Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Waking to your 'yes'

After the final no, there comes a yes
And on that yes, the future world depends.
No was the night.
Yes is the present sun.
~Wallace Stevens

I'm always thrilled – but surprised – when a woman arrives on our shores, sad and perhaps unsure of next steps but certain about one thing: Her core worth.
On the one hand, hallelujah that she has that deep recognition that another's choice to betray a partner is about the betrayer, not the betrayed. But on the other...wow, huh? Cause far more often, I hear women berating themselves. How could I have been so stupid? What is wrong with me that he cheated? What does she have that I don't? 
For me, it went even deeper than that. I wasn't so much asking what was wrong with me but rather accepting that what I'd feared all along – I was deficient and undeserving of loyalty – was playing out. My deepest belief about myself had revealed itself to be true.
Except that it wasn't. I would come to learn that. But it would take time and a lot of work.
And so I had already spent so much of life telling myself 'no'. Perhaps you did too. 
No, you can't apply for that job. You aren't qualified enough.
No, you can't buy that outfit. You don't have the figure.
No, you shouldn't host that party. Nobody will come. 
The nos were endless.
There were times I over-rode them. Something deep inside, as I grew older and gentler with myself, would allow me to at least try. But, you know...life. Often things didn't work out the way I had hoped they would. I didn't get the assignment. The book didn't find a publisher. My mother-in-law didn't adore me. My sister-in-law often excluded me. Friends betrayed me.
And though life offered up many many yes's, I attributed those to luck. To fluke. To people giving me more credit than I deserved.
Crazy huh? No's were just proof that I was right. Yes's were proof that people were easily fooled.
And so, when my husband cheated, well, what did I expect? What did I think was going to happen?
That doesn't mean I was okay with it. Not at all. It brought me to my knees. I was barely functional. 
It stripped me to my core. And when all that was left was this core belief, I curled up and wanted to die.
I didn't, clearly. In fact, quite the opposite happened. 
I was reborn.
Reduced to little more than this core belief I held, I realized something. 
I was a mom by then. I had one, then two, then three children. Three children who sometimes made mistakes. Three children who weren't perfect. But three children that I had absolute conviction were worthy of love and worthy of saying 'yes' to themselves. Yes to trying for things they wanted. Yes to opportunities. Yes to showing up. 
I had a front-row seat for the times when the world nonetheless said no. But did I think them less deserving of a yes? Absolutely not. 
And, slowly, I began to believe myself equally worthy. If I could love my imperfect children with such whole-heartedness, maybe I could love myself the same way. Maybe I could shift that core belief that I was a no to a yes. Maybe.
It took time. It took therapy. It took more therapy. It took different therapy
It took revisiting a whole lot of painful events in my childhood. It took forgiving my parents for the ways in which they were unable to give me what I needed. It took forgiving myself for the ways in which I'd betrayed myself. And though it wasn't required, it helped that I had empathy for the ways in which my husband as a child had absorbed similar messages as I and responded differently. But the yes he was giving himself wasn't an affirmation of his own value or anyone else's. It was rather a distraction. A way of stepping outside his pain into a fantasy world
We two broken people put ourselves back together. And then we put our marriage back together. 
Which is why, though I would never ever wish infidelity on anyone, I am able to say that by being so shattered, so reduced to my core belief about my value, I learned to say yes to myself. To my value, to my worthiness, to my imperfection that is nonetheless somehow enough.
I hope you give yourself that yes too. 
No is the night. And there are lessons to be learned in the darkness.
Yes is the sun, where we are revealed, and discover that we are and have always been worthy of being truly seen. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

How to Life Your Own Life, Even When You Don't Want To

Nobody's going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you're rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things befall you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It's up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out. ~Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Nobody's going to do your life for you. Those words would have reduced me to a sobbing mess on the floor in the wake of D-Day if I'd read them back then. And if I wasn't already a sobbing mess on the floor. I desperately wanted somebody to do my life for me. I was done. Done! I hadn't the energy for anything any more. I hadn't the will. I wanted out. Except that my mother had attempted suicide when I was a kid and it devastated me. Except that I had three young kids and there was no way I was going to do that to them. So what choice did I have but to idle on that dead-end road. Full of self-pity. Woe is me.
Woe was me. And why not? I had plenty to be woeful about. The man I had trusted with my heart, my body, my family had betrayed that trust. The man I thought adored me had risked my safety, my sanity without giving me any say in the matter. I was paralyzed with indecision. Stay or go? I couldn't muster the strength to get out of bed. How was I to make a choice that could change my – and my children's – entire lives?
So I stayed put. Reminded my husband every chance I got that he had "ruined" me. That I would never be happy again. 
And I wasn't. I wasn't happy for a very long time. Months. Years. I had moments in there that made me think happy might be possible. But they were fleeting. Nonetheless I clung to those moments like they might save me.
And I think they did. 
Cause, at some point, I got tired of idling on that dead-end road of self-pity. At some point, I realized that I could stay there, growing more bitter by the day, or I could move. Maybe not too far at first...but something. 
And then, a bunch of somethings.
I ran. I read. I saw a therapist even when I didn't always like what she said (she refused to let me abdicate any responsibility for my own life. She might have said, in so many words, "nobody is going to do your life for you". I hated her for that. And then I loved her for that.)
Slowly, so very very slowly, I turned around. I began to drive out. 
Maybe it's a choice you need to make right now too. Maybe, like me, you're idling on that dead-end road. Stuck in the muck of self-pity. And who could blame you? Not me. That's for sure.
But even though I don't blame you, I want better for you. I bet you want better for you too.
Which means, you're gonna have to abandon self-pity for agency. You're going to have to accept that "nobody is going to live your life for you", no matter how badly we wish someone would.
The good news is also that nobody is going to live your life for you. You get to do it. You get to make the choices that energize you, that invite respect into our life, that keep you safe, emotionally and physically. You don't get to live his life. He has to do that. He can't abdicate that responsibility, to do the hard work of becoming a better man (or maybe he can abdicate, which is your cue to keep driving on down that road to a divorce lawyer). 
I didn't think I could do it. I never imagined I could get to a place where my husband's betrayal was a part of our lives, not the whole of it, and not even the worst of it. 
But here I am. Living my own life. And so grateful for every second of it.
My deepest wish for you is that you get there too. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Spotlight on Gaslighting

You feel confused and crazy. You’re always apologizing, wondering if you are good enough, can’t understand why you feel so bad all the time, or know something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it. You thought one thing, they say another; you can’t figure out which is right.
~"How to Survive Gaslighting: When Manipulation Erases Your Reality" by Ariel Leve, The Guardian

I was the most selfish, self-centered child in the world. I never thought of anyone but myself. Those were the words my mother flung at me, often enough that I could recite them by heart. And often enough that they made their way into my heart and began to feel like truth. 
Once, at the age of 12 and coveting a pair of shiny black shoes like the popular girls wore, I went shopping with my best friend and her mother. My father had given me money to buy shoes. The ones I wanted were a bit more money. I called him and he gave me permission to get the ones I wanted. I returned home to a drunk mother who took one look at the shoes and began her mantra. "You are the most selfish, self-centered child in the world. You never think of anyone but yourself." I fought back, insisting that dad had said it was okay. She took the shoebox and hit me over the head with it. Those shoes that I had loved, that had felt like a key into a world of popular kids, became something else. Evidence of my shortcomings. An attempt to fit into a world that didn't want me. 
It didn't end there, of course. I would refer to an argument that had happened when my parents were drunk. "What are you talking about?" my mother would ask. "There was no argument." 
I would make mention of events that had taken place only to be told that I "had such an imagination." That I "loved to tell stories."
To complicate things, I did love to tell stories. I was a devoted reader and dreamed of being an author. Was I making things up? Did it happen like I remembered? Or was I a liar, so pathological that I couldn't discern between fact and fiction? 
I still struggle. Despite working as a journalist for three decades – including a stint as a fact-checker at a magazine where my job was to, literally, discern fact from fiction – I can easily mistrust myself. Not because I've often been wrong. But because my mother's gaslighting was so effective.
So effective that when I could see – it was obvious! – that my husband was hiding things, I still trusted his version of events over my own. 
It's crazy-making. And nobody felt crazier than I.
Or, perhaps, you.
"The term “gaslighting” refers to when someone manipulates you into questioning and second-guessing your reality," writes Ariel Leve in her story for The Guardian. Leve grew up with a narcissistic mother, classic training ground for gaslighting. 
It's a world where up is down, where black is white. You make a complaint, you're accused of being ungrateful. You ask for something, you're selfish. 
Lots of us subjected to gaslighting learn to become small, almost invisible. Easier to erase ourselves than draw attention.
Others fully absorb the message of our gaslighters. We are selfish. We are ungrateful. We aren't worthy of love. 
And still others, like me, cling like hell to our version of events. I suspect part of what saved me was that I kept a journal. And within those pages, lay the truth. Well, my truth based on objective facts. There had been a fight. These words had been spoken. These things had been thrown. Whatever my mother (or my father who mightn't have been a ringleader but was certainly complicit) said, I had documented what really happened. And I could reassure myself that I wasn't crazy. 
I survived though it took plenty of therapy to deprogram some of those internalized messages. And I still struggle. It has only been recently that I feel comfortable giving myself certain luxuries. I don't expect myself to "earn" nice things like I used to. It's okay to want things because I want them. It's okay to give myself what I need even before making sure that everyone else is taken care of. It's called self-care. And it don't come easy...
These days though, when my husband insists to our children that he wasn't late leaving to take them to school when to any one of us who can tell the time, he was, I tend to over-react. I've talked to my kids about refusing to accept another's version of events over their own but to rather look at objective facts. My husband's tendency to defend himself no matter what (thanks to his highly critical mother) met my tendency to question myself no matter what (thanks to my gaslighting mother) and created a marriage primed for conflict. But we've both worked hard to change those old scripts. I point out (sometimes rather loudly) when he's gaslighting. He points out (sometimes exasperatedly) when I'm over-reacting.
We're living in an upside-down world right now. Objective facts are called fake news or alternative facts. Truth is twisted more than ever, it seems.
But we can learn to trust ourselves and what's right in front of us. We can challenge those other versions of events, whether they're happening in our homes or on the front pages of newspapers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Avoiding the Shadows, Our Own and Others

I was in my therapist's office, citing a laundry list of the ways in which my eldest daughter was making me crazy. Exasperated, I concluded with, "this isn't who she is. I'm not sure what happened to her but this isn't her."
To which my therapist, mother of two formerly teenage girls, responded, with a wry smile, "But it is."
Of course it is. My daughter is not just made up of parts I like or approve of. She is a whole person who will not always behave or believe or respond in ways that suit me. 
I should have known this, of course. My husband, the one whose fidelity to me I would have staked my life on, had already blown open the myth that people are entirely made up of parts we see. Parts we like. Parts we approve.
And it's not just others. I have parts of myself I keep hidden. Since I was a pre-teen, just learning that "pretty" was currency, I've assessed every situation in terms of where I fit in on the "pretty" scale. I loathe that in myself. What self-respecting feminist does this? Uh...this one. 
But it's only by being conscious of that in myself that has allowed me to challenge it. It is only pulling these shameful parts of myself from the shadows that has provided me the opportunity to acknowledge how shallow it is. What a ridiculous metric it is. And that, ultimately, it reflects neither my worth nor anyone else's.
Being conscious. How many of us are? How many more of us are oblivious to the ways in which we point at others and sneer for exactly the characteristics or behaviour we loathe in ourselves? 
I have a friend, a 12-stepper, who does this exercise whenever she finds herself obsessing about someone for a transgression or a personality trait she hates. She writes the person's name at the top of page of a sheet of paper. Then she lists everything about that person that she hates. Every. Single. Thing. It's soooooo satisfying, right? All the ways in which this person deserves scorn. 
And then...
And then she crosses out that person's name and replaces it with her own. And lo and behold, so many – sometimes all! – of those same traits are exactly what she doesn't want to see in herself.
Gulp again.
"Cad" is a Twitter friend of mine, a repentant cheater whose dedication to excavating his sins is admirable, though I worry his self-loathing is becoming a lifestyle. 
A recent post on his site speaks to what "Poet", another Twitter friend whose tweet is posted above refers to. This desire to avoid others' shadows, which, of course, is really about avoiding our own. We wouldn't be so frightened of others' darkness if it didn't remind us of our own.
Which reminds me of another thing I've noticed recently, when I consider my approach to healing from infidelity alongside the "once a cheater, always a cheater" camp's. What I've noticed is that those of us who can't find compassion for others might want to start with ourselves. Only when we can truly let ourselves off the hook for being duped, for being trusting, for being loyal, for being played, for being...human, can we learn to truly extend that same compassion to others, no matter what they've done. You are not required to feel compassion for someone who's betrayed you. And it's certainly normal to feel rage and disgust and vengeance and deep hurt. 
But, though it might seem counter-intuitive, being able to extend compassion for others' dark sides, for those parts of themselves they kept hidden out of shame or fear or lack of awareness, releases the shackles we wear. It frees us to love the flawed person seeking to be better, or to wish them well while choosing to not have them in our lives. Either way, we're liberated.
It took me  a lot of years to acknowledge and accept those parts of myself I'd relegated to the shadows. Even now, there are things that pop up – a bias I have, or an ill-considered opinion – that makes me cringe. And surely there will be more. But what freedom it is to notice those things about myself, to challenge myself on them, and to still know that I'm worthy of being loved, of being in this world. So is my daughter, whether or not I agree with or approve of things she does. And so is everyone else.

Monday, October 14, 2019

From the Vault: What's on the Other Side of Fear?

I'm away for a few days celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving. Here's another one from the vault:

After Betrayal: Facing Down Fear

I was recently interviewing someone for a story that had nothing to do with infidelity or betrayal when my interviewee said something that virtually made me gasp:
"Everything I want to do lies on the other side of fear."
She was referring to people who fear whitewater rapids or climbing shear rock faces or jumping out of planes.
But she was also, whether she knew it or not, talking about me.
Everything I want to do lies on the other side of fear.
How true is that for you?
Would you leave him if you weren't afraid of being alone? Afraid of the impact of divorce on your children? Afraid of the financial hit you'd take? Afraid of what people would say? Afraid you'd never find someone to love you again?
Would you stay and work it out if you weren't afraid he'd cheat again? Afraid that you'll never be able to forgive him? Afraid that if people knew he had cheated, they would think you're a doormat? Afraid that you'll never get past the pain?
Fear drives many of our choices in life. But are they truly "choices" if they come from a place of fear?
Is it a "choice" to stay in a miserable marriage or is it inertia?
Is it a "choice" to leave if we're afraid to deviate from a cultural script whereby women who are cheated on are expected to toss the bum out?
Fear is an impulse, a way to avoid judgement or anger or loneliness.
Fear is avoidance.

Most of us have become adept at pretending we don't have fears.
We can sometimes admit macro fears – losing our child or parent, getting a terminal diagnosis.
But can we also admit the micro fears? That we're afraid of opportunity because we might fail? That we're terrified of being alone? Of rejection? Can we face our deepest fear – that we're unloveable?

We rage at a partner's betrayal. But what is that rage really but a fear of abandonment? A deep fear of being found unworthy? We are social beings. Feeling rejected is tantamount to fearing for survival.
Betrayal triggers so many of these micro fears, this tiny voice that whispers our secret: that we're not good enough.
These fears are real. And we must examine them if we're to find what's on the other side.
Instead, we dismiss them. We rationalize them. We hide them.
We can't, however, eliminate them except by pulling them into the light and exploring them. Turning them over and discovering that what we most fear is what everyone fears. It's part of being human. And that by acknowledging that, fear loses its power over us. Our more rational brain can then make choices rooted in our values instead of acting on impulse. A dark impulse.

I mentioned in a recent post that my daughter is struggling with OCD. In the past few weeks, I've felt completely on edge. Furious. It's not like me to feel such free-floating anger. I decided our world was stupid and cruel (I mean, c'mon. ISIS? WTF?). I hated everyone who seemed to be blithely going on with their lives – shopping, driving to work, planning vacations.
I snapped at my kids. Barked at my dogs to shut up. I was an absolute bear.
And then, when my daughter was having an OCD episode (her first in seven days! Yay!), it hit me. Though I know realistically that we're handling this well, have great support and all indications are that she'll emerge from this wiser and stronger, I'm nonetheless terrified because I remember all too well my mother's stays in a locked psychiatric ward. My anger isn't really about ISIS and animal cruelty and idiots who cut me off in traffic (though...seriously? This world needs a makeover). My anger is the outward face of my abject terror that my daughter is slipping down a dark hole.
It's a long-held fear (based on childhood experience) that mental illness will take away someone I love.
It's not, however, a rational one.

What's on the other side of fear?
Hope is on the other side. Realistic hope that we're all learning from this. That it's making us more attuned to our daughter's struggles, and also to the struggles that so many people experience around mental health issues.
A better me is on the other side of fear. A me who recognizes that I can't control other's behaviours. That there are many things I can't change.
A life lived more consciously and gratefully is on the other side of my fear.
What's on the other side of yours?

Friday, October 11, 2019

From the Vault: Acknowledging His Pain Too

I'm away for a few days celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving. This was originally posted in 2017. And yes, I know it's hard to care whether he's hurting when you're bleeding all over the floor. But understanding that his choice was driven by hurt can release you from blaming yourself. And can start healing for both of you.

Acknowledging His Pain Too

"Being half anywhere is the true definition of loneliness."
~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

It's tough to stomach when you're sitting in a therapist's office, your guts spilling out onto the floor, your heart shattered, your life in ruins, and your husband suggests that he's hurting too.
HE'S hurting? Well, cry me a goddamned river. He's the one who lobbed this grenade into your life. He's the one who lied and cheated and stomped all over your heart. You wouldn't be in this bloody mess if it wasn't for him.
He hurts too? Well, too damn bad. He's not going to get any sympathy from you. No way. Never.
Never came sooner than I thought it would.
Never came when I had triaged my own wounds enough to be able to look around and notice that he was bleeding too. At first, there was some satisfaction in this. I kinda enjoyed knowing he was in pain. In fact, I thought I could use that pain to keep him in check. As long as I kept reminding him of what he'd done to me – to us, including our children – I could assure myself that he'd be less likely to do it again. I wanted that pain to feel fresh, to sting. To act as a check on any impulses he might have to cheat again.
That was a mistake.
My husband didn't cheat because he wasn't hurting enough, he cheated because he was hurting too much and didn't know how to deal with it. He cheated because the only way he knew how to manage the constant ache of loneliness he felt was to distract himself from it.  Sort of like how we dig our fingernails into our palm to distract from dental work.
It took time before I could listen to his pain without trying to trump it with my own. In the early days post D-Day, I couldn't. I was drowning in my own pain and didn't much care if the water was rising for him too. And that's fair. At first, it's all we can do to keep our heads above the waves. We absolutely must tend to our own wounds first.
But the time comes, especially if you want to rebuild your marriage but even if you don't, when it matters that you notice his pain too. It matters because it's in that compassion that your healing accelerates. By realizing that others hurt too, our own pain becomes less isolating. It becomes part of the human condition. Others' pain doesn't eclipse our own, it makes our own a bit more bearable. But only when we're each able to hold the others' pain as well. Minimizing, dismissing or playing the pain olympics just keeps us locked in our own silos.
And remember this. His pain isn't an excuse for cheating. It doesn't, for even a micro-second, mean that what he did was okay. But it does point us toward understanding. And it further makes clear that his cheating wasn't about us. My husband was lonely. An existential loneliness that defined much of his time. It was a loneliness he'd felt much of his life, courtesy of a cold demanding mother. But his loneliness wasn't my fault nor was it my responsibility to fix, even if I'd known he was feeling it.
When our marriage hit a rough patch – young kids, stressful career, competing ambitions – he responded the way he'd learned as a kid. Focus on something else. Get involved in risky behaviour. Seek out sex to self-medicate.
By understanding that he was in pain too I'm able to empathize. We were both hurting. I responded differently – not by cheating but by stewing in my resentment and treating him like an annoying child. But I came into our marriage with a different set of coping skills, with a different history. The day I was able to accept that if I was him, I might have chosen a similar path, was the day that my own heart began to feel whole again. And, incidentally, when we're able to have compassion for others, it's so much easier to have it for ourselves.
There's no rule that you ever have to acknowledge your husband's pain too. And lots of guys make it even harder by dragging us through further humiliation and pain, by continuing to lie and call our own sanity into question. Without genuine remorse and sincere determination to come clean and figure out how to move forward with honesty and integrity, lots of these guys don't deserve a second chance. But whether or not you make the choice to rebuild a marriage with someone who does deserve that second chance or move on without him, recognizing that hurt people hurt people can light your way forward.
It can soften your heart enough to realize that compassion is not a finite resource. The more we offer, the more that's available to us. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

When Fear Keeps You Furious

Understanding what drives a behavior is vital for addressing and changing that behavior. But it does not eliminate or diminish responsibility for the behavior. Cheating partners are still responsible for the pain and damage they have caused. Doing the work to understand and answer the why question is part of the responsibility-taking that must be done to heal both the self and the relationship.
~from PartnerHope

Becomingacatlady posted on the site recently about her fears around healing. The good news, she wrote, is that she's starting to have more good days than bad. That she can go hours (not yet days) without thinking about her boyfriend's infidelity. That she has begun to laugh again. 

But. But she's worried that not consistently reminding her boyfriend of the pain he caused might lead him to think it wasn't such a big deal. Without keeping the cheating front and center in the relationship, it might get forgotten altogether. And what then? 
What then?
It's a good question. 
I understand her fear. I know her fear. I felt it too. I was certain that if I wasn't berating my husband, shaming him, reminding him regularly of just what a despicable thing he'd done, of just how lucky he was that I hadn't left him, hadn't told his whole family, hadn't outed him for all to see how horrible he was.
Yeah...I was a real treat. 
But my behaviour masked my fear. 
Beneath that fury was terror. Terror that I might go through this again. 
And so I held on to it. It had a seat at our dinner table. It was ever-present in everything we did. I would not let him forget it.
But rather than keeping me safe, it kept me bitter. And small. And tight.
After a whole lot of hard work and healing (and time), I began to understand that I was outsourcing my safety to him. I was counting on him to never hurt me again rather than trusting myself to handle whatever came my way. I had given him all my power. 
And so I began to unclench. I began to release the fury. I began, incrementally, to trust myself. To build boundaries around my emotional and physical safety. To enforce those boundaries.
I didn't let him "off the hook". I didn't shrug it off. I told him how frightened I was that he might cheat again. His response? "I will never forget the pain in your eyes and I knew that I caused it. I never want to  do anything to cause it again."
He hadn't forgotten. If anything, his inner voice was harsher than anyone I'd said. His job was to learn how to shed the shame while maintaining the responsibility. To be accountable for his behaviour while allowing himself to be a better man. 
Mine was to release him, to give him the space to do that.
And my job was also to release myself. To allow healing. To trust myself
Becomingacatlady is on her way. She's already allowing herself to unclench. She's aware of her fear in a way that I wasn't.
She will be fine. We will all be fine. But part of getting there is refusing to hold our partner hostage to fear. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

How to forgive the unforgivable

There's a photo and story circulating on the Web right now, featuring the brother of Botham Jean who was killed in his home, offering forgiveness to the police officer found guilty of murder. It's a striking image, emblematic of the power of forgiveness but also raising some uncomfortable questions, including about the nature of forgiveness
I struggled with the idea of forgiveness for years. Though I found myself impatient with people who held onto grievances for years – let it go, for gawd sake, I would think – I nonetheless couldn't move past the idea that forgiving my husband for what he'd done was letting him off the hook. It was somehow sending the message that it was okay, that I was okay and that we could leave it in the past. 
I hadn't yet forgiven my mother for her addictions, for actions that landed her in a psychiatric hospital right when I needed a mother. Though I loved her deeply and respected how hard she'd worked to achieve sobriety, forgiveness felt...wrong. It felt like dismissing my own pain, like minimizing the devastating impact that her alcohol abuse (and then my husband's cheating) had on my life. The impact it had on me. My health, my work, me
And yet...I wanted it. Forgiveness also tempted with liberation. I imagined how good it would feel to unshackle myself. 
Musician Nick Cave calls forgiveness "self-rescue", and I don't think he's wrong. 
"Forgiveness can prevent us from becoming the living definition of the injury that has been inflicted upon us – from being consumed by anger, pain, resentment and bitterness. But how difficult it is to sometimes forgive; how unfair it seems to reward offence with compassion. Yet, despite our intuitions, despite the seeming insanity of the enterprise, we must try, because forgiveness can be the way to self-preservation. Forgiveness is an act of self-love where the malignancy you have endured can become the motivating force that helps enlarge the capacity of the heart."

We must try, he tells us. We must try. Cave speaks not of succeeding but of trying. It's an important distinction. It is in the trying that the liberation, the unshackling comes. "Even the attempt to move toward forgiveness allows us the opportunity to touch the borders of grace," writes Cave. "To try is an act of resistance against the forces of malevolence – a form of defiant grace." 
Defiant grace. I love the phrase. And even more, I love that 'defiant grace' describes exactly what happened for me. Though I loathed the idea of forgiving my husband, I continued to move towards it. Because I loathed the idea of remaining bitter and small and afraid even more. Forgiveness wasn't letting my husband off the hook, it was releasing me. It was a refusal to allow my husband's choice to step outside our marriage to define me. 
Forgiveness isn't a single decision. It is a choice we make daily, whether to remain shackled to the offence – and the offender – or to practice defiant grace. I choose to try.


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