Soul to Soul Conversations: Repairing Relationships with Ex’s, Enemies and Gnarly Earthlings

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When my hubby, Bill, had told his ex, Ann, that I was pregnant with our first son, she’d said, “That woman should not be passing on her bad genetics to another generation.”

Criminy.

I’d imagined folks who’d felt that way about my dwarfism, but she was the first broad to blurt it out.

It was ten years down the line, after their divorce, and Ann was still railing against Bill. Any phone call turned into a dump fest. She hadn’t let their daughter come to our wedding. She made visitations difficult. She blamed and badgered. It was infuriating to watch.

Occasionally she threw some ridonkulous zingers at me. After I’d gnaw on them awhile, I’d let ‘em go. As Anne Lamott would say, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Thankfully, Ann lived across country – I never had to face the rat.

Until.

My step-daughter was getting married. We’d be flying out west, straight into Ann’s nest. She’d have the hostile home-field advantage. Gulp.

Suddenly, the old grudges I thought I’d “let go,” were squawking. I’d had a hidden addendum: “let it go, except in cases of possible attack. Then haul out the poison to defend yourself!” I started rehashing the past; Ann pulled this and that crap…she’s critical, defensive and needs to be RIGHT. She tells herself she’s better than I am. Will she make a scene at the wedding? 

When ex’s or painful relationships are involved, all self-help tools and techniques tend to be toast. Hoo boy.

What was it about Ann that I was fighting in myself? Where could I find common ground for the sake of my step-daughter? For the sake of peace? It’s ten years down the line and I am still critical, defensive and needing to be RIGHT. I tell myself I’m better than her.

Rings a bell.

I decided to have regular (imaginary) soul-to-soul conversations with Ann every night before bed. It would be an ongoing prayer in hopes of bridging our differences. I’d try, for once, to visualize Ann as a friend. A sister. Underneath the hairy heartaches, I believe we’re one human family. We’re mirrors of each other’s unresolved pain. Here was an opportunity to test my mettle.

Bill had told me a bit about Ann’s tough childhood. She and I had probably shared similar humiliation, rejection, loneliness. Who hadn’t? In our soul-to-soul, I told her I understood. That she was lovable, anyway. She was stronger than she thought. I saw her shoulders and defenses drop. Our eyes teared up. In the end, we hugged like sisters. Laughed over our pettiness.

And she’d apologize.

The next night, I started our silent ‘conversation’ with motherhood. I’d quietly criticized her parenting, a LOT. Now that I had my boys, I told her, I could better understand why she’d been a royal pain in the patootie. She’d been a protective mama bear. We commiserated about the demands and confusion of raising kids. I imagined the mayhem  of being a single mom. I said I admired her. I was rooting for her. We ended up hugging and laughing.

Our ‘conversations’ went on for several weeks. Often, I still regressed into finger pointing over some past insult. It was embarrassing how much I’d held onto, just like her. It wasn’t easy to let it go, but I’d be sure to end the visualization with us hugging and laughing.

And she’d apologize.

As the wedding drew closer, I was feeling…better. Whether or not my prayers reached Ann was no longer the point. Whatever happened, I could step back and see her soul. Without the old defenses within me, I could remember the beauty within her. I hoped.

Our family flew out for the wedding. The first meet-up with Ann would be at the reception venue where friends were helping to decorate. As we pulled into the parking lot, Bill said in shock, “There’s Ann.”

Huh? Oh no. Ambush?

I tried to shake off the nerves and put on a smile. I slammed the car door and, with determination, headed for Ann. But in my intense focus, I somehow missed seeing the tiny curb ahead. I’d built up enough momentum that when my clog caught the lip, suddenly I became a speed-walking projectile, careening straight toward Ann. Oh help.

My replacement hips and knees have little flexibility, so by the time I reached her, I was practically horizontal. As I felt myself going down, panic erupted.

But wouldn’t you know. The demon (er, darling) . . . actually caught me. Yup. I landed in her arms. She didn’t let me fall – she lifted me up. She straightened what had gone crooked.

The beauty of the metaphor was lost on me. I felt like a clumsy idiot at the feet of my old foe. But somehow, together, we ended up . . . hugging. And laughing.

And I apologized.

The weekend went shockingly well. Ann was a kind hostess; she asked if my boys needed snacks; she offered me a quiet place to rock my youngest to sleep; she complimented Bill on his toast to the beautiful bride. Shut the front door.

As we fly back home, I scratch my oversized noggin in awe. My soul-to-souls had soothed their toughest target. Me. Who knows if Ann, too, had been praying for help. For healing. For the love of her only daughter. For her past and her ex. For soulful understanding across the great divide. 

All I know for sure is that at the wedding table that day, as I dined on humble pie, a sweet peace was gratefully served up, too.

With love and understanding,

Julie

6 responses to “Soul to Soul Conversations: Repairing Relationships with Ex’s, Enemies and Gnarly Earthlings

  1. Nancy Sommers

    Riveting all the way through Julie! I love your transparency and believe your process of visualization manifested the love and sisterhood, you wanted! Perhaps it was Ann that had fears and blocks and you cleared them through the Universe and humbly (by falling into her arms, hehe) delivered your heart in who you truly are!

  2. Julie,
    I needed to read this today. I am dealing with my ex-husband daily over a house we still own together (that won’t sell dammit;). It’s stressful and we both just want to move forward. Your post is the perfect reminder for me to show compassion and love rather than resentment and bitterness. I hope our outcome is as good as yours. Congrats on a peaceful wedding. I know everyone’s shoulders relax a little when the confrontations don’t happen. More peace and kindness to you. Thank you!

  3. Trish Lynch

    Once again, you, so very eloquently, and gorgeously candidly, show us a better path. I pictured the whole thing – you brought me there with you. Somehow you teach us to know ourselves more deeply by sharing your own inner self (a beeeautiful self at that!). I actually felt myself becoming more understanding of Ann, and I have never met her! Well done! Keep thinking, keep writing, keep sharing, keep teaching, keep loving!

  4. Jenni Johns

    That was beautifully written. Your humility is inspiring and I’m glad the story had a happy ending!

  5. Julie Genovese

    You wondrous women RAWK!!! I am so blessed that you’re reading my words and we’re connecting somehow, deep within. AWESOME! THANK YOU thank you thank you. MUCH LOVE to you all <3

  6. Dearest,

    I clearly don’t come here often enough because laughing and crying at the same time feel uncommonly good just now. Thank you and your clogs and your nightly talks. And thank Ann. Just thank you each for being yourselves, pesky, angry, short or tall, thank you. You make it easier to be me today and I am grateful.
    With love to you,
    S

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