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"Things We Lost In The Fire"

Remember that last post about having two piles of shit in my hands? Gah that seems to be a running theme in life!

Perseverating on two crap choices can literally operate as a mechanism of emotional defeat with real-life outcomes. (I avoid the word consequences—it’s too grade school and I am adult damn it).

Yesterday a friend sent a slew of texts in sheer panic. Via group message she provided a play by play of what felt like the dissolution of her marriage. She didn’t totally know what was happening—she just knew every alarm bell rang in her heart and brain. Her ability to think through this felt akin to going to a raver with some really intense acid, strobe lights, and a huge crowd of addicts slamming one another. The thinking part of her brain shut down and she needed her friends to help her escape the flight or flight take over.

This daily group message thread typically runs the gamut of “good morning memes,” meals to keep our pretend diets going, stupid selfies, and emotional support. Yesterday, we focused energy on assuring our dear friend felt safe, loved, and supported as she weighed life altering decisions. We let her send long paragraphs processing the events of her relationship derailment. We patiently waited out periods of silence as she scrambled to get her phone turned back on and plan next steps if this indeed was the end for her marriage. In a sweeping set of hours she rollercoastered between feeling forced to leave her husband and hoping he might cool down from his boiling harbored resentments and inability to appropriately cope.

As we read each message we provided our best advice, our best encouragement, and our attempts to validate feelings. What we didn’t center our conversations on: leave your husband, file divorce, and be done with this garbage. The decision to choose to leave a marriage is deeply personal. When one examines this choice they hold two piles of excrement.

Leaving can result in a whole new set of challenges: affordable housing, uprooting kids, abandoning financial security, damaged familial relationships. Sometimes the fear of change cripples our ability to choose.

While staying seems unbearable at least you know this pain. The discomfort settles in your heart like a couch taking on the shape of its owner’s body. The couch looks worse for the wear… but it’s yours. It was your first nice thing. It’s been the place you cuddled scared children, romantically drank wine on a Tuesday while the kids slept, and the place where each of you took an end to feign watching TV while texting on your phone. It’s the place you first discussed how to right the wrongs, where hope restored, it caught your tears after disappointing fights, and it’s the place you post up to text your dearest friends you don’t know what to do anymore.

It doesn’t matter how the couch looks, how worn, or old. It’s yours; and it’s a pain to move.

Marriage feels like that old couch. If you look under the cushions and in the crevices you can find some gnarly stuff. You can also discover treasures lost in the cracks or wedged between the wall. And looking around the couch in all those out of the way places takes risk and vulnerability. When a relationship stops being safe the couch becomes the burden in the living room.

Some folks decide to look elsewhere for comfort: drinking, drugs, shopping, gambling, bars and other people. They look to find the same comfort of the couch back at home but without all the stuff trapped in the cushions. On occasion it works—the risk pays off and the landscape changes for the better. Sometimes the living room gets trashed and the couple gathers the fragments of what’s left, retreat to their corners, and think.

That’s ok. Thinking is ok. The living room is a mess--- it needs a plan to be renovated and repaired. Some really amazing people I know have stopped to think and saved it all from ruin. Others strike a match and burn the place down. Nothing felt worth salvaging. And this stands as why yesterday we chose to love our friend through it. It’s not our living room, this isn’t our couch, we’ve never seen the underbelly of the cushions and wooden frame. We don’t know if implosion fits best in the space of her life.

This family has to FEEL all this--- her decision isn’t one to judge. She needed care, concern, and a space to “freak out.”

That’s thing about friendships. The good ones anyway. A good friend will offer to help move the couch with you, buy the matches, or hold your hand as you watch the flames.

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