This story begins with an ending: the day Maureen Muldoon realized the devastating fact that her husband was having an affairand leaving her for Miss Universe. Miss freaking Universe! How does this even happen?
An intimate examination of Muldoon’s unraveling in the face of this betrayal, A Spiritual Vixen’s Guide to An Unapologetic Life takes a fresh, funny and fearless look at loss, denial, anger, grace, and liberation. Muldoon reveals the strength that comes from facing one’s fears, the humor that arrives in the darkest hours, and the miracles that happen when you least expect them in this grand tapestry of tales from the dark side. Ultimately, with wit and wisdom, she walks herself out of hell in a pair of sexy stilettos and manages to do what the all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not: she puts herself back together. And in doing so, she comes to find more beauty and strength in the fractured places than anyone would have ever imagined.
|Publisher:||She Writes Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Maureen Muldoon is a writer, motivational speaker, author, and life coach who spent twenty years working in TV and film as an actress. She lives in La Grange, Illinois and Madeline Island, WI with her trophy husband and their four kids. She is the founder of SpeakEasy Spiritual Community, an incubator of awesomeness, and Voice Box Stories, where people find their voice. She is the author of Giant Love Song and the children’s book The Life of A Sandcastle. Her poetry, personal essay, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in Story Lab, Lit Up, Booby Trap, Story, Actors Access, Voice Box, Risk! and Voyage Chicago. She blogs about creativity, spirituality, and storytelling at MaureenMuldoon.com
Read an Excerpt
* * *
It offers you its flowers and its snow, in thankfulness for your benevolence. — A Course in Miracles
The end is an odd way to start a story, but it was actually the end where it all began. It's funny now, because I didn't know it was the beginning. I would have bet all I had that it was the end.
It had all the markings of the end: the silence, the pain, the separation, the secrets, the terrible tumble down feeling of it all. I stood with my young son in the midst of a New York winter storm, snowflakes melting on our upturned faces as we gazed toward the moon over Central Park. The year was closing out with the patchwork of other people's conversations as they passed by with boxes and bags and bottles. The urban orchestra of cabs and car horns and the trotting of horses, the jiggle of car keys, the rattle of tin can change, and the enthusiastic bells of the Army of Salvation Santas collecting coins for the less fortunate. All of this music playing against the crackle of snow falling. It wrapped its way around me but did little to eliminate the deep dread I felt as I contemplated the New Year on the horizon.
* * *
Owen was three. His eyes were filled with wonderment; his cheeks had ripened to the sweetest shade of pink. I watched him take in the magic of his first time seeing snow. He lifted his little hands, palms up and open to the stars, celebrating the beauty of something falling down.
"Falling, falling, falling down," he whispered like a prayer. His words formed soft clouds that drifted from his lips and swirled around me. I looked for something to hold on to.
I felt sick, like crazy-carnie-carnival-ride sick. The world was spinning and smiling back at me in a twisted toothless smirk. I wanted to get off this ride and was searching for the escape route.
My marriage was falling, fading, failing, and I had no idea why.
New York held all our memories, was our home base, our springboard, where my husband Reed and I had first met, in a little theater on 57th street, where we had taken the stage playing Catherine and Rodolpho in Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge.
This was the park where I shared with him that I was pregnant with another man's child. This was the place where Reed declared his devotion to me even against this unlikely backdrop.
This is where our friendship transformed into romance as we shared our dreams under the city skyscrapers on a picnic blanket while watching the world go by and feeling fortunate for our good luck of finding each other.
He wooed and won me over a plate of spaghetti in Little Italy with my baby bump tucked beneath the red and white checkered tablecloth. It should have been a terrible time to start a romance. It should not have worked out so well. And yet it did.
Until it didn't.
* * *
Being back in New York was reminding me of who we had been, and how far we now were from those star-crossed lovers.
We had come back only for a holiday visit. Two years earlier, we had moved from New York to Los Angeles to try our luck in La La Land as actors. I was not all that excited by the move. I was a Jersey girl with a huge crush on New York, and I had managed to book acting work in the leaner market. But Reed was adamant.
He had heard about the abundance of shows and productions and was convinced that we needed to move to Hollywood.
Back In New York, the air felt lighter, the horizons familiar, and the sounds comforting. It was hard to think about returning to LA, to our small apartment and crumbling marriage. I wanted to hold onto this snow globe scene with Owen. I held my breath in hopes that it would last forever. I lifted my face to the skies and sent out a silent plea as a soft river of tears trickled into my ears. I could not stay frozen. I would have to move. I was fumbling in the dark, feeling for a non-existent light switch. I felt unanchored, unprepared, and slightly unwilling to admit that my marriage was ending.
I fought to bring myself back to the moment, the sweet whispers of my son's reverence for snow, and I tried not to think of the innocent casualties. I wish I could say that I prayed, but the truth is that God was a concept as far away as the stars. I had left that fairytale years before back in New Jersey. Prodded into cynicism with Bruce Springsteen's warnings: Praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets. I spent my high school days bobbing my head to the lyrics as I sat in the bucket seat of my boyfriend's Camaro, hiking up my Catholic school skirt, and defiantly singing along to forbidden lyrics.
I blame Sea-Monkeys for the chip on my shoulder. There was a time before Sea-Monkeys that I had believed in a savior, sent out prayers and orchestrated holy processions to intervene for my mother and her battle with cancer. Around the same time, I had saved my money for Sea-Monkeys. The advertisement showed a cool underwater family with pot-bellies and little crowns on their heads. They were magnificent, magical, and I wanted them to be mine. But when they arrived they looked more like floating fish parts. It was a terrible moment. I remember lying in bed and realizing that I had been duped. In that moment, I had a revelation that God was most likely a shiny fable too. No wonder my prayers were not working.
So, I became a card carrying prodigal daughter with a self-will the size of Kansas. Who needed a broken-down God? I would fix this or figure it out on my own. God was the emperor's new clothes, the wizard of Oz, the world's greatest scam artist. I was done with praying. I had tossed my last tearful pleas to the heavens. God was the phony king of the Sea-Monkeys, and that's all there was to it.
The next morning, we left the beauty of the snow and flew back to LA. Reed had flown home earlier for work and would be picking us up at the airport. It was a long flight. Owen was tired. When we arrived, my cell phone let me know that Reed was on his way. An hour passed and then another. When he finally arrived, it was with an exaggerated hug for Owen and an icy shoulder for me. I tried to find his eyes, search for clues, to figure out what I had done or forgotten to do, what I had missed. The more I searched, the less I found. It was a painful experiment in seeing how many times I was willing to touch the hot oven. Turns out, many.
Reed rushed us to his illegal parking space, tossed the bags into the car, and we took a silent drive back to our apartment. With my stomach aching and my eyes stinging, I felt confused, frightened, and ready to fold. My breath was shallow, my mind vacant and I sat, a shadow of myself, trying to hold on with all I had.
We pulled in, and Reed carried Owen upstairs to our apartment. I lingered in the parking garage. It was cold, damp, and quiet.
I couldn't help feeling like I was being buried alive. I took my time bringing in the luggage from the car. It was a way to avoid being in the apartment with Reed. I tried making conversation, to break the ice and warm up the room, but his replies were staccato and stoic and seemed to suck the air from everything. I was suffocating and yet at the same time struggling to stay. Like treading water with a foot on my head.
None of it made any sense. This mean and distant behavior was not my husband. This was not the man who had once gazed at me like I was made of stardust. This was not the guy who built me flower boxes and took me on a helicopter ride over New York for my twenty-fourth birthday. This was not the starry-eyed lover who had sworn his devotion and whispered with conviction that nothing would ever change that.
But something had changed. Something had been said or done to flip all that on its head. The rug had been pulled and the silence of the canary was deafening. Our apartment felt like everything had already been rolled up and tagged to sell. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.
I needed air and was grateful to have the excuse to leave and get the bags. I made a few trips with baby bags, umbrella stroller, and gifts we had received from the holiday visit. Before taking in the last bags, I decided to just sit in the car for a while.
I needed a little solitude to figure things out. I had never sat in the driver's seat or driven his — our car because I couldn't drive stick. This should have been a big clue for me as to why my life was so off track. I was figuratively, emotionally, and literally not in the driver's seat.
But for some reason, when I went to sit in the car this time, I opened the driver's side and crawled into the bucket seat. Leaning my head back to rest for a moment, I felt small and strange. The pain I felt was debilitating enough to pull from me, not so much a prayer, but a plea. A sincere surrender. "If there is someone, anyone, some God, some force or source, some angel, saint or sage, I'll take it. I'll take anything. Please help me figure out this riddle." I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and suddenly I heard a voice. It was not outside myself, but kind of in my head.
"Look in the side compartment of the car door." It was faint but clear, and it made me open my eyes and sit up. I looked around to try and make sense of it. The parking garage was quiet, not a soul in sight, so I tried to shake off the odd instructions and settle back down to rest. I was not a snooper. I had no secrets, nothing to hide, and no reason to suspect Reed of hiding anything.
But as I sat there staring at the windshield, I heard it again.
"Look in the side compartment of the car door." At first, I thought what does that even mean? What's the side compartment of the car door? Cars have lots of doors. The glove compartment? The middle console? My hand moved instinctively to the armrest on the driver's door and flipped up the fake top. I heard myself gasp in surprise. I was honestly unaware that there was a side compartment in the driver's door.
I took a moment then reached inside. My hand connected with some paper or note and something else. I pulled out a letter and a set of keys with a silver charm in the shape of a heart. The notepaper held a sweet fragrance and the handwriting was distinctly feminine. It began as a thank you note. The mysterious author was thanking Reed for watching her home while she was in Thailand. Her letter included the necessary codes to get into her home, the numbers to reach her in Thailand, and "all of her love." It was the final offering that set off my inner alarms.
My thinking began to warp as I tried to make sense of it. I watched my mind protect itself with irrational rationalizations. This note was not his. It's something he'd been holding for a friend so that his friend's wife wouldn't find it. Or maybe this lady, who is off visiting Thailand, maybe she is really just a friend, maybe a friendly friend who is very generous with her love, or maybe, maybe, maybe ... the more I scrambled to turn this tragedy into tolerable truth, the more I began slipping, sliding, and falling down. Though I thought I had hit bottom, I was suddenly free falling like Alice down the rabbit hole, tumbling down with nothing to hold onto and no bottom in sight. Blindsided and sideswiped, my thoughts plummeted into an abyss. And yet somehow, I watched myself, or at least my body, get up. I don't remember tears, just slow methodical movement. I am sure I was in shock.
I walked, wounded, from the garage in a zombie-like autopilot. Thoughts running through me like water through a sieve.
With the note in hand, I made my way down my block, keenly aware of the effort it took to keep moving. I had no real conscious idea of where I was going. The odd little voice pulled me on with gentle instructions, and so I followed. I walked to the corner and into the copier place and watched myself make twenty copies of the letter then stuff them into a rented mailbox, along with the key and heart-shaped charm.
This was not my plan, this was some divinely orchestrated thought process. If things were done in my style, I would have run raging to the apartment, flung open the door, and confronted him with this evidence. I would have cried and screamed and accused. It would have been loud and ugly. Not like this. Although it felt jagged, there was also some precision to it all. And oddly some relief, some answers to all the riddles, some reason for all the frigidness. It began making sense. My husband was having an affair.
Back in the apartment, I handed him the original letter and watched him rip it into a million little scraps and then set them on fire in the kitchen sink, the ashes floating in slow motion and falling to rest on the Formica countertops. I stayed calm.
He asked me for the key, and I bargained for the truth. "The key is safely stashed away with twenty other copies of the letter," I told him. And for some reason it was this news that caused him to confess.
"We're just friends, and she's just Miss Universe. Well, she was Miss Thailand first, then she became Miss Universe. And her breasts are so perfect, they have to be fake."
The final line of his eloquent speech reverberated back at me in a thousand voices.
"Her breasts are so perfect, they have to be fake."
Like a plummeting elevator, my world soared down and then came to a sudden stop and tilted sideways. What? What was he saying? What was I hearing? Who brags to his wife about the beauty of his lover's breasts? I briefly tried to imagine and then did my best not to imagine the beauty of the breasts that turn a man into a total dipshit, so drunk on lust that he would gloat to his wife about his sexual conquest.
"Miss Universe," he whispered as if he had won the prized pig at a state fair. Crossing his arms over his chest he tucked his hands into his armpits, rocked back on his heels, and shook his head at the floor. Then with a slight blush and a sacred tone he repeated once more, "Can you believe it? Miss Universe."
I placed my hand over my mouth to hold back my confusion and shock. I had never before watched anyone go mad. Was this really my life? Was I seriously being dumped for Miss Universe? Miss flippin' Universe? How did this even happen? How many Miss Universes were there? There can't be that many and how many are even datable, still alive, not married, and not currently undergoing some form of plastic surgery? As my mind fluttered in the unlikely mathematics of it all, he kept talking. But I stopped listening. I began a new calculation of how I was going to move on from this moment with the least amount of scar tissue.
And then things got weirder. First, due to wild winds and rain, not normal weather in sunny LA, all the electricity in our building went out. In my youth, blackouts were filled with searches for candles and batteries and the phone number for the pizza guy. But on this day, we were barely fazed. Yes, of course the electricity would go out.
Then in the middle of this very dark hour, my former boyfriend from New Jersey, Phil, called. I picked up. After a brief, "Hey, how ya doin'?" he asked if we could help him out. He was on his way back home from a trip to Thailand and got stuck at LAX. Newark airport had lost all power due to some work that was being done, so all flights to Newark were canceled. He needed a place to stay the night.
"What? Wait. Seriously?" I looked around the room for a hidden camera. Was this some odd new reality show? A horrible joke? A nightmare? "You're coming from Thailand? Are you kidding me?" I asked with pointed accusation as if he were somehow in on this warped script. Phil's voice came back, tired but totally sincere.
"No, I'm not kidding. I don't know anyone else in LA, and I kinda need you to help me out." Honestly, it was good to hear his voice. He was from my native Jersey tribe and could provide me with a dose of clarity in the midst of this chaos.
It baffled me even more that the universe sent me this old sweetheart on such a heartless day. Phil and I had found each other after his dad died of a heart attack and my mother had passed from breast cancer. We were both teenagers at the time, and our similar life lessons catapulted us into a premature adulthood that most kids our age didn't understand. Of course, I would help him out. We had walked each other through a nightmare, and bonds like that can never be broken.
I sent Reed to pick Phil up at the airport and sat down on our sad futon couch, attempting to will all the puzzle pieces back together. All the nights Reed had come home late, the fighting, the constant cold shoulder, and unkindness all seemed so obvious now. Of course, he was having an affair. I was shocked at how shocked I was.
When they arrived at our apartment, Phil entered first, coming through the doorway with a huge Buddha statue strapped to his back. It was carved from beautiful dark wood that looked like walnut.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Spiritual Vixen's Guide to an Unapologetic Life"
Copyright © 2018 Maureen Muldoon.
Excerpted by permission of She Writes Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Dear Divine, 1,
Chapter 2: Signs and Symbols, 17,
Chapter 3: Take Your Time, 44,
Chapter 4: There is Greatness Within You, 63,
Chapter 5: You Are Entitled, 73,
Chapter 6: Invest in Yourself, 89,
Chapter 7: Show Up, 99,
Chapter 8: Tell Your Stories, 117,
Chapter 9: Ask Questions, 135,
Chapter 10: Stretch and Strategize, 145,
Chapter 11: The Art of Savoring, 161,
Chapter 12: Embrace Your Fire, 164,
Chapter 13: Your Legacy, 172,
Chapter 14: Be Kind to The Universe, 183,
Chapter 15: Come Clean, 187,
Chapter 16: Celebrate Everything, 201,