Love’s Journey

I grew to believe that they had been sent into this life for the sole purpose of generating obstacles for me on my spiritual development journey.

Continued from Decision

“Love is the beginning of the journey, its end, and the journey itself.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Not long after ‘decision day’ I was at church, me and the girls. I was hurting and looking for support. Sometimes, and many of you can attest, a church is a busy place, especially on Sunday’s. It wasn’t the time or necessarily the place for a full-on discussion about the events unfolding in my life but I wanted to at least let Pastor R know something was amiss. As we made our way through the ‘receiving line’ to share our regards, I gave him a little hug and said softly “things are bad, history is repeating itself”, believing he would understand since he was so instrumental years ago after Hubby’s first indiscretion. He smiled, nodded, and hugged me back. I went home and waited for him to call.

He didn’t call. I went to church again the next week – this time by myself because Hubby was with the girls. There is no doubt in my mind that I looked sad… most nights I cried myself to sleep in those early weeks. I waited for him to make eye contact with me so that I could telepathically share my pain with him, or at least make sure he was able to notice my demeanor. I had been a part of that church since its organizational days and knew most people there as we were still a small group. No one asked about the family. No one asked me how I was doing. I might as well have been invisible that day. I bypassed the line of people waiting to say hello or otherwise to Pastor R and headed home with deep disappointment.

I didn’t go back. I waited though, waited for R to call… waited for someone from one of the home groups or ministries to call and at the very least make sure everything was ok… nope. Didn’t happen. I know that I could have picked up the phone and called someone, I know that I could have reached out to R again, and I know that it wasn’t anyone’s direct responsibility to keep track of me but I expected it. I expected my faith community, people who had known me for seven or eight years to at least ‘notice’ that I wasn’t there week after week and to find out why.

Describing the disappointment is difficult because the rational part of me wants to take responsibility for not communicating properly about it. The emotional side of me, however, went directly to that place where abandonment resides; fortifying some internal creed that was now easily triggered. Many of the criticisms I had about organized religion were validated in this failure. The negligence that I perceived from this spiritual community was flawed by my expectations and forced me to investigate why I had developed them. In addition, it created an opportunity for me to better understand what I wanted from people who share my beliefs. The icing on the cake was when the leader of the finance ministry called to schedule our annual commitment meeting. I think I hung up on him.

I never did return to that community and no one ever asked why. I tried a few other churches in the area and I was always unsatisfied with either the contradictions, the hypocrisy of the congregants (some of whom I had known through the years, realizing that they were ‘fair weather’ church goers) or the degree of fundamentalism and rigidity. I just cannot relate to a literal translation of a Biblical text. I read the bible as a teen and took the opportunity to read it again, the New Testament mostly, during this time… I read it with a different perspective, a more open mind to language and metaphor. I thought long and hard about the idea that I was created in God’s image… what? God was a tall, heavyset, white female? Did I look like him more before or after my tenth birthday? Why is God depicted as male? Why old? Why do we think of God in human terms at all?

One of the most profound things I’ve ever heard about imagining God came from an interview of Deepak Chopra on The View – an ABC television program. They asked him “how do you envision God?” and he replied, “to visualize God is to limit God.”  Something important clicked for me in that explanation. Then, in the Brian Weiss book Messages from the Masters, he writes that a Soul Master defines Love… “Love. Everything is Love… Everything is love. With love comes understanding. With understanding comes patience. And then the time stops. Everything is now.  Love is our nature. We are Love. … Love is the ultimate healer.”

I started to assemble a collection of ideas across various world religions and there were similarities that resonated within me deeply.

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I knew I didn’t have to be a practicing Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc…, to embody these tenets. Moreover, I knew that when I focused on Love, I felt God’s presence no matter where I was. I chose to simply BE love as much as was possible and to foster and grow the spirit of love in my life whenever and however I could.

Many of us have great intentions and I am no different. I was good at loving people, paying it forward, growing my faith … until… Hubby and Abee entered the picture. It was there that all my faith was challenged and I grew to believe that they had been sent into this life for the sole purpose of generating obstacles for me on my spiritual development journey. It was working…

I found myself turning to Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Here, I discovered more validation for my pain as well… “God intentionally allows you to go through painful experiences to equip you for ministry to others”. I, like countless others, was known to beg for a response to the question ‘why me God, why me?’ It’s incredibly difficult to accept extreme circumstances as purposeful without some paradigm of faith and so I found resolve in these words. More importantly, it was yet another source confirming the necessity of Love… offering sentiments such as “Life minus love equals zero.” And “It’s not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters.”

I turned to Deepak Chopra to learn meditation and here is where I found profound peace. I heeded his words “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” and when I was angry, frustrated, scared, or unsure I sat still and followed his voice into a state of calm that offered the most incredible tranquility and comfort. In those moments, I imagined myself wrapped in a cocoon of light, in the arms of God’s love and I was safe.

The Longest Day

It was good to be with friendly faces but I was wary of the impending confrontation that I knew was looming in front of me.

Continued from The Tipping Point

“Those who are heartless once cared too much” – unknown

When my tears were spent, I stood up and squared my shoulders. I was finished. Done. Through. Right there – in that moment, I knew that this marriage was gone. I was no longer willing to spend another minute allowing myself to be disrespected in the manner that had been a hallmark of this union. As the saying goes – ‘fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me’. This was the third time and this time, my mother could fend for herself…  It was time for me to think of me – the messages I was sending to my children, my daughters – about self-respect.

I had things to do today. I was scheduled to get my hair cut and then meet some friends for drinks. I thanked my therapist for being there, for allowing me to breach a boundary in the most unforgivable way and scheduled an appointment to sort this all out.

I headed to my hair stylist, approximately a thirty-minute drive. I had first met him two years back after my hysterectomy when I realized that I had the same hair style for twenty years or more. I had researched stylists in the area and his name came up as one of the best. My primary interest was finding someone who could look at my face and determine – for me – the best hairstyle based on the shape of my face and my hair texture. In past attempts, a stylist would ask me what I wanted, ‘look through a book’ they would say… well – that’s like buying a pair of panties that I like from the Victoria Secret catalog and then being pissed that they don’t look like ‘that’ on my bottom!

Michael had cut my hair that very first day – trimming at least eight inches or so – and gave me a new look. It was something completely different and I loved it… I’d been going to him ever since. Funny that this particular day I was seeing my hairdresser, the proverbial therapist…

I recall being there and obviously emotional. There is no hiding this kind of emotional devastation even if I had wished to. When he asked me, what was happening, I put forth an avalanche of verbal expression, detailing each minute of the morning with explicit detail. It was a safe place, a location where no one knew me or my family, and I was free to exhibit any amount of animosity that popped up in the conversation. I was incredulous. I was beginning to get pissed, pissed at Hubby, pissed at Abee, mostly, pissed at myself. For a while, I forgot all the spiritual development that had been a part of my recent life and moved back into this rudimentary human reaction space. I wasn’t focused on forgiveness or spiritual growth, just the pain of my immediate experiences and it was raw.

Michael listened, like any good therapist – hairstylist and proposed blonde accents to spice up my look. Thankfully, that meant another two hours at the salon and I was grateful for the diversion. I didn’t care what he did, sex me up – spice me up – make me look younger… it didn’t matter. What did matter, was my plan. I needed to create a plan.

I never planned to divorce my husband. Years back, the first time I had discovered infidelity, our business was young, I had a newborn baby and our finances were just budding. Today was different. Our children were older; our business was established and we were much stronger financially. This was better than at any other time before, to think about leaving our marriage and believing that I would be ok. I had never finished a bachelor’s degree. I had taken a voluntary second place, a submissive posture with our business in terms of production – running most of my earnings through Hubby’s position because of the tax advantages. On paper, I was worthless except that I owned an equal fifty percent of our company. Otherwise, my resume demonstrated twenty years of partnership but no production quotas to support successful claims.

We were earning good money so I knew that it would all be ok, that it would work out, but there was a moment of anxiety when I realized that I had not personally produced a dime in income for more than ten years. I needed to put a plan in action but I had no idea where to start. I sat there with foil protruding out from my skull thinking carefully about what I must do next. I knew that first and foremost – I was finished with Hubby. There was an absolute in my heart, an unequivocal finality in regards to the future of our relationship. We would co-parent… that’s it. There was no denying that we had four children to raise. Even though Frank was in college, we still had three girls, the oldest of which was about to begin high school.

Oh. Our girls. What would I say to them? The breadth and width of Hubby’s betrayal is his story… not mine to tell but it clearly would have an impact on our family. I had to find a way to frame this morning’s experience in a way that could be digested by adolescent girls. I was willing to take the fall, to say that I was no longer willing to be in a marriage where I didn’t feel valued. I could say it in a way that didn’t disparage Hubby but still honored me. Why in the hell was I concerned about his favor??

“A heart can only take so much pain, and although it won’t shut down, it will begin to shut out.” ~ unknown

There were a gazillion thoughts swirling through my mind as I sat in Michael’s salon; some of which made sense, some did not; some were rational, others not so much. My defense system kicked into high gear and I formulated several automatic responses in anticipation of greeting Hubby later that night. I was going to stand my ground – we are done. Period.

My hair turned out fantastic. I was blonde from ear to ear and by any measure, the cut was sassy and the color was sexy. Michael was good at what he did and perhaps a little impartial to me, protective of the perceived injustice that existed in Hubby’s behavior.

I finished up the day at a restaurant / bar in a small neighboring town where one of my good friend’s and her friend – an acquaintance of mine – were catching up. I was exhausted, completely spent and somewhat unwilling to relive the melodrama of my day. I just needed to laugh, to think of something neutral, to escape the reality of my life so that’s what happened. We talked and laughed about kids, life, and busy schedules. It was good to be with friendly faces but I was wary of the impending confrontation that I knew was looming in front of me. I needed to go home.

When I got there, Hubby was sitting on the couch, watching television. I hadn’t spoken to him since earlier in the day when I told him I wanted a divorce. I suspect he had realized at some point that he had left his email account open, that there was a lot of evidence to suggest that he had significantly betrayed everything our matrimony vows embodied; so much evidence. He was regretful, remorseful, and repentant. I sat down on one side of a very large couch to listen. He stretched out and put his head on my lap after commenting on how much he liked my hair. He cried. I sat there quietly and still.

My heart was stone cold.

Liar, Liar

My knowledge was confirmed with his answer to my single question and the validity of it filtered into my body one cell at a time.

“When your lover is a liar, you and he have a lot in common, you’re both lying to you!” — Susan Forward

Continued from Lightening Strikes

My head started swimming on his words “I’m in love with Abee” – I knew it! I knew something was wrong – I had felt this way before, with Dee. I didn’t connect the feelings – or maybe I had simply refused to look. I needed to get out of there. I looked at him with disgust. I wanted to vomit. So many things ran through my mind but none of them seemed appropriate at that moment and I found myself standing, robotically; moving toward the door, and walking out. I got to my car by memory and in a state of shock, I pulled out of the driveway and headed west. I could not get the idea out of my mind “I knew it!!, I’m not stupid, I knew it.”

I picked up my cell phone and called Abee. “Hubby thinks he is in love with you.” “What?” she says? “That’s crazy” but I disconnected. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I called mom. Unfortunately for mom, she was traveling in Hawaii of all places – trying to enjoy a vacation of a lifetime. I couldn’t care. I needed my mom and this wasn’t going to be pretty. Everything I had feared was being validated. She, of course, was in an impossible position and while she wanted to comfort me, she was also concerned about Abee… She offered to come home but that wasn’t what I wanted. I just needed to vent.

I was beside myself as I found a parking lot behind a large church. I sat there and chain smoked cigarettes – one after another – in an effort to calm myself. Reflections from the past several months as I noticed changes in the way they interacted, the way that they spoke to one another, laughed together, in the way that Hubby scheduled business events. Abee called me to ask if I was ok. What??

She claimed to not understand, to say that he was crazy, that it must be a mistake. What the heck? She seemed confused and hurt.

I trusted that woman. I didn’t trust that man – he had already proven that he was untrustworthy – that he could betray me; she has had my back.

She exhibited all the behaviors that I needed – confusion, surprise, and support. She told me it would be worked out that this wasn’t real.

I went home and waited for hubby to come home. I was fed up with is inconsistency – his denial – his betrayal. I didn’t understand his mind, the way he thought. He seemed confused too. He demonstrated a perplexed persona – stating that he didn’t know how he felt… he was trying, to be honest with me. He had feelings for Abee, he loved her, he loved us both. Fuck you, I thought.

I drove to Abee’s house, the house she shared with our mother who wasn’t there. She was pensive but seemed to be on my side – she was persistent with her feelings of confusion and empathy for my pain. She appeared to ‘not understand’.

The next day was Saturday and I was a wreck. Hubby went back and forth with his feeling – one minute he loved me more, the next he didn’t know. It was one of those experiences that seemed surreal in every aspect. I felt as if I was floating in the world – between realities – hoping that the one I was in would fade away at any moment and leave me back in something that felt less intense. Three times that day I went from my house to Abee’s – we went to lunch. I distinctly remember being at a diner in Amish country with her – the drive did me good – as I recalled, the details of the last time this happened to me. I spelled out how I felt, what I thought, I recounted the pain and agony that I experienced minute by minute during the discovery of Hubby’s first affair. I spoke – in detail – the way I felt about my friend’s deceit and betrayal. Abee stayed silent; austere.

Later that evening, I drove to her house – again. I was relaying information that Hubby was claiming – that she reciprocated his feelings – that in their travel together, she ‘held hands’ and echoed his claims.

She denied feeling anything for him – she stood firm in her state of confusion and deference to his claim. She rebuked his assertions by claiming that he had misunderstood her. She would never do ‘that’ to me she says.

By Sunday, I was spent. Literally just empty of emotion and energy to sift through the differences that Hubby and Abee presented to me. I was trying to simply *be* that day and it was difficult with three kids in the house and the constant influx of questions that were infiltrating my mind. I was in a state of suspension trying to remember to breathe because I constantly found myself holding my breath and waiting. I was waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had unfolded three days prior. I wanted to crawl back into my oblivious and protective hole where I just lied to myself about how everything was fine – that my life was a normal one.

And then… in a very quick and simple moment, I realized that Hubby didn’t just ‘fall in love’ – not without sex.

It was so clear – the realization that sex had to have transpired in order for Hubby to be ‘in love’ – I knew. I simply knew that this was more than some skewed fantasy in the mind of my husband. This had been a full-on affair and most of what I believed to be true about my life was currently – a lie.

My knowledge was confirmed with his answer to my single question and the validity of it filtered into my body one cell at a time. For the second time in our fourteen-year marriage, Hubby had exited our union to meet his emotional and/or physical desires. This time, it was not a random stranger or a friend of mine, it was my sister – yes, my half-sister – but my blood relative, my best friend, our employee. I tried to call her but she didn’t answer. I didn’t care really – I didn’t know what to say or if I would even be able to contain my burning emotions. I called mom.

I’m pretty sure I was screaming at her while she told me all of the reasons that I must be wrong. She was coming home she said – she didn’t say it, but I knew I had ruined her vacation with my ranting – I felt guilty. It wasn’t ‘my fault’ per se but I was the one calling her – needing her. Who can I talk to? My husband loves my sister – they have been having an affair. All this time – lying to my face, right in front of me – one lie after another. Where do I go? What do I do? In one part of my mind, there is a tiny, quiet voice that simply repeats over and over…

“help”.

The Next Move

We talk about reconciliation and how things would need to be different. I realize that my children are worth fighting for.

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us – and those around us – more effectively.” — Louisa May Alcott

Hubby was full of remorse, truly exhibiting heartbroken behavior as well. He was so sad and shamed that I began to worry about him. I asked his mom to come and get all of the guns and ammo that was in our house as I was scared that he would hurt himself. He also, was overcome with pain. I found myself caring, wanting to protect him – to reach out. It’s a surreal experience to extend yourself toward the fire, daring to be burned again.

He spent quality time with our children and appeared even more sad afterwards. He knew he had jeopardized our family, our lifestyle. The fear of not being with the children full time emitted from him with palpable energy. I felt kind of sorry for him and yet it was from a distant place, another ‘me’, one who was not hurting. He said all of the right things but I was yet unwilling to move from my “Go to Hell” stance and so he left. I had no idea where he went.

Tom called me. He had a few choice words for my husband, naturally I agreed with most of them. He wanted to know if I was alright – how does one answer that inquiry? What is the definition of OK after discovering the person you love was cheating? Tom was also filled with doubts and more questions. He was hurting too. So much pain – so many people afflicted with anguish because of… what – sex? Loneliness? An Impulse? We had questions but there were no quick answers. He told me they would be moving, he was choosing to stay with her but he was taking her away, closer to where he worked. I was happy to know they were gone but in some crevice of my mind I knew I would miss my friend.

One day the doorbell rang and it was Pastor R from church. He looked at me with a sad smile and asked me how I was doing. It seemed that Hubby had gone to him for counsel and support, R wanted to check on me. He listened to my perspective of the situation and then – as any good pastor would do – he counseled me on forgiveness. I’ve always remembered he quoted Luke, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him”. As a Christian, I was called to forgive this man who lied, cheated, and stole moments and memories from me. As a wife, I was reminded that it was “God who will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous”. That I, as a wife, should know to honor my promise – the one I made in my vows; “in good times, and in bad times”.  I was starting to resent religion but listened politely and knew that he was doing his job. He started the mental ball rolling for me though – was I really ready to throw in the towel? Did I want to quit right now?

My mother was really helpful walking me through all these questions as they ran the gamut through my mind. What would I do? I didn’t have a degree and our profession was predominately a commission only field – could I support us? We were heavily leveraged after starting a new business, how would that affect Hubby’s ability to support two households? Did I really want to have to work full time? How would I afford day care? Baby Em was barely a month old at this point… what were my options really? Mom was being really pragmatic and never asked about love or desire… she was mostly interested in the rudimentary aspects of survival. That was her gig. She was of the generation of women who didn’t ‘ask questions’, they persevered and plowed through marital discourse in the interest of the family at large. I was more ethereal, I loved this man. What about my dream? The children need a father. What if he is really sorry? What if this was just a mistake? What if God really expects me to forgive him? So many questions still. Mom asks “What are you going to do?” I felt lost.

A few more days go by and Mom has to leave. I knew I would miss her company and support. I wasn’t ready to be alone but I understood that she had dedicated a lot of time to my needs and I was only one of the people who still depended on her. I talk with Michele every day and she takes over for mom as a voice of reason when I am too full of rage or when I can’t find the strength to get out of my jammies. Other than our mothers and Michele, no one really knows what has happened in our lives. I am ashamed of us. I am shamed – period. While rationale and reasoning would say that I was a victim here, I believed that if I had been a better wife, a better mother, a better support person, less fat, less bitchy, less controlling, etc… he wouldn’t have cheated. I was taking on a LOT of the emotional responsibility for the absence of happiness that Hubby is now claiming to have felt.

Just two or three weeks’ post discovery, Hubby and I are talking more. He continues to express remorse and regret for the indiscretion every time we talk. He wants to come home, to work things out. He loves me, he says. He found a place to ‘live’ – sleep really – in an old farm house with a few dudes … he has a room. I go there. We talk about reconciliation and how things would need to be different. He mentions that there is a counselor in the building where his office is located and asks me to consider going. I say that I will think about it.

I stand at the island in my kitchen watching my children at the dinner table.  Baby Emily is gently swaying in her swing sucking away on a pacifier, being lulled to sleep. The girls are kneeling in their chairs to reach their dinner plate and Francis is quietly eating. It is another memory burned into my mind because it is in that moment I realize I have to fight for this marriage. I realize that my children are worth fighting for. Our lives will be so very difficult if I don’t make an effort to reconcile with their father. Raising four children is a challenge with two adults in the house, and would be crazy difficult if I were to attempt to do it by myself. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. But more than that – wasn’t I responsible for teaching them forgiveness and fortitude? As their mother and role model, wasn’t it my job to set an example of courage and resilience? If I ended this now, would they see me as a quitter? I knew that I needed to try and create a marriage that was a model for determination and resolve; of love and respect. In that moment, I knew I would agree to counseling and keep trying to be Hubby’s wife.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Photo credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity) via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Crippling Questions

Does she have any idea of what I was going through? Isn’t there some kind of honor code that women are supposed to adhere to? Or friends at least?

One thing you can’t hide – is when you’re crippled inside.” — John Lennon

The moment of Dee’s admission is burned into my memory as clearly as if it happened yesterday, almost as brilliantly as my memory of watching Rocky fall backward after electricity conducted in his hands. I remember what I was wearing and I recall the short walk back to my van. I vaguely recollect the phone conversations I made between her house and mine. I remember sitting in the rocking chair and holding my new baby, only two weeks old, wondering how the hell I was going to take care of her.

There is a compassionate numbness that engulfs our consciousness during times of extreme pain as if to protect our hearts from literally exploding and poisoning our bloodstream with heartbreak. It serves a distinct purpose as it allows us to function mechanically, doing what needs to be done, bearing our responsibilities. I was a mother with four children, three of them under five years of age. I had obligations and I felt unable to crumble in the way that I wanted. I would have preferred to melt into my bed and merge into selfish dreams of an easier life.

I don’t remember details of that day after I returned home. I have no recollection of where Hubby was or where he went, only that I could not or would not look at him. I don’t recall where the children were or who exactly was caring for them. It could have been Francis, maybe I mustered through it. I know it was a summer afternoon and I can see – in my mind’s eye – where I was sitting when my mother came in that day. She came back for me, to take me away, or to help me, or to save me… she was there, and as I did so many years prior when my world fell apart the first time, I again buried my head in her lap and sobbed until every tear had fallen.

It’s such a cliché to say that I was heartbroken but when you are physically aware of an ache there, in your chest where your life force exists, what else is there to say? My heart hurt. I had allowed myself to love again and even though I had been warned, sign after sign, I was unprepared for the reality of deceit. I had been in such deep denial regarding both the man I married and the friend I thought I had made. Pictures flooded my brain, over and over of the times we were all together. I saw things in my remembering that I had missed the first time around. Oh how stupid I felt! I went through it all again and again, trying to decipher when and where there was time and opportunity. It was right there in front of me – daring me to notice and their intentionality of it made me sick – physically ill. My body ached; my stomach was nauseous, the muscles around my ribs hurt from sobbing, and my throat was sore from extended bouts of crying. These feelings of loss were so familiar, different factors but excruciatingly similar.

I’m not sure where the experience of this affair ended and memories of Rocky’s death began. The pain I was feeling now punctured old wounds of loss from a decade earlier and I was reminded of feelings that had been buried as hope for a new life grew. This time, it was much more complicated. Instead of one child – I had four. I was eleven years older and still having not finished college, my employability was wrapped completely in a business that WE operated. I had allowed myself to love and dream and hope and plan…

I wondered where, when, how, and why… the ‘why’ just wouldn’t leave me alone. I could almost understand why Dee was attracted to my man, he was handsome enough, charming, and always helpful. Her husband was gone so often and she felt alone but why ‘my’ guy?? I wondered how she could have sex with him and then look me in the eye the next day, smile with me, laugh with me, or pretend with me. Was it the same kind of denial that I had operated under? Was it a disassociation, a disconnect from reality that merely offered her an opportunity to survive? How did she reconcile her heart? Was she ashamed, guilty, or sorry? I didn’t even know if she was sorry. After I realized she was affirming my fear I stopped paying attention to her words… was she sorry? Does she have any idea of what I was going through? Isn’t there some kind of honor code that women are supposed to adhere to? Or friends at least?

I couldn’t turn off my mind. It kept me awake with silent questioning; constant and unrelenting wondering thoughts and images that promoted more of the same. Hubby had tried talking with me but I wasn’t having it. Now, I felt ready to ask him about some of the details that were rolling around in my head. It’s extremely curious that people who have been injured by infidelity want particulars as if somehow knowing all of the pertinent information will make it sensible or easier to digest. I felt as if I needed answers – if there were any – to my questions; I called Hubby.

He had been trying to reach out to me but getting through my mother was no small feat. When I finally called him, he answered on the first ring. Essentially what I heard was that he didn’t have any answers as to ‘why’ – “it just happened”. He insisted that he hadn’t intended to hurt me, that it was a mistake, an accident (doesn’t really fit the description of accident but I was listening). He was apologetic, sad, and more humble than I had ever imagined he could be. ‘It’ happened a few times, blah… blah… blah…

I have no evidence for the details I heard and I wasn’t sure then if they were true anymore than I know for sure today. When people – anyone – breaches trust so violently, there is rarely a tale told that is fully, completely believed going forward. It might be the truth and then again – it may not.  It’s never again really clear if the individual is covering his or her ass or being openly vulnerable. At some point, the injured person simply acquiesces to what ‘feels’ like the truth or something that kind of resonates internally. You learn to live with ‘uncertainty’.

Hubby was full of remorse and wanted to see the children. He was gentle when he asked if he could come by the house to spend time with the kids and talk if I felt like it. We scheduled some time when mom – who was still there caring for us – could standby.

Photo credit: Ksayer1 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA      

Broken

There is no way to explain the feeling one has when you discover your beloved partner has been lying and deceiving you for any period of time.

“The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.” — Heather Brewer

It happened and then it was over, in the matter of seconds. Instantly, I thought I had imagined it. Dee gave me a gift and I opened a beautiful dress, size 0-3 months… Baby Emily could wear it right away. She left after a while and I confronted Hubby about the experience of having them arrive together and share ‘a moment’ with the baby. “What is going on?” I begged him to answer the question. He continued to negate any accusation that I threw out, telling me “nothing was happening” at every turn. Essentially, everything I presented was dismissed as nonsense as soon as it was spoken. I wasn’t convinced. Something was happening and I could feel it. My mind and body were alert… they perceived danger as if there was a railroad crossing stuck in the up position; you knew it was trying to warn you but nothing was stopping you from moving ahead.

We took Em home and rolled along as we have always done. My mom came to help in any way that we could think of – she was a baby whisperer. Hubby was a great help as I adjusted to a different sleep schedule but it was summer so everything was more relaxed than during a typical school year. I thanked God for Francis on a daily basis. His help and support was irreplaceable. I wasn’t relenting on the feelings that existed so strongly, so unsettling – about Dee and Hubby’s connection and its breach of boundaries. We argued about it non-stop and I was insistent… we would have to stop being friends. For some reason, I needed Hubby to buy into the plan of not entertaining a friendship with Dee and Tom. My impression was that he was rather hesitant to agree. It fueled my anger.

Mom knew something was off but since I wasn’t offering an explanation, she left for ‘the farm’ (my grandparent’s home) after a week. I turned into someone I didn’t know. For a couple of weeks, I was tenacious with my demands that he agree to stop any and all contact with Dee. I was tired, hormonal, and suspicious – extremely toxic combinations by any measure. The icing on the cake for me was when I took Ems to the doctor for typical post-birth weigh in. She had an eye infection that the doctor said was common with certain types of sexually transmitted diseases. She asked me if there was a possibility for that to be the case and I honestly couldn’t answer… I was in an almost state of nausea these days.

I went home and confronted – once again – my husband, with the information from the pediatrician and he imploded. He was defensive and angry. I made a decision in that moment that our relationship with the Gregg family was over. With or without STD’s – (a panel had been completed on both me and baby Em) – there were too many questions surrounding the camaraderie that existed between those two people.

The panels were negative and I was accused of making up information in order to trap a confession; I referred him to the doctor for validation and verification. I went to Dee’s home. I called her from the driveway and asked her to meet me outside. She came out and made some reference to how great I looked (after giving birth only two weeks prior, I was wearing my own clothing – a response to the stress I was experiencing). I told her that I did not like what was happening at home, that my husband seemed obsessed with her and there were too many issues coming between us for our families to be friends any longer.

Her face changed. She appeared apologetic and scared. Her eyes became emotional and wet, her breathing changed. It was interesting to watch – in a matter of nano seconds, she became contrite and sheepish. There was something unexplainable in her demeanor that unleashed a knowingness in me… “you’ve been sleeping with him”… it was almost a whisper from inside of me and I watched in horror as she shook her head in an affirmative nod. She was confessing – there in her driveway under a late July sun – to sleeping with my husband. My good friend … the mom of my child’s friend… the wife of Tom… my friend… no, not a friend… a bitch.

I said nothing. Mentally, I was screaming “I knew it… I’m not crazy… I knew it”.  I walked back to my van in slow motion without a sound in the universe interrupting my thoughts. There was nothing. There was a void of pain, of anything really. I was once again on auto-pilot yet my heart was racing and breathing was difficult. My entire body was simply trying to fuel my nervous system into automatic action – keeping my heart beating rhythmically and my lungs moving in unison to inhale and exhale appropriately. I started the automobile and backed out of the driveway while I picked up my cell phone and called my mother. “I was right, they were fucking… all along, they were fucking”, I couldn’t say anything else. She said she’d be there in a few hours and hung up the phone.

I called Hubby on his cell. “I want you out of my life… you have 24 hours”, and I hung up.

There is no way to explain the feeling one has when you discover your beloved partner has been lying and deceiving you for any period of time. It really does not matter if it was once or two hundred times – the fact that you didn’t listen to your hunches – to the fiber optic strands that ran through your life in neon colors to warn you – it sends you into a flat spin. It stops time. In the moment you realize that you were a fool, the world takes on a different weight and it all sits on your shoulders. Couple that intense emotion with the idea that your ‘friend’ – someone you confided in and trusted to be on your side regardless – also violated the faith allowed yourself to develop. Faith that she would ‘have your back’.

It seemed as though I had always doubted him, it wasn’t a surprise that he would delude me although in all honestly, I had just begun to trust that this ‘spontaneous decision’ I had made was the right one… that it would work out. I had allowed myself to believe in love again. He had given me all the clues but I ignored them and now I was going to end my marriage, or rather, he had ended it by being unfaithful, by lying in my face, by cheating on me.

I got home and picked up my baby. I sat with her and sang as a river of tears began their flow across my face.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Denial Meets Crazy

My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment.

“A bad friend is is worse than an enemy, an enemy you can see and avoid, but to detect an insincere friend is hard” – Bangambiki Habyarimana

I sat there in disbelief, shaking my head as if to clear the image or thinking that I would rewind the last 30 seconds of my life. I kicked his other leg – hard. “What are you doing”, I asked him -there on the spot. “What?” he responds with attitude. There was surprise in his voice as if he was challenging me to go further. I didn’t. I sat there watching though. I replayed the evening over again in my mind.

I wound the clock back to when Dee and Tom arrived with the beer – that beer that had been requested so casually, so intimately. I recalled conversation that flowed so easily, so familiar, almost as if Tom wasn’t even there with us. I remembered – now suspect behavior – Dee getting up to use the bathroom; a second or two later Hubby got up to get more beer. They came back to the patio together. Again, Hubby goes inside to pee, Dee goes in to grab more snacks. Now that I was thinking about it, this pattern existed through the evening without regard for Tom or me and here he was playing ‘footsies’ under the table, right in front of me.

I know what I saw. I watched his foot intentionally move against her leg, not in an accidental manner, but with purpose, along her calf up to her knee and she was smiling. I looked up to see her glancing at him with recognition I didn’t know existed but only for a microsecond and then she looked at me with normalcy.

I felt sick. Terribly sick. I was questioning the exchange almost as quickly as I felt it. His questioning response, her normal gaze in my direction – was I imagining all of this? I kept watching but it didn’t happen again – that I saw. I didn’t know what to do – should I cause a scene and get mad? Did I really see that? Should I alert Tom to my fear? What about my friend? I couldn’t believe she would be a voluntary participant in this… she’s my friend, a good friend. Jesus, what was happening?

Everything was spinning in my mind, I had to go to bed. That was what I did – I went to bed to process, ignore, deny, file, shuffle, replay, and reject thoughts that didn’t fit the vision of my life. I just couldn’t fully accept the idea that a friend of mine and my husband would engage – literally, in front of me – an inappropriate series of gestures … it simply wouldn’t compute. I ignored the details and allowed myself to carry on as if everything was as it had been. I woke up, got the kids ready for school and went about my day. I didn’t talk to Dee for a couple of days but she eventually called, asking me if everything was ok. I said “yes” and we continued as we had been – spending time together with our children. I did defer on the ‘family time’ somewhat as a precaution but I didn’t find another reason to be concerned.

Michele came out to visit one afternoon and as usual, I shared some of my concerns with her. I explained that I had questions but that they were unfounded and I was being ‘careful’ and yet something felt unsettled. She was – as always – my friend and validated my feelings genuinely. An hour or so after she left, she called to tell me that she had seen Dee’s van parked in the lot at Hubby’s office that day on her drive home (it was normal to pass that way as the office was on a main thoroughfare).  Of course, the nausea signal in my stomach returned with a desire for there to be some simple explanation.

Later that day Hubby was home and we were – as usual – sharing our day. I mentioned Michele was there most of the day and he proceeded to tell me that Dee had been at the office because she was thinking about leaving Tom and wanted some advice. While we weren’t attorneys, it wasn’t uncommon for people to ask our counsel about divorce and financial matters. That reason resonated with me. Dee had been really unhappy in recent months. Tom’s travel schedule had him out of town most of the week, most of the month, most of the year so far. It was lonely for her. She was raising three children predominately by herself and it was hard. When he was in town, he had little time for her frustrations. It made sense that she would ask Hubby his advice. I told him that her car had been spotted there and he got upset that someone had been looking – Why was I playing detective? He wanted to know. Clearly, that hadn’t been my intention but his defensiveness caught me off guard. All I could think was, ‘chill out’.

My radar was on full screen. A week or two later, I was at the office and found toys there that hadn’t been there before. Hubby claimed they were for Dee’s son when he was at the office last, but something about that statement didn’t calculate correctly… I had babysat for her recently – was it the day he was speaking of? It didn’t make sense. I attempted to address some of my concerns with Hubby but each time, I was rebuked. My “imagination was overactive” he would claim.

Mid-summer arrived and so did baby #4. Emily Lyn – named after my favorite Aunt, a woman who has more grace in her little finger than I do in my whole body – was born early July. In fact, we call her our boom-boom baby as I am sure after watching fireworks, she was just too curious about all the ‘fuss’ she heard on the outside and decided to make her entrance. I was overjoyed to be welcoming that little on into the world and knew in my heart that since God had made the ‘baby decision’ for us, she would be a special blessing. Not that the other three weren’t of course…

Ironically, I was in the same hospital room as Michele had been just two weeks before when she delivered her little girl…. Our lives paralleled so tightly.

Em was born at 3 am on a Saturday and by six, Hubby left to get some rest. Later, Grandmom brought the kids down to see their new sister and once again we felt like a big happy family. We have video of that day and it’s still as precious to me now as it was then; seeing the gentle embraces from one sister to another.  By Sunday I was ready to go home; moms don’t get any rest in a hospital but the doctors wanted to keep us til Monday morning. Dee had called and wanted to come see the baby that afternoon. I was happy to have some company.

Hubby arrived early afternoon and within a few minutes Dee walked in. Coincidence? My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment. I felt paranoid and irrational. I recall a distinct sense that they had driven together and I may even have asked but of course, it was a silly question – even in my mind. No one would admit to that, right? Hubby picked up baby Emily in his arms and was cradling her softly – a very proud father. Dee walked up and stood shoulder to shoulder with him, oohh’ing and aahh’ing like anyone who loves babies would. Both of them had their backs to me and like a photograph that is snapped for a permanent record of a moment, my mind recalls that instant. I felt invisible sitting there in my hospital bed while by husband and my best friend were holding and googling over my baby.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy