“Give yourself to Love, if love is what you’re after.” I put this quote from Kate Wolfe’s song in an embroidered picture for John Reiter, whom I want to thank with all my heart today. He didn’t want gifts for his birthday or holidays. “Every day should be special, if any day is special.”
This Gratitude Celebration post is my most challenging so far, not because I can’t get to gratitude, but because the depth of gratitude is so huge that it’s hard to say it clearly. So, I can dance around it a bit with the facts.
John was my husband for 34 years. We both thought he would be my husband until we died, but my affair while hiking the Appalachian Trail during year 28 put a wall of pain, anger, and resentment between us that could not be breached, dismantled, or circumvented, at least with the skills or beliefs that either of us had.
It’s easy to list John’s lovable behaviors. I’m grateful for John’s playfulness, especially when he let it come out. I’m grateful for his constancy as the breadwinner for our family. I’m grateful for his gardening and landscaping passion that filled our various yards with beauty and order. I’m grateful for his intelligence keenly developed with voracious reading. I’m grateful for his masterful command of language, grammar, and composition that blesses everyone whose writing receives his view.
I’m grateful for his courage to support me with all three of our sons’ home births. I’m grateful for his patience while I practiced my narrow view of Macrobiotics, which is really meant to be a philosophy of life that takes a “large view”.
But, my examination of Gratitude concerning John Reiter only leads me to a broad view of life, a spiritual view. If I just stop at the gratitude for all the nice, behaviorally kind things he did for me, then I am missing the rich and deep ocean of the ways that John helped me grow by giving me opportunities to transform assumptions and beliefs that I had about lots of things!
I must have had an intuition about this because my self-written vow said, “I have come to understand that love in marriage is more than a feeling. It’s a decision.” At the time, I thought that meant that to be a good spouse meant to ignore my feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment, or disagreement and simply get along. I had the sense to know that at some time in the rest of my life that all of those feelings would undoubtedly occur, but believed that we could just overpower them with reason and by virtue of the “promise” we were making to just BE married. What happened was that all the unexpressed and stuffed feelings didn’t leave. They got packed like chinking in a wall between us. Eventually, what we did accept and enjoy about each other was masked behind the impenetrable wall of what we couldn’t share, what we couldn’t talk about, what we couldn’t accept about each other.
A weekend in August, 2005 opened a door in that wall for me. That was when I participated in Colin Tipping’s Miracles Weekend retreat. He introduced me to the idea that feelings are important! Feelings are a signal that there’s something to transform, something to look at, something to use for building material in a relationship! I was stunned. I was also scared to let the mine of unexpressed feelings, stuffed down for decades, out. It would just explode like a volcano, not trickle out like water!
With the help of his Radical Forgiveness tools, however, I was able to gradually release the pent up feelings and see that John had been a mirror for my own self-hatred and denial of my true self-expression in the world. As I worked with this idea, I came to see John as my healing angel, playing a role of mirror for my self-doubt and fear.
The way I’m seeing our relationship now, from the perspective that we have been healing angels for each other, although I really don’t know exactly how. One thing I feel pretty sure about is that my relationship with John Reiter has given me the chance to feel shame. He maintained his accusation of betrayal until our divorce, and as far as I know, he still does.
So, if Colin Tipping’s view of relationships as opportunities to feel separation is accurate, then John has been the perfect partner for me to feel shame! I definitely created that feeling with him! Loving myself even having been unfaithful has been the richest gift of my years with John, and for that I am grateful at the highest spiritual level.
Now, if we’re talking “human level gratitude”, it would have to be this: he’s the best Scrabble player I know!
If you want to see for yourself what I’m talking about with all this “spiritual” and “human” level stuff and work out for yourself if someone might be a “healing angel” for you, then check out Colin Tipping’s books, especially Expanding into Love. His books are all very practical, which works for me!
This link takes you to the Radical Forgiveness eStore where you can find Expanding Into Love in the “Books” tab.