Mindfulness on Hermit Lake (Day Twenty-eight)Sorrow: sometimes it is this that awakens us!

May 14th, 2014, 2pm

I think the first time I can remember someone using the phrase the elephant in the room was during some group counseling sessions I participated in when I was going through my divorce. For me, at the time, the elephant stood for the fact that my wife, after two children together, twelve years of marriage, and five years of courtship before that, decided to come out of the closet and dump me for her girlfriend on the softball team. So for me, the elephant was my story of personal loss and anguish. It took me over three years to finally be able to talk about this elephant without trying to run and hide.

I believe each of us at birth is given an apple seed to plant in life. In addition to the genetics of our parental lineage and the culture of our environment, this unique apple seed is an exact image of personal character, genius, calling, soul, fate, and destiny. In unity with the apple seed is an inner spirit or inspiring force that is meant to guide us through life. This attending spirit is present in our unconscious, cares about us, it protects us, and it takes an active interest in what we do in life. The apple seed represents everything we are meant to be in life. Our inner attending spirit loves us and brings guiding providence to our growth as an apple tree.

The success or failure of any relationship certainly is based on the four pillars that were introduced in the previous chapter: respect, trust, desire for growth, and confidentiality. In addition, I believe there are three common threads that tie two people together: their genetic temperament, their cultural personality, and their apple seed of character. Having studied and taught personality profiling throughout my career, I have always been fascinated by how likes and opposites sometimes attract and repel one another. I believe compatibility based on temperament and personalities are the “make it or break it” in a relationship, but it’s the apple seed of character that determines the difference between average and great partnerships.

I met my first wife when I was a junior in high school. Her folks had a cabin on the same lake where my grandparents lived. As kids growing up, we passed by each other many times on weekends while fishing, boating and water skiing, but we never paid much attention to each other. She was two years younger, and it wasn’t until the summer when she magically filled out the top half of her bikini that my testosterone kicked in and added her to the list of ladies on my dating radar screen.

The two of us dated off and on over a five-year period. During this time, we both saw other people. But for every one new guy she dated, I probably had three or four girls on my list. At one time, I had seven different girls in seven different cities in my little black book. It was after our trip to Seattle, on a motorcycle together, that I decided to ask her to marry me. I was actually afraid I was going to lose her to another guy, and I felt it was time to end my playboy ways and settle down to raise a family.

We both grew up in blue-collar suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Our families both had ties to a strong German heritage. We were both excellent athletes in high school, and we shared a common competitive spirit. There was definitely an organic, physical attraction between us, now in retrospect, at least there was for me.

My first wife grew up in a family strongly affected by alcohol and divorce. Jesus Christ, Superstar was a popular Broadway play at the time. As I look back on it, I went into the marriage thinking I could be my wife’s “superstar savior” from all the turmoil at home. I even thought I could rescue her entire family from all the alcoholic dysfunction and codependency. Although my intentions were good, I was grossly naive and had no idea what I was truly facing and the impact it would have on my marriage.

I would rate our twelve years of marriage together as being above average overall. After I graduated from college, we moved to northern Minnesota where there was a greater chance of me finding a job in forestry. After a series of temporary jobs and relocations, we eventually progressed to become a middle-class couple with a home, two cars, a boat, a canoe, two lovely sons, two dogs, and a cat. We both were active in the community, had many friends, and maintained strong connections with distant family members. But, in looking back, there was always a level of tension between us. Early on, I thought it was just the competitive spirit between us. Now I know it was something more.

The two apple trees of life that represented our two lives had a number of branches that were definitely growing in opposite directions. One of my personal mottos has been “sixteen tons of life experience.” The sixteen tons represent the sixteen different careers I have had. I’m sure my first wife would have much preferred for me to find an eight-to-five job, Monday through Friday, with great benefits and lots of vacation. She would have preferred my choosing a single career that I would continue in until retirement. Instead, during the seventeen years we were together, I went from: grease monkey to rock star, sheetrock sander to forester, creamery worker to county agent, and drywall distributor to college administrator. The straw that broke the camel’s back of our relationship came when I suggested moving to St. Cloud, Minnesota, in pursuit of my developing passion and a new career in computers.

I believe there were many things that prompted my ex-wife to come out of the closet when she did and to seek out a relationship with another woman. Although it took me twenty-five years after the fact to truly realize it, I believe that her inner spirit, her guiding force, included a stronger connection to women than it did to men. I honestly believe that had she grown up in a different family situation, outside the constraint of her domineering alcoholic father, she would have openly expressed her sexual preference much earlier in life. In looking back, I can remember a girlfriend she had during her high school years that played softball and ran track with her. I recall very vividly the emotional twinge I felt in observing their relationship together. There was a magic there, a chemistry that under different circumstances could have easily developed into more than just being fellow teammates.

As I look back on the divorce and the pain and suffering it caused for so many people, I find myself dancing with the yin and yang of life and the capacity for the human brain to rationalize almost anything. Reflecting on the yin of my story, a part of me still has a lesbian-divorce-knife deeply penetrating in my side. A knife that inflicts piercing emotional pain any time I decide to mentally twist and turn it. I will always regret the torment and suffering my two sons had to endure. The divorce was bad enough, but the idea of my two sons being raised in an openly lesbian home, being chastised daily in school by kids mirroring the values of their conservative iron-range parents, just the thought breaks my heart to this day. My only hope is that my sons have or will someday forgive me for the choices I made. When I shift my conscious mind to the yang of this story, however, the fact is my two boys grew up in a home where they were loved and supported by their mother and her partner. On weekends whenever possible, during holidays, and every summer, they had a father and a step-mother who loved and cared for them dearly. Was it perfect? Was it ideal? Hell no! But whose life is? And who am I to think I can determine the journey and destiny of my children’s apple seeds and the destiny of their spiritual guides? I will always love and I take great pride in my first two sons and the direction in life they have chosen for themselves. I also wish the very best for my ex-wife and her partner. I am happy to see that our society continues to evolve in a direction of equal rights for the gay community.

Was this a path in life I would have chosen for myself? Was this an outcome that my ex-wife would have predicted when she first married me? Would either of us have decided to bring our two sons into the world, had we known the direction our lives were headed? If life was simply based on human temperament and socially determined personality, the answer to these questions would be unequivocally no. But as it all relates to my life journey, guided by my personal inner spirit, the tree that grew from my apple seed included branches that were meant to reach out in new directions, different from the life I led with my first wife. The pain and suffering I experienced through the separation and divorce was meant to shake me up and challenge my way of thinking about myself. I have come to the realization that it is the unexpected and the surprises in my life that will often change the course, providing a new direction and target for my final destiny.

Don likes to talk about the drama and trauma of life, a Western version of the Chinese yin and yang philosophy. My divorce was the most traumatic event in my entire life. I would call it my life’s most significant emotional event. It brought about an immediate end to who I thought I was, who I was supposed to be, and where my life was destined to take me. It blew me apart and required months of counseling and years of group therapy. It took three long years before I started to put the pieces back together again.

Now let me shift forward twenty-five years and take advantage of our ability to look back in time. The divorce forced me to shift my way of thinking about the world. On a canvas that was previously painted either totally black or totally white, I was given the opportunity to see shades of grey for the first time. The trauma that shook me to the core and destroyed most of my values and dreams became the launch pad to a different way of looking at life. The grief and suffering brought me to a new way of understanding and appreciating the gift that allowed my apple tree to grow branches in new directions. For the first time in my life, I read books because I wanted to. I listened to every self-help tape I could get my hands on. As a result, I set goals and created a new path that would bring reborn meaning and purpose to my life.

A sign that things were beginning to turn around took place late in 1988. As I recall, I was listening to a self-help tape by Tony Robbins when I wrote down twenty-two goals for myself and over the next five years I successfully accomplished every one of them. A number of them that I still remember included meet a woman whom I would love and cherish, start my own training company, take a trip to Germany, and publish a family history book.

I met Bette Lou in December 1989 and we started dating during the spring of 1990, just about the same time both of our divorces were being finalized. Bette was a breath of fresh air. On our first date, I discovered that she was a 4H kid extraordinaire and she found out I was a past county agent. For those of you who don’t know anything about the Ag Extension Service, the discovery Bette and I made during our first time together was like spreading freshly churned butter on a slice of hot homemade bread that just came out of the oven. Mmmm… mouthwatering delicious!

My tale of two wives story is kind of like the caterpillar that has to die in the cocoon before it emerges reborn as a butterfly. My Cosmic Legacy journey with Bette has been like a butterfly learning to fly for the first time. Our unified creative power has reinvented my life in every direction. She sees strength in my diversity and encourages my future exploration into the unknown. Where my ex-wife was a great match with my physical being, Bette feeds all aspects of my mind, body, and spirit. It’s as though my apple tree of life discovered a new source of more intense sunlight, richer soil nutrients, and a bottomless reservoir of water to draw upon. The list of gifts Bette and I have been blessed with over the past twenty years is almost infinite. The two children we created and nurtured together are the greatest example of our unified creative power. Our apple trees grow well together and the fruit we bear is plentiful, bringing meaning and purpose to our relationship and to the world.

My story here isn’t about judgment or the need to choose right from wrong. It’s about planting your apple seed in rich soil, open sunlight, and plentiful moisture. It’s about letting go and allowing your inner spirit to help and guide you both in good times and bad. It’s about connecting with people who feed you and whom you feed. It’s about having the strength and courage to know when to change your direction. My cosmic legacy will be determined by the stories I created in the hearts of the people I touched and loved in life. The same will be true for you.

Excerpt from Dance With The Elephant : Life’s Cosmic Equation

Check out the book on Amazon

David Wade and Valentina said thanks.

Share this moment

Duane Kuss

A passionate entrepreneur, publisher and author with 16 tons of life experience. Duane's most recent book is "Dance With The Elephant - Life's Cosmic Equation", a self-discovery book that can change the way you look a life. http://DanceWithTheElephant.us

Other moments in Cold Spring

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook