"So what is to be done? It was the question at the core of al the questions I had been asking. Life is suffering. There is no way around it. The human condition – the knowledge of this – drives many of us to drink, to drugs, to denial, to running as fast as we can away from the truth of life's fragility. We think we can shore ourselves up. If only we work hard enough, make lots of money, are good and kind enough, pray hard enough, we will somehow be exempt. Then we discover that no one is exempt. What is to be done?"
~Dani Shapiro, Devotion: A Memoir
What is to be done? I roamed my house, wringing my hands and muttering "what do I do?" over and over and over.
The notion of simply being was, at that point, utterly foreign to me. I was a doer. I was a survivor. I was a roll-up-your-sleeves and get to work-er.
But the pain of betrayal? What is to be done?
Well...perhaps nothing. Not at first. While it might be worth showing the door to an unrepentant cheater, one who responds by blaming you, threatening you, or for whom the betrayal of you was just one more incident in a long list of abuse. Clearing your home of such a toxic person is good first step.
But for the many others of us, for whom the cheating blindsides us because, "my husband would never do that to me", we're on shifting ground. We feel we should be doing something but...what?
Kicking him out feels like self-sacrifice. After all, we meant our vows. We love this idiot man.
Letting him stay feels like surrender. How can we ever get past this?
But surely, we think, we should do something.
I don't think so.
I think giving ourselves permission to just be with our pain, to take the time to fully absorb this shock can be incredibly powerful. And liberating. Freeing ourselves to do something only when that something feels more clear strikes me as far wiser than reacting simply because we feel we must. Our society dismisses those who ponder and weigh and values the quick-responders. The doers. We need to get past that bias.
There are many things you'll have the chance to do, once you figure out your next right step. And that's all you need to know in the short term. Your next right step. Which might look like a bathrobe and cup of tea. It might look like a visit to a divorce lawyer. It might look like a walk in the woods.
What is to be done? Self-care. Compassion for yourself. Kindness. Gentleness. A chance to forgive yourself for any missteps along the way. A chance to love yourself fully, to finally realize that you are enough and have always been enough. To learn that another's inability to see your true value is about his blindness. To recognize that we can't protect ourselves from all suffering but we can refuse to blame ourselves for it.
And then, when you're ready, you can roll up your sleeves and embrace a life without him, or you can get into the trenches and begin rebuilding a marriage all the stronger for the storms it has weathered.
That is what is to be done.