#208 Reflect Honestly

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#208

Reflect Honestly

Survival

I’ve encountered a lot of people who prioritize truth telling yet lie to themselves. If we are attempting to live our best possible life, it’s important to self reflect with complete honesty. We avoid the truth because it may induce feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment; none of which feel good. We conjure stories about our lives that help us cope with living them – sometimes regardless of whether or not it’ a reflection of what is real. We create subjective narratives for emotional survival.

Objective View

One way to access our life honestly is to step back from it and view it as if it is a stage play with players you don’t know or perhaps a television show with characters that are not emotionally attached to you. If your life was a television show – would you watch it? Would you be screaming at the screen trying to tell one of the characters something? Would you be disgusted and turn it off? How would you rewrite the script?

Sometimes taking this perspective means seeing things we don’t want to see. It means we may need to make a change that we don’t feel prepared for or equipped to make. It means accepting that what we wanted, may not happen or what we believed, is actually false.

Support

If you believe you have been avoiding a compelling truth in your life, garner a support system be it another family member, a trusted friend, or a counseling professional and begin the unraveling of what is true. Sometimes it’s a simple effort; at others, it’s more complicated because one lie often begets another and they become convoluted and woven into reality. It may take time and patience to see yourself in well focused light.

As a professional, I often find myself in the position of helping people in this manner and one of the distinctions is aiding clients in understanding the difference between ‘who’ they are and ‘what’ they do… one is personality and the other, behavior. Clarity may take time but the benefit is authenticity.

Authentic Self

Authenticity is not possible without truth. When we are hiding from what is real, we are unable to demonstrate our most authentic self; to feel our absolute best. There is great freedom in living only from a truth place. It’s the origin of true happiness and possible only when we …

Reflect honestly.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Liar, Liar

“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”.

Lightening Strikes

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Continued from Missing Pieces

Nothing was ever resolved from the medical tests that had consumed my early winter. The cardiologist concluded that I had a healthy heart; a near perfect echocardiogram confirmed it.  The dizziness and manic pulse had calmed down a bit but still interrupted my day from time to time. Occasionally, for no apparent reason, I would have a mild ‘freak out’ physiologically speaking. My body was attempting to tell me… something.

It’s interesting to live life in a way that finds you questioning most things you know. There were so many pieces of the ‘puzzle’ of my life that didn’t register as logical or plausible and almost all of them related to Hubby and inconsistencies that I was experiencing at least weekly, if not daily. I interpreted something based on what I saw, heard, and encountered and yet when confronted, there was an absence of validation – in any regard for how I perceived a situation. I felt as if I was crazy at times. Didn’t I know what I know? How did I misconstrue so many things? I began to experience a depleted sense of self, of confidence, of morale. I questioned so many things that even the things that looked like facts with blatant evidence, I would simply pass over and discount as nothing.

Some of what I had begun to consider seemed like madness, ridiculous. The thought occurred to me that there was too strong of a connection between Hubby and Abee; it looked that way. Abee was so deeply involved in our lives that I feared she could simply ‘step-in’ and replace me at any given moment. Would I be missed? My family would barely skip a beat… My children loved her, she was instrumental in our business; knowing all the nooks and crannies there, and my husband seemed enthralled. I asked him over and over – “what is going on” – only to be brushed off and deferred. Eventually, I stopped asking because I knew what he would say. I mentioned something to mom but like me, she thought it was an absurd consideration. Abee’s behavior hadn’t changed, she wasn’t any different with me… I never brought it up to her because there wasn’t any evidence on her part to support an accusation. I felt ashamed and guilty even considering it. I basically sat on the information, the lack of substantiation and my confusion in silence because to consider the ludicrous notion that my sister would entertain any kind of relationship with my husband beyond what would be typical of an in-law – well, that didn’t register.

I don’t recall the specific time frame of this event, but the details of the moment are another that is deeply embedded in my mind. There was a storm of some kind, perhaps a Nor’easter – common to the mid-Atlantic area. We were all at our house, Mom, Abee, Hubby and the girls when a phone call notified us that the alarm system at the office had been activated. The police had been called but we should also check it out. Hubby turned to Abee and asked her to ride along in case he needed help. Under normal circumstances, this may not have activated any internal alarms but things were not ‘normal’ for us. I was right there and couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t ask me – a co-owner – and his wife – to go with him. I challenged it but again, my rationale was contested and a half dozen reasons why I needed to stay at home with mom and the girls ensued. It always took too much effort to argue and with other people right there, I fumed, but relented. The office was thirty minutes away and it was uneventful – the wind had blown open the front door, tripping the signal. I stayed angry.

Hubby and I were in critical mode. Most of our discussions were negative and ended up with us each yelling or me crying. The distance between us was farther than we could bridge on our own and so we started marriage counseling again with the therapist that I credited with saving our marriage from infidelity eight years previous. It started out rough and I realized that I had been suppressing much more than I ever realized. I was withholding so much feeling that much of what came out of my mouth was tainted with its flavor. Instead of speaking about what I was thinking and feeling (mostly because I thought it was frequently dismissed), I became passive aggressive.

Passive aggressive behavior is frequently the result of someone who experiences a constant abuse of their inability to say no. People who do things even though they don’t want to will ‘fight back’ passively by using sarcasm or ‘digs’ whenever they can; indirectly expressing negativity. My vocabulary was heavily weighted with PA remarks such as “I’m not mad”, “Whatever”, “Sure if that’s what you want”, “I thought you would know”, etc… words that imply discontent without actually saying ‘hey, this isn’t working for me’.  This defense mechanism is created when we perceive that our feelings were an inconvenience, problematic, or cumbersome on someone. With Hubby, I had grown to believe that my feelings were inconsequential and so, they came out – but in a completely unproductive and ultimately – unhealthy way; both for me and my relationship.

I learned a lot about expressing myself and I would try to practice what I learned at home. I used “I” statements to the best of my ability (no one is ever perfect in this regard) and tried to make sure that feeling words dominated my vocabulary when we were speaking so that I didn’t elicit his defense mechanisms. This communication style takes patience, practice, and determination. It also takes the cooperation of BOTH contributors to the conversation. I’m not sure we were both on the same page each time we attempted to exchange our thoughts. It was slow going and I was wearing out.

By early March it felt as though we were ‘stuck’. Things weren’t changing much and the frustrations continued to manifest and collect – at least on my part. Regardless of how many times he denied it, I could tell something was different. We weren’t connecting – our emotional intimacy seemed impossible to reestablish no matter our effort. There was a strong stirring in my spirit – a provoking sense of familiarity that I was unwilling to acknowledge yet it stayed there, constantly knocking on my heart – that someone else was in the picture. My unwillingness to look in that direction, to confirm my worst fears, was conspicuous.

During a routine weekly counseling session, my frustrations were accentuated and our impasse felt impenetrable. I was crying. Our therapist, also appearing frustrated made the statement “you need to tell her, I’m not willing to keep this secret any longer” and looked directly at Hubby. I looked at him with inquiring eyes and momentarily stopped breathing. My body felt heavy and the air in the room became suddenly thick. Everything except his face blurred out of focus and I concentrated on the sound of his voice as he hesitated and then said slowly and quietly…

“I’m in love with Abee.”