Sunday

I'd like you to meet Susie, a former friend of mine

Heather,

I do. My friend Maggie tells me I'm an amazing artist.

She doesn't have to believe it, I tell her, she just has to be happy for, or acknowledge, my enthusiasm for my art.

Maggie has introduced me to a group of her friends as "a writer" long before I was ready to call myself that, when it was still very much a hobby and I'd published only a few pieces. Long before I made any money at it and before my corporate writing career was in full-swing.

Now, I can't believe that I hesitated. What was that all about?

By tagging an introduction with "she's a writer," she forced me accept my aspiration, if only to the person to whom I was being introduced. It was out there in the open waiting for me to claim it. After all, I couldn't deny it. That would make us both look foolish. And I wouldn't do that to her, which I am sure she knew.

Those three words "she's a writer" legitimized my dream.

Maggie wasn't even aware of the impact those words had on me. After all, I was already employed as a writer. I was earning a living writing copy for corporations, so to her, "writing" was just a matter of the work that I did. She didn't see it--as I did--as artistic expression. Or maybe she did. She had asked for a copy of one of my handmade chapbooks of poetry. In that small collection of poems she might have seen my passion for that particular writing form. Later, Mag told me that she loved the poems, but that she hadn't the faintest idea what they meant. I love her candor. Her remarks may have been hurtful to a younger artist, but to me, at that point in my creative life, it as something to laugh about because this "writer" business seemed to matter only to me. Mag still thought of me as a writer, even if she didn't "get" my creative work. Early on, it was her introduction of me as a writer signalled an acceptance. It told me that she supported me.

With a successful creative career like yours (commercial and artistic), I know that you understand what I mean. Take my example and apply it to your personal life.

The next time that someone introduces you to another person as "the artist who used to" (be successful, be married to...slept with...whatever), feel free to clarify the remark, or respond with something like:

  1. Yes, while that is indeed true, I don't like to live in the past. I like to look forward to the future.
  2. Thanks, Susie. One day soon you will refer to me as [insert outrageous career goal]. 
  3. Thank you, Susie, but I don't feel as if I'm defined by labels such as 'ex' or 'former" anything. 
  4. Pleased to meet you.
Let me know if it works.

I know exactly what you mean

Heather,

I know exactly what you mean! It is important to hear nice things from our friends occasionally. And yes it's especially wonderful when you're feeling down. So, you're still at the precipice of d-i-v-o-r-ce?

I'm sorry. You did ask for advice and I chickened out. I'm not sure that I really have the right, even as a friend and someone who cares about you to say: "Yes, you should leave him!" or "No, everyone deserves a second chance."

Remember when Caroline and Dave split up and Lisa and Dave got together?

Everyone had strong opinions about who was right and who was wrong and what a loser Dave was and it seems that every single person we knew felt obligated to tell Caro what to think (about Dave, later about Lisa) and no one asked Caroline how she felt.

We all assumed she was pissed and hurt and humiliated, but later we learned how relieved she was because she and Dave had realized their mistake in moving in together too soon, but neither one was going to end what should have ended long ago.

After all that was said, we still had to see Dave in social situations, so it made me personally uncomfortable to see Dave and Lisa in social situations knowing how much Emery despised Dave for leaving Caro.

Now, I understand that she had been dealing with a cheating husband for years (and let's face it, her own indiscretions), but then the whole situation made me thoroughly uncomfortable.

If Steve isn't cheating, or if he did once and he claims it was only once and you are willing to forgive him and his actions and both of you can move on, then who am I to say you should march straight to a lawyer and file for divorce?

Each person's situation is different. Lisa and Dave seemed to have made a nice life for themselves.

And Caroline recovered from that breakup fairly quickly. By that, I mean she moved on without remorse and was out dating within a month. She'd be the first to tell you that she was secretly happy when Lisa and Dave hooked up because he was such a nice guy that she wanted him to be happy. She didn't want to hurt him.

As I say, each situation is different. Lisa was in love with Dave, Caro was not.

So I must ask the question then: Are you still in love with Steve?

Mercy

Heather,

You know what word I love? Mercy.

It's not a word that we hear much anymore. Or did we ever? To me it suggests compassion, generosity, and grace. (Grace is big this year for me; I've been reading Invisible Acts of Power, Channeling Grace into Your Everyday Life" by Caroline Myss.)

My work has slowed and I seem to be writing more emails than chapters, but I haven't had the energy -- emotional, or physical -- to keep up with the novel.

To be honest, Caroline's and Emery's dramatic personal lives have been a source of distraction that I've welcomed.

Mercy comes to mind when I think of the way you handle yourself in friendship. It's the way you listen. I've watched the way you actively engage in conversation with your friends outside our social circle and you're not just waiting for your turn to talk, you are listening to what is being said. You rarely interject--as I am prone to do--(See?)--or interrupt--and you maintain interest when others would simply excuse themselves and slip out of a boring conversation. That's not just a skill, that's an art.

You have a tolerance for compassion and mercy beyond anyone I know, that I know for sure.

So, if you are wondering where your compassion is for your husband's sudden about-face, maybe this is one situation where mercy isn't called for.