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the ex bug collection

Half of us who ever legally declared “I do” now legally declare, “Actually, I don’t”. So many exes. It makes me go “o”. I had a reasonably amicable split but many don’t. And the information age takes advantage of this pain and there’s a whole market around figuring out how to be divorced. So many self help books and spiritual practices and websites and blogs and therapists mixed in with unqualified spouters playing Dear Abby. It is so easy to pick and choose, like a psycho-spiritual salad bar, sound bytes to justify any selfishness, fear and emotional violence towards others. Oh humans. So many labels to give the ex as a way to box them up and ship them off into the “unredeemable” pile. So many way to justify holding onto grudges and communicating (or not) like a child. It is tempting. It is so tempting to just cut somebody off, to pretend they were the problem and they are the ones with the “baggage”. I hear it. And sometimes I am tempted to act this way myself, on a bad day.

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I am thankful for my mother during these times. My Dad was many great things but he was a horrifying husband. Yet, despite this, my Mom never said an unkind thing about him to us kids. She made us wisely wary of a few things, but it was never disrespectful. She always greeted him at the door, she always picked up the phone. She did this for herself, I am sure, because she is a person of grace, strength and dignity. She did this for my Dad, perhaps, knowing somewhere in there was a man who had love and had sorrow. But mostly, she did this for us kids. We had enough to deal with. We did not need to witness their tension and be burdened by their inability to be civil to each other. We did not need to think we came from a person who wasn’t even worthy of an “hello”.

I’m sure it was painful for them to see each other, to talk to each other, to walk up the stairs and knock on the door. To meet the ex, to pet the dog they no longer owned, to see the line of shoes at the door and none of them belonged to them. All of that. But the moment they became parents, was the moment that their pain became less important than the pain of their children. I’m not talking about self sacrifice to the point of losing oneself. Of course not. Boundaries are important. Abusive situations need to be avoided for the sake of the child. Sometimes a little space is a good thing. But there was only once I let my daughter walk up to the door without me. And I won’t do it again.

I don’t think we have to be best friends with our exes. And of course, it’s very hard to create a healthy dynamic if the ex is being an ass. Me, I am lucky. Michael and I do love and respect each other and have been able to make it work. Part of this is letting go of grudges. Easy to grab a moment of heartbreak, like a bug, and stick pins in it, into the fabric of our heart, a display of pain. Look at all these things that bit, all these things that sting! Look at how many of them I have! Maybe we do this so we can identify the bugs and avoid them in the future? Maybe we do this to line up enough offending crawlies we can justify moving out? I don’t know. At some point the collection has to be dismantled or one ends up with a heart full of pins and dusty broken little wings.2

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