Lise and Lisi. by Photo Credit: Jack Higgin
And Lise completes her petite, but powerful, book with a useful, "how-to" guide to living separately.
I had the opportunity to interview Lise in-between her busy schedule of teaching, gardening, writing, dating her husband, and painting the floor of their new pottery studio:
Meryl Ann: Lise, your book was so inspiring, and I especially appreciate your courage! Can you share with us three things that you see as "gifts" that you received by working on your relationship in this unique way?
Lise: Yes, thanks"I guess the biggest gift is that we have a deep sense of accomplishment " both Emil and I feel proud of ourselves and each other for having the courage and the dedication to look past our struggles and see that there could be a way out that didn't involve discarding our marriage.
We had no idea whether this experiment would work - or where it would ultimately lead us - but we had the faith to give it a try. And it's worked so well on so many levels. We are proud of the work we've done together - and now, with the book, we can share our insights with others.
Julie and Lise. by Photo Credit: Lise Stoessel
Another gift has been preserving and enhancing the bonds with our children " a divorce would have undoubtedly caused a lot of pain to our three girls, but finding this path toward health and happiness in our marriage has really improved our relationships with them, and their relationships with each other.
We are all more genuine with each other. We are better able to regard one another as individuals, rather than just the roles we'd been playing in our family.
This was particularly important to me, since one of the deep heartaches of the marriage for me was that I worried that my girls did not know who I really was. I had become so embittered by the dysfunction in our marriage that I was becoming a hag. That has totally shifted. There is so much active, real-time love flowing between all of us now that was not there before.
Susanah and Lise by Photo Credit: Emil Stoessel
And I think our third gift would be a growing practice of mindfulness " staying married, but living separately has given me and Emil the space to meet each other in the ways that work, and to not have to be together when we don't want to. We have stepped out of the rut, the automatic roles and reactions, and now we're much more able to approach the other with thoughtfulness and consideration.
Leaving the shared home was also an act of leaving assumptions; we ask each other what we want now, rather than just taking each other for granted.
Meryl Ann: I imagine that jumping out of the cookie cutter mold must have felt empowering in some ways to both you and Emil -- if that thought is accurate, can you expand on it?
Lise: Well yes, I think it was empowering because it asked us to actively and intentionally invent our future and our relationship. It forced us to play a more active role in shaping our lives.
Meryl Ann: And I think that you have provided an excellent role model for your girls -- to not just buckle under an unbearable situation, or to "grin and bear it' like many women in this country were raised to do, but to bust out of the prescribed structure to claim your comfort zone through creative problem solving.
I really commend you both for that, you've taught your girls not to settle, and to always reach for something better even when it seems impossible - because creativity always finds a way! That, as they say in the commercials, is "priceless.'
Your and Emil's re-entry into pottery together really sounds like the perfect next step, -- it reminds me of having rescued a pot that was going south! What is your take on that?
Lise: It's a great image and it makes me realize the extent to which I am a salvager by nature. I hate to see anything go to waste. If I'm throwing a pot and I'm aiming for a tall vase, but it gets too wet and thin and starts to get that fatal wobble, I'll take my pin tool and cut off the top half and voila - I have a bowl! The part that got cut off goes to the wedging table and becomes something else another day.
Working with clay is such a great metaphor for life. We are given raw material and it's up to us to create beauty. It takes practice and perseverance, but it can be so rewarding if you see it through.
Emil and I were first attracted to each other because we were both potters. We had a small pottery business in the early years of our marriage. Then it faded into the background as other things became more pressing.