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I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either. – Annie Oakley

We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings. We craft love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment, courage from failure. – Brene Brown, PhD

What a gift human life is with all its challenges and opportunities for liberation through adversity; as a snake needs a rock to rub against to remove the old skin, humans need ordeals to evolve. It is through adversity that humanity acquirers empathy, increasing its capacity for love. This is one of humanity’s deepest teachings. Love is. Anything in the way of that knowing is, I believe, what we are here to learn from and transform, to turn lead into gold, poison into medicine.

Living a human life is not for the faint of heart. If we dig deeply enough, most of us live with an insidious amount of unworthiness, or shame, imprinted during childhood whether this imprint is conscious or not to our adult selves. In my opinion, one of our greatest accomplishments during our lifetime is to chip away at this shame – the belief that in our core we do not matter or are in some way deeply flawed, that if someone gets close enough, this secret will be revealed. Often this imprint gets projected outwardly as a defense against feeling the unworthiness that dwells in our beliefs about ourselves, the unknown hitchhikers in our individual personas that wreak havoc in our personal lives. With such a belief operating in our core, intimacy, with ourselves and others, can become difficult to allow. It is through intimate relationships that healing takes an accelerated path and poison can become medicine.

Our most unlikely, yet beneficial, allies during our lifetimes are the ones who, often unknowingly, take us into that core, the faulty foundation where untruths mold our beliefs just waiting to be transformed. Of course, we don’t see these messengers as great teachers at first, but over time as we develop the capacity for self-reflection and often through grueling repetition we begin to experience a level of liberation. In my experience, it is only when I am able to feel the shame completely, without turning away, that self-love is restored. This ability may be unreachable for some people, but I believe this is the hope for humanity.

My husbands have been the Trojan horses that provided the grit necessary to take me into the deep, recurring, faulty beliefs that caused me tremendous suffering. They exposed these beliefs often unconsciously and sometimes with cruelty. Learning to not shoot the messenger was key to taking responsibility for my childhood imprints and finding liberation. Often we can become distracted by trying to derail the messenger, in an attempt to invalidate the message, propagating an illusion that we can somehow avoid feeling the shame. Developing the capacity to sit with the pain of “not enough,” is the only way to release its hold over us. To do so requires practice, increasing empathy toward the self, and not taking what seems to be criticism from others, personally.

To look at these messengers with equanimity, we realize they are doing us a great service. I believe the messengers can become more harsh if we resist the greater teachings. This is not to be confused with being victimized by another’s unskillful projections. Discernment is necessary to courageously unwrap the projections and determine what is the grain of truth that is useful for one’s liberation. Multiple marriages can be seen in this culture as a failure, but people are changing quickly and one cannot determine what others might require. Each of my three marriages has been like a different incarnation, one building upon the previous. What ever brings awareness is exactly what is needed by the determined soul. After all, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. By my second marriage, seeing the repetitive patterns, I understood that I was the common denominator. Once aware of the pattern, I could choose – shame or self-love.

I have had communications in the last months with all three previous husbands to varying degrees of connectedness. My first husband I call my greatest teacher, because he was creative, intelligent, and brutal in his younger years. In my 30s and while in therapy, it had become apparent that I had embraced a level of victim mentality. With his help and my courage, determination, and a lot of therapy I was able to release myself from the grips of this insidious form of self-hatred. Not everyone needs this level of intervention, but I had been a willful child and not able to change, otherwise. An identity of victim is one of the most excruciating forms shame can take. When embraced with empathy, this pattern can be transformed to self-love. Recently, my daughter asked me to contact her father, my first husband. Over the years, I have forgiven his hurtful behavior and begun to see him as soul family, someone who had agreed to provide this ordeal out of love, to bring us forward in our evolution. I know, this is a generous shift in beliefs, but if one could choose our perceptions, why would anyone choose otherwise? Because of this shift in my perception, he was able to tell me that he loved me, he had always loved me, and he will always love me. Intuitively, I knew this, but the medicine this acknowledgment brought to myself and my daughter was immeasurable.

Shame is an insidious poison that can rob us of our birthright to feel loved and loving in a Universe where Love is the only Truth.


“We each have distinct karma and basic elemental natures that shape our unique journey in this one, single lifetime towards that loving intention. But I think this is what we are about–to embody as much love from Source as possible while here with the cards we’re dealt.” -Kathryn Brady

unknownDuring a concert at my home I casually mentioned anger at my former husband for leaving our relationship of eleven years. The male musicians exclaimed in unison and perfect harmony, “I’m angry at him, too!” It was obvious that they didn’t even know David and the room broke out into laughter. The spontaneity of the solidarity surprised and comforted me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. These musicians who had volunteered their time for a private concert on my behalf have known their share of heart breaks. The energy in the room was electric with empathy and love. The moment made me reflect upon that relationship, the relationship which would be my last partnership, with my last companion for this lifetime. It wasn’t that I was so sad to see him go, but more that I was so sad to let our life go.

It was in that relationship where I finally was able to realize some of the adventures I had always sought in previous relationships. David helped me to hold the container for a life full of adventures, like camping, horseback riding, long road trips and things I had never thought I would be able to experience. Now that I live alone in the wilderness, knowing many other powerful wilderness women, I wonder where that insecurity could possibly have come from. After all, I had ridden my own motorcycle to Key West, jumped off mountains in California on a zip line and learned to jump horses in my 50s.

Granted, David was a warrior in the outdoors. After all, he had been a geophysicist, a public school teacher and was able to operate any heavy machinery needed. He taught me how to hook up, load a horse and pull a horse trailer by myself. I had no reluctance to do so, in fact, I was excited to add this to my repertoire. In our life together, this skill was required.

David could fix anything. And when we connected, many of my things were broken and needed to be fixed; and fix them he did. David appreciated being helpful. What was strong and unbroken, however, was my heart and spirit having just spent three years recovering from a relationship so devastating that it forced me to reflect on the quality of all previous relationships. To do so, I had chosen to extricate myself from romantic relationships in order to focus on the most important relationship, the relationship to Self.

Right from the beginning of our relationship, I was upfront with David about the concerns around my physical body. Along with many of my material items needing to be fixed, I needed a breast biopsy and abdominal surgery for fibroid tumors. Ever since being a young child, I tended to somaticize emotional issues. This gave me much material to address psychologically and many physical issues to deal with medically.

David really tried to be helpful around my physical vulnerabilities, but he was much more capable around the mechanical items. His caring was never an issue, his ability to express that caring was considerably limited. In my opinion, and realize that I am not the most objective reporter, when partners in his life were physically and emotionally vulnerable, David left.

I’m not sure whether my children so vehemently disliked my former husband, because they perceived that he left me when I most needed him, or because he never really was able to connect with them on an emotional level. Perhaps both are true. In the spirit of not tossing the baby out with the bath water, I would like to honestly visit what this relationship was to me.

I met David at the Gurdgieff school during the early 90s when I was entering this work. We were with our respective spouses and I cannot say there was any connection between us beyond the surface level. Fast forward five or six years and two divorces, when he brought an at risk student to the mental health clinic where I was employed. Still, no connection beyond colleagues with the intention to save an adolescent from imploding. A few years later we connected at a play in our neighboring community. At this point he asked me to dinner and a movie. We were slow to connect, but there was something gentle and deep about him.

As I previously mentioned, I had just spent three years consciously turning inward for the first time in my life, forging a relationship with my deepest Self, something I had resisted until, as Anaïs Nin wrote, “…the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I wasn’t sure about this new person, but I was encouraged vehemently by others whom I trusted, so I continued to explore this connection.

I never really knew myself until I was nearly fifty, so how could I know what was deeply fulfilling in a significant relationship? I would suspect that most people know themselves better than I did. I was a slow learner, after all, my first husband was a Republican who told me the Holocaust never happened. How well could I really have known myself then? My second husband and I shared a deep love and grew a lot together, but he wasn’t wild about being outdoors. He would play racquetball, occasionally, serving with his left hand, which was accommodating, but his idea of camping was staying in the Holiday Inn. With both of these men I had my children for which I am tremendously grateful. And I had a beautiful stepdaughter who initiated me into the teenage years. They all enriched my life tremendously.

When I connected with him, David lived on a peninsula in a pristine Louisiana cypress swamp draped with Spanish moss in a house he built with no running water. Along with our outdoors activities we soon realized we both shared a deep love for horses. We began going on weekend field trips to visit different farms. We began riding and eventually purchased a horse for each of us. When the boarding expense became too great, we purchased a small horse farm in the neighboring village. When the commute became too difficult, for example, when a horse’s life was in danger and required instant attention from us and a veterinarian, we decided to move to a larger farm where we could live on the premises.

9We began boarding other people’s horses and developed a horse community. At this point in my life, surrounded by many animals and like minded people, riding and showing, practicing psychotherapy, driving weekly to sing in my interracial gospel choir in New Orleans, I was living my dream. Concurrently, I was being chased by an unknown specter, a progressive life-threatening degenerative illness. The weakness was progressing steadily as I tried to enjoy every minute I was afforded.

In all fairness, this was not a minor vulnerability. David had to retrieve me off the floor many times and fix many fences that I drove the tractor into when losing coordination. It was not a pretty sight and certainly not for the faint of heart. David was extremely strong, but this strength manifested on a physical level and what was being stretched was on the emotional level.

The majority of marriages with a degenerative, life-threatening illness end in divorce, especially if the husband is the caregiver. Regardless of why this is, it just is. In our situation, we waited too long to ask for help. We could not foresee the level of disability I would incur, not in our wildest dreams. And I was so focused on healing physically, that the alternative was not even an option for either of us. When we were married in 2004, I was already limping. My default feeling has always tended to be fear versus anger. I was terrified. I desperately wanted David to fix this situation and David thought that if he loved me enough, I would heal physically.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have realized that there was a greater healing possible. The wisdom I have accrued from finding the courage to face this challenge head-on can be summarized in this quote I wrote in my book:

“When we talk about healing, what does this mean in its greatest sense? Does it mean the body heals? Does it mean that we feel better? What I have learned in my journey, is that true healing means bringing oneself to wholeness, understanding the totality of our existence; finding love from the inside out.”

From this older and wiser vantage point, it is clear that I needed to do this curriculum on my own. I do not believe a curricula this demanding could at all be arbitrary. I have come to feel in my cells that this is for my highest evolution and for the evolution of those around me.

So, to set the record straight, we all have done the best we could. This invisible taskmaster has demanded it all from each one of us, including and especially my children who were unaware of my unspeakable demand during that accelerated time and forgiveness from that time is my prayer.