Neither J nor I knew how things were going to be fixed between us, so in the months that followed, we did the best that we could, relying largely on faith, experts, and gut feelings.

J, after being admonished by his sister in law to "fight for her" began writing to me nearly every day. Sometimes they were simple notes; often they contained poetry or song lyrics; each one professed love and a willingness to change.

When he came over, he would leave chocolates hidden around the house-- on my pillow or in my makeup case. He made it his personal quest to figure out which kind was my absolute favorite {Extra Dark Lindt Truffles}.

He asked me out every Friday night and planned elaborate dates. We went on art-walks, photographed vintage neon signs in Mesa, watched a movie on a projector set up in the backyard and tried Ethiopian cuisine.

And yet, I remained detached.

I appreciated all his effort-- I could see that he was trying mightily. But I was in a holding pattern. Until I felt some internal all-clear signal, I couldn't bring myself to engage emotionally.

This was more than discouraging to J. He asked me once if I had a hidden checklist of things he had to do before he could come back home. I didn't know how to explain that I didn't-- I just needed to feel safe. I needed to see something genuine and lasting. I needed more than flowers and chocolates.


One afternoon, we sat together in our therapists office. J expressed his frustration and hopelessness. He felt condemned by past mistakes; that nothing he did now would ever be enough. {That morning, I'd received his latest note. It simply contained the lyrics to Deep Sea Diving Suit}.

Our therapist paused a moment, then observed that J was a storyteller by nature.

He asked, "When you have a hero in a fairytale or a movie, are they perfect? Or is it better when the hero is an underdog, and has to overcome obstacles and weaknesses?" J agreed that the best stories have flawed heros. We identify with them more. It makes their triumphs more dramatic.

"I think you are blind to the nobility of your own struggles, " our therapist said. "You feel that all is lost simply because you're in the thick of the second act. I want you to go home and tell your story as if it's a fairytale. Tell it over and over. Figure out the happy ending."

I loved the concept. Immediately, I started to make correlations between what we were going through and nearly every epic novel I'd ever read. When J called that night, I couldn't wait to ask him to tell me his story as the therapist had suggested.

J tried. He worked in his scars of youth. He described starting over and meeting the 'princess'. He talked of tragedy, of losing it all, of the princess taking the key to her heart and throwing it in to the forest. And then he stopped. In his mind, he was a character beset by disaster and powerless to escape or suceed. He couldn't figure out how to end the story.

I was stunned.

I could think of a million ways to end the story. For the first time in months, I began to see J differently. He wasn't manipulating or 'playing the victim.' He was genuinely lost and confused. He really did feel hopeless. He really did feel powerless. He really couldn't figure out how we could possibly have a happy ending.

And just like that, the cold buffer I'd built around my heart began to melt. I could see perfectly how honorable his fight was, how much was at stake and how sweet the victory could be. In my eyes, he was a prince convinced he was a convict . I determined that I would show him.

{to be continued}


Charlotte said...

My goodness you are a good writer. Thank you for sharing all this real-ness.

Miggy said...

What a brilliant therapist.

It's interesting the things that change us or thaw our hearts--the fact that he really couldn't see his own goodness or figure it out--that got to you.

I'm really enjoying this 'series.' I know it's your real life, but I think it's so helpful to hear how you have dealt with it--the processes, the feelings, etc. I know writing can be HUGE in helping people figure things out...so as cathartic as this probably is for you, I think it's equally helpful for others who may not know exactly why they feel the way they do and don't know where they could possibly start.

Keep going!

ps--Can J make me a playlist? I feel like I've been listing to the same Band of Horses, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, stuff forever...I love them, but I need some new stuff and that song was perfect. Or just send me a current playlist he already has? Please? :)

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