Monday, February 27, 2017
Is your fantasy future getting in the way?
~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
I don't know about you but this was not supposed to be my life. My life, after a crappy childhood with parents who did crappy things, was going to be sane and predictable and interesting. There would be no dark secrets.
And so I set about creating that life. I told my husband on our third date that I came from a long line of addicts and if he wanted to flee, then there's the door. He stayed.
Married and being urged by him to start a family, I told him that if we were to have children then I needed his promise that we would do everything to keep our marriage strong. I would not, I told him, bring children into a relationship that didn't have two parents who were all in. Sure, he agreed.
Ten years and three children later, I felt resentful and frustrated by my husband's lack of engagement with our family. He worked too much, I thought. He shared too little, I thought. And so, when I found myself enjoying the company of a male friend a bit too much, I told my husband that we needed counselling. To my surprise, the guy who had long insisted that he was fine – that I was the one with the problems (pointing to my third-date admission as evidence) – agreed.
A few months later, I had my first D-Day. Six months after that, I had my second.
And the future I had imagined – which might not have held the glossy promise of bliss it did on my wedding day but still felt like more than I deserved – vanished altogether.
Replaced by a conviction that my future was apocalyptic.
And the pain was excruciating.
It's no coincidence that so many of us who first post on this site seem as though we're reading from the same script. "This isn't the person I married," we write. "This can't be my life," we write. "My life is ruined forever," we write.
And though those of us on the far shore try and wave the newbies in – "you'll get through this," we promise, "you will be fine," we promise – but I wonder how convincing we are. Life was always going to be a series of peaks and valleys. And though we're in a helluva valley, we won't always be. But it can be hard to see the other side when we're blinded by the idea of how it was "supposed" to be.
I wasn't supposed to wind up with a sex-addicted husband. I was so busy making sure that I didn't marry an alcoholic because I would be damned if my future was going to resemble my past.
Yet here I am.
And from this far shore I can tell you this. Maybe I was supposed to go through this. Maybe there are lessons within this experience that I still needed to learn.
Or maybe, like everybody else, it's a matter of having my share of ups and downs.
However you look at it, letting go of this idealized future is key to letting go of some of the pain.
When you find yourself imagining this new post-betrayal future in apocalyptic terms – "ruined", "destroyed", "miserable" – take note of it and then remind yourself that you're telling yourself a story.
Our future is a fiction until we live it into truth.