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, December 13, 2009

Yes, Joe - I'm letting go

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” - Joseph Campbell

So much of my pain comes from thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and fantasizing about how life might have been different. I find my joy in the moments when I'm able to release all those other moments and center myself in the moment at hand.

If I breathe deeply of the present moment and allow myself to accept the path that I'm on rather than to resist it by pondering the other tenses of life - what has been, what might have been, what might be - when I accept the life that IS in front of me gratitude rises up like a big warm sun in the winter and thaws the parts of me that are frozen by fear. In that gentle warmth the petals of peace and joy unfold.

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.” - Joseph Campbell

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pulling into the present (again)

Since I wrote about creating a deep, connected, loving partnership with this new man who stands where the man I married once stood I've had more peace, both in my relationship and in my self.

When I focus on connecting with Husband, he responds and I feel the possibility of our future together. When I freak out and withdraw into thinking about the past, I feel alone and isolated from him.

It's a hard line, because fully processing what happened is healthy and valuable to me, and seems to have its own timeline.

But when I can recognize that I'm feeling a way that doesn't serve me, that isn't uplifting or moving my life forward, I can try this technique of focusing on creating a deep loving connection with this person in my life now who wants to do just that from his side as well.

It seems to have made a big difference in how I've been feeling.

Monday, November 30, 2009

We've started telling people

When I first discovered Husband's secret life, I told only three close girlfriends - two that are sisters to me but live far away and one that lives close to me who I knew would be more inclined to listen than to judge (she's the one I made a pass at in the early crazy weeks after I first found out!) We also told one close friend who is like a brother to both of us. And Husband told his real brother when we went back for his sister's wedding a few months after I'd made the discovery.

Now, two and a half years later, we are opening up to others.

We'd already agreed we both felt comfortable with trusted friends knowing more about what's been going on with us, but neither of us had actually taken the step of telling anyone else. Last week, Husband went to dinner with a guy he's known since college and came home to tell me that he'd shared about his sex addiction with this friend. I know they guy, too, and think highly of him, so I didn't have any anxiety and felt happy that Husband had the courage to talk openly about something so "real" with someone else in his life. I know it's not easy for him to move beyond pop culture and intellectual parrying to reveal himself. They didn't talk long, but the friend expressed his concern and support.

Over the weekend I told a very close girlfriend I'd been wanting to tell for some time. She'd moved away just a week after I found out, and has recently moved back. I'd felt a wall between us because we talk deeply and openly about so much, but there was this important part of my life I wasn't sharing. She knew that something had happened, because I'd asked for a therapist referral and she new Husband and I were in counseling. But I hadn't wanted to color her relationship with Husband because they are friends (for 12 years), too. And I didn't feel comfortable with her telling her husband, nor did I want to ask her to keep a secret from him. So I hadn't told her, despite the fact that she is someone I'd normally turn to for support. Last weekend as we sat in the park watching our kids play together the moment felt right. She was sad as she imagined what it must have been like, but like Husband's friend she was mostly just concerned and supportive of both of us. She called me today, and she's still processing it. "It's still new to me, but I'll catch up," she said.

It feels great to have finally told her. I feel more authentically connected with her again. And she's another person I can count on when I catch myself in my typical MO of trying to handle things all alone. With most of my friends it doesn't feel strange that they don't know about this very personal thing in my life so I probably wouldn't have any reason to tell them. But with her, it was strange to withhold the life-changing events that I've gone through.

We're not going to shout it from the roof tops (for example I'm NEVER going to tell my mother because that would not be helpful to me,) but I think the fact that Husband and I can talk more openly about this part of our lives without shame, anxiety or the need to blame, justify, vilify or otherwise explain is indicative of the healing that's taken place for both of us. It feels good to be in this place, to have some distance from the pain and see the progress more clearly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seeping and shedding

After having so much peace and resolution about Husband's lies and infidelity, and a lot of growth and learning under my belt, I'm always surprised when I backslide. Grief still seeps in some days, even though there's no logical reason for that to happen.

I think despite progress I still grieve the loss of what I thought I had, the life I thought I was leading, the man I thought I married. And that feels like a deep thing, a heart thing. So I guess not something that my mind can resolve for me. Maybe it's just like grieving a death. Over time you come to terms with it, but there is still a loss that may always be felt as a loss.

And I still have days when I wonder if I love my husband - the new man I'm with now that the truth is out in the open. I think he's definitely a better partner than he was before, but he's still different from the man I thought he was. He's done things to me the man I though he was never would have done. He's stronger in ways, but he's weaker in other ways. I guess he's just human, and before in my mind his honesty and integrity were infallible, and his belief in himself consistently strong. Those qualities felt real to me and I miss them a lot.

I wish I could snap my fingers and give myself 20 years with this new man so I would know if the distance I'm sometimes aware of is just a defensive layer that will wear away with time and the continued growth of trust; or if it really is that I don't love this new person as much as I loved the man I though he was.

The truth of it is that I'd stay either way because of my son. I'm not unhappy - not unhappy at all. (If I were I wouldn't stay because I don't think that would benefit anybody.) I'm just missing that deep, passionate level of intimacy and connectedness that I used to feel. And sometimes I get sad about it. But as I write this, I realize that Husband is one of my very best friends and that intimacy and connectedness have a very strong chance of deepening over time.

Sex is an issue. Right now I don't feel sexually attracted to Husband the way I was before and sometimes I think about how my 40s are probably my last chance for another hot, sexy romance. If I don't do it now, I'll never have the chance. But since I'm staying in my marriage for now and I don't really want to have an affair if I think about it for any length of time, I suppose a fantastic sex life not in the cards. At least for now.

So I will focus on creating a deep, connected, loving partnership with this new man, my great friend with whom I share so much history. Maybe I leave behind the simple, passionate, unfettered kind of love I felt in my 20s and 30s for something more complicated in this part of my life. And maybe it will turn out to be even more satisfying. I have yet to see.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I made the outreach call

And it was a good thing. I asked my friend what I should do about all the feelings I was having. She recommended that I make sure to acknowledge Husband's progress at the same time so he wouldn't go into shame. (Sounds very codie, but we are.)

That's what I wanted to do - I wanted to avoid Husband going somewhere unproductive when I knew I was having feelings about who he'd been and what he'd done, and not who he is and what he's doing.

It worked pretty well.

I was able to talk about how angry and frustrated and agitated I was about having to go back to that time in life to resolve these tax issues, about being in this position, about realizing how much more this had really cost us financially, etc. (which he could feel wafting from me like steam off a bowl of hot oatmeal even though I hadn't been saying it.) And at the same time I acknowledged that these were feelings about the past and that I knew that; and that he was a different person now and that I appreciated how hard he's worked and is working, and all that he's done and is doing to make amends. Husband thanked me for my grace, expressed his appreciation for how I communicated, said he was sorry for all that he'd done and caused, and we were both able to walk away from the discussion about a potentially triggering topic with a feeling of completeness. Nothing was left unsaid. I was able to openly express my feelings and be heard. So was Husband. It felt a lot better than "processing the feelings by myself" which was my codie-deluded Plan A; or telling him about how angry and frustrated and resentful I was feeling and leaving it at that, which felt like my only other option.

Today I'm still dealing with the financial issues, but the big feelings of anger and resentment are dissipated and Husband isn't spinning in his own morass of shame and/or resentment. The issue is still charged for both of us, I think because it brings both of us face to face with consequences of a past that neither of us really want to revisit. But there are no cells of the unspoken waiting to grow into a cancer of resentment, assumptions and pain.

It's a very fine line, but what I think I was able to do successfully was not MANAGE my husband's response (because I can't) but I was able to CLEARLY AND COMPLETELY COMMUNICATE what I needed to say. That was the important thing for me. But it's a super-fine line that I need to watch. I don't want to fall into thinking I can communicate in such a way that I can control the outcome. But I do want to find ways for me to say what I need to say in a way that will help me move forward instead of leave me spinning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Still pissed after all these "I'm sorries"

What do you say when you are still angry and resentful toward someone who has sincerely apologized 1000 times already?

I'm sitting here on the phone with the IRS getting to the bottom of all the taxes Husband didn't pay while he was in the throes of his illness, some of which could have been handled if he'd skipped a few visits to the $500 prostitutes.

I'm so angry to be in this position, and so angry about the lame way he's handled resolving these issues. He is trying, and the deeper into recovery he gets, the more honest his efforts are. And he is sorry.

But I'm still pissed. I don't want to dump all over him because there's little he can do. The past is past, the mistakes have been made (and they weren't all his, because I could have paid more attention.) So I guess I just air out here and move forward?

I know! I'll make an outreach call! (I never do this, so it's a good contrary action.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back to basics

Getting back to practices, facing outward and connecting, focusing on the present, taking care of myself - working all these things is grounding me and getting me back to a peaceful place.

It's like the fog suddenly comes in and settles, and then lifts just as unexpectedly.

Was life like this before? I don't remember.

I was asking Husband if he remembered how things were before all of this. I think I idealize the before time, which I know is not healthy.

Maybe this is the difference between being conscious and oblivious.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All things point to surrender (again)

What I'm left with after reading and church this week is that I can find peace and freedom in surrender and gratitude.

Notes to self (again):

Step one: I'm powerless. Just admit it and surrender (over and over and over again!)

One day at a time.

My most important relationship is with my higher power, which I am an expression of.

My most important actions are to use my life and my abilities to be of service as an expression of love, compassion and non-duality, and to celebrate everything I have.

If I listen for it I will always hear the voice of higher power.

Pain, fear and all kinds of adversity are opportunities. I can allow both good and bad to be gifts.

What am I resisting?

I can always choose the most empowering context.

Surrendering to the moment at hand is usually the most powerful response.

Have fun!

If I forget all of this, remembering is the next part of my journey.

Friday, October 30, 2009

No "fuck you"

Because I have decided to try to work on my relationship with Husband, I've never had that final fuck-you moment. I've never been able to declare myself completely free of his influence and power over me.

Instead I have said, "Yes, I gave you power over me - I gave you my trust. You betrayed that trust. And instead of withdrawing I'm choosing to trust you again. I'm giving you the power to hurt and betray me again."

We are two different people now, so there is no going back to what we had before. We have no choice but to create something new.

So maybe it's not as crazy as it feels sometimes.

But sometimes I have doubts. Sometimes I imagine doing to him what he's done to me. Except if I consider it for any length of time the cost always seems too great.

Tonight he said to me in mock exasperation, "I love you so much I can't stand it!" I used to feel that way about him. But now I don't know that I'll ever be able to feel that way again. Maybe that's the trade-off for the gains I've made. I give up that child-like, carefree, unfettered kind of love in exchange for learning how to live in the world as an adult woman, responsible for my own happiness and well being.

Do grown-up women love their partners so much they can't stand it?

I wish I could feel that kind of enthusiasm for Husband again. He's a great partner, great father, a good, kind, intelligent person. But since I've never been able to declare myself no longer vulnerable to him, will I always be protecting myself in some way, thereby forsaking any possibility of the depth of intimacy I used to feel?

I've said that being betrayed by Husband made me feel like I'd been shot by the fellow soldier I was sharing a fox hole with. Now, after the work we've done individually and as a couple, I feel confident that Husband is still a good fox hole partner. I think he'd always have my back. But there's also a part of me that is poised for anything to happen. Not because of him, but because of me. Something to do with not being able to let go of the past. Maybe it's resentment, maybe it's realizing who I'm really married to and being less enamored of that man than the man I thought I'd married. I try to focus on gratitude, because there is a lot to be grateful for in the man that Husband is. But sometimes I can't overcome my fear and confusion. Even when I feel firmly in the present, not wanting a different past, not worrying about the future...I still don't feel the same free, deep, joyful love for him that I used to. Maybe this is just the process of getting to know the person he really is and falling in love with that person. It took 20 years to get to where we were before, so maybe it just takes time (more time than I thought) to rebuild that level of vulnerability and trust.

Sometimes I feel so good on my path, and sometimes I feel so lost and stuck.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So how do you cultivate self esteem?

On the Pat Morrison radio show yesterday, Rabbi Harold Kushner said "I would make a distinction between curing, making a problem go away, and healing, which is giving a person the emotional, spiritual resources to cope with a problem that isn't going away."

I think this is an insightful way to describe the process I've been going through since I discovered Husband's sex addiction.

There is no making my past go away. But I've been gaining the emotional, spiritual,and psychological resources to cope with the reality of life. I've been healing.

One area that remains unclear for me is building my self esteem. In June 2008 I declared a Year of Self Definition and yet 16 months later I still feel a bit stumped about how to cultivate a strong relationship with myself.

I have glimmers of it. I've gained a lot of tools and insight from therapy, support groups and reading. But I also have a lot of persistent patterns that originate in self-loathing.

I felt a flash of clarity in the reading I did today in Pema Chodron's The Wisdom of No Escape. In the chapter called Satisfaction she said that "one of the major obstacles to what is traditionally called enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are."

This passage really caught my eye because I recognized myself in it, and I began to start thinking about how I could re-orient my thinking and feeling about what I lack and focus instead on everything I have, everything I am. Gratitude for my life, and loving-kindness toward myself.

How would I treat myself, regard myself, be with myself if I were someone I loved? Certainly much different than I do now. I think exploring this question is on the path of developing / creating a relationship with myself that supports health and peace.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I am my own white knight

At my S-Anon meeting this week we talked about some of the surprising things we'd learned about ourselves in the recovery process.

One of the big things I've learned is how much power I'd given over to Husband. I'm not a person who becomes intimate with many people, and at the time Husband and I met, I didn't trust people easily either. But in Husband I found someone I thought I could trust 100% and I entered into a relationship completely without boundaries. I trusted Husband, I think, more than I trusted myself. And, though I never depended on Husband financially, I put the responsibility for my emotional and psychological well-being and my happiness with him.

Out of this experience I've learned that as a grown woman I am responsible for taking care of myself. Not even the most well-meaning husband, and I think mine was, can offer me the kind of safety I thought I had in my marriage. That kind of safety only comes from shuffling off delusions such as if you love someone you won't hurt them. That kind of safety can only come from surrendering to human imperfection, to suffering, to pain, knowing that all things shall pass.

The balancing act now is learning to have boundaries and make sure I'm taking care of myself without going through life on the defensive. Now that I'm aware of this dynamic in my life, this absolutist tendency of mine to trust without boundaries or not at all, I'm getting better at thinking about my own needs and wants as an important part of every equation. I'm learning to trust appropriately, and to trust in the face of human frailty and the knowledge that nothing can be known for sure. I'm learning to find peace in the face of my inability to completely shield myself from pain.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Metaphors, puns and rambling out of the fog

My son was in tears the other day because he accidentally erased his profile on his Nintendo DS game Lego Battles. He explained to my mother, who couldn't understand the problem this presented, that it meant that everything he'd accomplished, done, overcome, figured out, and scored over the past month of playing this game was gone and he had to start over with a blank slate.

"Exactly!" I thought as I listened to his wailing.

My slate feels so blank sometimes, because I've gone from believing that there were a very few things that I could absolutely count on to believing that impermanence is possibly the only thing I can count on and that despite all indications there is no way to have any certainty about the future at all. This perspective, while feeling less delusional than past certainties, also sends me into a bit of an existential freak-out. It feels too big and scary and lonely for it to be just me and my higher power. I admit it: I want something to cling to. I want to know something for sure. "I want to be able to count on something," I told my therapist.

She gently suggested that the Buddhist perspective on this (because she knows I swing that way) might be along the lines of finding gratitude for the present moment, and I realized (again) that this is where peace is for me. Since I believe that impermanence is the only constant and the future is unknowable, peace has no other place to wait for me aside from the present moment. Little comfort as I sat in my therapist's office, but my brain could grasp it and begin to make sense of the world again. Okay, so as my mind swished down the toilet of past pain and fear about the future, I had forgotten about staying in the present. But now I was remembering again. The cold fingers of my dark confusion began to loosen their grip.

The bumper sticker I get out of this experience: There is nothing good at the bottom of the toilet.

I don't feel completely alone, actually. I have girlfriends whom I still believe I can count on to be who I think they are. But in my relationship I don't have that sense of security any more. I can count on Husband 99.9% when it comes to our son. But when it comes to me...when it comes to counting on him to take me into consideration when he does something...that's where I'm afraid. I believed in this 100% before and got burned.

I told my therapist that sometimes it feels like Husband is a hot stove that I'm afraid to touch again. As we talked I realized that my subconscious assumption has been that the stove would burn me again if I touched it. But my conscious mind doesn't think that. I'm not afraid that Husband would be able to betray me again the way he did before. I have training about stoves that I didn't have before! So it was a good opening for me to realize that I'm not trying to touch a hot stove again. I'm just trying to touch the stove to see what it feels like now, and I'm not reaching out unprotected. More importantly, I need to remind myself (again) what I realized more than a year ago: Because he's in recovery, Husband probably isn't a stove anymore.

I've been caught up (again) trying to make sense of things. (Perhaps this cycle of "agains" is something I just have to surrender to.) I want things to make sense. But the lying Husband did is something that will never make sense to me. How do you so deeply betray someone you love? I can fantasize about it, but when it comes down to it, I could never go through with it. I'd have to hate him in order to lie to him the way he did to me. That's how I'm built. And he is built differently. And now we're both working on our defective parts, rebuilding our engines. They will always be different engines, but hopefully they will work better than they did before and we'll be able to finish out this road trip together.

I think a lot of this circling back is because there's anger and resentment I haven't fully expressed and it's surfacing and that's a good thing. Those things are hard for me because I never learned about openly expressing those feelings as a child. But now's my chance.

My friend recently wrote on her blog about a palm tree outside her window that was cut down, and how it took only minutes to destroy something that had taken years to grow. I told Husband this is how I feel about our relationship, and why I think it's sometimes such a struggle. The tree that was my understanding of the world has been cut down and there's no putting it back. He nodded and put his arms around me.

Replant. Give water and light. (Perhaps some therapy and the love and support of friends.) Wait. And don't lose faith that a big tree can grow from a little nut.

Later I asked him if there was anything we needed to talk about from the arguments and discussions we'd had over the past few days. "I'm afraid to tell you this, because I don't want you to feel responsible for my feelings, but when you say you can't count on anything I feel terrible. I know that you can't know anything absolutely for sure, but I'm going to do my best to be someone you can count on for the rest of my life."

Just when I need it most, my higher power chimes in. I'm both surprised and not surprised at all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


After two years of gigantic personal growth spurts, newly discovered spirituality, and tons of therapy, it would seem like everything would be on the up and up, yes?

Well of course not! The whole "journey, not a destination" rigmarole seems to be proving true once again. (This is why it gets on mugs and magnets I suppose. They rival bumper stickers as a source for all of life's deepest truths.)

I've spent the last couple weeks caught in a downward spiral. I'm in one of those places where I'm finding it hard to feel anything, mostly where Husband is concerned.

Yesterday afternoon we snuck away together to see Julie & Julia. I watched with a little sadness because that's the relationship I thought we had in many ways - loving, connected and close but independent, respectful, supportive - and the relationship I thought I would have as we grew old together. (I'm sure I've idealized things, and that's something I need to keep in mind.) But now I have doubts I will ever feel that easy deep connection with him again, and that makes me very sad.

Husband does everything right. He has worked his 12-step program diligently since day one; he's gone to therapy; he ACTS differently; he's grown tremendously; and he's probably much more the man I thought I was married to than ever before. He's a different person than he was in 2007.

But despite all his work and all his progress (not to mention my own work and progress,) I have sunk into this low place where my relationship is concerned. I talked with my therapist about it, and she summed up our session saying that I seem to have two choices: Wait it out and let my openness to deep intimacy grow as Husband proves himself over time; or take the risk and jump in with my heart open as wide as possible. Both are fine choices she said.

I want to do the latter, because I think a risk like that with someone who has been in active recovery for 2 years is less of a risk than it feels. And I know peace will be more accessible if I can make the shifts within myself that make that kind of openness possible for me again. But I just don't seem to be able to push myself past some undefinable obstacle that has settled in. Sometimes I wonder if I love my husband. I think I do, I have a lot of good reasons to, but sometimes I can't feel it.

When I imagine being with someone else, I certainly don't get any rush of relief. Another man simply represents a different set of challenges and unknowns. There is no Prince Charming (if anything, I believe I'm the only one who can sweep me off my feet.) So I think something in me needs to shift. I think my current numbness has little to do with Husband, and mostly to do with another level of growth that is becoming available to me. I think the root of my funk has something to do with my inability to completely surrender to the bottom line that life is ultimately beyond my control. My Good People/Bad People buckets can't protect me from being hurt and betrayed.

And Husband and I are DIFFERENT. (Something I forget again and again.) But that doesn't make him dangerous (I also forget this.) It just feels that way. Not that I'm absolved from taking care of my own well-being first and foremost. But he can tick differently from me and not be dangerous as long as he's not slipping into delusion, denial and grandiosity. And how do I know that's not happening? Only by his actions - only by the fact that he's working his program, going to meetings, apologizing when he's an asshole, doing things differently from how he used to when he was an unconscious narcissistic addict and I was an unconscious codie.

It does feel like a bit of a tightrope to navigate, but I think any high-stakes situation is going to feel like that.

I met with my step-buddy (I'm still working on writing up my 1st step) and she reminded me that the ups and downs I'm feeling are the landscape of a long-term relationship. I am an absolutist through and through, and another thing I always, ALWAYS forget is that this moment is not how it will be forever.

This too shall pass.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forgive but can't forget?

A good article:

I've been struggling with this issue of getting past the past lately. Don't know why it's coming up now, more than two years out. But healing from sex addiction and betrayal has its own timeline, and while I can work hard, and I can watch Husband working hard, I've learned I can't put a date on when I'll be "healed."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bringing spiritual practices into my life

I've come quite a long way from my former fear and suspicion of any concept of a higher power. I've found that spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga and prayer to the god of my understanding result in peace and serenity in the face of that which is unknown and uncontrollable in life.

I've also found that if I allow the most important relationship in my life to be with the god of my understanding, and I define that god in a way that lifts me up and empowers me, then I can keep the focus on myself more easily.

Spiritual practices form a structure that helps me stay present to my relationship with the God. Since I am not a monk, these practices have to fit into my already full life, so it's an ongoing challenge. But every new moment presents a new opportunity, and accepting less than perfect is another good spiritual practice for me.

One new practice I'm incorporating is a weekly 1-day fast. I use the lemonade recipe from the Master Cleanse (for no reason other than I don't really think it's healthy to go completely without calories/nourishment if one has a choice.)

I find that feeling hungry does two things: It gives me the chance to have feelings and not use food as a distraction or pacifier. And it reminds me of how grateful I am for everything I do have.

I am fasting today, and I am clear that life at this moment is good and that I am exactly where I need to be, and have everything I need to have, and that this has always been true even when I didn't know it.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digging deeper on my side of the street

Husband and I were beginning to make love one night last week, and I was wrestling with being trapped in my head.

Earlier in the evening as I was washing dishes somehow my mind went to thinking about how husband could have been spending his time with prostitutes while I was going about my daily life doing mundane things like washing dishes and not realizing what unimaginable physical intimacies he was sharing with other women. After that, all evening long my thoughts strayed down this path of invasive pictures forming in head.

I was going back and forth about whether or not to say anything to Husband, but I decided that this was my opportunity to get practice at getting myself back to the present while I was on a downward spiral. So I continued wrestling while trying to engage in making love with Husband at the same time.

The struggle in my head intensified as I was giving Husband a massage, because this was how the whole prostitution thing took off (massage parlors) and was a part of most of his sessions with prostitutes. Things were getting worse and worse, with every touch leading down some dark path of images. My heart was racing, and I realized that I was feeling a lot of anxiety and fear. As we continued kissing and caressing part of me was thinking very hard about what it was that I was afraid of.

I reached down and found that he'd lost his erection. He's middle aged, so that's not completely unusual, although I always have that little voice in the back of my mind that makes me consider the possibility that he is bored with me. Suddenly, he pulled away.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why, but I'm really in my head right now," he said.

A rush of relief flowed through me as I laughed and told him all about how I was so in my head, too. I confessed that I'd been struggling with a PTSD spiral of invasive images all evening, and that I'd been trying to figure out how to pull myself into the present without bringing him into it. We talked about it, and he said, "When in doubt, it's probably always best to talk about things. You're not responsible for my feelings or my reaction."

He has grown tremendously, so much that he's really able to support me when I'm feeling vulnerable and anxious. It was an amazing experience to be "seen" by him when I thought I was doing such a great job of concealing my struggle to get fully into the moment.

So I took all this to therapy last weekend (I would have forgotten, but Husband firmly encouraged me to write it down, so I wrote "Fear of - I don't know what. Fear of things that have happened in the past. Not afraid that it will happen again. But just have fear.")

Well...SURPRISE (to me, at least)! I thought I was trying to do the evolved thing and get myself back into the present. But what I didn't see was that I was using my old ways of handling things myself, trying to control Husband's experience (I didn't want him to feel bad about things that seem like they should be resolved for me by now,) and withholding myself to avoid being out of control (talking about what's going on while not knowing how Husband might respond.) In hindsight I could see that I was already feeling so out of control and in the grips of fear and anxiety in my spiral of thoughts and images, that the way I was trying to regain some sense of stability was to clamp down and get back "in control" by taking care of my feelings all by myself.

So I've told Husband that I'm going to try to talk about my feelings, and face my fear of things being messy and out of my control. I want intimacy, not a secret island of safety where I know I won't be hurt because I'm completely in control and alone.

I don't exactly know how to do this, because "handling it myself" is like water to a fish for me. It's really hard for me to distinguish when I'm doing this because it's deeply integrated into who I am in the world. But I know that the other side of discomfort and pain can be freedom if I stay with those things long enough to get present to the fact that all things change, and to my willingness to have faith that I have everything I need, and that my higher power answers before I ask.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Transition out of therapy

Since the beginning of June, and at the suggestion of his therapist, Husband has concluded both his individual and group therapy. Husband consulted me about this decision, and said that his therapist had offered to see us together if I was uncomfortable with this transition. But I decided that if both of them felt he was ready, and as long as Husband was planning to continue attending regular SAA and OA meetings, from my perspective I could see so much growth and progress that it seemed like a natural time to take this step.

Then, last weekend, Husband and I realized we also both felt ready to end our regular couples therapy. Our therapist agreed that if we felt ready, in her opinion we were ready.

We left both therapists with an open-door policy, meaning we can return at any time for a "tune-up" or to resume regular sessions.

And this week, according to the plan Husband and I had discussed, I resumed my individual therapy with the therapist who was seeing us as a couple. I have uncovered a lot of family of origin issues that I was unaware of (nothing dramatic, but certainly important to my experience of life) and I realized I need to be challenged in this area before I slip into complacency, which is so easy to do when life feels good.

My goals for therapy are to continue to explore where I'm not setting boundaries, and to further develop my own self-definition and relationship with myself. Having never been in individual therapy outside of the crisis of discovering Husband's sex addiction, I have a conversation in my head telling me that it's indulgent. Surely there are millions of people more in need of help than me. But a different part of me recognizes this as an old conversation, so I'm actually going through with this. I don't expect to spend years in therapy, but I think 6 months to a year will give me a solid foundation of learning, growth and practice around being a strong, self-aware, self-defined, self-loving, adult woman assuming full responsibility for my experience, and accepting all the love and support that comes into my life at the same time.

I am grateful, thankful, and appreciate the chance to be a human being in this world, right here, right now. To quote that Jesus Jones song that Husband loves, "There's no other place else I want to be..."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me!

On June 1, 2007 my life disintegrated when I found out that my husband and best friend of 20 years had spent tens of thousands of dollars having intercourse with high priced prostitutes for the past 3 1/2 years, and had been visiting strip clubs for lap dances since before we were married. I never had reason to suspect a thing, (in fact my husband always spoke with disdain about infidelity) and I would have bet my son's life on my husband's honesty.

Because we had a child, I chose not to leave immediately (as my whole being was screaming out that I should do, and I would have were it not for our son.) I decided to take actions that were aligned with what I wanted the outcome to be. Even though I couldn't begin to imagine at the time how it would be possible, what I wanted was for us to be able to be together to provide a loving stable environment for our little boy. I wasn't going to stay if it didn't seem to be heading in that direction, but I was willing to stay long enough to try.

Over the past 2 years we both entered individual therapy for the first time in our lives, and also went into couples therapy with someone who specailizes in sex addiction. We started attending recovery meetings regularly (SANON for me and SAA and OA for him.) And we both began individual explorations of spirituality.

Two years ago the life I'd thought I was living was destroyed. And today, I have peace, serenity, clarity and a relationship with myself that I never even knew was possible. (I'm still learning and growing from this experience - the more I learn and grow the more I see where I can learn and grow, in a very positive way. ) Husband and I also have a better relationship than either of us ever knew we could have.

I've learned that for me I'll never say "forever" again, because things change due to forces beyond my control. But taking my life and my marriage one day at a time, I can honestly say that I have come to not regret the past, and that I don't wish to shut the door on it. It's still difficult to say with total authenticity that I'd choose all the pain I've gone through again, but I can say definitively that I don't know how else I would have had the growth and learning that I've had over the past 2 years. The leaps and bounds I've made are a direct result of the discomfort and groundlessness of discovering such profound betrayal. I was left with no choice but to grow and learn exponentially or be annihilated by pain, loss, dispair and hopelessness.

I am thankful. I am grateful. And I am here to say that it's possible to survive discovery of a partner's sex addiction and come out healthier and happier (whether or not you stay together) on the other side of it. Everybody's circumstance and everybody's journey is different. My story is only one story. For those of you struggling to maintain hope where hope seems impossible, my experience is that having gotten support and having focused on myself rather than the addict, I have not only survived this, but I've blossomed as a result. I have realized aspects of myself that were previously unknown to me: I've found more strength, more confidence, more compassion, more courage; I've found I'm a more loving person, a more honest person, a more forgiving person, a more courageous person, a more conscious person, a more spiritual person. I am more fully myself - the self that has always been there, but that I've never had a relationship with until now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finding love in loss

The Buddhist Reviews Tricycle Magazine publishes a "Daily Dharma" email that excerpts writings on Buddhism.

Today's edition about finding love in loss, from Lorne Ladner's book The Lost Art of Compassion, so aptly described what this journey has been for me:

"To live a meaningful life, each of us must step outside the familiar, confining walls of ego defenses and enter our own wilderness, our own charnel ground, to face honestly the truth of impermanence and loss. In the strange cemetery of imagination, mourning ourselves, we suddenly stumble upon what’s most essential. Facing loss, we find love."

Over the past 2 years I've found greater love and compassion for myself and others, beyond what I knew to be possible.

I still get scared, pissed off, resentful, etc. There's no doubt that I'll always be human, and that the logical effect of impermanence is that "good" is as temporary as "bad."

But in order to survive the loss of the life I thought I was living, I've been pushed into new territory and tasted the sweetness of a deeper love than I've ever known before, which has made possible a deeper and more profound peace.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What am I afriad of?

For the past several weeks I've been wrestling with fears. I even woke one night and went through Husband's emails and Twitter friends to see what I would find.

I found nothing, and I don't have any reason to think anything's going on.

It's surprising, because I'd have thought from the way things are going with Husband's recovery and our couples work that I would feel more secure, more sure by now.

Of course, the thing that I've been slacking off on is my own recovery work. After almost 2 years you'd think I'd have come far enough, right?!

But, not surprising now that I've jumped in, apparently it's going to take more time to cross these waters. Maybe a lifetime. Maybe that's human beings are here for. To be ongoingly recovering or avoiding recovery.

Recovering from what? Not everybody is married to a sex addict, after all.

I've decided that what I'm recovering from is being human...which explains why it's a life's work, and why others who find themselves in a human existence may also find it a useful pursuit.

I'm recovering from the curse of our big, human brains that know enough to know (even if only subconsciously) and be afraid of (even if only subconsciously) how much we don't know.

One question I've been looking at again recently is 'Why did this happen to me twice?'

Betrayed by my father, betrayed by my husband, both of whom I trusted with childlike certainty.

I think there are many ways of looking at everything, and that with that choice lies freedom and any hope of peace.

So I've decided to listen for the voice of my higher power/divine self/universal love intelligence/name-of-one's-choice-for-that-which-is-beyond-me in this matter. Some would call it the voice of God.

When I listen, what I hear is my higher power telling me that I'm ready. I'm ready to be with the groundlessness that is the truth of our existence and find peace. I'm ready to have faith that I everything I need in this life will be provided even if it's not what I think I need or what I want. I'm ready to accept that everything changes, the 'good' and the 'bad,' and that no matter how I plan for the future and wish for a different past, all I have is the moment I'm in and the choice to be full of love and compassion or not in that instant. I'm ready to find freedom, peace and the ultimate strength in courageous surrender to what is so.

Higher power has presented me with this opportunity because I am ready to find that inside myself.

So fear is my ally. When I feel it I'm reminded that I am on the right path, that I'm keeping myself open to learning who I am in the face of it, that I'm learning how I can resist both fight and flight to fleetingly experience my true self in those moments.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What I see about my fear

So I look at my last post and what I see is that I have some desire to control what Husband is thinking because I use what he's thinking to define myself.

That's part of where the fear comes from.

I know that for me wanting to control what I can't is a form of resisting what is so, and leads to nothing but unhappiness and dissatisfaction. So I'm willing to give that up (and give it up again and again and again, because it's not going to come easily.)

The other part of the fear is a fear of trust.

I'm afriad I'll be lied to again, even if it's only that his mind is somewhere else when I believe it's with me.

And I'm afriad of what would happen if he lied again. Although oddly, we've already been through a small slip with lying (about something other than sex with prostitutes) and I lived through it.

I guess I'm just afraid of the pain. I don't want that kind of pain again.

But I'm also reminded about the gifts of pain by reading Sophie in the Moonlight and Willow posting about being right where one is supposed to be.

After reading a lot of Buddhist and related spiritual literature, I've decided to take the position that I'm always right where I'm supposed to be, and either surrendering or resisting.

In the past I've gotten caught up in the thinking that "where I'm supposed to be" is a going to be a place that I'd want to be. Now I see this isn't necessarily true.

This is a note to myself to take this mantra with me wherever I go, wherever I find myself, into to the sunshine and into the darkness: I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Applying what I am learning

Last night Husband and I were making love, and I had the usual invasive thoughts and images of him with other women that usually accompany any sexual activity between us.

This time those were fraught with fears about Husband fantasizing about other women while he was making love to me.

I tried to think about why I was so afraid of this. First, why do I care so much about whether or not Husband finds me attractive (in my fears he was fantasizing about the other women he's had sex with because he couldn't get aroused by me)? I can be attractive whether or not he finds me so, right?

Second, if he is thinking about others (which he says he isn't, claims that in fact he can't) why does it matter because I can't control it, might not even know it? If I don't know it, it can't hurt me, right?

The answer I arrived at is that what I'm afraid of is disappearing, being negated, being invalidated by a lack of connection between us during this intimate act. If husband is with someone else or with fantasy in his mind when he's making love to me it's almost as if I'm not there. So why do I need his validation, why do I need to feel recognized by him in order to in the world?

I'm sure it's tied into the fact that deep intimacy demands both partners be fully present to and with each other. But why can't I just enjoy the moment, wherever he is and wherever I am?

I tried to think about being whole and complete as an expression of the Divine, but the fear persisted in the moment.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Oh come all ye faithful.."

A medium recently sang that Christmas carol to me when she was channeling my dead relatives. Only after the session was over did I catch the irony coming at me from the Other Side (or at the very least from her.)

It's ironic that out of my husband being "unfaithful," I have launched myself into a deep exploration of faith.

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

My exploration of faith and spirituality is leading me to exciting and challenging places.

Today in church we talked about looking to our higher power / higher self / universal love intelligence (again, take your pick - name is not important) for what we need, and not being distracted by thinking that satisfaction will come through other people or material things.

It made me think of this passage I found on Friday from the book Communion with God (which I have not read) by Neal Donald Walsch (an author I am not familiar with beyond this passage):

“When you allow yourself to experience that there is enough of what you once thought there was not enough of, extraordinary changes occur in the way you live your life.

“When you know that there is enough, you stop competing with others. You stop competing for love, or money, or sex, or power, or whatever it is you felt there was not enough of.

“The competition is over.

“This alters everything. Now, instead of competing with others to get what you want, you begin to give what you want away. Instead of fighting for more love, you begin giving more love away. Instead of struggling for success, you begin making sure that everyone else is successful. Instead of grasping for power, you begin empowering others.

“Instead of seeking affection, attention, sexual satisfaction, and emotional security, you find yourself being the source of it. Indeed, everything that you have ever wanted, you are now supplying to others. And the wonder of it all is that, as you give, so you receive. You suddenly become MORE of whatever you are giving away.

“The reason for this is clear. It has nothing to do with the fact that what you have done is “morally right”, or “spiritually enlightened”, or “the will of God”. It has to do with the simple truth: There is no one else in the room.

“There is only one of us.”

(From page 75 of “Communion with God”, by Neale Donald Walsch.)

This non-duality, letting God be God in me (paraphrasing Eckhart), creates a context in which I am free from the urgency of needing something else or someone else and gives me the ability to live life in a much more empowered way.

To live from the context of non-duality, of having and being enough because in fact I have and am All, leaves me able to choose freely in my life, unconstrained by the distraction of wanting or needing things or people in order to be satisfied, complete, whole or worthy.

I've been pondering this idea for a month now, and continue to get more and more peace and freedom from giving myself this context from which to experience life.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Don't waste a crisis?

"A good crisis is a terrible thing to waste" was the theme for the service at church today.

That concept holds great meaning for me now, and reminds me how far I've come.

It's often said (incorrectly) that the Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters, one meaning "danger" and the other meaning "opportunity." While that isn't exactly true, I think the misunderstanding has survived over time because it resonates with people who have experienced crisis.

The crisis in my relationship has certainly been an opportunity for dramatic personal growth for which I am more thankful and grateful each day.

It was suggested today that when we find ourselves complaining it's because we haven't found a way to see the opportunity. I'm going to try to remember that in my interactions with my mother. Because of the level of co-dependency and enmenshment, our relationship has deteriorated over the years. But I don't want that for us. My mother is doing the best she can, even when she's driving me crazy and being passive aggressive and nutty in her own special way. I know I drive her crazy, too.

It's only because of therapy, reading and attending support groups over the past year and a half that I am able to see the source of our difficulties.

Understanding that and being able to observe myself participating in our enmeshed, co-dependent mess of a relationship gives me at least the opportunity to act instead of react. I'm not very good at it yet, but the possibility is there now where it wasn't before.

The last thing I want is for Mom and I to grow farther apart as she gets older. As a parent, that is certainly the last thing I'd want for me and my son. And right now, I'm the one with the better set of tools, so it's going to be up to me to meet my mom more than half way.

It will take nothing less than the support / guidance of my higher power / higher self / universal consciousness / love-beauty-intelligence - whatever you call it - to practice this, so thank god I'm beginning to have some sort of spiritual life to draw on for this daunting task!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wrestling with my Self

Went to church this morning, and what I got from it is that because I am an expression of the divine (Meister Eckhart - "Let God be God in you."), all my needs are already met and that when I'm unsure about that, I can lean toward and call on my higher power for support.

I can't say with any certainty that any of this is true, but it gives me a more empowered place from which to live, so for now I say yes to it. It doesn't need to be true to have a positive impact in my life.

Removing Need from my relationship leaves me free to love Husband without trying to get from him what I (with support from my higher self / higher power) should be providing for myself: validation, acceptance, security, guidance. I don't even Need love from Husband. I go to church and I see hundreds of people who are opening their hearts to me.

Love is available.

Love does not come only from a single source (except perhaps in the sense of a Source that is divine universal love-intelligence, of which I believe we are all a part.)

Love may not come from where I want it, or from where I think it will come; and love may come from the most unexpected places.

So I am free to love Husband without Needing him to provide that which I already have (the challenge here is allowing myself to see that I already have it) and that which I can provide for myself as an adult woman.

This is NOT to say that I am willing to be in relationship without expectations.

Expectations can be worked out and expressed between us. And if what I expect out of a relationship can't be met, if what we are able to work out leaves me feeling compromised, that's my indication that it's not the right relationship for me.

Fortunately at this moment in time I have every indication that we can work out a set of mutual expectations that leave us both satisfied, peaceful and uncompromised. Especially with the new tools we've gained from recovery work and therapy.

So I came home from church feeling open, empowered, peaceful and free to love.

Then I opened the letter from the IRS. During the period when his addiction really began escalating Husband neglected to take care of doing our taxes as he said he would. So we have back taxes and penalties that have been growing for several years now.

I have a lot of anger about these things because in my mind they're closely tied to that period of lies, distractions and thousands of dollars secretly spent on prostitutes, for which I'm realizing I still have a lot to work through to get to a place of authentic forgiveness.

So today is a day when I wrestle with what I understand is possible on the one hand, and the pull of my ego / identity on the other.

I think for me the way through this is prayer, meditation, exercise (where I release a lot of stress), and couples therapy (where I feel safe to fully express myself to Husband.)

Something else I've come to today: For me, clarity is an impermanent state, just like anything else; and peace is an ongoing journey.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Went out to the treadmill and found myself reading Eckhart Tolle's chapters on ego from A New Earth. That gave me a more empowered perspective. I still have questions, but I also have some clarity.

Further proof that my higher power will do for me what I cannot do for myself.


After all this time, after all the recovery, all the therapy, all the growth...there are still triggers.

It started last weekend when I stayed in a Sheraton Hotel. Hotels like that call to mind images of what I think went on with Husband and prostitutes in similar rooms. With the images come questions I thought I'd put behind me: What was he thinking? How could he do that? How could he lie to me? What was it like, being with all those other women? Did I mean so little to him that his promises to me were that easy to break, that my trust and vulnerability were so meaningless to him, that he had so little respect for me that he could - over and over again - do things that he knew were wrong, things that he knew were not okay with me in the context of our relationship?

With those questions comes anger. I'm angry at him for lying. I'm angry at him for destroying the trust I'd built up over two decades. I'm angry at him for the loss I've had - the loss of the deepest bond I had in my adult life. I wish I could subject him to the feelings that accompany such a profound betrayal, and the feelings that go along with trying to rebuild trust with somebody who has hurt and betrayed you so deeply. I hate that I have this in my life. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to completely forgive him, if I'll ever love or trust him the way I did before. I'd probably be foolish to ever trust anybody the way I trusted him. And I hate that I feel that way. I hate that this might be the reality of the world - that you can't really trust anybody. I'm afraid, too. Afraid that he'll detect how distant I can feel, and that it will scare him and that he'll leave me - maybe just when I've really started to believe he's who he says he is. I'm afraid of spending the rest of my life in a relationship where I don't really love fully, where I'm holding my trust back. But I feel like no matter what relationship I'm in, I'll never fully trust again. Like sleeping with one eye open.

Full of fear, full of anger. Some other part of me knows better. But these things are still inside me and I want them OUT and not pushed down. I don't want to wake up angry in 20 years, and I don't want to have unexpressed anger inside me for the rest of my life.

In a way it feels too late for me to express these feelings. But that's too bad, because I refuse to keep it in and suffer the consequences of that. So what if my timing's bad? It's my timing. It's all I've got.

I want so much to believe in the person he seems to be, to believe he loves me as much as he says he does. But after being deceived the way Husband deceived me...I don't know how I can ever completely believe in his love for me again.

Today I had a business meeting in our old neighborhood, and once again ended up parking in front of the "oriental massage" place where Husband got his first hand job that opened the door to paying for sex. An unpleasant ending to a difficult week.

I don't doubt that these feelings are a part of the process. I realized in my 12-step meeting that I'm trying to "figure out" my way past this, and that part of my journey is to accept that not everything can be figured out. I can pray to my higher power for help with these things my logical mind can't resolve.

But for the moment I'm sad and afraid. Sad about what I've lost, and afraid that I won't feel so deeply connected with a partner ever again. If that's the case, I know I can manage. I've got a beautiful son, and fantastic friends. But it's not what I want for my life. I don't want my heart to be walled off, to feel distant, mistrustful, unable to love deeply. But I don't want to be a fool either.

Or maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe just as there is no good or bad, there is no foolish or wise. Maybe it's just all about my experience in the moment and how I respond to it.

Right now I'm all questions and no answers.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Remembered hurts

Close to two years now and I'm not sure that a day goes by without me having at least one thought about what Husband did.

Usually it doesn't really trigger me anymore, which is a sign of the progress I've made. But sometimes I get sad and start to feel distant, which is what has been happening lately.

GentlePath wrote today that "There’s a point where a remembered hurt can develop into a resentment — or it can morph into a springboard for learning and change."

I'm grateful to her for reminding me about the choice I face. Because I'm the path I'm on is one of growing, learning and change, and in this moment I am re-presenced to that.

Taking the next right action, one day (one moment) at a time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The healing power of good art

I haven't seen Benjamin Button yet, but a friend sent me this quote which resonated so strongly with me. It's like a prayer I can say to myself.

“It’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be.
There’s no limit.
Start whenever you want.
You can change or stay the same.
There are no rules to this thing.
We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it.
I hope you see things that startle you.
I hope you feel things you never felt before.
I hope you meet people who have a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again”

- Eric Roth, from the screenplay “THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And now for a Stuart Smalley moment

The questions in church today were "How can I grow?" "What can I give?" "What can I celebrate?

During the service what came to me is that the origin of all forms of self-loathing rises out of my perception of self as separate from the divine. And that what I can do in the face of that is to surrender to being an instrument of divine expression. To view myself as a unique expression of universal consciousness, group mind, love-intelligence - I still don't know exactly what to call it (and perhaps it doesn't matter.) To live as if this is true - whether or not it is - because I'm freed by that perspective to live a better life.

What does this mean?

For me, it means that everything is as it is and that to resist is a waste of life and a waste of energy. So rather than trying to fix what is wrong I can embrace what is so and generate, or create my life from what I want for the future rather than from what has transpired in the past.

More briefly, to be pro rather than anti.

Pro good health rather than anti-fat.
Pro bring-out-my-best rather than anti-flaws.
Pro peace rather than anti-war.
Pro love and tolerance rather than anti-Republican.
Pro expression, compassion and personal responsibility rather than anti-conflict.
Pro creating a healthy, happy relationship rather than anti-betrayal.
Pro connection, growth and vulnerability rather than anti-perfectionism.

I can grow by surrendering over and over again to my true divine nature; surrendering to my path with the grace and strength of water to the river bed; and remaining but a loving witness to others on their paths.

I can give by joyfully and unabashedly sharing myself as a unique expression of the divine; practicing love and compassion for all; and understanding fear as a manifestation of ego and letting it be.

I can celebrate that I am alive in this moment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grey is the new black and white

Tonight in my S-Anon meeting I was reminded about a large part of the reason I ended up married to an addict.

My mother's father was the child of an alcoholic father. His mother, my great grandmother, divorced her abusive husband in a time and a culture where that was unheard of, so it must have been pretty bad.

My grandfather didn't drink, didn't have any addictions as far as I know. But he was an absolutist and a dictator. If he said the sky was pink, everybody would have to agree knowing full well that they could see it was blue and that everybody else could see it was blue. If Grampa said it was pink, it was pink.

As a child of such an oppressive father, my mother developed a very absolutist view of the world - black and white, good and bad, no room for shades of grey. No room for mistakes. No excuses. No second chances.

Mom isn't harsh, but I can feel the judgment. She's good at the passive aggressive guilt-trip. I wasn't even aware of the dynamic until the past year and a half of therapy. But I recognize it in our interactions now.

In my black and white childhood there were rules. For example, rules about what "good people" do and don't do. Good People don't rock the boat, don't make others feel uncomfortable, don't impose on others, don't boast, follow orders, think of others first. I'll even go as far as to say it was implied that good people don't feel deserving and don't expect anything in return for sacrifice. In fact, the very best Good People suffer in silence for a lifetime.

So, striving to be worthy of the Good Person mantle, I never developed boundaries or tools for dealing with conflict. (There was no open conflict because of the previously mentioned Good People qualities.)

Instead I developed the ability to be reasonable, understanding, accommodating and nice no matter what. (Except when I was mean, which I have been with my husband and my mother. But I could never see that because I defined myself as a Good Person and there was no room for a Good Person to be wrong or bad. Otherwise that Good Person would then be a Bad Person.)

I defined the world in terms of good and bad, right and wrong, smart and stupid, perfect and awful. It was all very clear.

What happened next?

Ta-daaa! My higher power saw I was missing some tools, and provided me the opportunity to gain those tools. Poof! Enter sex addict husband!

Nowadays I remind myself that I don't have to be a Good Person. I give myself room to be human. And I make a lot of mistakes. Then I clean up as best I can. Then I move into the next moment. Sometimes this happens easily, sometimes it takes a lot of effort.

Sometimes I forget that I'm only human. But eventually I remember. And then I feel peaceful and free. I'd so much rather be human than Good, Right, Smart or Perfect.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Walking off a cliff

This past weekend I took a workshop about developing and performing solo work. I was terrified, so I knew I must be heading in the right direction.

After the first meeting on Friday I almost pulled out, full of that nagging fear that I have nothing to say, nothing to offer. But over and over again I brought myself back the new mandate I've given myself: Give my gifts and celebrate what has been accomplished.

And as it turns out, once again, I'm glad I didn't run away from the fear as my body so wanted to do. Once again, I got so much out of staying.

Over the course of the weekend I developed this piece, which I performed last night for a small audience in a tiny theater:

The Perfect Gift

Gifts have been an issue for my husband and me since early in our relationship.

We met in Seattle in 1988 doing fringe theater. He was sharing a room in a crack house with 3 other guys (not crack addicts, just alcoholics) and working at a popcorn stand under the monorail. Future husband material, right?

But smart, funny and creative are my drugs of choice when it comes to men and he was all of those things.

The $70 a week he made selling popcorn supported his life as one of the founders of a small theater. This theater was started by a group of old friends just out of college. It was a labor of love and produced astounding original work fueled by the arrogance of youth, pitchers of beer, sex and cigarettes.

Probably the first gift he gave me, though I didn't recognize it at the time, was teaching me improv. In improv you make it up as you go. You get a location, you say yes, you define the space, define your characters – high status, low status - you give your partner gifts, you give up control. If you have faith in the process, you can create great art. Or at least, funny art. Or you can suck.

It was in those rehearsals that I learned to walk off a cliff. Sometimes I'd fly, sometimes I'd crash an burn. But I learned about living in the present moment and trusting that even though you don't know what's going to happen... something's going to happen. And that no matter what, after that, good or bad, there's a new moment and a new possibility.

Life in Seattle was good. It was a fertile time. Nirvana was playing all ages shows around town. Microsoft and Starbucks were heating up. And Seattle was a theater town. Regional theater, Fringe Theater, children's theater, theater in the park. A lot of theater. It was also a great city for food, and Husband and I discovered Thai food. We loved it all, from the authentic but pricey place on Capital Hill to the cheap place in the U District that used ketchup for their Pad Thai sauce.

Husband prided himself on his cooking. Although looking back the only thing I remember him cooking is spaghetti sauce. But I was smitten and really didn’t notice that he wasn’t exactly a prolific chef. So that Christmas I got him a gift I was sure he’d love - Tommy Tang's Modern Thai Cuisine Cookbook. Perfect, right?

Well, he hated it. In fact, he was offended. Somehow it (and I) had failed to meet his expectations. I was crushed. After that, giving him gifts got hard because there was always that underlying anxiety of getting the wrong thing. But we made it through that little bit of pain and kept going.

Nothing major happened in the gift area for several years until one Christmas. That was the year he couldn't wait and gave me my present early. He got down on his knees at the end of our bed, totally naked, and proposed. I was filled with love. The ring was beautiful. I said yes. That was a good gift.

After we'd been married for about 4 years he asked me if I wanted kids.

“Yes, but I don't think I'm ready yet”

“Sometimes it takes a long time. So maybe we should start trying. Just in case.”


That sounded reasonable.

Nine months later we got the best gift we'd ever given each other: Our son.

I remember that feeling – coming home from the hospital with stitches in my gut and a prescription for Vicodin thinking, “Please! Don’t send us home! We have no idea what we’re doing!” But nope. They pack you up, wave goodbye, and then your in your car and on your own. But as it turns out, for the first few months the baby mostly eats, sleeps and poops, so it’s not a complex as you’d think it would be.

So, very little expertise, and not much sleep either, but once again we made it through.

Having a kid is one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s a really good gift.

The first Christmas after Son was born all the presents Husband had bought got stolen out of the trunk of our car, including a huge basket of fancy beauty products from Kehil’s. So he went back to Kehil’s to get more presents and ended up telling them the story of his stolen gifts. A charming guy with a good story, right? The manager disappeared for a moment and returned with a basket full of shampoos and soaps and lotions and scrubs – for free! So now, we’re Kehil’s customers for life. That’s a good gift!

My recent attempts, however, have proved only moderately successful. The $400 iPod that he lost almost immediately. The beautiful watch I got him for our 10th anniversary that got left at the gym. Somehow I feel like I’ve missed the mark. I still haven’t found the Perfect Gift that he loves and treasures.

On June 1, 2007, I found out that my husband of almost a decade, the love of my life for close to 20 years had been keeping a secret – leading a double life of sorts. The person I knew and trusted more than anyone else in the world had been hiding things from me since before we were married. In an instant, my very best friend, my partner, my lover...died and I found myself in an intimate relationship with a stranger.

Now at this point I know at least some of you are wondering, “What was the secret? What did he do?” And I’m gonna tell you that it’s irrelevant, because it’s not about him. It’s about me.

So what do you do when the world as you know it falls away and there is no ground on which to stand? Not even a branch or vine to grab on to and you feel so raw, like your skin has just been seared off with a blow torch?

I wanted to do what I’d done when I was 12 and my dad went camping and never came back. His note claimed that he was leaving the country to seek experimental treatments for some disease. Five months later we found him in a hippie commune trying to "find himself."

I wanted to do what I’d done then. To shut him out. To swear off trust. To swear off needing anyone else ever again.

But, there was the matter of that earlier gift he’d given me. So it wasn’t just about me and my pain. I had a son to raise. I didn’t want to just walk away. I wanted to stay – in the midst of fear and groundlessness –to see if I could still give my little boy this family we’d started together.

It’s been almost two years now, and during that time I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve made my husband responsible for my happiness. I’ve trusted what he thought and said over my own better judgment and intuition. I draw with a Sharpie instead of a pencil. room for mistakes. And I’m so afraid of conflict because of what it might mean about me that I immediately invalidate, fix and change without listening. Great wife material,right?

Staying with the pain and discomfort of betrayal, not running, not distracting myself, (though I have to admit I went through a lot of single malt scotch in those first few months) I’ve discovered that I CAN take care of myself. Not as a stop-gap until I find someone else to do it. Not as a defense. But as a way to be awake and conscious in my life.

I can make the choices and decisions I used to leave to others. I can move forward on my path even in the face of the scariest shadow of all – the unknown.

And so, 20 years later, my husband and I find ourselves doing improv together again. Trying to be in the present moment, to let go of past mistakes and create a new relationship without any idea of what the future might be. It’s a pretty big cliff and it’s definitely frightening. But he’s working hard, I’m working hard, and we make it up as we go.

I read a quote recently. It said, "only to the extent to which we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us."

That is the gift my husband has given me. And it’s a really good gift.