The Dead Zone, or what some call the "plain of lethal flatness", that stage of numbness where you don't really feel much of anything.
It can be a nice place to stay for awhile, to catch your breath after the wild ride of D-Day. But feeling nothing is no way to live.
But nor is feeling nothing but pain. And that stage also carries with it the danger of sucking you in and keeping you there.
It seems counter-intuitive. Who would deliberately seek out pain? Well...someone who has been so traumatized by the betrayal that they simply can't stop obsessing over it for fear that it will blindside them again.
I confess I did a bit of pain shopping myself in the weeks following D-Day. My husband would no sooner be out the door than I'd be rooting through his drawers, his suit pockets, his files -- looking for something, anything, to confirm what I already knew.
And that's the rub. I already knew. What difference did it make if I found yet another restaurant bill? Or another phone bill detailing the length of the zillion phone calls?
So why was I doing it? I could plead insanity quite convincingly. But, in some weird way, I felt afraid of getting past the betrayal. Not that I was even close -- I still had a long way to go. But as I inched closer, a small part of me worried that if I put this behind us, it could sneak up on me again and knock me down. And I wasn't so sure I could survive it again.
And so, on some level, it made sense to me to keep it in front of me. To be so focussed on the betrayal that it couldn't be behind me. As long as I was raking my husband over the coals for his affairs, he couldn't possibly think that it wasn't such a big deal. Or that I had handled it fine. There could, quite simply, be absolutely NO mistake that this was NOT okay with me. And would never be okay with me.
The thing is he already knew that. He watched me crumble and it devastated him. He told me once that my eyes looked dead and he knew that he had done that to me.
What the pain shopping was doing was keeping my eyes dead. It was preventing even a glimmer of light from re-entering because the long shadow of the betrayal was still there, casting a darkness over everything: my joy in my kids, my delight in my pets, my love of my work. I still had all that. But not as long as I only focussed on what had caused me pain.
So I issue this caveat: When you're rooting around for bills, or a cell phone, or checking his Web history, ask yourself: Are you looking for necessary evidence to confirm what you suspect? Or what he's denying? Or to get answers to questions he refuses?
Or are you, like I did, pain shopping? Focussing on the pain to ensure that it can't blindside you again...