Call It a Grand Re-Opening
For the last 22 years, I’ve been a little busy.
But I wasn’t busy doing what I thought I’d be doing.
I thought I’d be working with consulting clients and creating classes just like always. You know, busy with the usual.
In 2000, I married for the fourth time. It was about then that I fired myself as a relationship coach and began working for a Southern California closet company designing spaces for things owned by humans. It seemed appropriate to shift gears given that my other path seemed in need of repair.
As a closet designer, my daily task was to visit luxurious homes. Most of my conversations were with folks who wanted for nothing. Some conversations were with women who owned 200 pairs of stilettos with matching bags sent to them automatically with each change of season. One woman told me shoes were her art. Sometimes she only looked at them. My job was to display them for her.
While drawing closets and garages and storage spaces, I confess it crossed my mind more than once how many struggling families might be fed by her thousands of shoe dollars. I also contemplated my fourth marriage which had fallen down and couldn’t get up. Turns out that drawing closets was a good meditation all around.
At one point while designing walk-ins with islands, plush seating, and mood lighting, I asked (pleaded for) my husband to stay while I figured out how to fix our marriage.
He obliged. The short story is that through cleaning my personal slate of what I thought I knew about relationships, things turned around.
So, there was THAT kind of busy.
That was a big THAT.
That “that” was a “that” which took time, focus, energy, creativity, hope, and faith.
Believe me, cleaning one’s slate calls in a steep learning curve. I made many mistakes. But the good news is that mistakes are often followed by ah-Ha’s and simple victories. Gradual progress. Incremental gratitude. Mini-celebrations. This was true for me, and my willingness to grow and change grew every single day.
Because Eric and I not only patched things up, but were more in love than when we’d first met, I felt flat-out unbridled reverence for the human growth process itself. For the possibility of improvement. For any human spirit determined to break new ground, find new happiness.
So there was that.
And then the housing crash came, and instead of renting yet another over-priced-under-lovely home in Southern California, Eric and I scooped up our belongings and made our way to North Carolina because of a woo-woo pendulum and some advice from an astrocartographer—in other words, we moved on a wish and a prayer.
An astrocartographer is an astrologer who helps people with relocation. As a result of my session with Rania James, Eric and I went to the trouble of moving 2,293.8 miles to Asheville. Even with Rania’s wise counsel, on some days moving felt like faith on steroids, and other days it felt like falling without a net.
Even though I had never set eyes on this gorgeous stretch of earthly expression, there was Google, of course, and when I saw photos on the internet, and felt into the landscape of Asheville—tuned in to it—it occurred to me (even without sparkly red slippers), “Oh, my goodness, this feels like home.”
My father had told me stories about his love for this area. He came here as a Civilian Public Service worker—he was a conscientious objector in WWII. I wondered if my coming to North Carolina would complete his unfinished story.
Once on the ground in Asheville I felt at home for the first time in my entire life. I’m pretty sure I let out a sigh I’d been holding for 684 months.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have lived in many places, but no place like this one. Here, the earth feels like my earth. The Blue Ridge Mountains feel like my mountains. The spirit feels just right. The sky holds me. Animals visit and geese fly in.
So there’s that.
Eric was never a doctor-going type, so by the time he got to the question of why his hips hurt so badly, his body was deep in crisis. His urologist told him to get his affairs in order. He had prostate cancer.
Eric didn’t tell me about the words from his doctor for a couple of weeks. Finally, when I pressed, he stood firmly in denial: nothing was wrong—the doctor was simply over-reacting.
This was my partner. My guy. The guy who had fallen in love with me again. Was he now leaving the planet?
Eric dealt with the cancer as best he knew how, which was in a hurry and as an afterthought. It was clear to me that he was going down fast.
In that same week of finding out about his condition, I was scheduled to sing a solo for my Womansong choir in Asheville. So, I sang. I took the deepest breath possible and gathered up the anguish, grief, and fear that was consuming me and turned it into honey butter on a sound biscuit. It was the best I could do.
Eric’s health declined so rapidly that after a few hospital visits over the holidays, his medical team sent him to hospice because he was too weak for any kind of treatment.
Five days into hospice, something astonishing happened. He woke up and said, “I’m hungry. Please bring food.”
The kind nurse looked at him sideways while arranging his tray of medications. Then choosing her words slowly she said, “You know this is Hospice. We remove tubes, but we don’t reinstall them. How about if we unplug your pump for a time and see how you do? It’s a safe first step.”
Eric agreed. They turned everything off. We waited. After a few hours, it was clear that he seemed fine. He restated his need for food.
The nurse negotiated for a second trial. Eric reluctantly agreed.
It worked. Against all odds, his body seemed to be rallying. It was a miracle by any standards. They removed his tubes and brought him a meal. He ate with gusto.
Behind the scenes, doctors were stunned by these developments. Nurses confessed to me that this sort of thing happened rarely, but when it did, they all did a happy dance. Today, they danced!
By day ten, Eric graduated from hospice, and for the next three years, he regained weight and resumed a normal life. He golfed. He did business. He visited with friends.
As for my state during his recovery, I felt hopeful but held my breath because the doc had mentioned in one of Eric’s appointments that at some point the medicine would stop working.
When the medicine did, in fact, stop working, the cancer came back with a vengeance, and Eric died in March of 2017. We had 17 years together.
So there was THAT.
I was pretty busy with that…
And then, of course, along came grief. As C. S. Lewis said, “Nobody ever told me that grief felt SO like fear.”
I had never lost someone close to me, especially a partner.
So there was THAT.
For the next year, I grappled awkwardly. Prayed. Sobbed. Sat in silence. Avoided the public. Stayed home while navigating the wild blue yonder of loss and radical change and the empty bed.
Each of my relationship clients, out of respect, simply stepped back. They stopped asking for assistance. They went dark out of respect. They knew, and I knew, that there was no way I could talk about relationships without sobbing.
I appreciated their understanding, as well as their silence. It meant a lot to me.
Since I couldn’t speak easily, I picked up a pen.
In 2018, I published 100 Words: Small Servings of Whimsy and Wisdom, a book of poetry and photography, verses about change, grief, nature, creativity, and relationships. Each poem is 100 words long. (If you’d like signed copies on sale for half-off, write me at Terri@incareofrelationships.com.)
Next came How to Save Your Fourth Marriage: One Person Can Transform a Relationship in 2022. it’s for anyone who is looking for assistance in a relationship.
Here we are, a faltering marriage, a saved marriage, a death, and twenty-two years later…
I’ve been doing my best to put one foot in front of the other.
Without further ado, it’s time to come on out!
How can I help you with your relationship? You can schedule a free “Meet and Greet” to discuss.
With great love,