I tried to live in the present, but it was only in a physical sense. I often felt overwhelmed. My mind continually dreamed about the future – to a time when my present challenges would be behind me. But while I was dreaming, memories and reminders of my former life often shocked me out of my reverie. Who was I? Where was I going? Would I really be OK?
But doubt was always replaced by the vision of my castle. The barren landscape behind me encompassed miles and miles. My castle was much closer now and no longer in the distance; yet I could see that the terrain ahead of me was very steep. Perhaps there wasn’t nearly as much distance to cover, but it required the ability to climb.
As I moved forward, my body slowed and it felt as if I were almost crawling instead of walking. The heaviness within me made it quite difficult to move. Although I was determined, I felt terrible pain and wondered what it would take for me to find my strength to get there.
I realized that determination wasn’t enough.
I told my hypnotherapist, Connie that I wasn’t feeling well physically and emotionally; I was eating far too much. Hypnosis offered me an opportunity to do what was known as “discovery work,” and I was ready.
I entered a deep hypnotic trance, and felt my body relax. In the distance, I heard Connie’s voice asking me to find an image that represented my pain. Without hesitation I replied, “A knife.” Then she asked me to describe my knife.
I said, “It has a black handle and a serrated blade. I feel it stabbing me in my stomach and eviscerating my gut.” With those words, I could almost feel the stomach pain that often gripped me; cramps that took my breath away and caused me to double over in agony. I was pleased that I had found a way to describe my pain so clearly.
Then she said, Now, I’d like you to find another image. Can you find an image that could counter this knife and alleviate your pain?”
I floated into the peaceful recesses of my mind and searched for something that would comfort and protect me. I heard music playing softly, but after many minutes there wasn’t a single image I could visualize.
I said to Connie, “I can’t seem to find anything to stop that knife.” The thought occurred to me that I was choosing to feel pain and didn’t want it to stop. But then I said, “Wait – I feel something. But it isn’t an image. I’m feeling a breeze. It’s just like in my song “Beside Me Always” – it’s wrapping around me and protecting me. The breeze represents the love I remember from when I was a child. It also reminds me of the love from my child, Jason.”
Connie wanted me to have my comforting image speak to the knife. She said, “ Ask the knife why it is here.”
In my calmness, I looked for an answer and it did not come easily. I said hesitantly, “The knife will not tell me. It says it has always been with me. It is there to remind me about pain and loss.”
Even while in a hypnotic trance, I understood what my words meant. I was grieving, and pain was familiar.
It was very clear that the knife was simply not going to go away.
Connie said, “Can you let your comforting image protect you and help ease your pain?”
A sad realization came over me, as I answered, “My comforting breeze is really not effective; I picked an image that cannot really help me! The knife just cuts right through the air. The breeze is just that – it is empty air.”
Tears began to roll swiftly down my cheeks. The breeze was my parents’ love, and Jason’s love. Why wasn’t their love strong enough to counter the pain my knife was inflicting upon me? Did I want to suffer?
I spoke again choosing my words carefully. “Maybe my parents’ love cannot help me because it doesn’t feel unconditional. I grew up with many strong beliefs. Divorcing represents my failure to be committed to the ideal of marriage.”
My tears began to pour as I said, “Although she would still love me, I can feel my mother’s disappointment.”
And then I added, “Jason loves me, but I am hurting his papa!”
In the darkness of hypnosis, I felt emotional pain choking my every breath. With my honest admission, I had released so much. My father’s love began to envelop me. He knew of my decision before he died. Remembering his acceptance of it, infused me with strength.
I drifted back into peacefulness as I heard Connie counting slowly. I awakened and blinked; my eyelashes were wet and I was drained.
Connie explained that I obviously had a lot of resistance to letting go of my pain. I knew she was right.
I wondered when I would stop punishing myself.
My admission of marital unhappiness began a year ago. I wrote a song, which I titled “The Unknown.” It was something I was ready to face. If my song were named “The Known,” it would have been a far sadder song. The known was empty and lonely, and my future looked bleak.
Writing my blog, and rediscovering my songs certainly led me to a place of joy. But overnight, I woke up to discover that I was in a place desolate of affection, connection and contact. What I could not fathom was how I had accepted it for so long. With that realization, my joy began to fade. I was determined that I was not going back to Zombieland, and coped with my circumstances by immersing myself in writing and music to help me. It most certainly did.
In the past, I had watched both my brothers move back in with my parents while they went through their divorces. I always knew that if I ever had a problem, my parents would certainly take me back in. I hoped they would support my decision, even if they were disappointed because I had initiated it.
So there was great irony when it dawned on me – that I could live in my parents’ coop apartment until I decided my future plans.
My youngest son had recently been accepted into a new school that was only a few blocks from the coop. He could walk there and it would be an excellent location for us to live. He would stay with me while attending school and be with my husband on the weekends. My daughter planned to live with me and attend a community college nearby. My oldest son would stay with my husband.
After my hypnotherapy session, my stomach issues eased up. No longer keeping a secret from my husband about my marital unhappiness was a relief. At times, it was awkward for us to be sleeping in the same bed, but less so for me. That was because I had lived inside my mind for a year; now he and I were at least communicating as we discussed our future plans.
Preparing the apartment to be livable required money and attention. My husband was willing to help me and we were together in the empty apartment on several occasions. There was a pervasive sadness, as both of us recounted memories of being there together when my parents were healthy and vital. I appreciated that he helped me; he fixed the air conditioner and installed a kitchen light fixture. I also planned to help him in any way I could and was both relieved and grateful that our separation was amicable.
After filling eight dumpsters due to my father’s hoarding, I was left with many boxes of memorabilia. Reminders of my childhood brought my father back to me. I felt him with me as I chuckled over priceless piles of artwork and writing he had saved.
I celebrated my mother’s birthday at a party held by her nursing home. Most of the time now, she was completely unaware of everything going on around her. But even with her advancing dementia, she still smiled with love for me whenever I put my face close to hers.
My parents have always been there for me and continue to be. I am also fortunate that my two older brothers have been supportive. Living in the apartment where I grew up is such an interesting prospect. There is no question that I feel the presence of both my parents there.
It will probably be several months before I am settled. My plan is to slowly fix it up and prepare myself to move. I have a lot of things that are hard to let go of. For example, I cannot bring my art studio furniture with me and no longer plan to paint anymore.
My parents were married 61 years and with my dad’s illness and my mother’s dementia – their closeness faded away. It was such a sad process to watch. Finding memorabilia from the past was helpful for me. I decided that it was better to focus on the beautiful aspects of their marriage, rather than on the sadder ending.
I am also doing that with my own marriage. The memory of love is something that I never want to lose.
I will end this post by sharing some touching cards my father wrote to my mother, as well as photos of my parents when they were younger.
Tags: "sandwich generation", Aging Parents, Caregiving, dementia, divorce, divorce after long marriage, grief, Hypnotherapy, inspiration, loss, mother, mother daughter relationship, mother's illness, Music, Ordinary Life, original songs, separation