Yes, I'm still on my marriage self-help book, but this time with a memoir twist.
Back in August an essay from the NYT circled around. You probably saw it. I did, and I was (like many other) amazed by it.
The author, Laura Munson, was informed at the beginning of one summer by her husband that he did not love her, he probably never did, and that he was moving out. He added that the kids wanted him to be happy and would understand.
In short, she didn't buy it. The essay is remarkable; the response was astounding. (Read it if you haven't yet.) She recently published the book she wrote that summer, chronicling her 'marital adventure' and how she made it.
Having my fair share of experiences witnessing marriage gone bad, I knew I wanted to read her book.
Well, I just finished reading it. I'm in that post-intense book reading stupor and I'm feeling compelled to write. To ponder here at the keyboard, and ask myself a few unanswerable questions.
Her memoir is less how-to or tell-all, and more personal journey. She writes about taking responsibility for your own happiness - not letting things beyond control determine your happiness. Throw in the 'live in the moment' catch phrase/concept and you have an idea of the gist of her journey.
But hokey as it looks in that paragraph up there, this is really can be a life-altering concept if you let it. I'm beginning to think about my own journey, and how much I might be letting non-me things determine my own, for lack of a better word, happiness. Her experience of her husband's dis-affection was one long exercise in stepping back, letting go, and keeping an eye on the big picture - on his big picture. At least that's how I read it.
Let me just say this: This is not the story you think it is is a powerful book. I'm not sure I'm ready to wrap my head around everything it offers. Usually when I finish a book, my favorite thing to do is pick out and start my next book. But when I finished this one, I sat up, set it down, and kind of stared for a minute. Walked around, tried to chew on it, and thought about nothing instead. I thought about how I might have reacted to that situation...where I might have reacted differently...what might have been my motivation to acting that way. I don't have kids, I don't have an idyllic homestead in Montana (though I would really really like one) and I don't have 15 years of marriage behind me. Would I yell and slam doors, or could I find some composure and stability? Would I shut down, or could I find patches of joy every day? Would I hit the Stoli when the family comes to visit for two weeks with raised eyebrows? Would I find ways to be productive, or would I simply have to focus on survival? Who would I look to for support and advice - is there anyone in my life, right now, who could play that role for me? (I do have the tricky-fun situation of having nearly my entire social life wrapped up in Brian's place of employ, after all.)
Fortunately, I don't have to face this situation right now. My questions don't necessarily have to be answered, in theory or in practice. I get that, and I am so grateful. But I do know what it's like to wonder how, or if, you will make it through the next week, or day, or conversation, with your life intact.
If you've ever been in that place, you might want to read Laura Munson's book. And then you might want to read it again. I know I will.