tragedy, is in itself a great comfort.

It saddens me that society has led us to believe that happiness is achieved when we snag a man, buy a house, have 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence.

How can we be so gullible?

I wonder if what throws us into a downward spiral is the realization that this arrangement is crumbling.

Is our self-belief so weak, that we lose control and power over our lives the minute we learn our status will undergo change?

And if this is the case, why?

Is it because we stop believing in ourselves? In our ability to survive? In our resilience, our perseverance, our fighting spirit?

Yes, there’s no denying that the news of “I want a divorce” can have a devastating effect on even the mightiest of women.

I’m not stating the contrary.

But really, ladies, must we stay in the stronghold of tragedy forever?

My friend is crushed; she’s struggling to find her inner strength; her ability to fight.

I hear what sounds like a broken woman, but I know that deep down lays a force to be reckoned with.

All she needs is for someone to remind her; to validate the fact that yes, she will get through this; that she’ll be okay.

Because while there are circumstances that floor us, it doesn’t mean we have to stay down for the count.

We have the choice to get up.

After all, defeat does not lie in the outcome of being knocked down, it lies in your inability to get back up.

So friend, I believe in you.

I believe in your ability to come back from the dark place you’re in now. Because you’re strong. Because you’re resilient. Because you’re a fighter.

While you may think you’re broken, nothing could be further from the truth.

You’ve been given the opportunity to reinvent yourself; to tap into your inner diva; the one that reaffirms that you’re worthy, beautiful, and above all, courageous.

I’m here for you. You’ve got this. You’re going to be okay.

In the end, you’ll survive and look back at this as another opportunity for growth; a way to find yourself again; the strong soul that you possess and which allows you to battle anything that stands in your way.

Repeat after me, “Bring it!”

Food for thought, ladies. Food for thought.

How much of a fighter are you?