The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Exercise helped again

Today I felt better. It was the exercise more than anything. I don't have more answers, but I do have more peace. I woke up this morning much less overwhelmed.

Of all the things I've been doing to get through this past 8 months, exercise has been one of the most effective and one of the least expensive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lingering effects of flashing back

Along with my determination to face what is there to be faced, I feel anxiety and agitation and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

I had a day in which I felt like I was slogging through quicksand at work - working hard and not getting much done. Unfortunate, since there is a lot to do.

And I have an underlying feeling of dread or anxiety mixed with a disconnectedness from things. The only thing I feel truly connected to in my immediate environment is my son. I feel that distance creeping in between me and Husband - like a veil that drops down when I feel threatened. I can see him through it, but I'm not fully present in the moment. I feel like an observer watching us in a movie.

I feel short tempered. I want a drink. I'm going to exercise. Hopefully that will get my chemicals back in balance. Whatever happened inside me yesterday, whatever chemicals my body released in reaction to seeing that hotel, I'm still feeling the effects tonight.

Real life

Yesterday, due to construction detours, I found myself driving by the last hotel at which Husband met a prostitute (Ashley, April 21, 2007.)

I know of several of the locations at which he had sex with prostitutes, and don't usually drive by them. I used to avoid driving by the massage parlor where he started getting hand jobs with massage, but I'd managed to overcome the dread and anxiety triggered by that place. Same with the street where the strip club he frequented is located. And things have been going well with him, me and us. So the force of my anxiety took me by surprise.

My heart started beating, my breathing got shallow and rapid, and I did everything I could not to look at that place as I sat at the intersection waiting for the light to turn. I just didn't want to be confronted by that building because I knew what had happened in there. It is a physical marker of past events that can not fade over time.

Husband had not wanted me to know the locations of his activities. But I found out some of them before we had talked about it. As I sat at the intersection I wondered if it would be better not to know. But upon reflection I decided that what I was confronting was the truth of my life. And I'd rather know the truth of my own life, and have the pain that comes with that, than to be shrouded in the false bliss of ignorance.

This is my life. These things have happened. I have been hurt and lied to by the person I loved and trusted most in the world. All while he loved me. And he still loves me. That is one of the truths of my life. And there are so many others. And I am fortunate in that most of them do not come with the burning, anxiety ridden pain this one bears. Together they make up my whole life. The good with the bad. The pain with the joy. That is a whole life. That is a real human life.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Both a wave and the water

I've been thinking a lot about a passage from Thich Nhat Hanh's book No Death, No Fear:

"...Looking deeply, we can also see that the waves are at the same time water. A wave may like to seek its own true nature. The wave might suffer from fear, from complexes. A wave may say, "I am not as big as the other waves," "I am oppressed," I am not as beautiful as the other waves," "I have been born and I have to die." ...But if the wave bends down and touches her true nature she will realize that she is water."

"Water is free from the birth and death of a wave. Water is free from high and low, more beautiful and less beautiful. You can talk in terms of more beautiful and less beautiful, high or low, only in terms of waves. As far as water is concerned, all these concepts are invalid."

I feel powerful and free in my life when I remember that my husband and I are both waves and the water. We are each individual expressions of the same thing - whether that is God, my higher power, the universal consciousness or something other. Non-duality. We are all aspects of one thing, so there is nothing to be afraid of in the not-knowing of it all.

Tonight (on the treadmill where a lot of my good thinking seems to happen) I realized that I've been holding my husband responsible for the unknowability of life. "I am afraid, I've realized I can't be certain about anything in life, and it's your fault."

But the unknowability of life is not Husband's fault. Husband is only the vehicle for this lesson. I don't believe it's possible for me to know the future, no matter how sure of it I feel. But in some areas I had forgotten that. In some areas I felt sure that I knew what I could trust, sure that I knew how life would go. But despite the surety I felt there was never really any knowing. How can I know what hasn't yet happened? It only felt that way.

That is not to say don't trust, don't have faith, don't be optimistic.

Instead, I see there is a possibility of learning to trust, to have faith and to be optimistic in the face of not knowing. Of being present, experiencing the moment with whatever it brings, feeling the pain and the joy of being alive instead of trying to escape into the future or the past, into desire or distraction.

Sometimes I can actually wrap my head around these things, and in those fleeting moments there is such serenity and peace.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If you're perfect, how can you grow, right?

One of the promises of SAnon is that we will come to not regret the past. I don't think I'd say that yet, but I think overall my experience has been similar to that of The Junkys Wife on her of discovering the addict in her life. I can see some gifts and I'm grateful for them.

In couples therapy last weekend I realized yet again how quick I am to take responsibility for Husband's feelings.

For example, if Husband is upset about something I hear one of two things: 1) I did it and now I have to fix it; or 2) he thinks I did something I didn't do and I'm going to prove to him how very, very wrong he is.

What he is actually trying to say...I don't hear that. It immediately becomes about me and how I'm responsible or resisting responsibility. And what I see I can do is to remind myself that I'm NOT responsible for his feelings, only for my actions.

If I go to the store and buy cheese (or say something mean to him for leaving dirty laundry on the floor), he could be mad because he wanted me to buy milk instead, or he could be happy because we were out of cheese and he was going to buy some on the way home but forgot. I'm responsible for buying cheese (or saying something mean). He's responsible for being mad or being happy.

My next thought is that I want credit for making him happy.

But upon reflection I'll give up that credit in exchange for the freedom that I gain by not being responsible for his feelings.

That was easy.

The hard part is actually stopping myself from going there after 40-some years. Progress, not perfection.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Staying present to life

Now that the traumatic phase of Husband's revalation feels behind me, I wonder if I'll be able to stay present to what was so clear when I was completely raw.

It would be so easy to slip back into that fantasy of being blissfully happy with nothing to fear. Husband is making all kinds of progress (struggling more with his OA issues which is not surprising.) He tells me he feels more present and closer to me than ever. And I know he loves me, something I don't think I ever doubted, even in the worst of times. So I could easily be lulled by all of this into feeling safe again (albiet with a level of distrust and guard that was never present before.)

But if I did that, I think I'd be playing a game. There would be a hidden part of me that was watching for betrayal, keeping me from being fully present and courageous in every moment, trading being for thinking or knowing. Where before I was fully open and fearlessly trusting (though lacking a certain awareness that I have now,) to slip back into the routine of "happy couple" would be an empty charade. This much I feel certain of.

The challenge now is to be; to be fully present and courageous in the face of the unknown and the fear that comes with that. What comes up in my mind is that the access to that will be availble through a relationship with self, and through ongoing and expanding spiritual practices. Both are new to me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Looks like Husband might get a job offer. However the company is located about a mile and a half (4 mins according to Google maps) from the strip club he frequented as part of his activity with prostitutes.

Part of me isn't worried. He's a changing man with a lot of support. But part of me is terrified. I think one of the hotels where he had at least one encounter with a prosititue is also about the same distance away from his maybe-soon-to-be office.

I'm happy for him, but I also scared and pissed off that he lied to me so now I have these kinds of concerns.

Wishing for a different past again. In other words, fear is hindering healing and forgiveness. But it's hard not to be afraid since I've been lied to, because both Husband's word and my own intuition have failed me in the past.

I'm so glad we have therapy coming up so I can bring this up in a safe environment.

Husband is showing further signs of growth. Today he caught himself getting upset and resentful about something that didn't warrant it. He saw it almost instantly, told me about it and we talked a bit. He apologized for all the times in the past when he might have done the same thing and caused me pain. He's so much more aware than he was before all this. And taking responsibility for his response to things.

That's more good news.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Back to normal at work

This is the first week since June 1, 2007 that I've felt 100% at work. I'm very busy and very on top of everything in a way that I haven't been in a long time. My head is no longer fuzzy and I'm able to consistently focus for a whole day on the job.

It's such a relief, because on top of the stress of the issues between me and Husband it was very stressful to be falling behind and unable to concentrate at work for so long. And now that I've been the only income for over 2 months, it's become pretty important for me to hang on to my job.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What would a bad person do?

My assignment from therapy today is to journal about what I think bad people would do in my situation.

We're looking at my absolutism, and my very specific ideas about what "good" and "bad" people do. For example, "good" people don't lie.

Another thing I'm looking at is my reaction to myself when I fall in the "bad" category. Perplexing, considering I view myself as a "good" person.

Lots of food for thought.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Feeling peace

In couples therapy this weekend we talked a lot about my feelings of doubt. About my wish that there was some way to be sure I could count on somebody not to betray me. About my concern that I was returning to my old feelings about the untrustworthiness of men that I was left with after I found out that Dad was lying to us.

I was trying to get to the learning that is there for me. The lesson seems to be that no matter what, ultimately you can't trust anyone. But I don't see the growth in that lesson. And I do have girlfriends I can trust - who I feel like I "know" in the same deep way I was sure I knew Husband.

In our session I realized that I so reflexively take on responsibility for the way Husband feels that I don't have an instant to see what actually happened. And I'm such an absolutist that I judge myself a bad person when somebody important to me is upset because in my word view good people don't do things that make those they love angry or hurt. If somebody around me is mad in reaction to something I've done, I look at myself to see what went wrong, instead of letting them be responsible for their feelings and simply looking to see where I can take responsibility for my actions.

We learned the tool of checking with each other about our "paranoid fantasies," the often catastrophic things we make up that may be true, or may be completely off base.

We talked about whether or not I could accept people as flawed, as doing the best they could. And the fact that in Husband's addict mind what he was doing, although it impacted me, wasn't directed at me and wasn't really connected with me. Those are things I can get my mind around most of the time. But the self doubt is still there. The struggle with trusting myself, which didn't work out so well before.

I think the fact that I was able to share and have validated so much of what I have been feeling has given me a sense of peace this week. Husband heard me. He expressed the fear he feels when he hears me talk about considering what it would be like to leave, or to be with someone else. But, as I tell him, I don't really want those things...I just turn them over in my mind like stones to see if they feel like more appropriate paths...but they don't.

Maybe the growth is in compassion, forgiveness, letting go of the way I think things should be, wish they were. Letting go of that desire for a different past. In coming to terms with the unknowability of our existence. In accepting that Husband is human, and acknowledging that he was truly doing the best he could at the time with the tools and coping skills he had. And in being with him in the present where he is also doing the best he can, now in the clarity afforded him by his recovery work. I will lean toward these lessons, and away from fear and mistrust.

But even tonight as I was wrapping my arms around Husband, breathing in his scent as he played the piano, that cold sliver of fear passed through my heart for an instant. I wondered how many other times I'd breathed him in that deeply, filled myself with his presence, allowed myself to be intoxicated by my love for him, while he was lying and leading that secret life.

This will be the dance for a while, I guess. The dance between fear and forgiveness, between love and mistrust, between joy and anger. Until I can get free of the mindset of duality, and accept everything as existing at once and be at peace with that.