I've been thinking about things that happened in the last 12 months.
I moved to the basement of my house after turning it into a guest room about a year ago. Even though I decided to do so for a variety of reasons - including that it was not pleasant to even be in the same room as my husband - it was not a good idea for a couple wanting to save a marriage, and it really proved to be the beginning of the end of my marriage.
In the following months, I dealt with serious legal issues, a very intense struggle with depression, and a morbidly changed future than I planned.
I'm not ready to write about my legal issues as the events related to them are so freshly complete - but I will eventually. Through some hilarious and some tragic moments I learned so much about what God wanted for me that I know I will be compelled to write about it eventually.
And depression is depression. I haven't had to take medicine for it since July. I'm not afraid to talk about and may in the future. But that part of my struggle isn't at all interesting at this point.
The demise of a family is on my mind.
I listened to people. My former in-laws had loud voices in this story. "Keep trying," they said. "There are ebbs and flows and his love is so deep," they said. "You know better than anyone how to be his friend," they said.
So I did keep trying.
For a series of days between my two mission trips last summer, one in June and one in July, I wrote my husband a series of letters. After all, we know the secret to long and lasting marriages is multifold - one sharing faith, two sharing happy experiences, three working through the tough stuff, and four keeping promises.
I couldn't get him to share my faith and he wasn't interested in working through any of the tough stuff as more than a way to achieve a fair amount of anecdotal evidence. And we've both broken promises to each other in more ways than just our vows. So I decided to try to remind both my husband and myself about good things in our marriage. I pledged to write a letter every night containing some good memory and - as it turned out - also some compliments.
Many of those nights it was really tough to write those letters, especially after a taxing day or event. Sometimes the words flowed beautifully. It's a great irony to me that I can write almost anything - professionally, personally, and technically - without having to self-edit. In fact, most of my life I resisted self-editing either verbally or in print. Those letters were completely different. It took time, effort, and prayer to write them and many pieces of paper wound up in the trash.
I'm glad I kept the letters I wrote. He read every one of them; I know because he said so. The first was a reminder of the first time in my life he ever made me speechless. That didn't happen often, so it was very memorable:
Once at a meeting before school (around August 2003), I was making a presentation about shoes. I was mid-comment when you came to the front of the meeting, wrapped your arms around me and said, "I love my wife!" All the drivers were grinning and I actually blushed - and was speechless. It was so sweet. Thank you for doing that. I'm making a trip down memory lane and make an effort to replace the fewer bad memories/experience with the many goods ones. This was a good one.
The next night I wrote about the morning after our first date, March 9, 1986:
The night we had our first date we talked about a report I had due for a class you'd already taken. The next day, a Sunday, you came to my house to share your report about eagles with me. You were standing there with the report in your long-sleeved white cotton button-down shirt tucked into your blue jeans - sleeves rolled up - and wearing cowboy boots. You were so adorably sweet and we were both a little awkward. My heart felt full with hope. You kissed me standing by the door of the shop - the metal one by Doug's stall. I felt so mushy and dreamy it was hard to write the report. It's been a long time since I quit treating you like my best love. I'm sorry I let my stresses and weaknesses and choices come first. I love that sweet shy boy who loved me.
I didn't figure out for about a week that my husband and I had truly lost the ability to communicate with each other. When I asked him what he thought about the letters, his response was, "How am I supposed to remember what I was wearing?" He was angry about the content. I was trying to paint him a picture with the words he wouldn't let me say out loud, and put myself back in those moments.
One day I found a photograph of my husband and I sitting at the end of a dock at my former in-laws cabin. It's sweet. The sun is setting and the water is calm. My husband was sitting in a chair at the end of the dock and I was sitting beside him. This is what I wrote to him:
When I opened the sewing machine today, this picture fell out. On the back it said, "Joe and Kari at the lake" in your mom's handwriting. I love this picture: it's a reminder that once upon a time we weren't driven by text messages and email and phone calls. That was when we fell in love. I hope one day someone can reshoot this moment.
And I'll share just one more:
Today I am thankful that you listened to me. I could see for the first time since before [my mission trip] that you were listening. I'm not sure exactly what shut it down, but I think it had something to do with talking about the lifestyle change. We live like we live because of each other. Our house, our cars, our vacations, our family. That's what I want to fight for. You could be right - that there's no going back. But today was a revelation for me: we have totally misunderstood each other. I had no idea how badly. It does give me a little hope because communication issues can be fixed. I keep praying you open your heart, as hard as that is. I'm trying to open mine.
One month after that letter, I found the reasons he shut down and closed his heart. I'd been asking him who he was talking to or confiding in through those months. I was both hurt and relieved to see evidence that he had been sharing his feelings and emotions with someone. I didn't care for the fact that every heartfelt thing I wrote or told him was also being shared. The betrayal of my personal grief and struggle was painful for me, but it was also what told me the marriage was over. And it was a relief at that point to let it go.
Since that time I have remained relieved the my life is so different. I believe that everything that happened last year happened for a reason that gives me such hope for a beautiful future.
Still, I have been trying to cope with significant grief. I grieve for the loss of a lifestyle I enjoyed, that my sons are adults and loving their independent lives (even though that is a great thing for certain!), and for the dream of the future I thought was mine - continuing to live in a home I love, working at a job I was good at, maintaining a positive position in a community and church I love, and sharing the future of a family I created. Those are tough things to lose, and I lost them all at once.
Of course I heard a song that exactly encapsulates how I feel about those losses. This song caught my attention because of that gorgeous piano at the beginning. I'm pretty sure it won't make me a fan of country music, but here's The Dance by Garth Brooks: http://youtu.be/2Ru1M6dY0cY.