It’s Sunday night, and I’ve just finished facilitating dinner, clean up, story time, tooth brushing, pajamas, and goodnights for my four children. No, that’s not quite accurate. The youngest threw a tantrum so spectacular that I gave up on the tooth brushing battle. And one of the middle two may or may not have decided to sleep in his clothes. I’m not sure, because when the younger two were finally down, I told the older kids I was tapped out for the evening, gave them hugs, and escaped to my bedroom.
The first half of the day was a late to church, everything is ridiculous, why doesn’t anyone have shoes on, “MomMomMommyMamaMomMomMom” sort of morning. The youngest got very upset that I thought it was silly to put his mittens on in the parking lot, just outside the church doors, when it was literally -6° and windy and he had refused to wear the mittens before then.
I did it all on my own this weekend, and I am exhausted.
I did it all on my own this weekend, because their father has spent the last two days running a cold weather emergency shelter for individuals and families, people with nowhere to go when the temperatures dip to these record, deadly lows.
During the week, he has been home with them often, trying to get other work done while dealing with the spectacular tantrums, the “DadDaddyDad” on repeat, the incessant requests for snacks, while I am out working with a similar population of marginalized and struggling human beings.
In church this morning we talked about worship, not the song and prayer kind but the giving to others, laying down our lives sort. At the shelter, Jake and his staff are doing this in an obvious, visible way. They miss sleep, they unclog toilets, they negotiate calmly with scared and angry people, they deal with any number of circumstances one might encounter in a shelter for the homeless and addicted at the coldest, loneliest hours. The managers and volunteers who make this shelter possible each winter are heroes, I honestly believe that.
This morning, picking up spilled crayons and cracked communion cups and abandoned mittens (imagine that) after the service, I remembered - I’m a hero in this too. Because if it weren’t for my willingness to do these parenting tasks solo, Jake wouldn’t be at the shelter this weekend.
In reality, if it weren’t for his dedication, this year there might not be a shelter in town at all.
If I am impressed by his passion for the work, for his tireless efforts and the difference he makes, then I get to be proud of my support for the same. I can recognize buckling all the car seats, brushing all the teeth, tying all the shoes alone, as its own form of worship and service. In freeing up my husband for the work, I, too, am helping to provide shelter and safety for those who need it.
I’m not writing this to pat myself on the back or seek accolades, but rather to point out that there is a group of people whose sacrifice goes overlooked - and to point out that they may, like me, often overlook it themselves.
I remember the Christmases when Jake was a cop, the way we structured our celebrations around when he was off shift. I remember New Year’s Eves when I would get a phone call instead of a kiss at midnight. I remember the year he watched the Superbowl without me, because was I was at a birth.
Those moments were difficult for us both. When I was the one at home, I don’t remember feeling heroic, or like I was contributing to a greater goal. I remember feeling lonely, disappointed, and sometimes resentful.
It did not occur to me, then, to think of any of that as a sacrifice. I didn’t recognize it as something done in service to to others.
But it was. And now, I know I can be proud of that.
So this is for the spouses, those of you co-parenting with police officers, firefighters, nurses and doctors and midwives, soldiers, and yes, social workers. They do the hard work, every day, absolutely, but you are part of the reason that work can happen. Lives are changed and saved by your support and by your sacrifice.
Thank you for all you give.
I’ll run the risk of being intimate with brokenness. ~ Sleeping at Last, “Son”
There is a feeling that creeps in sometimes, when sitting with a client. I used to think it was because I was new to the work, that it was merely an issue of inexperience, something that would fade with practice. Face to face with pain, they talk, I listen, and I wonder, “Is this helping? Am I helping?”
Sometimes, the things they’re saying - or more often the things they aren’t saying, but I know from their history - all feel like too much. How can you possibly help someone who has been through this?, whispers the voice of doubt which accompanies me to every session.
As I speak with, and learn from, a greater number of therapists, counselors, and social workers, fellow students as well as those with years of experience, I am learning to quiet that voice. I am finally reaching a point where I have stopped interpreting my misgivings as an issue of incompetence.
Sometimes, this not-knowing is the best thing I can do.
Trauma is defined as an event in which the normal coping mechanisms are overwhelmed, and thus the memory is stored differently in the brain and in the body. Trauma occurs when the thing that happens is JUST TOO MUCH, when the body and the brain - and perhaps the soul? - say, “I have no idea what to do with this.”
And so I’ve come to see it as a mark of respect and validation, to sit with these clients and think, just for a little while, “I have no idea what to do with this either.” It can’t end there, but maybe it’s necessary for the beginning.
After trauma, things feel broken. It’s all too much. There is hurt and shame and a general sense that one is trying to put the pieces back together but they just aren’t fitting the way they used to, so now what? And maybe, in an effort to make things whole again, to not have to feel that brokenness any longer, we hurry up and glue the pieces back in a clumsy, haphazard way, so that nothing works quite the same anymore but at least all the pieces are there. At least we feel like we’re doing something about it.
Have you ever tried to put flowers in a cracked vase, the kind that gets smashed and glued back together right away, before anybody has a chance to see it broken? If you don’t take the time to glue the pieces just right, it leaks. Set something heavy on it, and it crumbles. Maybe it looks okay on the shelf, maybe you can turn it in such a way that you can’t even see the broken pieces in the right light. But under any kind of stress, it just can’t hold up.
My role as a social worker, as I’ve just begun to understand it, and the role of anyone who works with trauma, is to look at what's been crumbled, to confront the brokenness, and to stay the rush to crunch together mismatched pieces that don’t fit the way they used to.
It is to say, This is your brokenness and I am not afraid. It hurts so much and I am going to look at it with you anyway, until we can put the pieces together slowly and carefully and make things truly whole.
There is an intimacy in looking at such brokenness that is both necessary and terrifying. In doula work, we call it “holding space.” It refers to sitting, standing, walking, or swaying with, holding the hand of a woman in labor and saying, No one can carry this pain for you but I will stay with you in it and help you not be afraid of it. While I’m hesitant to compare the birth of a baby to the survival of a trauma, I would argue that there are elements of the pain and the transformation that are remarkably similar. More importantly, I would argue that for those of us who come alongside the people experiencing such pain, the roles in each scenario are nearly identical.
Further, I would argue that this mentality is not in any way limited to those in professional roles, and that we could all benefit from learning to be intimate with brokenness - in ourselves, in our loved ones, and in our culture. I would argue that the beauty of the Advent season is the expectation that our brokenness, individually and collectively, will find healing - and that the commercialism of the holiday season is a desperate attempt to pretend such brokenness does not exist.
Nobody wants to see brokenness. We don’t want to see it in our culture and we don’t want to see it in our friends or our kids and definitely not in our marriages (I’ve written before about how I contributed to some major problems in that regard), and under no circumstances do we want to see it in ourselves. Oh God please no not that.
We’re wired to try to get away from pain and we’re wired to turn away from brokenness. If by some chance we see our own brokenness, we typically put the pieces back together real quick, because we know nobody wants to look at that.
For as long as we refuse to acknowledge our brokenness, we miss out on opportunities for healing.
Advent is difficult for me because sometimes I feel numb to it. I want to be in the beauty and magic and love and peace of it, but it’s hard to get there.
Why? Because I don’t want do the part where you have to feel the pain and brokenness that makes the resolution so comforting and healing.
This year, I know that Christmas and all its silver and sparkle will stay meaningless and hollow unless I allow myself to feel the brokenness in the country, in the world, and in our spirits, in a way that gives me something to celebrate in late December.
In preparing to celebrate Christmas with its intended meaning and power, let me first face all the brokenness and resist the urge to turn away. Let me remember, when I feel afraid of it, that facing brokenness is the first and essential step on the path to healing.
The list of things I’d like to make you know could fill volumes. But no matter how long the list, it will be years – a lifetime – before you understand the words. For every single thing you say I just don’t get, there are ten more from me to you.
And that’s okay, I remind myself.
As I write this, however premature it may be, you are screaming at your siblings, crying at your father, slamming doors and hating your life - all ten years of it.
You won’t know that a small piece of me is proud of you for screaming in rage. When I was your age, when I wanted to scream, I stayed silent.
You won’t know that a part of me understands you. My mother never understood either. At least, I thought she didn’t.
You won’t know the struggle I felt as we walked to the store and back, the deep breaths I took in a failed attempt to temper my defensiveness. You won’t know how hard I tried to hear you, even as my frustration built a wall between us. I want so badly for you to feel heard.
You won’t know that I’m annoyed with myself for already feeling drained and worn by the time we get a chance to talk. That my compassion has run dry for today, and in this moment I’m angry at a client for using up the patience I needed for my daughter. I want so badly for my patience to be limitless.
You won’t know that I worry constantly about messing up with you, that I feel like I’m forever floundering in this murky world of raising a tween, no, this murky world of raising you, at every stage. Seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to you, and I never know what to say.
You won’t know that I want to yell, “Can’t you just be happy? Can’t you see how good you have it?!” even though I know you can’t, because you are a girl on the edge of puberty and no girl on the edge of puberty is happy with her life. Can I promise you this despair won’t last, without sounding like I’m discounting your feelings?
You won’t know that I cried when we came home, cried for your sadness, cried for my own. Cried because I am trying, and you don’t see it, because you can't.
Right now, you cannot know.
You won’t know that I am torn in the desire to give you everything that will make you happy, because I don’t want you to feel like the center of the universe. I don’t want you to have everything, because I love you too much for that. You are not at the center of the universe. But you are at the center of my heart.
You won’t know how hard we try to make this work, two parents in a field where the pay is low and the hours are strange. You won’t understand why we chose this life not only for the world, but for our children. But someday I hope you will see the value in it.
You won’t know that I remember. That the anger, the frustration, the desire to feel heard, is not yours alone. I ache, because I remember.
You won’t know the way I struggled to make my mother understand, the way I cried in secret when my father defended her. I hadn’t meant to come off so harshly. I hadn’t wanted to hurt them with what I said, but the words came out wrong. Words have a way of doing that, out of the mouths of tweens and teens. I know, because I remember.
You won’t know the memory of holding you tight, propped up and sore in a hospital bed. You were two hours old, and your dad had left to move the car. Finally alone, I cried tears of relief into the fuzz on your sweet, tiny head. We had survived birth, together, and I was amazed. I whispered through sobs, “Delaney, we did it. We did it. We did it.” I honestly believed the hardest part was over.
You won’t know that I didn’t say that to the others, that I never again felt that sense of “us” when I delivered a baby. With your younger siblings, no, it was “I did it,” and there was relief and euphoria, but never again did I think in terms of “we.” Only once. Only with you.
You won’t know that the distinction is yours alone, my mysterious, daunting, terrifying eldest daughter.
But one day, maybe in 20 years, maybe in 30, maybe you will find yourself tasked with raising a young woman, and you will remember how it feels to be on your side of the jagged, tenuous mother-daughter equation. Maybe then, when the side you are on looks like mine.
Maybe then you will know.
“Should I post it?” I ask him almost every time. One, because if I reveal anything about him I figure he has a right to say whether it goes on the internet. Two, because writing deeply personal material skews my normally very private filter. I lose perspective, by necessity.
So, why write at all? Why would a private, introverted individual put their personal life on blast for everyone from closest family to loose acquaintances or maybe even strangers?
Because, the night he told me, I had two thoughts, one immediately after the other:
We agreed, it would be a secret. No one else’s business. And so we kept it that way. And every day I dreaded someone finding out.
The irony is, all the pain had started because of secrets. Jake’s went back to when he was seven years old, at least, with a young man I still struggle to forgive, who ordered him to keep everything a secret. And then the infidelity, of course, all secret.
We learned, in the most painful way possible, that for as long as you keep your pain a secret, it can control you. It can blind you. It can keep hurting you.
In the aftermath, I looked for support, and I discovered most of it was provided anonymously. Women changed their names when they told their stories. The covers of the self-help books were dark and shadowy. One day, I started to post an introduction on a support group site, but I was worried the IP address would give me away. Someone would figure it out. I closed the site and never looked at it again.
And so, for the most part, we kept quiet. A few close friends were on a “need to know” basis. There was a crisis, or there was an awkward social connection, and we agreed, “Shit we need to tell them.” And so we did, cringing, hoping they wouldn’t judge too harshly.
No one ever did.
And then one sunny summer afternoon, the secret a few years old, I received a tearful and entirely surprising phone call. The news shocked me. And yet I was able to inhale deeply and say, “Me too. I get it.” The relief in the voice on the other end of the phone was profound. We had solidarity now, we two survivors of deeply imperfect marriages.
Six months later, over coffee with a friend, I said it again. “Me too. I get it.”
I was met with the same shock, the same surprise, the same solidarity.
And with this: “But you guys? Not you guys. You’re like the perfect couple.”
And that, right there, is when I began to consider this ridiculous idea of writing it all down.
Because there are no perfect couples, and zero perfect marriages in the history of the world. There are only flawed marriages composed of flawed people. The best you can hope for is that deep down, you and that other deeply flawed person really like each other. And in the moments when you don’t really like them, you need to love them until you start liking them again.
The morning after he told me, I sent Jake a short text: I refuse to let this define us.
(But maybe in five years I’ll create a blog devoted to talking about it? Oh, yes, I see the irony.)
It still doesn’t define us. But it shaped us.
A funny thing happened, after my first post on the subject. My expectations and goals in writing about it were two-fold. First, I wanted to take control of the story – to share on my terms and shed the burden of “what if someone finds out.” Second, I wanted to create safe space where others who had shared my experience – that is, those who had been cheated on – could find solidarity, understanding, and healing.
In the week after I first posted, I received several deeply personal, heartfelt messages.
Most of them weren’t from people who had been cheated on.
Most were from people who had cheated.
Some had told, some hadn’t. Some had stayed married, others had split up. Many had childhood trauma, though not all. Many were in what outsiders looking in considered a perfect relationship.
What I learned was that we were not so different. Over and over, I found myself saying, yet again, “Me too.”
Once or twice a week, I remember: Everybody knows now, and I have a moment of panic. Who does that? And why? What was I thinking?
It’s Jake (of course) who brings me back. “Because,” he says, “if you hadn’t, then it would still be a secret.”
And we would be another polished, sanitized version of ourselves, a fairytale couple who never struggled to stay together, never wonders if the choice was the right one, never wrestles with the idea of choosing each other daily.
That couple doesn’t even exist, unless they just got married this past weekend.
You guys: We have to start saying marriage is hard. We have to start admitting it isn’t fun all the time, but that it can still be so, so good. We have to own that a strong marriage between two dedicated people can withstand a whole lot of pain. Because that is inspiring and encouraging. That is aspirational.
That is a story that deserves to be told.
Some days I think I run for the conviction.
It doesn’t start that way. When I start, it’s to alleviate the restlessness, to quiet the noise in my head. On a low day, it’s purely for the endorphins.
But inevitably, when the noise quiets, and I am left with nothing but myself, sweaty and stinky and out of breath, there is a bit of space for a voice other than my own.
Sometimes it’s a whisper out of nowhere, an idea without an obvious source. Sometimes it seems to come from rustling in the trees or it rides on a rare and welcome breeze through the city streets.
Sometimes it comes from a few lines of Florence and the Machine through my headphones.
Hey, look up
You don't have to be a ghost
Hidden amongst the living
You are flesh and blood
And you deserve to be loved
And you deserve what you are given
Deserving. Ha, yeah, right.
We've been fighting this week, a little more than usual. Two nights ago we said cold, courtesy "I love you"s and I went to sleep curled up in a ball of self-loathing. I never know when to shut up. God I am such a bitch. What is my problem.
Last night we were headed for it again. And then, almost imperceptibly, something shifted. One of us softened, or maybe we both did. And Jake asked, What happened to you, that you do this to yourself? He knows, and I know, it predates anything that happened between us. I’ve been this way for as long as we’ve known each other.
But last night, to my own surprise and through intermittent tears, I was able to answer him. I told him that, however subconsciously, I believe that my worth is dependent on achievement. That to deserve his love, or anyone else’s, I need to be smarter, nicer, prettier, stronger, thinner, and generally just better.
Years ago, when Jake told me he had cheated, it reinforced every false belief I already held. It must have happened because I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t fun enough.
I must have deserved it.
And now that things are good, I had better keep achieving or improving, or all this could go away again.
And by that I mean, if I don’t keep up the ruse that I have it together, it’s all going to crumble, any second now.
I caught my reflection this morning, running along with Florence’s words in my head. A strong-looking woman. Good posture. Decent stride.
Must be a weird curve in the window, I thought. Optical illusion.
That couldn’t possibly be what I look like, because I am just not that good at this.
“Four kids?” people say. “You look amazing.”
I smile, I say thank you, and I think, You haven’t seen me in a bathing suit. You haven’t seen me naked. You’re only complimenting me because you don’t know what I really look like.
I spend my work hours telling clients they are deserving of love. That their worth is innate, irrevocably tied to their humanity. I remind them we don’t need to earn love, we just need to accept it. I tell them shame is a liar and that we need to have compassion for ourselves. I remind them we need to see ourselves for how wonderful we are.
Jake said, “You need to find a way to work on this.”
I responded, “What do you want me to do, use some bullshit hippie affirmations or something?”
In my inner world, there is no such thing as enough. There is no smart enough or pretty enough or thin enough or strong enough or fast enough. There is no good enough. Even though I know there should be. In my inner world, I am not so wonderful.
So what, my choice, right? If I want to make myself miserable with such an outlook, so be it.
Except, every time I choose this viewpoint, I’m slapping God in the face.
My entire belief system, my entire relationship with a Higher Power – the pieces of the relationship that are intact, anyway – hinges on an understanding that love is not earned, because it is by nature un-earnable. That mercy and grace are the only way, our one remaining option for connecting with a Being greater than ourselves.
If I have not love, I am nothing.
When I allow myself to be convinced that I can earn love – when I believe that my worth is tied to achieving this elusive “enough-ness” – I am living in defiance of my Creator. I’m blatantly contradicting the Source of every ounce of love I’ve ever given or experienced.
Traditional evangelicalism would call this sin.
Because it’s an entirely cocky and self-centered mindset, to think that somehow I can earn the love and affection of the Creator of the universe.
High stakes. Geeze, don’t screw it up.
But, that’s totally okay, because I already have it. I get to be loved and connected if I’m smart and strong and pretty, or if I’m dumb and weak and ugly. Or, as is the case most days, if I am a confused and jumbled ball of all of the above.
In marriage, I used to think I was committing to love him even if there were moments a part of me found him dumb or weak or ugly. Or at least, you know, kind of annoying.
And yeah, maybe that’s a part of it, staying by someone’s side when they piss you off.
But even more, it’s a willingness to accept from another human being the kind of love we get from God – arguably, the only kind of real love that exists. It’s letting someone see you as more than dumb and weak and ugly, even when you can’t see it in yourself. It’s accepting love you haven’t earned, and choosing to believe you deserve it anyway. It’s being loved by somebody who knows how you really think and what you really look like.
It’s a willingness to become, undeservedly, the Beloved.
There is one (no bullshit, non-hippie) affirmation I love. It’s arguably trite. You probably already know it. But consider it again anyway.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God."
I used to read this passage as a comfort. Today, I read it as a challenge. If I believe myself to be a created being, if I believe it’s possible to personally connect with One who is greater than I am, I don’t get to have a negative view of myself. It’s contradictory and illogical. It’s self-centered and damaging. Who am I, Who gave me the right, to see myself in such a negative manner? Nobody.
To do so defies the gift of grace.
Because grace says I will never be enough alone, but that I’m more than enough already.
You want to say I’m brave, telling this story? Okay, fine, for this one post I’ll go along with it.
Brace yourselves, because shit is about to get crazy sexist and totally un-PC up in here. You can call me brave. . . NOW.
I believe I bear partial responsibility for my husband’s infidelity.
It was normal day when he called, midweek. The big kids were still little kids then. It was cloudy, a little drizzly, not unlike today. I was home for the morning, and had just been thinking how much I hated our floors. Seriously, they were so ugly.
His voice was tense, a little needy. He hesitated, and when he spoke, he sounded . . . weak. “I think I need to talk to someone about my anxiety. Do you think -- Can you help me find a therapist or something?”
A need expressed, clearly, humbly, from the person to whom I’d committed the very best of me.
I said sure. Yeah, okay. Fine. I then suggested he take a deep breath, get over it, and get back to work. Oh, but I tacked on an “I love you” at the end. No need to be callous, right?
Bear in mind, professionally I had directed multiple people to therapists. I had reassured them there was no judgment, no stigma, nothing to feel bad about. He was asking not just because I was his wife, but because I knew how to handle a concern like this one.
Not when it was my husband I didn’t.
There was another time, when I told him he didn’t care about his kids because he wanted to make cookies, and they’d already had a lot of sugar that day.
Then there was the time he’d had a bad day at work, and vented about a harsh comment on a review until I changed the subject. He sounded so weak, talking about the things that hurt him. Whining that it was unfair. I hated weakness in a man. Oh, somebody hurt your feelings? Dude, just no. Don’t. Get over it.
And there was the time he finally told me everything, in the middle of night, in a whisper. “I’m sorry I’m such an asshole.” Then he cried.
If I had held him before like I was finally able to hold him then, our story might have been different.
Before, I only wanted his strong side.
If you know my husband personally, you know he is a strong man. He has strong muscles and bones, with an equally strong personality. In a word, Jake is a force. If he is in the room, you know it.
It’s hot. And it’s endearing. I love it, always have.
He’s also a human being, with the full range of emotions human beings can have. Oh, and he cries when animals die in movies.
Actually he cries at most movies. Deadpool was the most recent.
When we were engaged, the movie-crying thing was a weird little slightly uncomfortable quirk I decided I could tolerate. Because, tears. On a man’s face. <cringe>
If you were at our wedding you will remember I sobbed uncontrollably through my vows, by the way.
See, what I really wanted was my idea of Jake. I wanted his sensitivity when it suited me, like when I needed to be listened to, or when my feelings were hurt, or when I felt afraid. I was the woman, so I got to have hurt feelings and moments when I was scared. He was the man. He didn’t get the luxury of uncomfortable emotions.
Oh, and it’s not just me. In Daring Greatly, which every single person on the planet should be reading, author Brené Brown writes about our cultural attitude toward men and vulnerability, with this unsettling quote from a one-time lecture attendee:
“[Men] have shame. Deep shame. But when we reach out and share our stories, we get the emotional shit beat out of us. . . My wife and daughters . . . they’d rather see me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall off. You say you want us to be vulnerable and real, but c’mon. You can’t stand it. It makes you sick to see us like that.” (Brown, 2015, p. 85)
Of course, when you marry someone, you don’t actually get to marry just the parts you like. I had committed to living the depth and breadth of the human experience with this man, fears and hurts included. There was no contingency for picking out the parts that didn’t suit my (completely antifeminist, fairytale, painfully limited) notions of what a man should be.
I constructed our marriage until he fit – or I thought he fit – my ideas of what a good man was.
That, I believe, made it infinitely harder for him to be a “good man” when the choice was set in front of him.
Choosing to accept emotional availability, or any other form of intimacy, when it’s offered is a personal choice, and I do believe we are all individually accountable. I don’t blame myself, nor do I take responsibility for, Jake's actions. Yes, those choices were wrong; no, he shouldn’t have made them. I do not offer and he certainly has never offered an excuse for any of it. But I believe my attitude towards him, my preconceived notions of what I was supposed to have in a husband, made it far easier for him to make the choices he did.
I wasn’t there for him, for the first ten years of our relationship. I made it look like I was, even to myself. But I was only there for the aspects of his fully human experience with which I was comfortable. As far as the rest was concerned, he was on his own. Or, preferably, not experiencing them at all.
And no, I don’t believe anyone else was there, ever, to love him unconditionally and without judgment in his most vulnerable moments. I certainly don’t think he found that elsewhere.
In fact, I don’t believe he found it anywhere, ever, until we were able to surrender the weight of our preconceived ideas and find genuine acceptance in each other.
Finding someone who knows you – even the worst and weakest parts of you – and loves you fully anyway: That’s everything.
Too late, perhaps, but not too little.
Brown, B. (2015). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Avery.
There is a scene at the beginning of Wild in which Cheryl Strayed first realizes the gravity of her undertaking. Her pack is too heavy, she is ill-equipped, and only steps into a 1000-mile hike her face begins to betray anxiety and self-doubt. What have I committed myself to? What was I thinking? She trudges on, dropping F-bombs with every heavy step.
I watched the movie with a couple of friends last night, after a brief but cathartic review, if you will, of my recent revelations. And found parallels that weren’t supposed to be there.
Truth be told, that’s kind of where I am right now, a few miles in from the trailhead, questioning my wisdom and possibly my sanity.
I guess I knew, maybe, probably, that sharing this story would include moments of doubt. I just didn’t expect them yet. I imagined them surfacing when the first harsh, judgmental comment came. When someone was disappointed, when friends and family were something other than supportive. I did not brace myself to wake up less than 48 hours after posting, Jake and I both having received nothing but warmth and love and positivity, and still think, Well, THAT was a terrible idea.
Because I had convinced myself, sharing our story was not a part of the healing process for me. No, Jake and I, we’ve done our healing already. In our story, this is not a new chapter; it’s nothing more than an epilogue.
The healing process now was supposed to be for other people. Not us. We’re done with that part. Friends have messaged to check in, and I respond, Oh, no, don’t worry about me, I’m fine. I’m good. I feel great.
That’s what this was supposed to be. A story from years past, shared for the benefit of others. The account of a wound received and how it healed. A story of a scar.
No matter how intact and healthy it’s become over time, if you keep a scar covered up for years, it’s still going to be sensitive to sunlight when you first expose it.
And yet – I know this feeling, these moments of confidence and surety interwoven with nagging self-doubt and what-ifs. Knowing the right choice for our family, but letting fear creep in at the most unexpected times. Questioning my inner wisdom when it defies my understanding of societal convention.
Yep, because our first year after the affair was, well, exactly that. Confidence with doubt. Wisdom occasionally overpowered by anxiety. A constant steeling of the will bolstered by a prayer that we might be guided by love and not by fear.
I thought I was going to tell you all about what that was like, then.
Turns out, to some extent, we might just wind up living through it together.