In all things human

I love to live in denial.

Not deliberately, of course, but it kind of slips in around the edges, hovers just outside of the edges of my vision.  And the funny thing about denial is that I don’t even know it’s there.  And when it finally swims into focus, the wake up is often astonishing.  Like finally noticing a giant black hair that must have been growing out of my chin for weeks.  (And yikes!  How does that happen? How did I miss it when it was just a little hair baby?)

This is how it goes:

My ex sent me an email to let me know that he was dating again.

I sit, staring stupidly at my computer, trying to register the polite words on the screen, “I don’t know how to come out and say it, so I guess I’ll just tell you: I’m dating again.”

The flood of unexpected feelings is fast and hot.  I have been punched in the chest.  I am angry, I am hurt, I despair.  I have been abandoned, cast off.  I am alone.

And as all these feelings engulf me, and I surprise myself by crying over my keyboard, the strange little (and not unkind) thought surfaces, “Well, I guess you weren’t quite as over that as you thought, were you.

Reality in yo’ face

Reality checks can be extremely uncomfortable.  Suddenly, the way we had viewed the world, and the way that the world actually is, collide.  Perception and reality square off, and, friends, reality always must win.

Sure, we can shove it down, push it underwater, or cover it with blankies, but ultimately reality is our benevolent and relentless teacher.

My ex’s email was a wake up call.  My attachment to him was exposed, like an upturned rock can reveal life swarming beneath a quiet surface.  The rational part of me that glossed over the breakup was shattered, smeared by the emotional monster underneath.

The crack in my reality armour was revealed.

In relationship, these moments happen continually: at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.


When we are just starting to get to know someone, it is so tempting to fill in all the missing pieces with our favourite hopes and dreams.  We project-vomit all over our subject, endowing them with habits and desires that are surely compatible with our own.  Or sometimes our projections produce anxiety and fear, as we fill in the unknown with the necrotic remnants of previous hurts.

So the practice becomes staying in the unknown.


As we move from dating into relationship, the practice becomes to keep our eyes open.  Discerning the real from the unreal is viveka, or discernment.  As well-wired neurological beings, we will shape our perceptions according to what we expect (or want) to see.  Seeing our date or our partner for who they really are requires wiping (and re-wiping, and re-wiping) our perceptual slate clean so that we can experience them without our own agenda.


As my ex-husband and I split, I noticed that an alarming distortion began to permeate our relationship.  He began to say he “didn’t know me at all,” and that (despite 4 years) I “wasn’t the person he thought I was.”  To cope with the ragged awfulness of the split, we began to turn each other into strangers.  It was easier to believe that the other person was “wrong,” “evil,” and “selfish” than to sit in the reality of a mutually created split.  However, being “right” hardens us and divides us from the tender and complicated truth.  In conflict, the far more difficult spiritual path is to feel the whole scope of the situation, and to uphold what we need to do nonetheless.

The practice:

  • Get comfy with uncertainty.
    • When you notice yourself fantasizing about an imaginary future or conversation, pause.  Stop.  Do a one-minute meditation and breathe.  Bring yourself back to the “is-ness” of the now.
  • Be open to real information.
    • See what you see.  Hear what you hear.  And feel what you feel.
    • When you notice interpretation happening (“He didn’t mean that.” “She must have meant….”): Stop.  Ask.  Get more information.
    • Notice what you wanted it to mean, and ask yourself why.

And finally, be sweet to yourself.

When reality strikes, take a breath and pause.  Give yourself some space to process and integrate.

Reality is the gift that keeps on giving.  The more we soften to its wisdom and reflection, the clearer our vision can become.


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Showing 3 comments
  • andrea

    Hey Rachel. Doing my mentorship homework and browsing through your blog … I’m supposed to be looking at the sequencing section but this one caught my eye. 🙂 I couldn’t help but notice the date on this post. It’s the exact date the guy with whom I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for the past year messaged and told me that he’d hit the wall with everything and that he’d started seeing someone else (very casual … it just happened … he still loves me … blah blah blah). This was during the final module of TT and exactly 6 days before I was getting on a plane to go see him. It was the worst feeling ever … worldview altering … in an instant. And here I am … 2 months later and still not over it. Still feel like I’m getting punched in the gut when I see a new pic of him and his new girl posted on FB and when he messages to say he still misses me. We didn’t break clean and left lots of possibility lingering. But my armour is finally starting to crack and reality is starting to sneak through in tiny bite-sized glimmers. I wrote about it myself just a couple of days ago (

    Hmmmmm … that’s a lot of (unnecessary) background when what I really wanted to say is that I love the way you have reframed this. Thanks for sharing your story … you’re a beautiful writer … and so very smart and strong.

  • Rachel

    What a beautiful post, Andrea. I love your writing – heart-felt, evocative, raw. Isn’t it so crazy how acceptance, acceptance, acceptance is the starting point of every damn journey. Here we are. Imperfect, flawed, faltering, human, seeking. And beautiful in that, and perfect, and poignant…thanks for sharing your link (readers: click on through, it’s a glorious read). xo

  • andrea

    awwww rachel … you’re the sweetest … thanks! … and grrrrrrrr … yes you’re right about acceptance being the starting point of every journey … if only that were easier to come by 😉 xo

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