My Body Told Me So
by Tina Proctor
There was no warning when I walked into my brother’s house in Virginia that I would see a former lover, open myself to an intense, intimate relationship with him, and leave my husband as I sorted myself out. I knew I was overwhelmed with a stressful full-time job, two kids at home with many activities to monitor and follow, and a husband, Dennis, who I just didn’t have time for. I thought having passion handed to me from someone else was the answer to my weariness and angst.
Eighteen years later I am still joyfully married to Dennis because we each had to understand how to be comfortable in our own lives before we could possibly continue in our relationship. It was my body that gave me clues I chose to ignore.
That night at my brother’s house, Tom and I gravitated to each other and stuck together all evening, not touching but feeling the electricity between us. The next day, my brother said with prescience, “Don’t run away with him, Sis.” I looked aghast and shook my head. The next day Tom drove me to Dulles Airport to catch my plane to Denver. I kissed him good-bye with way more passion than I planned.
Tom and I chose to meet in Atlanta where I was attending a meeting. He is a guy who laughs easily, has a huge imagination, and believes in making a difference in the world like I do. I was captivated by the man he had become. We didn’t spend any time talking about taxes, car repairs, soccer shoes or car pools. It seemed so simple.
Soon we were meeting in different parts of the country as I often had to travel for my job and he could join me for a couple of days. For a year I was euphoric, without boundaries, in total la-la land. My emotions were ruling my head and body. I seemed incapable of thinking of my husband, three children and other members of my family who would be crushed by this relationship. Why did I think that was how to add more passion in my life? It was the only way I knew how to do it. Find a man who can share his passion for me and with me–a deep, cultural belief found over and over in songs, books and movies.
One night I was writing Tom a letter at my desk. A love letter. The timer on the stove pulled me into the kitchen to take out a batch of cookies. When I walked back into the study, Dennis was holding the letter. He had been looking for stamps and there it was for him to read. No more secrets. And perhaps I was tired of secrets. An accidental letter left on a desk was a sure way of getting his attention.
An afternoon a few months later, Dennis and I sat in the living room with our sons who still lived at home. This was the moment. “We’re separating,” I said. “I’ve found a house six blocks away so you can stay there half the time and easily walk back and forth. We need some time alone.” Why was never mentioned. The shock and pain in the room was palpable. They didn’t see it coming. What I didn’t see coming was the storm cloud of anguish that would soon envelop me as I struggled to make a rational decision about my life based on wildly fluctuating hormones.
At one point Tom told me he was involved with someone else. He was supposedly tired of “waiting.” I was stunned and had no idea how bad the pain could be that tore through my body and my psyche. He was cheating on me. The euphoria evaporated in an instant. Instead, I descended into clinical depression where thoughts of killing myself and murdering Tom were taking me on a whirlwind of fear. Anti-depressants only partially pulled me out of the underworld of confusion. I could function but just barely.
A turning point was a 9-day bicycle trip from the Grand Canyon to Mexico with a tour group. The physical exertion grounded me and helped me learn to escape my circular thinking. One day I rode alongside a woman who told me she was 75 years old; the first 25 years she was ruled by her father, the second 25 years by her husband. When her daughter died for no apparent reason, she left her husband and the third 25 years were hers. She wrote a book on bike rides around Tucson, Arizona and absolutely loved her life. I wanted to be her. I wanted my life to be mine.
I began to feel alive. I saw Dennis as an amazing, interesting human being and we shared thoughts, insights, and our own spiritual journeys. We were both feeling whole again. My pain was still lurking below the surface though, emerging sometimes late at night when I had least control. On New Year’s Eve, Dennis and I celebrated under the fireworks in downtown Denver and he asked me to move back home. It felt right and I was sure I was ready.
Within 5 days after I moved home, Dennis took me to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. We learned I had a cecal volvulus, or twisting of the colon, which could have led to rupture and death if not treated immediately. After having a foot of my colon removed and the ends sewn back together and with several weeks of recovery, I had time to think.
This was no accident. I soon realized that my body, which is completely intertwined with my mind and spirit, was giving me a major wake-up call. By not letting go of the pain of losing Tom, I had been hanging on to a relationship that was damaging and toxic to me and my colon twisted in response.
Now I know that all happiness, excitement, and new challenges come from within me. I don’t need to find it elsewhere or with someone new. My body and my emotional state let me know. I never want to go back to that dark place and skewed belief system. I can check in with a scan of how my body and emotions are at any moment, and make a choice of how to move into less stress and greater happiness. It is a precious gift to know where my passion really lies.