Just a few days ago, in a comment on this website, one of the brave warriors in our ranks wrote something to the effect of: “Sure, I’ve made lemonade. But I don’t even like lemonade. I never wanted to make lemonade.”
I know that feeling so well.
Like everyone else here, I have days of terrible sadness. I am only a year out from D-Day, which, Elle kindly and wisely reminds me, isn’t very long on the calendar of heartbreak.
On those sad days (and even on some good days), it is impossible not to think about the life I would have led if my husband hadn’t chosen the coward’s path out of his pain. It is so tempting to look at my friends whose husbands didn’t cheat and feel jealous.
But the truth is that I have no idea what that other life would be like.
Sure, I can romanticize it. I can assume that the other, affair-free life would have been much happier and better than this one. But who knows? My marriage was headed for divorce when the affair happened and it had been for several years, despite my best efforts. My husband has admitted to me that because he was so messed up, he couldn’t have undergone the level of transformation he has without blowing up his entire life.
Also, I can see now that it took a crisis to catapult me out of the deep fjord of self-sacrifice and suppression-of-my-own-needs in which I had been living for most of my adult life. I had been living in it for so long that I didn't even realize the extent to which it was holding me hostage and making me unhappy.
There’s something else, too. When I jealously compare my life to those of the people I know, I’m selective. I choose, for the purposes of comparison, people whose lives seem rosy. I don’t pick the friend whose child has a serious congenital disorder. I don’t pick the friend who is facing an excruciating divorce. I don’t pick the one whose husband just died in a tragic accident, leaving her widowed with three children.
Thinking that the path not taken (the path I can never take) would have been better is also just not helpful. It doesn’t matter. Because all I have is this life, this lemonade to drink.
(As a side note, I’m trying to use that measure to evaluate all my actions and thought patterns in this post-affair, self-healing world: “Is this helpful?” If it isn’t helpful to… stalk the other woman on social media, drink lots of wine, continue to remind my husband of his mistakes… then why do it?)
I have always loved hearing it said, of life: “None of us is getting out of this alive!” I love how funny and irreverent and true it is. I love how it’s both incredibly dramatic and yet obvious and therefore sort of boring.
The same is true of living a life free of pain: None of us make it through our entire lives unscathed, not even billionaires or royalty. We are not meant to. Life isn't supposed to be a race to get to the end without anything bad ever happening to us.
I am not a religious person, but I heard this quote the other day that has genuinely shifted my perspective. It somehow simultaneously makes me feel more powerful and also expands my ability to have compassion for myself. It even creates space for me to feel curiousity about this whole painful thing.
It’s from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was a French philosopher and explorer and priest.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience,
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”