Sunday, May 29, 2011

Am I only a "betrayed wife" after I found out? Or was I one all along?

I still, almost five years past D-Day #1, have trouble looking at photographs of "before". My children's babyhoods are now colored with the knowledge that, while I was home changing diapers and mopping up spit, my husband was peeling off panties and swapping spit.
How do I reconcile the past I thought I had with what was going on behind my back? How do I look back at wedding photos/family pictures/celebrations without that happiness-busting sense of "well...we might look happy". The point, of course, being that my reality wasn't...real. Or was it?
It's a sort of philosophical issue. If a tree falls in the forest but you don't know that tree is falling (or more to the point, that your husband is the one chopping it down), does it change the past? Or is your past still your past – memories intact – and it's only your future that's altered?
I'm no philosopher (clearly, given my convoluted example!). But I struggle with my sense of history now. My sense of self is shaky. Am I still the same person I was, even though my life was not what I thought it was?
Am I still the same person even though others' view of me was perhaps colored by information they had...but I didn't?
I want to believe the answer is yes. I am still I. And though my future is certainly altered by the knowledge of my husband's cheating, it doesn't change the mother I was, the wife I was, the daughter/friend/sister/writer I was. I need to stand firmly in my own self. And recognize that another's actions, while they affect me, needn't change me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Country song come true: Shania Twain's comeback

Ya gotta love those country music songs. All the cheatin', the lyin', the cryin'. Beloved country/pop star Shania Twain had plenty of all that. And now that she's through the darkness and back out into the light, she's ready to share her story with the world.
I haven't yet read her newly released autobiography From This Moment On.  Part of me is tired of all the books on cheating I've read. Part of me is tired about hearing of cheating. Good Lord, doesn't any married man keep his damn pants on these days.
However, so much of what Shania has said about discovering the affair – "I really was completely shocked... I didn't want to kill myself, but I didn't want to live" – was exactly how I, and many others, felt. Nothing protected her from the pain – not her beauty, her career, her money. She, like so many of us, desperately wanted to fill in the blanks, something neither her husband nor her friend, with whom he was having the affair, would do. "By...not knowing the details," she explains, "your imagination is left to run wild."
I give Shania Twain credit for sharing her story with the world. It can only help those of us who know her pain intimately to feel part of a wider community of women with the strength to get past such betrayal.
Now, if only I could write a hit-making country song about it....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Sperminator: Schwarzenegger admits infidelity...and fathering a child.

So we have yet another high-profile couple that has split amid a confession of infidelity. By now you've no doubt heard that Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger have separated...and that he admitted he fathered a child a decade ago (!!!) with a member of the household staff.
Wading into degrees of betrayal is like sloshing through mud...but surely keeping a woman in your home, and around your wife and your children when you've fathered her child ranks right up there with amongst the worst betrayal. Short of sleeping with your wife's mother/sister/brother/best friend, this one's truly sleazy. And I don't know how badly this woman needed the job...but...really??
I'm no longer even shocked at this stuff.
I remain, however, deeply saddened. Maria Shriver, for all her beauty and money and privilege, is a woman who loved her husband and her family. At the end of the day, it doesn't much matter what your last name is when you're heartbroken and humiliated by the person you trusted.
We all know that far too well...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Trust

My dog has a bit of an attitude problem. At least, that's the human assessment. He doesn't think he has a problem at all. There are just some dogs he doesn't like. And some people. But just the jerks.
How does he know they're jerks? He relies on instinct, something we humans long ago stopped trusting in favor of our heads and hearts (and Lord knows how they've got us in trouble!).
And it dawned on me the other day that I could learn a lot about healing from betrayal from my dog. He had been betrayed. By the people who first owned him. He was rescued by the sheriff after someone squealed about his living conditions. He was removed from the barn where he was found, malnourished and full of parasites. He had clearly suffered neglect...likely abuse.
And yet, he loves me unconditionally. He was willing to give people another chance. Not all people...but me.
And so...I offer up the lessons he's taught:
1. Give second chances. But not third. Or fourth.
2. Be fiercely loyal to those who deserve it.
3. Trust your instincts more than your training.
4. You're capable of great love. Don't be afraid to show it.
5. Don't be deceived by looks or words or even treats (though don't turn them down. Just don't let them change your mind about someone you don't like).
6. Be willing to treat each day like a new adventure, neither defined by the day before, nor a dress rehearsal for what might happen tomorrow.
7. When you're happy, wag that tail with all you've got.
8. When you're angry, don't be afraid to let them know you've got teeth...and you're not afraid to use them.
9. Protect what's yours ferociously.
10. Understand that looking someone else trying to make you look foolish (for example, putting reindeer antlers on your head for a Christmas card photo...) doesn't make you a fool. Trust in your own dignity.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Does Anyone Tell the Truth Any More?

I'm an honest person. Sure I tell the occasional white lie (No really, that haircut looks great on you; Ya know, Sweetie, you're as talented as Picasso!) but I just can't – won't! – lie about things of consequence. It's tempting sometimes. To lie to save face. (Sorry, I'm late. The traffic was brutal.) To lie to get out of a commitment. (Turns out I can't find childcare.) To lie to ourselves. (My clothes must be shrinking. I haven't been eating much lately.)
But ever since I learned that the man I thought couldn't possibly lie had created a life of lies...well, let's just say I make it a matter of personal honor to tell the truth, even when it makes me look bad, incompetent, lazy or stupid. I'm convinced it's a matter of degree from bending the truth to doing origami with it.
However, I'm not sure society agrees with me.
Consider this example: I'm organizing an event in the city and had hoped a mutual friend could help me. I outlined what I was doing and asked for her assistance. She agreed that it was a wonderful idea and that she was so excited I'd contacted her. Then she said, "Now, I'd like to ask YOU a favor." Fair enough, I thought. And so I agreed to take on a task for free that I generally charge between $250 and $500 for (it falls under my freelance work).
Well, tomorrow I fulfill my part of the agreement. Her? Well...turns out that she's not available the day I needed her. She had booked a trip to New York. New York! Who the hell forgets that they've booked a trip to New York!
Can you tell I'm a bit steamed??
And this is where I start to wonder.
Am I making a big deal about this because of the lie upon lie I dealt with during my husband's infidelity? Or am I making a big deal about this because it's inherently wrong to deceive someone...whether they're your spouse or an acquaintance?
I think the latter. Sure I might be a bit more sensitive to the bending of truth than someone without my history...but I just can't stand lying.
Who's with me on this?

Monday, May 2, 2011

This might make you weep with joy...

I subscribe to a "daily inspiration", which is usually just a line or two. But often those few words give me the strength or clarity that I need. Like a gentle push in the right direction. This one stopped me cold. I'd love to hear your thoughts:

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

~ Ellen Bass


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