"My heart pounded in my ears. My chest and stomach felt tight. I couldn't breathe all the way in. Maybe I was having a heart attack. It wasn't unheard of, after all. I resisted the urge to look symptoms of heart attack or stroke on the Internet. No good was going to come of that. I imagined the ambulance racing up our drive, lights flashing in the country darkness. How had I gotten here — again? All the...searching, seeking, reading... All the goddamn thinking, and there was still this: the waiting out the night. Face-to-face with my aloneness. With the certainty of change."~Dani Shapiro, "Devotion"
Waiting out the night. Were truer words ever written that describe the experience of betrayal? If I could sum up the years following the discovery of my husband's betrayal, those four words are it. Waiting out the night.
It's excruciating, isn't it? After the initial gut-punch of discovery, after the falling to our knees, we just want the agony to be over. We want the pain to stop. To let us catch our breath. To point us in some direction that makes sense. To promise us...something. That we're safe. That we're making the right choice. That we're going to be okay.
Instead, we wait out the night. What choice do we have, really?
There's the horrible, do-not-do-this choice of swallowing a bottle of pills and denying ourselves a happily ever after. There's the numbing ourselves through booze, or drugs, or shopping, or gambling, or endless TV watching. There's the plain of lethal flatness, a nice place to visit but you don't want to stay there. There's the pain shopping – hours of scrolling through the OW's Facebook feed, or driving past her house, or gossiping about her with uncomfortable looking friends.
Or, there's the (ugh) waiting out the night.
Shapiro goes on to call it "the anguish of the unknown" and that's really what the night is, isn't it. It's the fear that morning won't come. That the darkness won't give way to light. My 3 a.m. worries that hover, huge and unbidden, seem ridiculous in the morning. And yet, in that thick, wooly darkness, my thoughts seem necessary. Important. True.
Part those heavy curtains though and daylight brings a clarity. A lifting of the heart, a revival of new possibilities.
Until then, we wait out the night.
Not passively. Waiting isn't about resignation so much as realization that this is part of the process. That, beneath the waiting, a plan is taking shape. Our future is taking shape.
It's a future informed by having survived the trauma and accepting the anguish that life sometimes delivers. It's a future shaped by recognizing our worth and our strength.
It's a future that doesn't promise no more pain but does promise what we need to respond to whatever comes next.
Whether your night comes as you move into a new life without him, or whether it comes as you await enough clarity to make your choice of whether to stay or go, or whether it comes as you begin to rebuild your marriage, we all must...wait. Betrayal demands it of us. It delivers the darkness until we can see the blurry, distant light of dawn over the horizon.
Know that the darkness will gave way. As long as we don't wait passively but continue to do the work of loving ourselves, being kind to ourselves, challenging the stories that endlessly loop in our brain and make us crazy. As long as, within the darkness, we sit with the awareness that we deserve love and respect. Knowing that, we can trust the light will come.