Some things cannot be fixed but they can be carried.
I was at a funeral last week. My friend's mother passed away and I listened to stories of how this woman and her husband met, the "love at first sight", the courage and strength with which she lived her life.
It sounded idyllic. A fairytale marriage, a perfect family.
But I know that wasn't true.
I also know it was.
Her life was wonderful. Full of good friends and interesting work. Her husband adored her, though not always. She suffered from depression, which reared its ugly head often. Her daughter was estranged for a number of years for reasons that nobody seems to understand.
And so she had pain in her life. And it was also wonderful. She struggled. And, occasionally, she triumphed.
Our lives, which include our marriages, are never just one thing. There is no "perfect" marriage. No fairytale union.
And yet...how many of us cling to that idea? How many of us imagine that our husband's betrayal of his vows, of his family, of us, lays ruin to our marriage? That the other marriages, the ones we're not in and therefore don't really see, are better? That other families are more loving.
Now I'm certainly not saying that infidelity doesn't devastate a marriage. Of course it does. What I'm saying is that lives contain both struggle and triumph. People disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. It's all part of the journey.
And, of course, I'm not saying that anybody is required to stay in a marriage marked by infidelity, or, frankly, a marriage that isn't. But I wonder if our language around infidelity, a language that's almost apocalyptic in tenor, makes the idea of healing seem so much less likely. I wonder if it contributes to the lack of nuance in our conversation about infidelity. If it, almost by definition, makes infidelity a deal-breaker, a one-response-fits-all.
In a culture that fetishizes happiness, who wants to make emotional space for such sadness? And yet, sadness is part of the package. If not infidelity, then illness. If not illness, then accident. If not...well, you get the idea.
And without sadness would we value the happiness when it comes our way? Would our compassion evolve? Would we grow?
I can imagine many of you yelling at your computer screen – I would have been, those years ago when I had just discovered my husband's infidelity. I would have been screaming that I can grow without some idiot lying to me. That I can develop compassion by volunteering at the soup kitchen, I don't need my husband getting blow jobs in parking lots.
And it's all true.
But this is what life handed me. And you.
And we can rail against the unfairness of it. We can spend our days longing for it to be fixed.
Or we can pick up the burden and carry it for now, off loading some of the pain as we go through, by sharing our story and therapy and radical self-care, until the day comes when we realize the pack we're carrying is maybe not empty but a whole lot lighter.
And, at the end of our lives, when we're being eulogized, those who love us will describe our lives as wonderful. Because they were.