Thursday, December 24, 2015

I wish you peace...

The holidays can be so tough when you're reeling from betrayal. My D-Day was Dec. 10 and there was little merry about that particular Christmas nine years ago.
My wish for all of you is that you're able to create even the teensiest bit of peace for yourselves.
I wish you the ability to breathe through the pain, to trust that you are strong enough to weather this, and offer the assurance that you've got a sisterhood of wise, wonderful, whole-hearted women who will guide you through this even as they navigate their own pain.

Here's your holiday to-do list, ladies:
•Be gentle with yourselves.
•Keep your hearts open to look for the slivers of light that show up even when your days feel unbearably dark. Keep a journal of moments that give you hope.
•Stick to your boundaries. They are there to keep you safe and to remind you to always honour yourself and your feelings.
•Steer clear of excessive anything – booze, drugs, food, shopping, exercise, gambling, sex. Strive for simplicity and self-control. I know, not easy. But try.
•Forgive yourself. For being sad when our culture tells us this is a "happy" time of year. For being confused about what's next. For not kicking him out when you said this was a deal-breaker. For kicking him out when you thought you could forgive him. Forgive yourself for hurting. Forgive yourself for yelling at him. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness this holiday.
•Trust that this time next year, you'll be further along in your healing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Let's Send Steam Our Love

The wise and wonderful Steam, who has given so much to us here, is hurting badly. Not betrayal, thank God. But she just lost her beloved pup – an 18-month-old bundle who helped Steam's heart open when she was going through the hell of betrayal. Her little Chakita got sick suddenly and went downhill quickly.
I hope those of you who know Steam can send her strength and prayers and love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This is Gonna Hurt...

Many, many years ago, I decided to become a runner. I was in a miserable relationship that was long past its best-before date. I was working at a low-pay job that showed no signs of ever becoming a high-pay job. I was feeling left behind by friends who were getting married, launching careers, buying homes.
And so I chose to run.
We'll ignore what running meant metaphorically and instead focus on the fact that running was my private version of hell. I had never been an athlete. I didn't believe in sweating on purpose.
And yet, each evening after work, compelled by something I didn't quite understand, I would lace up my running shoes and set out. At first, it was all I could do to run a block without feeling as though my heart was going to pound out of my chest and I was going to die right there on a busy sidewalk, with my new sneakers barely worn in.
So I made it a game: I would force myself to run to something I could see ahead – a certain car parked on the road, a lamp post, a stop sign. Just that far, I would tell myself.
I would run to the car or the lamp post or the stop sign and when I didn't die as soon as I reached it, I would choose another car or lamp post or stop sign and run to it. Always, always I could go further than I believed I could. Some evenings a bit farther, some evenings a lot farther. Eventually I could run 10 kilometres that way. And then, I could run 26 miles that way.
It hurt. It hurt like hell. My legs burned. My feet ached. My back occasionally spasmed. There were many times I honestly thought I might die. I imagined heart attacks. Aneurysms. Strokes.
None of my doomsday scenarios happened. Instead I got strong and lean and powerful. Instead I got brave. Instead, the pain gave way to not pain. To ease. To joy in the running.

When I first learned that my husband had cheated on me, I couldn't imagine how I was going to survive the next five minutes, let alone the days and weeks and months that I knew lay ahead. I wanted to die. Scratch that. I didn't want to die, I wanted the pain to end and I couldn't imagine that happening any other way than for me to end. I fantasized about head injuries that would erase my memories and let me start over. I fantasized terminal illnesses that would let me die without guilt. I lived in darkness, stoking my pain and assuming this was my lot for the rest of my life.
But then I remembered my running strategy. Just get to the next...moment, morning, weekend. And then, when I'd make it, still heartbroken but nonetheless alive, I'd focus on just getting to the next. And the one after that.
It reminds me of the old writing adage from E.L. Doctorow:
"Writing is like driving a car at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make your whole trip that way."
Change writing to "healing" and you've got another truth:
"Healing is like driving a car at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
It's excruciating to not know what's around the corner. Will he cheat again? Is he cheating still? Will I still be in agony? Should I leave him? Will I find someone else? And on and on and round and round we go, asking questions that can only be answered by time. Time feels like the enemy. Night would stretch out like black ink that swallowed me, leaving me alone and terrified. Morning was no better. I was expected to behave like someone capable, someone rational, someone whose world wasn't shattered. How was I supposed to pull that off?
When you, m beloved BWC club members, write in with your pleas – "when will this stop hurting?" – I wish I could give you a date. It will stop hurting on July 13 at 7:12 p.m. Hang in there, sweetie. Instead I can only tell you that it will stop. I don't know when – it's different for each of us – but I know it will stop. But whether healing comes in months or years, it will come. And it will come in moments, not a sudden bolt of lightening. It is happening, moment by moment, even when you can't see it. In the meantime, it hurts like a motherfucker.
And so...this is gonna hurt. And it's gonna hurt for a whole lot longer than we'd like it to.
But each of us has the strength to endure. Even when we feel broken open, when we feel we just can't survive this heartbreak another minute, we can. And we will.
Because what other choice do we have?
We will choose to make it to the next...minute. The next morning. The next weekend. We will choose to cling to the promise of those who've gone before us that the day will come when this is behind us.
And as we heal, as time mends the cracks in our hearts in stitches so delicate but so sure, we will acknowledge the bravery with which we're handling this.
We can trust our headlights to take us as far as we need to see right now. And with that, we can make it the whole way.

Friday, December 4, 2015

What was your moment of transformation?

I was listening, as I often do, to a recent podcast of Dear Sugar, featuring advice givers Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed. I can't recall the question but a comment struck me. It referred to a "moment of transformation".
I got wondering about my moment of transformation. At what point in my healing did I shift from anger and despair to compassion and hope? At what point did I realize that I was going to make it? Be okay? Not only survive but emerge from this in a better place than I'd been?
My transformation, I think, began on Father's Day 2007.

It had been six months of agony. Six months of tears and trauma. Thoughts of suicide. Thoughts of homicide. White-hot rage. Deep sadness. Stomach-churning fear.
We were returning from my nephew's christening in another city. Our three kids had fallen asleep in the back seat. My husband and I were chatting about a co-worker, someone who'd been friends with my husband's work assistant, his "other woman".
For six months, I'd been baffled by the affair. Why? I asked endlessly. Why her? I simply couldn't understand. "It was just sex," he'd tell me, but that answered nothing. I knew he didn't find her physically attractive. Hell, I knew he didn't like her. He'd spent years telling me he wished he could fire her.
And so, while we were talking about this other co-worker, my antennae were up. I didn't like this other co-worker. I didn't trust him. But when my husband made some off-hand remark about the time they were all at a "strip club", alarm bells went off.
Strip club? My husband didn't go to strip clubs. They were exploitive? They were...gross. What the hell?
In the darkness of our car, with our kids asleep in the back seat, I took off my wedding band, placed it on the console between us.  "When we get home and the kids are in bed," I said quietly but with total resolve, "you are going to tell me everything."
And he did.
I learned about the years of sexual acting out that pre-dated our entire relationship. I learned about the many, many other women. And that missing puzzle piece – why? why her? – clicked into place.
My husband told me he was in treatment for sex addiction. That he'd sought treatment immediately after D-Day #1. For the past six months, he'd been working really hard to face up to what he'd done and try to understand why he'd done it. His counsellor consistently told him he needed to tell me everything. My husband consistently said 'not yet', sure that I would leave and he would lose everything that mattered to him.
Curled in a ball on the floor, my husband sobbed. "I am so sorry," he said, over and over and over. I had never seen anyone so broken. This was my children's father. My husband. In spite of everything, my friend.
When he finally stood up, he told me he would pack and leave. Something shifted inside me and I told him, "No. Don't leave. But I can't promise you anything more than that I will be your friend through this." And I meant it.
My moment of transformation.
I can't say that I didn't continue to have periods of anger. I certainly cried many more tears. There were times I hated him. I hated what he'd done. I never have put my wedding band back on, convinced that our marriage vows, offered during a time when he was already violating them, mean nothing.
Nonetheless, transformation began that night. A transformation that opened me to compassion for his pain. A transformation that let light into the cracks of my heart. A transformation that gave me a glimpse of a life beyond this pain – where the two of us rebuilt something amazing.
I resisted. I told myself that I was waiting only to ensure that he was emotionally healthy enough to be a good father to our children. Until I felt strong enough to go it alone. For many more months, I had one foot out the door.
But over time, that moment of transformation became greater. I saw myself differently. I transformed my life in a way that made it so much more my own. I placed greater demands on the people in my life to behave with integrity. I spent my own time and energy and money more carefully on things that gave me joy.
That's not to say things are perfect. Life is full of challenges and I'm constantly learning and growing and considering where I am and where I want to be – as a wife, friend, parent, writer.
Transformation isn't a one-time thing. It's a process.
For those just landing on this site, I want you to  know it's possible to emerge from this changed in a good way. For those who feel stuck, I want you to know you won't always be stuck. Stuck might just be a resting spot along the way. And for those of you transformed? Tell us how it happened. What was your moment – or process – of transformation. 


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