I was like a five-year-old whose friend had broken my favourite toy and not been punished for it. "But it's not fair!" I would wail after discovering my husband had cheated with a woman who worked for him. "I don't deserve this!" I would moan.
I'd like to go back in time and smack myself. Or introduce myself to the millions who have endured far worse (Holocaust, Rwanda, sadly the list goes on). Damn right, life's not fair. What made me think it was?
But that was the premise under which I operated: If I did things right (see the makings of a control-freak here?), life would unfold perfectly and predictably. I would never be hurt. I would never be scared. I would die happy, surrounded by my loving family who appreciated every single time I sacrificed my own desires for them.
Clearly my life plan had a few flaws.
For starters, life isn't safe. It's something I knew all too well, thanks to a childhood populated by parents who could barely hold themselves together let alone offer me any guidance. Because I felt so out of control as a kid – hurtling from crisis to crisis created by my parents – I came to crave it. At the same time, I felt somewhat stifled by it and it took me some time to recognize that stability is not the same as stagnation.
But once I'd settled in to stability – my mother was no longer drinking, I was married to a man I loved and who I believed adored me, I gave birth to three healthy children, I was moving ahead in my career goals – I realized that it allowed me to take greater chances. Without feeling as though I had to be constantly vigilant against potential threats to my well-being, I could focus on other things. My family, the work I loved, friendships.
I'd worked hard for my peace of mind.
I'd battled demons to feel safe.
I hadn't bargained for the fact that my husband had his own demons to slay. Demons he had always insisted (and I'd believed him!) didn't exist.
Not fair? Damn right it wasn't fair.
Of course, life never is. Life doesn't operate on a quota system, whereby we each get our share of pain and disappointment.
Instead, we each, to some degree, create our life path. And sometimes – too often for my taste – horrible things happen to people who don't deserve it. Just ask the parents of the kids at UCSB after the recent shooting.
The quicker we can recognize that life's not fair, the quicker we can move toward healing. It's about, as Laura S. so wisely put it in this post, asking not "why did this happen to me?" but "why did this happen?" It's about curiosity not victimhood.
It's about acknowledging your pain without feeling persecuted. Because, as crazy as it sounds, affairs aren't really personal.
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