An Open Letter to My Ex-Husband on What Would Have Been Our 10-Year Wedding Anniversary.
To revalue what I’ve deprived of value is a radical act put forward by Nietzsche and is an integral part of the work of healing myself and, if you believe in such (as, who knows, maybe things have changed), healing us through the subtle pathways of mysterious spirit, subtle energy, and quantum entanglement.
What did I once value, then deprive of value, then learn to revalue? We will get to that. It is what I frame as an instance of cycling, and as you know I favor doing such contemplatively, the cycle of rising value, peaking value, waning value: Press Repeat. Endlessly.
Perhaps it is that Nietzsche, rolling around in his grave, might say I flirt with danger by sacrificing my strong initial position for a weakened one.
I see to it to look at life through a kaleidoscope, or maybe it is to throw myself into a dizzying array of revolving scenes, to persistently keep getting involved, with much, and with the varied things of this world, surfing the 10,000 waves, that perpetuate fresh life experience, that keep opening up perspectives.
In the spectrum of color and chaos and complexity, I then must find my way through, reorienting and asserting positions I have opened, or that have opened themselves up to me.
I feel like I work out the very same things we tussled with, where I left off with you, and thus I have lost many years. I work with my craven attitudes over changing my circumstances. I work out how to relate to the real situations I am embedded in over continual seeking after new ones.
I work on how to create that which I once offloaded onto others, that which I projected out, in a time in which I could not yet claim and cultivate my own generative, life-giving powers: this is not the empowerment of “taking a stance and drawing a line” (as important as that is): it is my newest empowerment.
To open to Source.
To create from a deep spiritual well, to cultivate a deeper offering, to come into my own by tapping this wellspring. 10,000 waves within.
Without Source, I was left to be claimed by passion, picked up by meaningful coincidence, chosen by an interesting other, and so was dependent on pairings, made a whore of waiting, stuck in a questing, heart-open longing.
A Woman does not wait, she gets busy.
This is all to say that I was psychologically immature when I left our marriage. Uncoupled from reality, spun in fantasy life, I set my sights on fulfillment, seamless union, total, mutual understanding, a dynamo of passion, some big, deep, sustaining love.
I confused imagination with reality. The New Age manifesters taught this to me. Whatever you can imagine, you can have. They would still put forth that I am enacting a limiting belief, but I fight back and say I dreamed too big.
The existentialists already painstakingly put forth this classic mode of inauthenticity and false security, and though I studied their texts and teachings for years, I still fell for it, such is the seduction of what they call bad faith.
Their “flight of transcendence” is a maneuver that fancifully endorses choice without constraint, free “voluntaristic” choice outside the context of material situations, unfettered freedom, freedom without responsibility. It shields our infantile notions of omnipotence that we still cling to even as we age and supposedly mature.
In Jungian thought, I would discover that this is tagged a regression, to go inward into the realm of pure desires and wishes and fantasies, instead of, not without challenge, adapting to reality.
Now I try to get in touch and in synch with everyday life, learning to revalue it and all that it offers. Only from its ground, rooted firmly in its ground, can I bring forth creative possibilities tempered by their capacity to grow in terra firma.
One could say this was a part of a larger trend of overvaluing the spiritual at the expense of the material. Today I sustain what I called with you the “apprenticeship of the external”, where you drew me out of my already-established preference for inwardness, into projects like building a grow light for sapling plants in our garage.
We were a convergence of opposites. You were kinesthetic, pragmatic, down-to-earth, I thought I had inner vision; you worked with materials skillfully: metal, pipe, wood, and wire, a whiskey-drinking, shotgun-slinging, Outdoorsman Extraordinaire.
In the post-2000 suburbs, you managed to retain, preserve, and translate an older way of life, your grandfather’s way of life, the way you grew up in the rural, intermountain parks of the Rockies, in the off-the-grid woods splashing in the river, making slingshots, stalking animals, building fires; I wielded words, drew on concepts and teachings, and developed the art of conversation at the pace you built chicken coops, planted countless rows of vegetables, retiled bathroom floors, dehydrated food, composted waste, collected rainwater, and stocked your root cellar: you were as potent and productive as I was, albeit in a different medium.
I did not appreciate the utility of drawing each other into our respective domains. I only obsessively craved connection with all of the dimensions of myself that were hidden, neglected, untouched.
The wheel turns. That’s what it does. That’s all it does. It turns, turns, turns: all things under the sun, it seems, including myself, endlessly cycle.
You weren’t everything, but you were enough, we were enough: in case there is any remaining injury to your self-esteem and worth as a person, as a man, please know you were enough. I was greedy, misled, and misguided, hungry with desire, inflated by the false promises of new companions, pumped up by inflated notions of who I could become.
Not that I haven’t since learned a tremendous amount in the school of life, or commit the error of a new variation of more longing by longing for our past, no, I take pains to explain; I do not renounce everything that came after you, nor do I glorify you. I learn to see through longing as a delusion. We were warned but I took no heed, we were taught that the grass is greener where you water it.
So, we shall embrace our fate, make our way in our grooved, diverging trajectories, and never turn back, but when I look back, I look from the overdue recognition that you were enough.
It matters to me to stake a claim in this reevaluated truth, to revalue what was deprived value rather than perpetuate the justification of my proud decision, to openly endorse that I was corrupted by the influences and influencers I became involved with, which still have a stranglehold in the collective mind of our popular culture.
It matters too to model something we don’t often do in the course of our collective failed relations. Not that I like the term failed as I often reframe with clients I work with, for everything at one point or another falls apart. This is a law of physics. It’s a law of the universe. It’s entropy.
And it’s not necessarily your fault or mine, this is the way of things: maintaining commitments, projects, pacts, fighting an incredible volume of antagonistic forces, should be seen for what they really are — a feat that you pull off managing against odds for some finite period of time.
It should be seen in this reframed way, seen the other way around. Entitled to unusual persistence, and casting judgment unto everything that veers from this path as a failure, causes so much unnecessary anguish. As such I take pains to highlight it again: do not fret, fear, or bemoan the end, the collapse; rather, invite gratitude for whatever period of time you sustained it.
See it as it is: a feat, a triumph of something over nothing, an unusual gift of coordination, a will to stay connected, that for a time wins out as a sacrifice and a strain over what is, quite honestly, simpler energetically, the default path of least resistance.
It takes a certain amount of work (again, in the physics sense of the term) to maintain order, any order, to carry out a momentum, let alone to grow it, to magnify it, to increase its complexity, to deepen its depth.
But I digress. It matters to model something we aren’t collectively very good at yet: to deeply respect what was, and not to play the common game of villainizing your past by ego-stroking your present. Of blaming the other party for the failed relation that you still feel understandably guilty, damaged or disappointed, about. For not sharing what I often call “bearing the burden of being.” Don’t forget: we are in this together!
There is no other way to understand it! The non-dual traditions, the perennial philosophy, as Aldous Huxley organized, has already demonstrated this. This principle of interrelation, interconnectedness, exposing this delusion of the “separate self”! We have not yet internalized this as a species, we have not yet embodied this into our way of life!
It remains as a first formulation, as mere words, guideposts, signs, to relational evolution that transcends the DNA we’ve inherited from our primitive, competitive, tribalistic, vengeful, barbaric ancestors.
Again, depersonalizing and naturalizing the failed relation will help us all move out of an ego-orientation that perpetuates hate, drama, victimization, scapegoating, and all the other ploys we have being human, refusing to be limited, refusing to lose, refusing to be breached in our addiction to seamless love.
I step forward and risk exposing my foibles. I encourage you to do the same. We must if we are to collectively heal. In refusing to be limited, I have limited myself: I have lost much, I have gained much. Learn to say “it’s all just the same to me”, as Elizabeth from Elizabeth & the Catapult sings in her deep, philosophical song “The Other Side of Zero”.
A compliment, an insult.
It’s all just the same to me.
Get to the other side of zero. Roll the dice again. And again and again. Say whatever shall be, shall be. Learn to do it joyfully. You were never promised eternity, only sold it, seduced into it. I couldn’t sustain it. I own that. See what is necessary in things.
We all begin, maintain our arrangements against all odds, and then, time and again, they fail.
We are rockstars and ridiculously deluded. We are an interplay of light and shadow. We are loved and then we are hated: learn to see through these changing responses as I did, looking through the kaleidoscope, where I saw the spectrum of dancing color through the prism of turning perspectives. Don’t get lost in polarized extremes.
As a fact: you remain. This durable fact is more important than the eye-capturing array of changing circumstances and feelings that go from blazing red to sour green then to all-containing blue, these machinations of māyā.
Do not play into the game of ego attachments: see, I’ve made it, you’re lost at sea. Deeper consciousness will come back to harass and seize you by revaluing old values and exposing your self-serving one-sidedness.
A confession, this was me: smug and smitten for a long while, for years, having decided I had won at this game by finding my new person, the one love that would be sustained because I would kill off my craven longing by a singular act of nurturance, watering my plot of land where I would stake my claim, advice heeded, a second chance, our reincarnation, a mutual redemption, whatever you want to call it.
Though the creative and destructive cycles turn, turn, turn, and I am a persistent, stubborn cyclist, no, I would end my seeking and would be taken home, “you, the joy of my life, the one who would love my tired bones, the one who came to stay”. Now, once more, caught off guard, I am alone in this world.
The wheel keeps turning and I am defeated. Or maybe it is that my ego is defeated. Yes, that’s it. I submit.
For I cannot stop it by my will, intentions, pleas, or insistence. I cannot stop my new love from leaving, I cannot entertain him into what I wanted this to mean for me. Though I have tried. By my best wits and words which fall on deaf ears and get sent into a maddening unresponsive void that must be what he meant by “keeping his options open”. I am a writer and my writing didn’t work. I give up.
It’s pain-riddled, it’s a release. Ego is torn to shreds. I am humbled: I am free.
So, if I am now speaking to you directly or to my “new person”, does it matter really? It matters only in one critical sense.
It matters that we relate to what was once a marriage, a sacred bond between Man and Woman, with a kind of respect and reverence that I grope for as a form of higher consciousness that the gods whisper to me barely audibly and I, as a faithful conduit, try to transcribe before I revert to common well-worn notions that fall short of love-soaked truth and don’t do us justice.
And so, you, always and always a sacred configuration, simply He who Did Not Come to Stay.
To reiterate, as a fact: you remain. You are indelible, you, as a fact: someone who carries on in the world, and as a someone I will always relate to. You, as a fact, are something so much larger than what I knew of you from that portion of you that spent some time with me, even if it was a lot of time. This fact of you is almost incomprehensibly multifaceted.
We should be leveled down to size by such facts, rendered to our knees by the awe of Otherness.
Don’t get too prideful when an arrangement is coming together, nor too downtrodden when it is falling apart. Remember, somebody is having a baby somewhere in the world in the precise microsecond that someone else is dying.
This is the total life experience, our coming together, our falling apart. I try not to hold too tightly to the good, juicy, sweet parts, and I also try not to disown the rest.
I make a new commitment: to not devalue or deny what was, simply because it’s painful to realize it’s no longer here.
I choose to see beyond good and evil as Nietzsche also instructed me on: I see instead whatever was as a fact, as a something over a nothing, and thus as a “higher good” beyond any duality. Beyond this, I choose to see that every moment is a fact, and therefore, is a representation of the highest good. This must be what is meant by being present.
As for me, I try to get over myself and my fulfillment. It’s a work-in-progress. To abandon hacking happiness. Too much interference is exhausting and self-defeating; it also backfires. To instead let life have its way with me. Can we not learn to straddle active seeking with calm abiding, with receiving whatever comes our way, with patient “being with”?
Since I have exhaustively pursued the former, avoiding anything short and shy of desire taken to the ends of the earth, I now say “fuck my wanting” as if to say world, give me whatever you can give me.
It’s all about balance, right?
It seems pessimistic, but it’s not: it’s ridiculously liberating.
I choose to live in the unfolding, to submit to something larger than myself by aligning with Reality, to be congruent with whatever sequence or phase of the Whole in which I actually reside and to respect the mystery, the complexity, how it will all shake out and eventually be appraised.
To not get lost in some hasty, snap judgment from the puny moment, as I’ve lived long enough to know that in time, all angles on the experience will come forth, as I probe, as I live, as I turn things over, as I turn in my endless cycling, as the world turns, turns, turns. I see through my own conditioned responses: I disentangle.
And I do so, broken open, as joyously as I can.
And so, to my ex-husband on what would have been our 10th wedding anniversary, I say that everything we had as a fact, as an overflowing, abundant gift, a something that triumphed over nothing (for a time); nowadays I only draw strength and sustenance from the fact of our time together, from the sufficient fact of you.
Sarah McKelvey is a free spirit who enjoys introspecting, speculating, and writing about life, love, synchronistic experiences, identity, psyche, self-cultivation, and her various misadventures. She typically writes in the context of traveling, and is informed by Eastern wisdom traditions, depth psychology, and the iconoclastic teachings of Alan Watts. Words are her favorite medium. In her pursuits, she pursues truth, beauty, and goodness, and hopes to, through her endeavors and writing, promote a life-affirming attitude that belongs on the spectrum of love. She lives along the Front Range outside of Denver, and practices psychotherapy professionally.