I can feel incredibly alone in a room full of people. Terribly alone in a sea of people. Utterly alone in a world of over seven billion people. Such is the way of an introvert. Paradoxically, often the best way for me to keep loneliness at bay is to spend time alone. I can be all by my lonesome and not feel the least bit lonely. I know, it’s a real head scratcher. The most heart-wrenching form of loneliness though, is feeling irrevocably alone in the company of the one person in the world who vowed to love you the most. I’ve felt that too. That flavor of loneliness is what made me give up for all intents and purposes on my marriage many years ago. I didn’t leave the marriage, but I did give up on it. And that did not work out so well for me.
My husband and I recently found ourselves at the brink of marriage failure and in clawing our way back we encountered the single best piece of marital advice we’ve ever heard. Actually it’s the only advice that’s ever rang true, right and doable over the very long haul that every marriage is. It’s advice that’s ethereal in its authenticity and power. When we encountered it we knew without a doubt that heeding this instruction was how we would get back to our set point and even soar beyond what we’ve been settling for and on to new heights. The reason we knew it was going to work for us is because we had not done it with much regularity in the 20 years we have been married and we recognized this to be where we went wrong.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m gifted. Incredibly gifted in fact, with more than one thing even. I am a dancer and a writer and I am amazingly gifted with both abilities. On the off chance you’re still reading and not gagging on my arrogance I hope you’re reading me correctly. Just to be sure, please make special note that I am not saying I am gifted AT dancing or writing, but WITH them. This is a huge distinction and one I think adds huge value to the conversation.
During a couples counseling session with my husband about a year ago, our counselor looked at me and asked, “Jodie, what do you do for yourself that brings you joy?” I stared back at her blankly and started to feel hot and itchy. I could not answer the question. My husband and I were at a rock bottom place in our marriage. We were just beginning to attempt to recover from his newly revealed infidelity and at that point my days were filled with despair, anger, anxiety, grief, a sense of loss, uncertainty, insomnia, the inability to catch my breath (quite literally), shame, regret and I’ll just stop myself here because I could list every negative and unwanted emotion under the sun and be acutely accurate in my description of what those early days of recovery were like. So when she asked me what I did to summon joy, I had nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero to come back to her with.
Yes they are. Both things are true.
For as long as I can remember, grey has been my favorite color. I don’t think it’s an aesthetic only preference. I have rarely been able to see the world and its complexities in black and white. My viewfinder is constantly set to shades of grey and at times that can be maddening. I’m a fence sitter, right on top, usually perfectly balanced and almost never teetering towards one side or the other. I’m the human equivalent of Switzerland in my stance on most issues. I can see it your way and my way, his way and her way too. And because of that, I’m often left feeling like I don’t know which way is up or which way is down. I’ve shied away from important decision-making and resisted contributing to policymaking, I love to assist but detest being in charge and I’ve never been politically active; all because I’m not sure which way the wind is blowing.