The trouble came on December 30, 2008. I was 39 years old. One of my business partners had invited me to lunch at Jalisco’s, a small Mexican restaurant in northeast Seattle. We had never had a meeting without our third partner, but he asked and I went. When we walked in, he asked for a table away from the other occupied tables in a section that was not open and ordered me a beer. In my memory, his hands were shaking and that struck me as false, but it could well have been my hands that were shaking. I haven’t seen a lot of horror movies but enough that I was just getting the feeling that I was walking into a shed with all the chain saws when he told me about my husband’s infidelities. But he wasn’t just my husband, he was our third business partner.
It was such a dramatic story – the ruin of my marriage and the business I had built from before I was married. I once told the story to a friend while sitting in a small Sushi restaurant and before long I noticed that the tables on both sides of us had gone quiet waiting to hear the end. But I didn’t have an end to the story, at least not a happy one. I felt coagulated somehow, stuck. I missed being me, the cheery, energetic, optimistic self I had been before the trouble but I had no idea how to get back and instead kept telling the story over and over again. Given the magnitude of the disaster perhaps I could be forgiven for still being stuck in that story almost three years later when I went to my first meditation class.
I was on the mailing list for my friend, Deirdre’s, upcoming classes. I didn’t know anything about meditation, but the class description spoke to me:
“DROP IN/FIND SOME PEACE— cultivate internal quiet through low-key movements, breath practices and guided meditations to create sanctuary during these stressful times. Perfect for this time of year. “
All the words individually made sense, but together? Breath practices to create sanctuary? Still maybe the class could help me unstick the coagulated me. My brain fizzed out but my heart signed up and then my hands paid $25.
It was from 8:45am-10am on a Tuesday morning. I left the class and cried for the rest of the morning. Not a sob, it was more of a relatively peaceful, steady, cleansing stream which called for sunglasses while walking my dog on a cloudy October morning in Seattle so as not to alarm others. While I had spent a lot of time in the three years since the trouble started feeding some pretty righteous justification, after the meditation class I felt the space in me open for the grief of the regrets and failings for my part in the marriage. It was as if dead, stinky pockets of grief and regret I didn’t realize I was carrying with me were finally aerated. It was a first step in letting the story go yet I hadn’t taken that step in almost three years of struggle because I had so much grist in the mill.
I probably could stoke up many more years’ worth and was doing a fantastic job of that — until the meditation class. There was nothing specific in the class to do with relationships or heartbreak, although the teacher, my good friend, Deirdre, knew well that I was sitting in a morass. It simply was breathing as a way to find sanctuary and it felt like my spirit was ready to run with it. I had a small glimpse of a bigger perspective of which my story was just a small part. I started to see how I could let go of the shame and power of the story and let it become part of my past instead of something I lived with every day. It was not a miracle cure but breathing out loss and breathing in hope, breathing out betrayal and breathing in faith over and over again changed my focus until one day I realized I had let the story go. It no longer was the defining pillar around which I operated but simply a stone on my path to a more vibrant life.
It’s been almost eleven years since that lunch meeting that set off a bomb in my life. That restaurant is no longer there, I’ve long since been divorced and the life I lead seems completely different except for my faithful friends and family. In the years since I’ve gone on to have two children as a single mom by choice and although it’s hard with two kids in the house, find time to meditate every day. Because trouble happens but being defined by it doesn’t have to.