|Ride your tiger, Phoenix!|
I couldn't see it. Curled up on my bathroom floor, sobs wracking my skinny frame, a bottle of pills in my hand, I couldn't see anything other than my wretchedness reflected back at me from the mirror. I certainly couldn't imagine the becoming taking place in my heart.
But that's the thing with becoming. It hurts. It's borne of pain. Through some emotional alchemy of suffering + time + faith, we are transformed. Our heart softens into something new. Whether our marriage survives or not, we survive. And we survive as something different than before. A bit world-weary at first, perhaps. A bit worn. But with a strength and a softening that we hadn't known was there.
It isn't just the suffering. It isn't just time. A key ingredient is the faith that you will emerge, the willingness to keep your heart open when every ounce of your being wants to slam the door against further pain.
I know, I know. I can hear you muttering the same words that were on my lips back then. "I like myself just fine the way I am. I don't want to change. I don't want to...become."
Thing is, you are changing because of circumstances beyond your control. Like most pain, we didn't choose this. But life doesn't ask us what we want. Instead, there are times – and this is one of them – when life needs us to simply step into this new reality and do our best to remain open, to not shut down.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting you remain open to your husband, if he doesn't deserve it. Reconciliation is something that certain men earn. It is, by no means, something we're obligated to offer, even if he's the most repentant, remorseful cheater ever.
I am suggesting that you do everything you can to remain open to possibility. If there is one thing I hear over and over on this site it's some variation of this: I will never feel anything but pain again.
And that, my friends, is simply not true.
Feelings are not fixed. They ebb and flow. They change with time. Left untreated, pain might lodge itself somewhere in your heart where it will occasionally sting or jab, reminding you that it's there, like a splinter in your soul. Pain, untreated, can harden into anger and bitterness.
But pain that is excised, that is pulled into the light and lanced and treated, will soften into something else. Wisdom, most likely. Compassion. A becoming.
That is what I hope for you. That you will fight hard against the hardening of your pain and lean into it, trusting that it will not swallow you. There are legions of us here, further along the path, who can promise you that you are stronger than you know. That pain is not bigger than your ability to hold it.
I have witnessed miracles on this site. Women arrive on these shores, certain that they will drown in their pain, only to find themselves embraced by those who thought that same thing but who now know differently. Women who've become what they never imagined, as I wrote it in the "About Us" column to the right of this post: "We're mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, wives. Wives who have overcome our husbands' betrayal. Never did we think we could be that last one. But here we are."