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.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Thinking about the present moment

Something I want to be aware of is how I bring what Pema Chodron describes as "habitual ways of gluing ourselves together" into my training in ungluing. Specifically, I can easily use what I've been learning to distance myself from the chaos and unsettled feeling I have about life now. She says "we try to use our spiritual training to avoid the queasy feeling in our gut." And that's exactly what I do. I use non-attachment as an avoidance tactic. My learning will come from staying with the mess, chaos, discomfort and disappointment.

One of the things I've been trying to adopt is a focus on the present moment. The past is over and done with, the future is unknowable, the present is the only thing we have. But I realized today that I have an underlying distrust of the present moment. I used to be able to feel fully present, but now I know that I can feel present and not be present to what is really going on in my life. I can feel profoundly connected to someone who is looking into my eyes and lying to me about very intimate, fundamental things. So this present do I be in it knowing that I can't even really know that moment as I'm experiencing it?

I also realized that I have very specific ideas about what it means to love somebody. For example, if you really love somebody there are certain things you just don't do. You don't lie; you don't betray a monogamous relationship. But tonight I got a glimmer of the idea that both could be present at the same time. That it's possible Husband could love me and still do these other things that feel so disrespectful and hurtful to me.

Pema Chodron writes, "Dwelling in the in-between state requires learning to contain the paradox of something's being both right and wrong..." She calls this "the paradox of being human." I want to be present to that my husband loved me as much as I thought he did, even when he was secretly having sex with all those prostitutes. That when he'd come home after fucking them and hold me and kiss me and tell me how much he loved me, those two things could really coexist. Once again, non-dualtiy

So maybe my experience of the moment wasn't false, as I fear. Maybe it was real, even though I was only present to certain aspects of it. Maybe if I can learn to accept that "paradox of being human," I can learn to trust the moment again, to trust my experience of life, knowing that the larger context for each moment is not-knowing.

The other day, I was thinking that when Jesus said "whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other" he didn't go on to say "and let him hit you again." Perhaps this Jesus was talking about not-knowing. You offer the other because you don't assume that someone who hits you will hit you again. You don't react with aggression or defensiveness, but instead respond with not knowing what the next moment will be. And if that person goes to strike you again, perhaps you raise your hand to stop it, or step aside, or respond in some other way to preserve yourself. But the first response is not knowing what the next moment will be. Maybe that's what Jesus was trying to say.

Look at me, who's always considered myself decidedly NOT Christian, talking about what Jesus said.

Strange as it seems, this path I'm on is a spiritual one. I'm not running down to the river to be baptized, but I've started praying. Here's the prayer I say (again, quoting Pema Chodron and 12 step literature):

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." "I am surrendering moment by moment to whatever is happening in this very instant of time. With precision and gentleness, I surrender my cherished ways of regarding myself and others, my cherished ways of holding it all together, my cherished ways of blocking bodhichitta. I do this again and again over many challenging and inspiring years, and in the process develop an appetite for groundlessness." - Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You


MizL said...

Wow! I can't believe I found your blog. I've been through the same exact thing; even the books you list are the one's I've read: Carnes, Chodron, etc. I came upon this, because I, too, am effected by the Spitzer scandal in the same way: I see the sex addiction and my heart goes out to his wife.

Nothing was better for me than sharing my experiences with others who have been there. I tried to stick it out for 2 years, but in the end it was too much for me, and it is a relief to be out from under the dark shadow cast by his addiction (which he was, to the best of his ability, dealing with). But then, after years of therapy, and groups, and 12-step, and tears....he looked me in the eyes when confronted with some iffy activity and said "I guess I was sort of lying." That, and the lack of true empathy got me in the end.

I plan to read more of your posts and I would love to email you directly, if you're interested.

Slutty McWhore said...

I do think it is very possible for a man to sleep with prostitutes and go home to his wife, kiss and caress her, tell her he loves her - and mean it. Most of my clients (I'm an erotic masseuse) are married, and the vast majority do seem to love their wives. I think it is perhaps that very love which is the problem. They don't know how to deal with that level of intimacy, so they run from it by having meaningless casual sexual encounters. Even the guy I wrote about today seemed to be like this.