Thoughts on the Next Step to Health by Mark Nepo

His very soul was begging to feel. This seemed more serious, more urgent, more filled with terror than a choice between one woman and another.

Mark Nepo
The Book of Awakening

Recently I had the honor of being roasted by Tracy Schorn, the Chump Lady.

Schorn did her usual schick: attacking people she doesn’t know, projecting her pain(?) onto others through sweeping generalizations about people she has never met, onto situations she knows even less about.

It’s basic drive by shaming 101. It’s a trite and tired routine but she has to write something every day and vulnerablity takes too much work. Easier to manufactuer outage so the soldiers in her “Chump Revolution” continue to pump money into her lifstyle.

Perhaps some should spend the same money and energy on looking into the mirror and asking themselves why they pick these relationships.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so damaging to other people. She’ll never see it, so I won’t waste time on it.

Anyway…

Despite Schorn’s sanctimonious, shallow, and cliche approach to others, she isn’t always wrong. The one thing she was actually right about is I haven’t said much about me ex-wife, K.

I haven’t, mostly, because K asked me not to write about her too much and frankly, I am still angry and confused about her choices throughout this chapter in life too and I don’t want to use my hurt to hurt her more.

I do know what I write about C hurts K’s feelings but that is never my intention. I’m not writing to hurt anyone. I’m writing because that is what I do. As I said over dinner last night with a Unicorn Couple, one reason I write is to know I am not alone.


If I painted, maybe I would paint self-portraints revealing my tortures, but instead I write and take pictures of my car, the river, and flowers. Like betrayal, grieving reveals who we are too.

However, as I’ve said to K, she reads what I write by choice. I don’t force it on her. And as Elle Grant writes, we all find ways to pain shop even when we know it hurts. We pick our poisons.

Regardless, Schorn has me thinking about the many gifts me ex-wife has given me and I want to take a few minutes and give credit where credit is due.

She Kept Her Commitment

First of all, she loves me. Which, clearly, I do not make easy.

Her love for me may not be romantic and pretty but to her credit she loves me the way she does everything: fiercely and unapologetically. And like so many things human, she can be unskillful. Just as my love for her was unskillful.

K would never cheat.

K walked through her pain and humiliation, she didn’t run, she fought for an unskillful and fractured relationship with an unskillful and fractured man, she twice tried to face the person she considered the “other woman”, and when she had enough she simply called C.

She always considered me “hers”, acted accordingly, and gave me every opportunity to come home to her.

She Makes the Effort

I can honestly see how she has made an effort to own her unskillfullness and do things different over the last two years. I have always admired her but this thing she is currently trying to do is powerful.

Despite all of my unkillfullness, Ugly, and selfishness, she has been patient with me.

However, no amount of patience will change that I will not give her what she wants. Not because I don’t love her but because to give her what she needs and wants is incompatible with what I need and want today. I would be lying to her again to make her feel better. I understand what she needs and wants, but having empathy for her feelings and understanding her needs and wants does not mean I should change what I need and want.

That is, by all measures, self-loving and a requirement for maintaining my integrity. K taught me loving someone does not mean changing for them.

The truly loving action is to listen and then tell them, ‘No.’ Changing something simply to make someone else feel better is the path to my lost integrity and shattering of my character.

In this repect she is allowing me to learn how to love.

She Freed Me

K was instrumental in helping break me from my cycle of shame and humiliation. I wanted change. Her love was the engine that create it.

And as a result K’s choices – and indirectly C’s – I am now free to learn how to make more skillful choices without fear of humiliation and loss. I’ve already lost everything I thought I wanted. I cannot lose anything more.

K’s actions helped me to see C’s truth and C’s Ugly.

She Speaks Her Truth

As K said to me last year, “Sean, C was never going to stay. She was planning on leaving. You were just a meal ticket.”

True or not, I never have to guess what K thinks. In this respect, K is one of the most courageous woman I have ever been involved with. Her attempts at vulneralbity have all the tact of an avalanche, but to her credit, she actually attempts vulnerability.

It was more than I gave her.

Thoughts on Mark Nepo’s The Next Step

Talking about his friend struggling with a decision between two relationships, Mark Nepo wrote, “This seemed more serious, more urgent, more filled with terror than a choice between one woman and another.”

This is, of course, the pain I hear from many men and women that have been betrayed. They still believe its about competition. They say they are waiting to be picked. They understandably cannot get past their own heartbreak.

After talking to men and women that cheat, lie, and keep secrets, I think that is oversimplistic. My choices were never about chosing between K or C as much as their ego and pride may want to think it was.

Of course, if you consider how many men and women that have done the betraying, lying, and secret-keeping sometimes validate the betrayed partner’s perspective through sheer unskillfulness the confusion is understandable. That is why Dr. Caroline Madden asks men in her excellent workbook, After a Good Man Cheats, “Do you want her back or are you just scared?”

I don’t feel, for me, that this was ever a choice between staying or going, one or the other. I knew where I wanted to be and acted accordingly except in those unskillful moments when I wasn’t. I desperately wanted to live with integrity and authentically I tried to get the two of them to be friends, dress the same, among a few other things.

When I think on it I am constantly overwhelmed by the shitheadery and my many, many Uglies.

My behavior was never about these good people, it was, and is about me. Even this work I’m doing now is about me. C is gone, and frankly, more often than not I’m good with that. She is doing what she needs to do to be happy.

The same with K.

And if either K or C, believe it was about them that is a perspective they have chosen to embrace. I will always be responsible for my behaviors and choices…just as I’m not responsible for theirs.

I don’t know C’s truth, but I know K has been deeply hurt by my maliciously unskillful behaviors. I am sorry I hurt K. I would prefer not to do it again but we hurt those closest to us because they are closest to us. That isn’t an excuse. That is the truth.

And despite everything, I still feel close to K.

I married her for a reason. I helped raise her sons. She isn’t sick, twisted, or a chump. She’s just a woman that loved me deeply and completely…and that I still love but as things stand I cannot make a life with her.

However it isn’t about her, it is, as Nepo writes, I am listening to a cry that was “indeed, much deeper than ‘Who?'” In reality it was my “very soul [] begging to feel.”

As such, now that I’m listening to “the deeper cry within [my] choice became basic and very straightforward: how do I regain my wonder at being alive? What must I do to keep my heart from sinking?”

The betrayal, the secret-keeping, and the escalating series of lies was always about avoiding feeling the things I needed to feel to live the life I wanted. What I needed to really do was “more urgent, more filled with terror than a choice between one woman and another.”

I am chosing to focus on the urgent.

April 15

The Next Step to Health

The deeper the cry, the more clear the choice.

I have a friend who has called into question whom he should love. This opened a field of complexities, and life quickly became an endless consideration of possibilities and alliances.

But beneath the endless inventories, his soul was calling out from way inside, and through his pain, my friend kept hearing the far-off cry surface at the oddest times. Soon, he realize this cry was, indeed, much deeper than “Who?” His very soul was begging to feel. This seemed more serious, more urgent, more filled with terror than a choice between one woman and another.

As he began to struggle with facing himself, my friend began to realize that all the decisions to be made about who and where and when were really heartfelt distractions from a deeper cry. Underneath all the painful ambiguities and assessments, his very soul was drowning, sinking out of reach of the feel of life. Once hearing the deeper cry within himself, his choice became basic and very straightforward: how do I regain my wonder at being alive? What must I do to keep my heart from sinking?

Time and again, we are shown by the quiet courage of others that if we can let the deeper cry through, the next step to health will come plainly into view.

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