I have a secret to tell you: I am going through a divorce. This fact, in and of itself, doesn’t make me who I am. But much of what led me to it does bespeak a profound and authentic engagement with some of the tougher questions of this life. And that’s the stuff I’m made of.
In truth, it is kind of funny that I ended up a wife at all in this lifetime. Growing up, I had tremendous ambivalence around the idea of marriage; the precedent, as it existed in my world, was uninspiring. My parents’ union was the picture-perfect arrangement of stability; it was robust in functionality, but, as far as I could tell, it did little for the soul. Their allegiance was to the safe over the precarious for, in a dangerous world, it was crucial to cultivate certainty.
As an intuitive, I was particularly sensitive to the yearnings that had gone underground, to the desires that had unwittingly gotten locked up. Jung says that nothing has a more profound influence on children than the unlived lives of the parents. And so it makes sense, this reverence that I have for the undomesticated, for the feral wilderness.
During my teenage years, I idolized women like Natalie Merchant who fervently poked at the institution of marriage, writing songs that either parodied it outright or alluded to the soul-crushing effects of complacency. In high school I listened obsessively to the 10,000 Maniacs record Our Time in Eden; my favorite track on the album was a song called “Jezebel.”
There I was, at the tender age of 16, unsuspectingly relating to an unforeseen epiphany that was due to arrive about two decades later. I knew the agony and the ecstasy that Natalie was channeling; the burn of confinement and “duty,” contrasted with the exhilaration of a more expansive Love. While perhaps initially inspiring the “ties that bind,” that Love would, ironically, be found outside of them.
I communed with my own understanding of this paradox through the trajectory of the song; its hauntingly-hushed melody that, by the end, gave way to a swelling, up-tempo explosion of release. Freedom.
It all seems so prophetic now.
But, as much as Natalie Merchant’s offering might have been a harbinger of things to come, my story doesn’t end in tragedy. I am not the woman who is “a desolate and empty, hollow place inside.” I’ve broken through; I’ve sourced my leaving from Desire. And so I like to think that I’m living proof of the fact that it doesn’t have to wind up a bed of blackened coal.
So what made me leave, you ask? That’s a complicated question and one to which I might not provide a truly satisfying answer. But the short version: My Desire woke up. I felt a soul-stirring, magnetic pull to Something Larger. A more unrestricted knowing of Love. And my commitment to cultivating that caught fire.
I like to say I have eyes for the world.
Call me a mystic, a dreamer, a fool. People have. It’s okay. You’re not under any obligation to understand.
Here is something I’ve been contemplating lately. The poet David Whyte writes “All the true vows are secret vows; the ones we speak out loud are the ones we break.” I have come to understand that we make sacred, silent vows that we are naïve to until the cosmic timing is right. At this point in the journey, my most important vow is to honor my mission on this planet, to do the work that I came here to do. That will always be my priority. No partner will ever come before that.
I say this unapologetically today. It wasn’t always this way.
When I woke up to the ring of a Bigger Call, I wrestled deeply with my priorities, with my sense of purpose and obligation. Could I betray someone else in order to be loyal to myself? I questioned what was “wrong” with me. I questioned my supposed “commitment” issues. I tortured myself about the fact that I could not, for all the seeming world, adapt to a relationship model that essentially dictated that the marriage come first.
And then one day I read an interview with Ingrid Michaelson and something clicked. The singer-songwriter was talking about her recent marriage to a fellow musician and she said something that deeply struck me. The gist of it was this: “If you’re marrying a musician you have to be particularly strong. Because the music will always come first.”
I am not a musician. But I am a healer and an artist of life. People tell me that I live like someone whose dedication to her craft is tantamount. This is True.
As progressive as so many of us dream ourselves to be, it is still un-PC to admit that a spouse is not Number One. But somehow Ingrid gave me a strange kind of permission. Or, at least she helped me to put a moratorium on self-flagellation. It was suddenly okay to own the fact that my deepest commitment was not to my marriage, but rather to my Desire, my Calling, my art, the planet.
You might say the two can co-exist. In some cases, perhaps. But not necessarily. Ginger Rogers once said that when two people are in love, they don’t look “at each other.” But rather, they look “in the same direction.” What, then, happens when one person is looking ahead and the other is looking sideways, constantly checking the peripherals to make sure that his wife is still present? I’ll tell you: the woman focusing on the horizon starts to feel a deep unrest. She knows that she either has to shift her gaze or her circumstance.
And so I made my choice.
I can’t say that I didn’t call myself Jezebel for wanting to leave. I tortured myself with dark imaginings, with the threat of intractable guilt over not being the woman other people needed me to be – the woman who was committed to her husband above all else, the woman who kept the ever-louder rumblings of her soul in quiet check, the woman who dared not disturb the comfort of the status quo.
But I could never be that woman. And it was killing me to keep trying.
And so, as synchronicity would have it, last week I came upon an article in Elephant Journal, by founder Waylon Lewis, called “Love is Selfish.” In many respects, it was spot on. He discussed the Buddhist notion of love, a love that has loneliness built in. A love in which all of the space between partners has not been colonized. A love that is about something beyond caretaking. A love that is simply not interested in any kind of lifelong “romantic picnic.”
He maintains that the societal view of matrimonial love is backwards. Too often people get married, have children, and use that all as an excuse to forget “this whole holy fucked up wonderful world that is crying and dying and begging and pleading and needing our help.”
So, he says, if he does decide to get married, it will be to someone for whom being in love is of secondary importance.
Amen, Waylon. But I’d take it a couple of steps further. First, I’m fundamentally not interested in marriage or romantic love at this juncture. I do not say this cynically at all. Rather, I insist that there is a Bigger Game out there; one in which we are evolving the one-to-one partnership model (which is too ego-identified and limited in scope with its emphasis on what’s mine: my husband, my wife, my children etc.). Let’s face it: it is not love for one person (or one family) that is going to save the world. It’s love en masse.
There is a much more inclusive Love waiting to be accessed here on Earth. I don’t necessarily know the direct route to it, but I have a hunch that it has something to do with us collectively sourcing our lives from an altogether different place and feeding the pipeline cyclically rather than linearly. A byproduct of this will be a new paradigm of relationship that is currently in the planetary birth canal. Some of us have signed on to be midwives to its emergence. It’s a tall order, but I’m up for the job.
These days I’m interested in a more Tom Robbins-esque notion of Love. He says:
Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.
And so, with this as my covenant, I am wary of couples who come to see me wanting to “save” their relationship. Couples who see therapy as a measure against “failure.” This model is too limited, too weighty to get out from underneath. Eckhart Tolle says that relationships are not ends in themselves, but rather, they are vehicles in service to Consciousness. And so, by his count, my marriage was perfect; no one “failed.” Our love did its job; it burned through the illusions that were there so that we could finally meet each other, and ourselves, unfettered by condition and need, for the first time.
Of course, when this happens, there are no guarantees. What you find in the glare of the sun may not be convenient. In fact, it may be downright excruciating.
But it will be Real. And this is what it’s all about.
Yesterday an amazing friend and colleague told me that she recently heard it said that right now we are living at the “comma point” in the process of the New World that is dawning. I absolutely love this idea. My mission is to come together with all of you fellow renegades out there who are answering the same Call. I have freed myself up for the occasion. There are no bounds to what this could be, no barriers to intimacy, no conditions on Love.
So, come, All Ye Fearless Hearts and Lovers who have vowed to collectively craft the remainder of the Cosmic Sentence.
May we find one another on the Playing Field.