Today a friend wrote me asking when I was going to “let Jon go” to “find his path.” Her question inferred that I was being unfair both in asking Jon to stay and in asking my girlfriend to “settle” in this relationship. A week ago, another friend also questioned our arrangement, and it occurs to me that this is probably something a lot of people wonder. So I thought I’d write publicly on the subject—not because it’s anyone’s business, but because transparency has always been a goal of mine, and there are some things I’ve learned and discovered in this journey that I would like to share.
The answer to my friend’s question is obviously not simple. There aren’t exactly a plethora of people who have taken a journey like ours and can offer advice. Almost three years ago, when all of this began, Jon and I forged our own path, one we felt would be best for those we hold as our highest priority: Our children. We made the decision to continue living, co-parenting, and raising them together, as we felt we had (and still have) a job to do. Simply put: we have chosen not to divorce, for now, for their sake. This does not, however, mean that either of us are not free to “find our path.” We are not holding each other back in any way. We support each other and have each dated other people who have been supportive and respectful of our situation (to be clear, we are not involved in an “open relationship” and live romantically separate lives while maintaining a wonderful friendship with each other.) We know that someday this arrangement will change, and it will be time to go our separate ways. But to answer the question of when? The only response I can give is: I don’t know.
And I’m learning to be comfortable in the unknowing.
Three years ago, when all of this began, I had more to be terrified of than I’d probably ever had, before. The perfect little structured life I’d spent 16 years building was falling apart around me, and I was forced to choose between the path of security and a leap into the unknown. In the deepest, truest, part of me, I knew that I couldn’t go back to the life I’d once had, and so I chose the unknown. Slowly, I began learning to let things go. I began learning how to give up control. And one of the best tools I ever found for this was something I learned from Anne Lamott which she calls “God’s inbox.” She writes:
“Say you have a problem, something that is driving you crazy, something you need and want an answer to… You feel like you really need to go left or right but you have no idea which way to turn.
A small part of you, a crescent moon-shaped part of you, wants to be in alignment with God’s will, because you have reason to believe that you are fucked unto the Lord if you somehow get your own will to prevail. But a louder part of you secretly believes that you alone know what the best possible outcome would be, for all parties concerned, even with a lifetime of evidence to the contrary. And you are prepared to use the sheer force of your personality and character to get it to happen…”
She goes on to expound on what we’ve all experienced: The desperation, the fear, the anxiety, the frantic feeling of needing to DO SOMETHING, but having no idea what that “something” is (or trying to do something, over and over again, and finding that nothing is working.) We’ve all heard the expression: Give it to God, but Lamott takes this one step further in a physical act that I have found powerfully helpful in my own life: She writes a note to God and puts it in a wooden box she calls “God’s in-box.” Then she waits for a response. And each time she finds herself going over it again in her mind, each time she finds herself trying to make it all work out, each time she finds herself trying to come up with a solution, she reminds herself that she left it in God’s in-box, that it’s His to deal with, and that her job is to wait for an answer. She goes on to write:
“I don’t understand why it would hurt so much if just once in His life, He used a megaphone. But He never does. I find this infuriating. But what happens when I put a note in the God-box is that the phone rings, or the mail comes; and I hear from Him that way.”
Since reading about this, I have used God’s in-box in countless ways, and I have always, always gotten an answer. An opportunity opens up just when I need it, a friend meets a need she didn’t know I had, I wake up from a dream knowing the answer. I still forget, sometimes. Just recently, I found myself overwhelmed by fear regarding some things currently going on in my life and lashed out at the woman I love. All day, I felt lost in a cloud of fear and uncertainty and, in my efforts to “fix” it, ended up hurting her. Badly. That night, I couldn’t sleep and the next morning I remembered God’s in-box. I remembered that I didn’t need to solve all the problems or have all the answers. BECAUSE HE DOES. So I put it in His box.
When will it be time? I have no idea. What will it look like? I don’t know. But God does. And that’s all I need to know.