Monday, July 17, 2017

Crawling towards the light

"The hardest times are when no one is watching and it doesn't really matter whether you're strong or not. The times when you think life is circling the drain, and the bedrock aloneness of it trumps everything else. That's when animal instinct kicks in and most of us start to crawl toward the light.... We like to call it courage, but the body doesn't recognize it as such. You just put your head down and keep moving."
~ Gail Caldwell, from the memoir New Life, No Instructions

Even now, I find myself sometimes thinking of those around me who know nothing of the struggle I fought after D-Day, "if you only knew..." Because while it's great that I survived and, to most, appear to be a healthy, stable, happy middle-aged woman, sometimes I want credit for what I had to do to get here. Sometimes I want people to know what a badass I am. How heroic I am. How many dragons I had to slay to arrive at healthy, stable and happy.
You all know. Because you've either slain your own dragons or are slaying them as I write this. 
You know the courage it sometimes takes to get out of bed and show up at work so you don't get fired. You know the particular brand of heroism required to nurture your children and keep their hearts safe even as your own feels shattered and abandoned. You know the white-knuckled self-discipline required to not smother your husband in his sleep, or resist firing off that brutal e-mail to the OW, or bite your tongue hard when your mother-in-law, who hasn't a clue about her son's, um, extracurriculars, comments on what a "good boy" he's always been. 
Those who've been decimated by heartbreak, by the particular brand of grief known to those of us who discovered we were, literally, sleeping with the enemy, know what Gail Caldwell means when she talks about crawling toward the light. Though there are many days when we're not really sure there is light. So many days when we just can't convince ourselves that there will ever be light again.
But that's where the others come in. That's where those of us who've gone before wave our lanterns from farther along the path, to beckon you toward us. To give you the light as a compass. To remind you, as often as you need reminding, that the light is in fact up ahead. Just a little bit farther. To assure you that, no, we didn't believe it either. We didn't believe we would ever laugh again, feel happiness again, trust again. But here we are. Mostly healthy, stable and happy.
Keep crawling, warriors. If you can't see the light, then follow the sound of our voices. 
You may not call it courage. You may barely be able to admit it's survival. But whether or not you consider it heroic, let me tell you that it is. It's heroic to reach out for help. It's heroic to tend to your wound. It's heroic to insist that you deserve respect and kindness and honesty. When the "bedrock aloneness" threatens to convince you that nobody can possible understand your pain, it's heroic to find your voice and share your story.
Crawl toward the light, my exhausted warriors. We're up ahead, waiting. 

41 comments:

  1. Beautiful Elle - just beautiful. Thank you for being a beacon for many of us...I hope my light is shining for others, too. Many hugs!

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  2. Elle
    I just had to sit and be quiet enough to hear what this post is really saying! I'm taking my time because it feels so right!

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  3. Thank you Elle! I really needed this today. It has been a year post D day and my husband continues to remain confused about his state of mind. He feels ashamed and that he does not know whether he can change hence does not deserve a second chance. He wants me to go and find my happiness and seek for what I deserve(huh). Having me around is more painful for him as it reminds him every time of how he has destroyed life out of a happy human being. I see no light and struggle to keep it together to give us another chance. I don't know if it is the right thing but I want to wait for him to come back to his senses and realize what his life choices are doing to us!!

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    1. I think we have to pay attention to what people are telling us. If he is telling you that you deserve better, it's likely that you do. If he's telling you that he doesn't deserve a second chance, then it's likely that he doesn't. Perhaps he's punishing himself for screwing up by not allowing himself someone awesome like you...or perhaps he's just screwed up and knows that he'll continue to screw up.
      As painful as it is, I think you need to take him at his word and begin to move on. I suspect that waiting is only going to result in hurt down the road. If he has a sudden realization of just what he's losing and comes to you, willing to do the hard work of figuring out why he sabotaged his relationship with you, then that might be time to reconsider. Or it might not.
      But, in the short term, as excruciating as it feels, I think you need to pick YOU because he doesn't seem able to do that.

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    2. I agree Elle, he doesn't seem to be choosing me at all. He believes he will continue to screw up. I am from India and it being a very conservative society I decided to give it a little longer before deciding on riding alone as that's going to a even tougher than hanging on. Sad but true.

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  4. I love this. It is all so true. At the beginning it all seems so impossible. So big. Like you're being swallowed whole by it all. I now feel mostly good. Mostly strong. I have lost a lot, but I have gained so much too. I do wish others could see the amazing strength I have built from the worst pain in my life. This is all my Mona Lisa. I'm glad for this site where we can celebrate that privately at least!

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  5. Ahh, the light. I feel like I'm back at square 1 and starting that crawl all over again. Had a long session with my therapist yesterday and melted down all day. After several weeks of seeing all those June/July/summer wedding anniversary photos of my friends celebrating 35 or more years of marriage I just fell apart. That won't be me. Hubby and I talked, cried, yelled, cuddled and tried to communicate. He feels helpless and hopeless. He believes that we should be able to celebrate all of the years together regardless of his cheating past because we have overcome so much and done so many good things to reconnect. Wish I could figure out why I have such a hard time with his point of view. He is really doing most things right and staying the course. It is me who gets easily hijacked over stupid emotional things like wedding anniversaries. Perhaps it is true that some of those folks have dealt with infidelity/sex addiction and are still smiling after all those years. I don't know their truth. I just wished I were more resilient and today I just want to cry. Looking forward to getting a better grasp on the light ahead. Ann, I love that you are feeling mostly strong. I was there and now I am here. I will fight to get back to strong again.

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    1. BG,
      Hang in there, we are all rooting for you! Maybe after a long stretch of being strong you needed a little pity party. A lot of painful truth is now part of your life. Don't be hard on yourself if you need a season of feeling that pain.
      We see you as a survivor who shares her journey honestly, helping others to heal. You are still alive after tremendous betrayal and trauma.
      Hope tomorrow is more hopeful for you! Hugs!!

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    2. It is as if you read my mind and feelings. I so struggle with this. And I too know that maybe their lives are not as perfect on the inside as they portray on the outside but it does not lessen what I feel. My husband is doing so much so well. His actions match his words. I brought this up to him last night and it is just so hard. He said he just hates hearing it and wants everything to be better and happy. I think and know for him it is the hardest thing since he knows this was all caused by him and him only. He said he understands he took our marriage and me to the brink. He only expects one second chance. This is all great and what I would hope to hear but it does not make it better for me. I go through phases of anger, resentment, and sadness. Some days or periods are better. He asked me how often I feel like this. It is hard to say there is no exact pattern. I keep telling myself to keep fighting too that is who I am.

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    3. Hopeful 30
      I remember being triggered by my h when he first began to tell me how happy he was feeling so soon after dday! He was trying so hard but I suppose because the cow didn't stop contact, just about everything he said triggered me! I'm much better now after a full year of no contact and no more driving by my home by the cow! I continue to have sad days but I'm learning to allow it to happen and pick myself up and go through it! I'm sure with time it'll become more like it's supposed to be before he made the choice to cheat. Growing old together was our goal when we married and by golly we're both old and our new goal is to live each day as if it's the last day of our life! It helps to stay focused on one day at a time!

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    4. Theresa, I guess that is my issue. I am happy with the present and do not want to go back or have it be like before. I struggle to rectify what he did regarding the affairs, his treatment of me now that I know the reasons behind it and also I guess honestly the fact he even asked me to marry him since he said that he was not ready and that was his primary reason for cheating. I recognize all the good we have now and for the future and that is amazing. It is pretty much our entire past which since we met so young is a bulk of my life. It sounds like a great story to our kids and everyone on the outside. I have tried saying I do not want to reminisce or reflect on it all but between our kids and others we get asked or it gets brought up way too much. I know we had some good times but it is hard to look at those in a positive light now. We share the exact same goals going forward which helps us at this point I believe but he also told me before we were married the same. I do think he is being genuine now but with over 20 years of not being honest I just do not know how to cope with all of that. He has his ways, basically with corrective emotional experiences. That is great it works for him and it is nice but as I told him last night it is not enough for me at this point.

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    5. Beach girl,
      You are strong and resilient whether you feel like it at the moment or not. Your words of wisdom and encouragement I have read from you on this site have helped me so much. Hugs! You've got this.

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    6. BG, I get the sense that you're a glass-half-full kinda person. And I wonder if, perhaps, that's gotten in the way of just full-out grieving the pain of discovering that so much of your marriage has been marked by his infidelity. That's an incredibly painful truth to absorb. And I don't think we absorb it all at once -- I think it's too much for us. And so we take it in in increments. And then, when things are mostly good, we think it's over. That we're healed. That it's behind us. Until we see some anniversary photos and -- WHAM -- our heart shatters because these people are in love and devoted and our own marriage was a joke, etc. etc.
      So be sad.
      But also know this. You don't have the full story of those FB friends just like many of them don't know your full story. You're seeing their highlight reel and comparing it to your own out-takes (or what you WISH you could out-take). There isn't a marriage in the world, let alone a 35-year marriage that hasn't had its share of pain. Maybe not like our pain. But maybe so. You don't know. What you're seeing in those photos are two people who fought through the pain and managed to stay together. You're not seeing the struggles themselves, but you're seeing the team that fought them.
      That's you too, Beach Girl. You have that. Today. You have that. With a husband willing to hold you while you cry, willing to tell you how grateful he is that you've given him the chance to be with you. You are so strong and so positive and such a bright light on this site. That's what I see. And I don't need a FB photo to see it.

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    7. Ive been through same struggle. When i learned about the affair my husband stopped communicating well entirely stopped the affair. But i was no longer my old self. It took me years and because i always fight back and hates my husband for it we fought a lot and rediscovered that he had yet again had affair with the same gurl not once Not twice but thrice. im still struggling the husband has changed enormously.. we will be okay and then it will hit me again and my husband finds it so difficult when i as he says "rub it in to his face" his mistakes.. I just can seem to move on.. I always go back to square one. I dont know what else to do. I have so many questions i have so many things running in my mind.. Thinking that there were things he was able to do with the other girl and he cant do it to me.. But he tells me it was never like that.. I want to move on and forget but i seem cant.. Should i let go of the relationship os that the only way for me to heal? i love my husband i dont want us to end but i always remember and its gets so hard each time and my husband feels so guilty ang pained when i always remember it all.. I really dont know how i can help myself..

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  6. By now, I should know better than to read this blog at work--I'm sitting here crying at my desk now... Again. Thanks for this Elle. This week I begin my crawl once more as a re-start therapy. Since DDay I've done a bit of counseling, but it just never felt right. We did marriage counseling, but we stopped when our son was born in November and our time and finances were strapped. Honestly, there's still no time or money, but I've decided to try some of this self-care you all talk about. I'm terrified. I don't want to look these wounds in the eye, but I also know that without doing this work my husband and I are just going to be stuck here...with me wounded and scared, with him healthier and wanting to move forward, and with the same fight being had again and again. And so I'll crawl. I really don't want to. I'm much more comfortable with this 'play dead' routine that's become so cozy for me, but I'll find strength in the stories you've all shared here about the good that can come from therapy and facing all of this head-on. Keep waving those lanterns, ladies; I'm coming!

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    1. New mom
      Waving my lantern and hoping you can crawl with your baby as he can give you so much strength to help you crawl faster!

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    2. Thanks, Theresa! You're right, my babies give me so much strength to get through the days, but I'm ready to be healthier and happier so I can be the mom they deserve... And the me I deserve. My youngest is just learning to crawl and it's funny to think about how similar we are... Up on our hands and knees, rocking, but not yet steady enough to take that first forward motion. It's lovely to have you guys here encouraging me, as I encourage him. Much appreciation to you!

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    3. New Mom, my daughter was 6 months old when my h started his emotional affair (which turned physical a few months later). I'm so sorry this happened in your life too.

      One good thing about babies and toddlers is that when you're with them, they force you to live in the present moment. On the other hand, of course, sleep deprivation and no 'me' time add to the pressure and difficulty!

      Sending you love and strength. Hope you get some special time for yourself to do the things that give you zest and delight... on a regular basis.

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    4. New Mom,
      We're waving! We're waving! And please know how much I admire your willingness to begin crawling. You'll see, as your little person grows, just how much guts it takes to master these behaviours that become so easy. Just watch a baby try and take a step. And fall. And fall again. But they always ALWAYS try again. And that's you too, New Mom. Motherhood, tight finances, and a marriage marked by infidelity is more than anyone should ever be dealing with all at once. But here you are. So brave. You already are looking the wound in the eye. You know how shattered your heart is and you know you've numbed yourself to it. That's survival. In order to show up for your baby, you've likely had to numb yourself to some extent. But that's no way to live. You want your baby to have a mom who lives her life fully, with her heart wide open. Which means crawling toward the light.
      You can do this, New Mom. We're here to remind you when you forget.

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  7. Elle :) I hadn't read this post yet and in the earlier post I mention the light I was seeking when stepping/crawling out of this hole. Crazy

    New Mom, you can do this. We've all been in this rut and stuck. I've gotten out of the rut and landed back in it so many times. It's a daily talk with myself to take care of me so I'm better for all. I've cried many times reading here and to be honest it helps me. We understand each other and this pain like no other. Hugs

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  8. Elle and all. You have all been my lanterns, hands stretched out to help me stand, shoulders to cry on and I thank you. 8.5 months post D-day 2 and I am a reborn badass. That's been my word today. Do I have dark periods still, yes. Almost everyday. I, we, live with the knowledge of a profound and surreal pain that is felt in some level every single day, but since "fuck this shit" Tuesday- one month ago today- I have been a badass. Boundaries are set, fear of life without him is gone, I call him out on his bullshit if I need to. He is scared shitless and I'm glad. He knows I no longer care what he does with his time and that he has no power over me any longer. Hallelujah!!! Of course there are days I think of what it took to become a badass and it makes me sad, sometimes brings me to my knees, but I always ask myself "what's good about this situation?" and I remember me, my integrity, my self worth, my willingness to try to save the marriage until I said "fuck this shit." I have never been more focused on myself and self care ever in my 55 years and I am grateful to be able to look back at the misery he created and know that it's only up from here. The scares are healing and I'll be damned if I let his fuck up define me. I now fully understand that I will get through this. Healing has begun and will take how ever long it takes, but I am healing. I laugh again. I'm creative again. I feel a deep respect and love for myself. I'm optimistic about my future...even if I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. The beauty of darkness is that it is the only way you will see light. We are the lanterns. Our hands are reaching out to help you when you are ready. I love and thank you one and all for sharing this most painful and amazing journey with me. ♥

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    1. Olive,
      Who ever thought something on a blog for betrayed wives would make me smile? But your post did. I love that you are a "reborn badass" and that while you can acknowledge that you feel pain daily, you find a way to not let it hold you back. It's empowering.
      "I'll be dammed if I let his fuck up define me." Thank you for saying it! I can't speak for anyone but myself but I know I've struggled with separating my husband's and the OW's actions from my worth. I know it intellectually. They're the ones who were screwed up. But my heart still feels the pain of not being "good enough" sometimes. I would never say that to someone else in my situation, so I need to stop saying it to myself. I
      Thank you for your words. They gave me a little boost today. ❤️

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    2. Olive, I second what Dandelion said. I want to earn that T-shirt too! I do not know your story or how to find it but just know that you made me smile today. I see the light again and you, my dear, are a lantern. I so could use a "fuck this shit" moment. It sounds so strong and so healing.

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    3. Olive Mee,
      A "reborn badass". Well, that is awesome. You are, indeed, a bright light that we can follow. His fuck up doesn't define you. You stand alone, in your integrity, in your honesty, in your courage.
      I bow to your badassery, Olive Mee.

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    4. Thank you all for your kind replies. Beach Girl, my story in a nut shell, 22 years married 7/22/17. Awesome relationship til 5 or so years ago when he started a new job and started drifting away. I would bring up his disconnect now and again with great resistance from him. I became depressed, didn't know that's what was happening to me at the time, started letting myself go, nothing I did was good enough, I walked on eggshells trying to keep the peace. Throw in gas lighting and I eventually forgot who I was. Noticed strange behavior with his phone starting in early 9/16. First D-Day was 11/6/16 where he said it was just sexting. He told our therapist he would end it. Second D-Day was on 12/1/16 where I found out it was with a girlfriend of mine and they did meet to have sex a couple of times. It did end that day. I forgave him the first time cause I knew it would be my salvation to do so. Even during the first days I knew I didn't want to proceed with hate in my heart. He was on the fence about our relationship until 3/24/17 but he wasn't ready to deal with the shit storm until 3 days after "fuck this shit" Tuesday, 5 weeks ago. So it's been hell warmed over. In a way, I'm glad things have gone the way they have. I'm able to be more compassionate towards him through the strength I have gained in my suffering. If it wasn't for this blog, all of you, and my best friend, I don't know how I would have grown. For the first time in years, I see the man I married. Seeing his pain, guilt, and remorse is gratifying at times, but it's an ugly truth and reminder. Our 22nd anniversary just passed and we went away for 3 days. It was nice and very emotional. More for him this time than me. He apologized over and over for "being that guy" and it was hard cause it takes me back, ya know? It takes me back to that level of hurt and disgust I felt/feel towards him. That sadness that is always in the background, but I'm a radiant badass and am so grateful to feel strong in my resolve that his actions will not define me. He sees me now, the woman he loves and claims to have loved the whole time. He sees that I am no longer afraid, and he sees that I see him. I call him out on his bullshit when needed and he knows this is it. Conflicted emotions is part of me until I trust him again. I am slowly opening up to the few local friends I have. I like my time alone cause it's safe but I like human interaction. I honor everything about myself and don't give a rats ass what anyone thinks. I like being a badass. I love me once again. I love all of you too. ♥

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  9. I just stumbled upon this site and feel like i've found gold. Thank you for these beautiful words. I will keep crawling until I can see the light and be a light. Thank you!

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    1. Iwillsurvive
      Yes you can and will survive and soon your light will shine very bright! Sending hugs!

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    2. IWillSurvive,
      yes, you will survive. And if you can know that from the beginning, then you're already on your way. So glad you found us.

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  10. I will survive, welcome, your right this site is like hitting the jackpot. When your ready to share your story we will be here to listen and offer up our support and advice.. we've got your back xxx

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  11. The right words at the right time as usual. Thank you Elle.

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  12. I love this post. I can see your light.

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  13. Thank you for this site :). I don't see any light yet :(. But will keep looking for it. I'm on day 21 since D day.

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    1. Emma,
      At Day 21, I could barely find my computer through my tears, let alone type a comment into a Web site.
      The light is pretty faint at 21 days. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Practice RADICAL self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Trust that you are strong enough to get through this. That, as long as you're treating yourself with respect and kindness, you'll be fine.
      It hurts like hell, Emma. So let yourself feel that hurt. Don't pretend anything. But know that the day will come when you're the one further along the path, waving others along to follow you.

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    2. Thank you so much. I will keep reading your reply. God bless you

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    3. My reply didn't show. I just wanted to say thank you for your words. I already read your reply twice and will keep reading it again and again. God bless you:)

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  15. This article made tears come to my eyes. I am a survivor of my husbands sexual addiction. Last D day 3 years ago. First D day 40 years ago. There was no help for for the betrayed then. Thank goodness there is help now.

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  16. Thanks for this post. I needed it as I sit here in the dark, unable to fall asleep. Its been 8 months since Dday 1 and 3.5months since DDay 2. I, secretly, struggle everyday with his betrayal even though he's changed for the better and our marriage is, finally, on a great path- better than ever, infact. I don't want to keep reminding him of my pain. I just wish he knew behind every smile and laugh is sorrow for the fact I lost the image I had of him prior to his affairs. I can never look at him the same even though he is an improved version of the man I first met, 12 yrs ago. I am thankful for who he is now, but am still in shock this happened to me and don't know when or if I will ever stop "relapsing".

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    1. I know I feel that conflict still at 2 years 4 years past dday. I do not wish for what we had before or dream of that. Of course we both wish he had not made those poor decisions. I am so happy for the changes he has made and who has become and continues to strive to be. That is all great but I still struggle even through the good. It is so hard. I think all the things you talk about and more. All I can say is that there are more good moments and days than in the beginning. I try to focus the most on what I need and want and what brings me joy. It is still not easy and I know it will take time. I wonder too if these feelings will ever stop. I do not know. Some days are still really hard. For me focusing on what I can control and the present is the best for me.

      Back when I was first reading this site there was a story about thinking ahead in your life and looking at a photo of yourself. Do you want it to be black and white, flat and just a drab photo or do you want it to be in color and full of life doing something you love. I think of this often and even though it is not easy I do remind myself daily to not let my husband or anyone else take away any more than they have from me. This is really hard still for me. But the more I focus on this the better for me and in the end I need to take care of me first. Hang in there!!

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