Radical Gratitude

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to send Brock a daily email with a message of how I love and appreciate him. It’s amazing how much starting my day that way helps to put me in a better mindset. When I take those moments to think about and share my gratitude, I feel more loving and more patient and just happier in general.

But, let’s be honest, there’s nothing radical in that. After all, I’m marrying the man in 7 months, I’d hope I could come up with 28 things I love and appreciate about him:)

Nope, that’s easy gratitude, not radical gratitude. It’s really a form of practicing the perfect. It’s great, we both benefit, but it doesn’t really challenge me.

So, today, I’m pushing myself. I’m presenting myself with the challenge of radical gratitude.

Deep breath.

I’m writing a list of  twenty-eight   twenty   ten reasons I’m grateful for my ex-husband.

Now, before I begin, let me just give you an idea of how radical this is. This is the man who ended a 16 year relationship with a text message and refused to ever speak to me again. This is man who locked our three dogs in the basement, not knowing if they would survive. This is man who stole tens of thousands of dollars from me and refused to cooperate with the divorce settlement. This is the man who committed felony bigamy and currently has a warrant for his arrest. This is the man who was practicing forging his other wife’s signature to use on a life insurance policy on her. You see? Radical.

Okay, I’ve poured the glass o vino and cued the Jack Johnson.

Here goes.

1) I’m thankful that I had such a wonderful best friend for sixteen years. We grew so much together and shared so much over the years. We knew each other from high school. We nursed the other through wisdom teeth removal and stayed together through talks of retirement plans. I’m grateful for that history and those memories.

2) He was always so amazingly supportive. He brought me flowers after a major presentation in high school. He gripped my hand years later during a painful doctor’s visit for shingles. I always felt like he had my back through good times and bad.

3) I’m grateful for the experience we had renovating a house together. We bought the fixer-upper when we were only 22 and not much more than broke. We worked on the house for almost ten years, putting in more sweat and ingenuity than money. He always amazed me with his skills and talents. He was a self-taught carpenter than earned the respect of professionals. He never met a job he couldn’t master. I was so proud of his talents and I loved to learn from him.

4) I’m thankful for how well he took care of our animals – three dogs and a cat by the end. He carefully tended our pug’s stitches when she had an allergic reaction after being spayed. He helped me build a cardboard fortress for the cat when she was a playful kitten. He hand fed our middle dog after he recovered from a broken leg. He stayed up nights for a week with our youngest when she had kennel cough.

5) I am appreciative of the teamwork we shared. We worked so well together. Somehow, we always anticipated the other’s moves or needs and reacted accordingly. I don’t think we ever snapped at each other while we were working on a project – whether setting up a tent in the rain or laying tile at two in the morning.

6) I am grateful for having such an amazing lover. We learned and explored together over our 16 years. I never felt limited and was always completely satisfied.

7) He had an amazing sense of humor. We both shared a love of comedy and of laughter. Through him, I discovered many of my favorite comedians that I still follow today (Bill Burr in April, baby!).

8) I’m grateful that he taught me how to accept touch and affection. Before him, I used to pull back from contact because I found it to be too overwhelming. He was so patient with me and slowly taught me the comfort to be found in his arms. I used to love to lie astride him with my head on his chest just listening to the calming beat of his heart.

9) I’m thankful that he was always willing to talk. This is a weird one, knowing what I know now, but I’m going with my perspective while in the marriage. He never shied away from conversation, even when I woke him early in the morning (not his favorite!). He was always a great listener and always made me feel heard and respected.

10) And, here’s the hardest one. I’m thankful that all this happened. Yeah, it sucked. It was the most painful experience of my life. I’m still paying for it – literally and emotionally. But it has also opened up a whole new world for me that I would not have realized otherwise. I’m happier now than I have ever been and I’ve experienced enough to be more grateful for that than I would have been before.

wrapping paper

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32 thoughts on “Radical Gratitude

  1. Very brave and honest. It’s true that sometimes we have to have some very negative experiences in order to grow and earn better relationships. I feel the same way about what I had to learn, too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I couldn’t help but read this from your future husband’s perspective. Truth is, if I were him, I would totally not be cool with this, especially #6. I’m guessing he’s a very good man. Better than me.

    1. I can see that but the truth is that he benefits from the fact that I was in a sexually healthy marriage. I harbor no love or lust for my ex ( that disappeared when he did) and I have worked hard to release the anger because that is what has the potential to poison my new relationship. My feelings towards my ex now can best be described as detached indifference.

  3. Bravo!! Beautifully written. I have so much anger and resentment in my current marriage (even though I’m committed to staying in it) that I struggle to find the good in it. Reading this post made me think about the wonderful things I’ve experienced in my marriage and how wonderful my husband was (pre addiction) and how wonderful he is now. I wish I could erase the 7 years in between. But like you I had no idea anything was askew.

    I agree with you about #6. I would have no issue knowing my spouse was once in a sexually healthy relationship. It beats sexual dysfunction.

  4. Lisa – I love everything about this – the radicalness of it, the truth, the bittersweet, the all of it. LIke Greg above – maybe I can be inspired by you to try this on my lingering negativity about my Dad’s long-term secret affair which I found out about late in life and am having a hard time forgiving. Still feeling “loyal” to my Mum, long after they are both dead. But I think you’ve shown me a way…

  5. You are a better soul than I am; if I was pressed to say anything nice about my ex I’d have a very hard time. Good on you for being able to focus on the positive. I might steal your idea for a future post. 🙂

    1. Steal away:) I think the world would be a better place if everyone did this for the ones that hurt them the most. Not to say it’s easy…that was one of the hardest posts I’ve written. Hard but healing.

      1. I keep the really mean or spiteful stuf on a separate blog and very much private. It’s cathartic to write out but really it’s no one’s business but my own.

        1. That’s a good idea. I was pretty private too but then I wrote a book. Oops:). Really, though, I wanted to share my early feelings to show that it’s normal to be angry but that it is also possible to move beyond it.

      2. It’s certainly helpful, especially for people that are just starting out on the journey to forgiveness (or something equally epic-sounding). It lets us know that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train.

      3. Posted! Oddly it felt a little cathartic, like some weight was lifted away. It might just be the coffee but today seem a little better in a way that I’m completely failing to articulate. I’d link to the post but I don’t want to spam your blog with my stuff. 🙂

    1. I was lucky. I never spent time in a bad marriage. It was wonderful and then it was over. The hard part is not knowing what was real. I’ve come to realize that it was real enough to me and that’s what matters.

      It is freeing. I am relieved to be in a place where the horrible end doesn’t erase the rest.

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