There is a fact that I did not disclose when I wrote “Rubies in the Rubbish” – my separation. I had separated from my husband a few months before going to Egypt. We have known each other for over thirty years and had been married for almost thirty years when I decided I needed to live elsewhere for a while. There were some issues in my husband’s life he was unwilling or unable to deal with, and they were getting worse. The worse his condition got, the more I sank into anxiety, fear, anger and frustration. I was unable, no matter how hard I tried, to just detach and let him be. His problems had begun to spill over into our married life and into the space of my life with him to the point where I simply could not let go. So I left. I found a way out of my misery.
In this series I’m going to change the name of all the characters to protect their real identity. Those of you reading this who know me will know who I’m referring to. In these posts, I’ll call my husband “Michael”.
I told Michael that I would come back after he had gotten some help with his problems and I could see that he was working on them. I went into therapy and continued with the self-help group I had already been going to.
It felt good to finally be away, to find my own space, to find a life of my own. Being with Michael had felt like carrying a huge load of bricks. Now, the weight was lifted. I hoped with all my heart for recovery for both of us, but in the meantime, life on my own was much easier.
We continued to see each other, and sometimes Michael would cook for me, or I for him. Cooking was one of our mutual passions, and talking together while eating another one. Actually, Michael and I are ideal partners. We love so many of the same things, and we love discussing all the things of life we encounter. We love discussing ideas, politics, current events, literature, music, religion, psychology, and of course analyzing other people. I loved listening to him uncover historical details about the places we traveled to. We are at our best, perhaps, during our travels. We had already traveled twice together to Egypt, and Michael was involved in my plans to stay with the Coptic Sisters long before I separated from him.
But now here we were, separated physically, emotionally and spiritually. I stopped going to the church he was pastoring, needing to also be separate from his spiritual energy.
We lived separately for about a year. Going to Egypt on my own, living in my own apartment, making my own decisions, I felt like I had been let out of a pressure cooker, with the simple push of a button.
During this time, some things started to get resolved and dealt with. Michael went into a clinic where he could get help with some of the things troubling him. He changed some things about his lifestyle, and I could see that he was serious about making these changes. There other things I could see that lay beneath the suraface, things that would need a lot of work. Michael was beset with a miserable sense of self-worth, especially since I had actually left him. And shame, mixed with overwhelming anger at his mother, the cause of most of his problems, but dead for ten years already, invaded our home. Shame, self-hatred and anger lived in our house, like ghosts who refused to leave. I was still trying to change Michael, still caught up in a mothering role I had developed over the years. We had lots still to work on.
Michael had a lot more than emotional and spiritual things to work on. His back, always a bit sensitive, began emitting excruciating pains in the back itself and also in his legs. He tried osteopathic treatments, physiotherapy, exercise. Nothing helped. His orthopedist finally recommended surgery.
In September, 2014, we went on a trip to Turkey together. Michael lumbered heavily through archeological sites in Ephesus, Miletus, Pergamon and other places, determined to see it all, despite excruciating pain. He would have surgery in October, and he wanted to see it all beforehand, just in case anything went wrong, rendering him unable to walk over these sites. It was a lifelong dream of his to see these sites. Michael has always loved history, especially from the Greco-Roman period.
Reunited, we had a wonderful two weeks together in Turkey, cooking up a storm in the evenings we ate in our apartment, feeding the cats who came to visit us, traveling in the daytime to archeological sites, swimming before dinner, shopping. I was grateful for the release I had enjoyed during our separation, and now tranquil in the hope of a future together of mutual healing. There was lots to work on, but we could do it. After all, we had God helping us!
Then Michael went in for surgery, and things went horribly wrong.