Monday, July 21, 2014

The Next Right Thing...Will Bring You Home

This...on Momastery:

In the midst of the pain, find some time to Be Still every day. Turn off the voices of friends and family and media and church and blogs and books and listen there for the voice of wisdom that arises in stillness. Because right now – making decisions is not about doing the right thing or the wrong thing. It’s about doing the PRECISE thing. The PRECISE thing is always incredibly personal and unique and often makes no sense to the people in your life. That doesn’t matter right now. You answer to no one except yourself in the quiet.Don’t get too excited, because this voice will never offer you a five year plan: just the Next Right Thing. It will never tell you what’s at the end of the path – just where to step next. Luckily – this is always good enough. The Next Right Thing – One Thing At A Time – Will Bring You All the Way Home.

Monday, July 14, 2014

More on Judgement...

"Secrets are the spots in our lives where we are most devoted to being preachy." ~Penelope Trunk 

Certain people in my life seem heavily invested in convincing me about their life choices. For instance, a stay-at-home mom I know frequently points out that the reason her children are thriving is because she's been so dedicated to their well-being, as if women who've chosen to work outside the home have not.
Another friend whose husband cheated (before I realized mine was too) defended her choice to divorce (though I wasn't judging her for it. I figured I'd divorce too) by citing all the ways in which it was impossible to reconcile with someone who had done such a thing. She later, in a moment of candor and after I'd decided to reconcile, admitted that she regretted the divorce.
In other words, the people who most vehemently defend their life choices are generally the ones most unsure about them. Please agree with me, their words say. Please tell me I'm doing the right thing. 
We all fear making mistakes. I think the so-called Mommy Wars are nothing more than women at their most vulnerable trying to convince themselves that their way is the best way. Those who feel safe in their choices don't have a need to convince anyone else. Those who trust their own experience – and response to it – aren't threatened by someone choosing differently.
Life is messy. Husbands do sometimes cheat again (or never stop). Ex-husbands sometimes turn out to have learned a painful lesson that positively impacts their future relationships. Careers don't work out. Kids rebel. For all our best intentions, life generally doesn't go exactly how we'd like it to go.
Which is why it's so crucial that we make our choices based on what feels best for us, regardless of what those around us are telling us. They aren't the ones who have to live our choices.
If we're unsure what's best? We need to give ourselves some time to get clear. Or at least clearer. It might help to solicit advice from those who've proven wise and compassionate.
But everyone else? Especially those who don't know us, or are most certain that they know how everyone should be living their lives – and that includes headline writers for tabloid magazines? Know that their secret is that they're terrified. Acting certain is nothing more than a masquerade for fear. Judgement is insecurity with a megaphone.
The truly brave among us admit that they don't know what's right for anyone but themselves...and sometimes not even that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Other People's Judgement

...too often we aren’t willing to do the hard work of feeling where the weight of that pain resides in us. Instead, we get stuck, carrying around other people’s judgments of us and then having to figure out how to shield ourselves from this unhealthy residue left inside of us. This is the root of a lot of physical ailments – from weight gain, to anxiety disorders to chronic health conditions. The effort to silence our pain requires so much attention and, like a dog at our heels, continues to attract more relationships to us which confirm our worst fears about ourselves.
~Wendy Strgar, creator of Good Clean Love

I had to pick up my children at school just hours after having my suspicions of an affair confirmed by my husband. I felt shaky. Stunned. Nonetheless, I put on my Mommy mask, made small-talk with the teachers, deflected a casual friend's inquiry into whether I was "okay" (of course, just tired, I told her) and acted to my children as if it was just another normal day.
It's an act I've kept up to some extent every day since.
I have my reasons, of course. We all do. I wanted time to figure out what I was going to do. I didn't want to upset my young children. I didn't want acquaintances to know about my private life.
But mostly? I didn't want others' judgement.
Judgement never feels good. Some of us are, of course, more susceptible than others. Those who, like me, grew up in a shame-filled home seem acutely sensitive to the sting of judgement. But even the thicker-skinned among us aren't impervious.
D-Day, with its nuclear-bomb-like destruction, can make even the most confident of us feel as vulnerable as a newborn.
And it's then, when our very sense of reality is shaken, that judgement threatens us the most.
Judgement around infidelity is harsh. Our culture responds harshly.
Among the most vocal are those who've a) never experienced it personally but think they know all about it from watching Dynasty or b) those who have experienced it personally but never really healed from it. And those are the people who aren't the least bit shy about sharing their opinions.
And their opinions generally consist of extremes. Either you leave the cheating bastard or you pretend it never happened and "leave it in the past". It's judgement based on blame. Either he's a total jerk and you're better off without him, or you somehow brought this on and it's best to just move on from it.
But no matter that it's judgement based on little understanding of the dynamics of an affair (or of marriage, for that matter), it still hurts. It's an assault on our already shaken confidence. And, too often, it's judgement that silences us.
While I long for the day when we can discuss infidelity with the openness that we've come to discuss other challenges, such as cancer or even alcoholism (though there's still some shame around addiction), we're nowhere close right now. Infidelity's power remains its ability to evoke strong opinions that effectively shut down any possibility for discussion. We need nuance. The chance to say, here's my story. What's yours? and actually listen to each other's experience without judgement.
We're off to a good start on this site. I love the compassion with which so many of you support each other's experiences.
But we need to be able to take that compassion into the larger world. And to respond to others' judgement with trust in our own experience. Maybe not right away, not right when you're feeling your most vulnerable. But someday, when you can respond to that "once a cheater, always a cheater" with a confident "not true. At least not for me."
In the meantime, try and recognize others' judgement for what it is: fear, an unhealed wound, false bravado, emotional disconnect. A way to silence their own pain.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guest Post: When He Cheats with Your "Best" Friend

A woman recently posted about how to deal with the pain of her husband's affair with her (former) best friend.
Iris, who many of  you have come to know on this site for her compassion, wisdom, and humour (in equal parts), offered up such a lovely reply that I asked to post it here for everyone. Iris graciously said yes.

Dear Doubly Betrayed Wife,

How would it be if people – even a couple of people who know both of you – did know what happened?

When this happened to a friend of mine involving a close family friend of long-standing my friend told mutual acquaintances why the two couples would no longer be socialising. She wondered what reasons they'd think up for a sudden split and she preferred to be honest. It did mean that she had a lot of support from those around her, rather as if there had been a bereavement. And many of us were able to support her and her husband when we saw how remorseful he was and how hard he worked to understand his behaviour and make amends. There will always be casualties as far as friendships go when betrayals like this happen, but asking for help is one way of finding out who your real friends are.

Make sure you're not isolated. Remember these were your husband's choices – they don't reflect poorly on you. I know it can feel as if they do. 

As for the best friend – there can hardly be a worse betrayal of trust. We expect so much more from the friends we share our lives with as mothers. I would hate her too. But hate is such a heavy burden for you to carry. It doesn't help that there's a commonly held idea that somehow only the cheating spouse is to blame, as if we shouldn't have anger toward someone who has violated our boundaries in the worst possible way. In your case she knows intimately the children who will suffer through her behaviour. We're supposed to be somehow 'dignified' about this.

One of the five precepts of mindfulness is helpful here (and mindfulness generally can be very helpful – as someone who breaks the other precepts by drinking alcohol, eating meat and killing clothes moths, so don't worry about MY spiritual superiority). This is by a lovely man, a Buddhist monk called Thich Nhat Hanh:

'Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. Be fully aware of the sufferings you may cause others as a result of your misconduct. To preserve the happiness of yourself and others, respect the rights and commitments of others. 

It is quite clear. This is not just Buddhist; it is universal. It is the right medicine for our illness. When we and our children take the precepts, it means we accept the medicine to protect us.'

'I will do everything in my power to prevent couples and families being broken by sexual misconduct'. 

We should all 'respect the rights and commitments of others' out of basic decency, and we should ask that others do so too. It needn't be a question of outdated morality suggesting property rights, but an understanding that we're all responsible for each other and especially for the well-being of children. I see it as a humanist stance. Be confident that there's nothing wrong with your continued suffering, it's understandable, and extend compassion to yourself for being placed in a position (like so many others) of feeling anger toward someone you trusted and liked. You didn't seek out this hatred.

She has caused you a great deal of pain but much more damage to herself. Even if no one points out to her how badly she's behaved (and personally I don't think that would be a bad thing) she will have to carry the consequences of her actions for the rest of her life. No karma required. You can let your anger wear itself out with time and you can be stronger trusting that for all the faults you do have, as we all do, you haven't abandoned integrity and kindness. She will have to work very hard to recover the integrity she's lost, whether she understands this now or has yet to realise. I wouldn't want to experience such remorse. 

I suppose the bottom line is that you can't make yourself forget (I think I would move house, but that's another issue). You have to learn to hold yourself through this ordeal, to breathe through it, to 'stay in your back' and not lose yourself. It could be the making of you. 



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