"Can you hear yourself? Do you hear how arrogant and mean-spirited that comment was?" She looked at me from across the table, her eyes compassionate but firm, drilling into me, just visible above the state-mandated facemask she was wearing.
Her eyes willing me to hear her.
Really hear her.
Not with my mind, but with my soul.
"No! I was right! I am right! Why do I have to solve everything? I will NOT go back to what I was doing before. I will never go back!"
I yelled these words across the table at her, their ferocity muted, my voice muffled by the incongruously cheery, bright orange, flower-covered Old Navy facemask.
The mask that wouldn't stay put, constantly sliding down my face.
The mask holding all of the snot flowing out of my nose.
The mask absorbing the tears streaming from my eyes.
The mask that I kept playing with in the vain attempt to steady my hands as I sought to hold on to my position of self-righteousness. My indignation.
Because I had to be right in this case.
If I wasn't right, that made me mean. Not just mean, but mean again.
The mean person I had been working so hard to get rid of.
This "mean" meant backsliding to the former "mean me," didn't it?
My tenuous grip on the "right side" loosened even further as I replayed in my mind the the scene to which she was referring.
The argument between me and Sean from a few nights before.
She sat there watching me, giving me the silence I needed to see.
Really see. Really hear.
Sean and I are standing in the kitchen cooking dinner together.
He's at the stove, stirring a pot of noodles.
He glances at me and mentions, "Hey, I was thinking now would be a good time to hire a resume writer."
I feel my stomach clench as a storm builds in my midsection, powering to my brain, ending in a blinding fury I thought was in the past. Long ago past. Because in his innocent comment I hear:
"Hey, babe, maybe it's time for you to dump your new art and writing venture and finally step up to support our family the way you used to. You've had your fun, now back you go."
I remember the look on his face, a deer caught in the headlights. Eyes first blank, then confused and finally landing on apprehensive.
He had no intention of unleashing my anger, didn't see it coming.
But he recognizes the build up to an explosion.
I can see the regret in his eyes as he wishes he could pull back the words and find peace again.
So when, through clenched teeth, the anger clear in my tone:
"No. You will NOT leave your job. I will never go back and you can't make me!" he isn't really surprised as much as he is hurt, looking at me as if I were a pod-person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I see his emotions crossing his face, but feel justified.
At least in this.
I had the right to be angry, didn't I?
After all, I had been the one that had to give up my dream of being the "perfect mom."
I had been the one to "work," to suffer through a toxic corporate culture.
The political games.
I was the one who sacrificed being without my kids all of their lives. The kids who were now heading off to college.
The kids I had missed being a "proper" mother to. The homeroom mom. The signing permission slips mom. The emergency contact mom. The bad-dream-soothing mom.
No, I had been busy supporting us financially.
And it had made me sick.
I was NEVER going back.
So as she sat looking at me, I heard a small, still voice inside:
Yes, child, he didn't ask for this either did he? And isn't he even now trying to change and grow? Isn't he doing everything he can to support you?
You both framed this life you are living and are you willing to stop, just for a moment, and see this from another perspective? Are you willing to own that maybe, just maybe, he isn't at fault for the life you've lived up until now? That your life hasn't been a waste but indeed, the two of you, in your great love for each other and your daughters, have nurtured a beautiful family that is now coming to it's next chapter?
Can you see that you will never go back?
That you can never go back? even if you wanted to?
Lay down your fear.
Lay down your defenses.
Know that the love you share as a family is greater than all.
Know, dear child, you cannot go back, because once you remember who you are, the Truth of who you are, there is no going back.
You are transformed.
The discomfort I had been feeling for a week came back to my stomach in full force and I let go.
I felt my shoulders fall, and I felt the boulder I had been clutching to my chest slowly start to roll off. Giant sobs of pain and anguish emerged as I recognized that no, I didn't have a right to be angry. That it was time to put my fists down. Time to release the anger, the hurt, the betrayal.
Time to forgive myself.
Time to forgive him.
I became willing to see things differently.
To experience a shift in perspective.
Because in truth, hadn't we done this together?
And wasn't our family the greatest love of my life?
I left the session shaking, exhausted, worn down and in desperate need to see Sean.
To hold him.
To seek forgiveness.
To be in gratitude for his loving me.
To will him to see the depth of my love for him.
To let him know that no matter what, we were in this together. Partners. And that I would be forever grateful to this man I married 24 years ago.
The father of our triplet daughters, now nearly 18 and ready to leave the house.
And now? Now it is our turn.
Our turn to live together without kids.
To rediscover each other.
To redefine what it means to be Sean and Heather
Without the roles.
Without the labels.
We are willing.
And I thank God for that.