To think about

To think about

The name of the blog

"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The story - Part I

My story is one part cliche, one part cautionary tale, one part human nature and brain chemistry, a whole lot of craziness as far as I am concerned, and plain old tragic. Does the story matter though? For months I thought it did, and my close girlfriend kept telling me it did not. She insisted the feelings are the same for everyone who has found themselves in an adulterous situation regardless of the intricacies: vulnerable, shamed, afraid, insecure, foolish, helpless, angry, wounded, empty, lost, questioning and desperate. And she may be correct. Through her vocation she has witnessed the aftermath of affairs many times over, and I have no real prior experience with this life circumstance. It is only recently that I have come to realize that I would not likely feel any differently if my husband had left me to marry the other woman, in fact, I might feel worse. It is actually a deep seated fear that they will get married, because then everything he told me will be yet another lie. And at the end of the day, that will make me feel all the more foolish. The book After the Affair speaks to the commonality of the feelings an individual experiences, regardless of gender or specifics; thus, I will not go into depth here on those feelings, other than to state I have been reassured by different professionals that my emotional reactions are completely within the realm of normality.

On June 4, 2013 we returned home from a trip to Vegas. My husband had gone down two nights earlier than me as part of a guys poker trip, and I had joined him for the last two nights. I had stayed up very late on a lucky streak the night before our morning flight home, so when we got home in the afternoon I went to lay down for a nap. He was going to get the mail and go to Starbucks. About a half hour later, just as I was dozing off, he came into the bedroom and said "I got your card". What I was too tired to catch immediately is that he did not sound happy, even though the card was essentially a short love letter. I had sent him an early Father's Day card to let him know how much I loved him, what a great father he was to our son, and how much I loved the life we had built together. Before his lack of appreciation could register in my foggy brain, he said the dreaded words, "we need to talk". That really should be translated to, "I am about to destroy your life". I do not recall another time in our 12 years together that he had ever said that to me. This time, the look on his face and tone of voice registered all too well in my brain and my body instantly went into fight or flight instinct. The adrenalin coursing through my system instantly made me ice cold and wanting to throw up; typical reactions for me. He sat on the bed next to me and said something to the effect of "I am in love with Stephanie". Honestly, after that the shock made everything quite blurry and I lost the next hour or so of my life. I remember instantly pulling the blankets up over me to cover myself, crying, and at some point asking what this meant. I remember later asking if this meant the marriage was over. I believe his response was something along the lines of yes, as you know it. And why the strange response?

Stephanie is 12 years younger than my husband, ten years younger than me, the complete physical and social opposite to me, in my opinion, and is his coworker; this is the cliche. The crazy part is that Stephanie is married, and in an open marriage. I had met her and spent time with her twice socially the summer prior. I did not much care for her, mostly because I was uncomfortable with her lifestyle choices, and secondly she just was not the personality type I am attracted to. I knew my husband was friends with her, and I knew he was friends with her husband and spent time with him socially. My husband told me at some point that afternoon that he had come to believe he too was polyamorous, and no longer believed in marriage, thus, was no longer going to continue in our marriage as I knew it. Fidelity and monogamy were no longer applicable to his life. The next 48 hours or so are a blur that I remember very little of. I know we talked a lot, and I cried almost none stop. I was talking to some of my closest friends during those first days, needing a sounding board for what I was hearing. I asked him about the nature of the relationship, and how it had gotten to this point, despite me vocalizing on multiple occasions previously how uncomfortable I was with her and him spending time together because she did not respect marriage. I had a lot of questions about how he saw an open marriage working for his life. He told me that he loved me deeply, that had not changed. He was "just" in love with someone else as well. I specifically remember asking if this meant he wanted to be sexually intimate with her, and he responded by saying he was not sure, he had not put much thought into that. He said he wanted to be able to spend time with her, go on holidays with her, and do the same with me. He wanted to remain living with me he said, and threw out the numbers 95% of his life would be with me, I was the primary focus, but he wanted 5% of his time to be with her. I remember very short bursts of anger, such as throwing one of our wedding photos against a closet door and significantly damaging the door. He asked from downstairs if I was okay. I think I gave him a rather sarcastic answer from our bedroom. I took off my wedding rings. At one point that first day he said he would wear his ring until I told him to take it off, which I did. We stopped sleeping in the same bed that day.

In the months leading up to the disclosure I was growing increasingly concerned with Stephanie's presence in my husbands life. In fact, I distinctly remember that they were going to be at a union conference together that April, provinces away, and I talked to my husband before he left about spending time with Stephanie, and he said he would minimize his contact with her. While he was at the conference I got a strange text which threw me into a tizzy, it said "Mike says hi". I though someone, namely Stephanie, had his cell phone, but my husband later said it was another coworker I knew by the name of Mike who was saying hi, and that he himself had sent the text. On another occasion, closer to the disclosure, I had seen a text message from Stephanie to my husband saying "I am worried about you". I challenged my husband on what that meant, citing the text as a living example of her lack of boundaries and knowing what was appropriate when dealing with a married man. I told him it was not her place to worry about you, it was mine. He assured me the concern was about his drinking and nothing else. I challenged the oddity of his statement given I knew her to be a big drinker, and he stated she had stopped drinking. And that is part one of the cautionary tale. In hindsight, I wish I had pushed harder during those conversations, but what I was about to find out is that when dealing with a liar, there is not much you can do to elicit the truth out of them.

On June 7, 2013, at about noon, a new but close friend, who ran in the same social circle as us through work, called me, and said that another coworker of my husbands needed to talk to me. The two women wanted to come over and talk to me in person, and R said it would be best for everyone if my husband was not at home, could I send him out for a few hours? The ever present low-grade panic attack I had been living with for the last two days flared up again, and it was all I could do not to vomit. While I waited for my friend to call me back with a time, I confronted my husband angrily and asked why this woman wanted to speak to me; I knew who she was, I knew for a time my husband had been friends with her, and although I had met her once in passing, I certainly did not know her. My husband said he had no idea why she wanted to talk to me, he had nothing to hide, and of course they could come over. I prepared myself to hear this woman admit she had slept with my husband, that they had had an affair. My friend called back within 15 minutes or so to say the other woman did not want to come over to talk, she actually did not want to get involved, but had information she felt I needed to know since I was trying to save my marriage. This woman, and my friend, believed my husband was not being entirely truthful in what he was telling me. And so, this is the information I received: approximately six weeks earlier, at a work function, Stephanie had gotten really drunk and said to A, "you slept with M didn't you? You can tell me, I've been fucking him for months". This was apparently said in a room full of my husbands colleagues. The other information was indeed about A, but was more about inappropriate or strange behaviour on the part of my husband, rather than those two having had an affair. And the one thing that was said that made it all ring too true, was reference from A to a text message that my husband had apparently meant to send her, that she had never received.

I knew instantly what that text message was about. A year and a half earlier, we had taken our son to Vegas to celebrate his 21st birthday. There were about eight of us, and one evening my husband had gone back to the room to change, and I had stayed on the casino floor with his best friend. E got a text message from my husband, and said, this must be meant for you, and passed me his phone. To paraphrase, the message said something like "we just had a great dinner at TAO, and are getting ready to see a show. Love you". When you read something like that, the dread is instantaneous, as is the sick feeling in your stomach. I said nothing to E, but when my husband reappeared a few minutes later, I asked who that message was meant for. He denied sending a text message and said he did not know what I was talking about. So, I demanded E's cell phone back and showed him the text message that was clearly from him. He then said he meant to send it to me. I said absolutely no way, I know we just had dinner and are heading out to a show, you would not need to tell me that. He said he had just worded it badly, he meant to say what a great night he was having. To say the next few hours at the show were tense would be an understatement. When we were alone hours later, we rehashed the conversation, because I did not believe him; he never strayed from his story. He said he was bad at texting and he was so sorry to have caused me grief and suspicion. On the topic of him lying to me initially, he said he felt very foolish that he had sent the text to E instead of me, and wanted to avoid the conversation. Eventually, probably days later, I dropped it. At the time I was not prepared to end my marriage over a text message that he was adamant was intended for me and just very poorly worded. And that is cautionary tale part two. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, and you are not a chronically suspicious individual riddled with jealousy, and you do not have a mental health issue with paranoid traits, pursue it. I did not, partly because I felt I had to choose my battles so to speak, but more so because of my own desire not to be insecure. I did not want to be a jealous wife that controlled who my husband was friends with. In fact, a small part of me had taken pride in his ability to have female friends; I saw it as a sign of him genuinely liking women, a positive. It almost kills me when I wonder if I had pushed harder then, could we have gone to counselling and worked through whatever issues were propelling my husband to need attention from other woman? Could we have explored his propensity for loving multiple woman and avoided the Stephanie situation? It is a significant regret of mine that I will never know the answer. 

I went inside and confronted my husband with what my friend had just told me. He denied almost everything, but admitted he had been in love with A years back. On the topic of having a sexual relationship with Stephanie, he denied it three times, and on the fourth time I asked him, there was a quiet but firm yes. Shock is a beautiful thing; our minds are wondrous in their ability to protect the body. The shock was instantaneous, and I felt it, much like a panic attack, but the opposite. Everything slowed right down, and my body went numb. It was what I assume an out-of-body experience is. I could feel my head slowly moving back and forth in the no motion. I could feel the tears running down my face. I could see my husband, but heard nothing except the whoosh of my heartbeat in my ears, sort of like when you are submerged under water. I did not, however, feel as though I was in control of my body at all. I remember sitting there for awhile, I do not know how long for, just shaking my head and crying. I asked him for how long? Since just before Christmas. I asked him where, how? In the car after work, quickly. Then I got up and resumed trying to clean out the guinea pigs cage which is what I had been doing an hour earlier when the call from R came. He came over and said let me do that and took the scoop from my hand. I went and sat on the patio deck. I do not know how much time passed with me sitting there, living concrete unable to move, but I eventually texted the two friends who knew what was going on, including R who had broken the news from A to me. Both woman responded saying they were on their way. What I would find out later is that my husband had texted them about the same time saying they needed to come over and "save me". At one point my husband brought me a glass of water. When R arrived, he apparently told her he had really fucked up, and he left the home. R told me he was incredibly distraught and crying. Those woman sat with me on the patio deck for hours; I do not remember speaking much, just sitting there, lighting cigarette after cigarette in slow fumbling motion, and not being capable of even smoking them, the ashes falling all over me while they burned down. My friends hugged me and held my hand, which helped me cry a bit, they got me a wash cloth for my face, they asked if I had taken anything, which I had not, and they eventually helped me have a shower so that they could take me to a pre-arranged counselling session with my psychologist. What a miracle that I had a routine appointment set for that day from about a month prior. The original plan, once my husband had broken the news of being in love with someone else, was that he would come to that appointment with me to talk about open marriages, since my gut instinct was that I wanted nothing to do with one. 

He showed up at the counselling session having driven his car there; I was still in far too much shock to speak. When we went into the room, this being the first time my psychologist had met my husband, and with me being near catatonic, she demanded to know what was going on. There was silence. She again firmly stated, "one of you needs to tell me what has happened . My husband told her he was in love with another woman and had been cheating on me, which set me off crying again. And bless her heart, my psychologist said, "That is the last thing she needs". My husband then said, "I want a divorce" and I shot back angrily "then why are you here?" And that would be my entire verbal contribution to that session. At that time, she separated us into two different rooms, and it was less a counselling session than a mediation between two very distraught and emotional people. She came and she went, talking to both of us individually, and near the end of the hour she brought him back into the room with my permission. I do not remember much else of that hour, other than her telling me to get a lawyer and protect myself, and her getting my husband to agree in front of me that he would continue to support me in the lifestyle to which I had become accustom. I believe my psychologist advised us to have some separation, and I clearly remember her telling me I was not in any position to make any life decisions for at least one month due to the shock. My friends drove me home. My husband was not there, and he did not come back. I did not sleep that night, and I had lost my cell phone so I could not contact anyone to boot. I had Facebook though, and through the miracle of technology, found my cell phone at my friends house the next day. 

That counselling session was Friday night. Saturday does not exist in my mind; it is gone, like so many other days and weeks lately. On Sunday I had to drive about two hours away to see my son participate in his first rally event. About two-thirds of the way through the drive I was pulled over by the police. Apparently my insurance was not valid. That could not be right. I was searching the car, looking for the correct paperwork, and on the Officer's third or fourth attempt, he got me to understand that my search was in vain, this was not a simple matter of me not having the decal on my license plate, his computer showed that I did not have any insurance. Worse yet, my cars insurance had lapsed in December of the year prior. On one hand I panicked, thinking I was going to get a criminal charge for this stupidity, and not knowing what to do or who to call, but I was also immensely grateful that I had not had a car accident in the six months prior. I called my husband, not knowing who else to call, and while I waited for him to make the long drive out to where I was, I waited on the side of the highway with the Officer, watched them load my car onto the flatbed, and hopped into the cab with the tow-truck driver. He was good enough to take me to an open grocery store to see if they had an insurance counter, which they did not, and then he left me there saying I could not get my car back until tomorrow anyways. I felt nauseous waiting for my husband to come and get me, and when he did, getting into his car triggered the ever-present low-grade panic attack to flare up again. He probably did not even notice or think of what it must have been like for me getting into his car knowing they had had sex in it. He asked if he could stay for the day with me watching our son, and said he would bring me back to town the next day to deal with the car. We had our son to focus on, his girlfriend was there with her whole family, and we were both going to do a ride-along with our son. I even laughed that day, mostly a hysterical reaction, when I did my ride-along with my son. We actually had a good day with our son, keeping it as neutral as we could, although as the day worn on we did hold hands and hug. We missed each other and still loved each other. He was still my husband despite what he had done. And I realized that day I could be strong, at times, and I could also be very compassionate. All that counselling and the trials of the past year of my life were going to pay off and had been preparing me for this shit-storm.

And that day would begin the emotional roller coaster that would dominate my life for months to come. The over-riding fact that I could not escape in my mind, until recently, was that I was left for a part-time relationship with a married woman. This notion was devastating to my self-esteem, but I have recently come to realize that I would not feel better if he had left me for a single woman who he wanted to marry. The questions I have and conflicted emotions I feel might be less if open marriage, and her being married, were not a part of the equation, the situation might be more black and white, but at the end of the day, I was cheated on sexually and betrayed by the one person I trusted more than anyone. I was left with the knowledge that I was no longer special to him, that he had let another woman into his heart, and I was part of a triangle in his mind whether I wanted to be there or not. I was left struggling with how to make sense of my husbands choices. And time did not make the situation any more clear. In fact, in part two of the story, I will share with you the struggles I went through trying to get through that first month obeying my psychologist and not making a decision, while feeling like my husband was making a multitude of life decisions without me, into the time where I tried to get control of my life and make my own decisions, through the process of wanting to conduct the end of our marriage differently than others before us had, to the week I participated in an open marriage.

The photo is of my son and I before my ride-along on Sunday June 9, 2013.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

My Healing Plan. Created October 9, 2013

My Healing Plan

Everyday I must:

  • Go for a walk, preferably with a friend
  • Write for 20 minutes and throw it away, preferably first thing in the am
  • Watch an inspiring TED talk and share that
  • Do a 2 minute power pose
  • Express gratitude, journal that
  • Read something healing
  • Do the 4 activities from SuperBetter
  • Use my power name from SuperBetter - Pi the Water Warrior

At the end of September I finally moved out of the home we had shared; he had been gone for months. The move was traumatic. I had avoided finding somewhere new to live,  packing, or making other arrangements, to the extent of going on an Alaskan cruise. I was overwhelmed, and frankly did not want to move. Not that I wanted to stay where I was either, I just didn't want to accept that this was happening I think. I did not want to accept that he wasn't coming back and I had to move on, literally. I wasn't completely checked out and made the move happen, but leaving everything to do with moving to the last minute was debilitating to the little energy I had. 

The night before the move, as I was packing, I was in what had been our spare bedroom surrounded by boxes of memories. Play bills, ticket stubs, cards, photo albums, souvenirs  and framed photos of a life that didn't exist anymore, and that I had no desire to revisit with feelings of nostalgia. I broke down bawling, wishing I could set the townhouse on fire, and wondering why I hadn't had the foresight to call a charity to come and clean the place out. At 10 pm the night before the move I decided I wanted basically nothing from my old life. I wanted a clean start at my new place. And I didn't get that because the idea came to me too late.

So over the next week, having now moved everything into my little apartment, I weeded through boxes and boxes of stuff and started giving things away. Giving things to charity, friends, or to my son. I still have the big ticket items to deal with, but in time that will come. What that horrible move, and the aftermath of being in my new home with my old life did, was plummet me further down into depression. At the same time there were some very unpleasant and emotional emails between my ex and I. 

Thus, at the end of that first week of October I hit a new rock bottom. I had hit several before, and then was always surprised when another one came along, thinking I had already sunk to the depths I could sink. This one was different. Many times over the previous months I had asked the universe to please end my suffering; a car accident, heart attack, something that wasn't my fault because I could not abandon my son and leave him alone with a legacy of suicide to carry for the rest of his life. But over a few days that gloriously sunny fall week, I decided how I was going to kill myself, and one very emotional night, I started writing a note. And one or two sentences in, I acknowledged what I was doing, stopped, and went to bed. I again begged the universe to end it for me. 

And when I woke up in the morning, not dead, I realized something had to change. I couldn't live the way I had been. I was in hell, there was no doubt about that, but killing myself was not an option, the universe clearly wasn't ready to release me, and I could not bare to go another day as I had been. The efforts I was putting in to my healing and survival were not enough, I think because they were not enough, not consistent, and were haphazard in application. That was my gut assumption on how to correct the matter anyways. Thus, that day, I refocused my energies, and starting actively using what I knew was out there to help me. And a few days later, I decided to write out my healing plan on a note, where it sits on my desktop for me to review every time I sit down or walk by the computer.

There are additional tasks or applications of ideas around my apartment as well that aren't on the healing plan, but they are contributing to my healing. This includes a totem featuring an object I have chosen to remind me that I can create the life I want. My item is a magnet from the Alaskan brewing company and I hold it and tell myself I can have the life I want. It sits on top of a little jewellery box my friend gave me last Christmas that features a cute little angel and says "side by side or miles apart friends are always close at heart". I have a ticket stub to a Canucks game as part of my totem, as well as a beautiful pink swarovski pen. All of these items represent ideals that are important to me living a happy meaningful life.  

I have five sticky notes up around my apartment with positive mantras on them. That is not a new idea to me, and I have used this trick several times over the course of my life. 

I also have a sticky note by my keyboard with a challenge to conduct a mindfulness exercise five times a day:

1) notice a sensation in your body 
2) become aware of sounds in your vicinity
3) take a very deep breath all the way to your stomach and release it slowly 
4) find one thing to observe that you have never noticed before. 

This mindfulness exercise takes about one minute, but the exercise slows me down and empties my mind, essentially resetting me to a calmer place. 

Those three different tasks were all quests from a game I am playing on the internet called SuperBetter. You will find a link to the website on the right hand side of my blog. In fact, Pi the Water Warrior is my avatars name, and the four activities that I am to complete daily are from SuperBetter. I recommend this website, and the TED talk from the creator of the site, Jane McGonigal. I recommend you watch the TED talk first so you understand where the creator was coming from herself during her struggles with depression and suicidal ideation. 

As for the other aspects of my healing plan, I will write about them another time as I want to do an entire post on TED talks, and another on the "science" of the brain that I am using for my healing. I am not employing faith nearly as much as science to trick my brain into healing more rapidly or with hopefully better results that will last a lifetime. And why have I created this plan and why do I invest so much time and energy into it? Well, because I can; I have no job or little people that need my time and energy. And because I have to; I had a taste right before the disclosure of what true (fake) happiness and contentment felt like and I want it back. I want to love life again. I want to thrive. And one day I want to believe in love and relationships again. I don't want to be an angry bitter person with baggage that is fucking up relationships twenty years down the road. Plus, those negative emotions are really bad for your health and I don't want some horrible disease that slowly debilitates me over years. 

I need to confess that nearly every day I do not complete the list. Some tasks are easier than others for me to integrate into a daily routine, and so I have faithfully completed them day in and day out, and others are more challenging. I walked for the first six days in a row after creating my plan, and now I haven't walked in over a week. So be it. 

For today, I can only encourage you to start exploring the vast options available to us in this day and age for healing. I had always avoided the self-help section of the library or bookstore, but there are good books out there, and the first I recommend you read is After the Affair, which is noted on the right hand side of my blog as well. Borrow books from the library, your friends, or just google some key words and you will instantly find information on your computer screen that validates your feelings. Appreciate yourself for showing up and trying your best. 

What I have realized is that my healing is so incremental, when I allow myself to become absorbed into my daily struggles and triumphs, I don't see the progress. When I look back over time, I am amazed at the leaps and bounds I have made given the circumstances. My psychologist says I am doing just fine. And my girlfriend gave me a great card that I just love so I have it at my computer desk where I can read it when I need a reminder: 

"Life is hard sometimes - crazy, mixed-up, messed up. And there you are in the middle of it all, just doing your thing… being strong and brave and beautiful like it's no big deal. But let me tell you girl, it is: Not everyone can do what you can do. Not everyone can handle things the way you can. While you wonder sometimes if you're doing okay… the rest of us are just watching in wonder".  

Friday, 25 October 2013

Healing is a full-time job

And now, I am healing the wounds you inflicted. Learning a new self, a new identity without you. Learning to live a new life that does not include you. Hoping and begging the universe to let me find peace and joy in this new world.

It has been almost five months since you broke the news to me, and I am ready to expose myself to the greater world. Ready to find new community, offer support through sharing the intimacies of my struggles, and take support from the reader.

My healing has been a full-time job. I marvel at other people's abilities to continue with a full-time job or parenting at a time like this. I have been consumed by my pain and suffering, and struggling to move beyond that and grow. I am told that if I had a job or children it would be a welcome distraction, but I do not have that luxury. That is something else you robbed me of. More on that later.

I am consumed with letting go and healing. Consumed with not giving in to the depression that wants me to give up. The battle is exhausting. Just surviving another day in this foreign existence that I was unwillingly thrust into is debilitating in what it takes from me. Grief, crying, and healing are all exhausting entities. I sleep sometimes for 11 or 12 hours a night, and other nights, I barely sleep, my thoughts and obsessions keeping rest at bay.

There is so much that goes into healing. Meditation, journaling, walking, taking baths, talking with friends, writing every day, thought stopping and a million other techniques I have had to learn, just to survive. It is my intent to share that healing process with you, not just bemoan what has happened, although there will certainly be some of that too.

How could there not? It is because you cheated that I have had to find, learn and integrate these many new practises into my day that literally take a few hours, just in the name of surviving and healing. In the hopes that one day I will move past surviving, through the healing, and emerge into thriving. Find myself a better person for the pain and struggles. A stronger person, more humbled and more human, more understanding of the human condition.  That is my end goal. To not just say I survived this event, but that I found a version of myself that I love even more than the one you killed off. That my joys and triumphs in life will be even greater than they were with you by my side. That the resilience I develop with the passing of time will make inoculate me against similar future damages. Will this happen? I don't know. My friends encourage me and tell me it will, but they could be selling me swampland in Florida. I fear they will tell me anything to get me through another day. That they are blowing sunshine up my ass to stop me from killing myself. Not that I can. I have a responsibility to my son that I take great pride in. I made a commitment when I had him almost 23 years ago, and it is not a commitment I take lightly. No matter how I suffer, I will never abandon him. I might not have a lot to give him right now, but I will not take from him either. He is a constant, a source of strength, a reason to make it through today and try again tomorrow.

I wrote this poem on October 12, 2013


When you told me I was naked on our bed
tired, exposed, in a word,
In my sickness, with tears silently flowing,
I pulled up the bed sheet,
covering the heart and body you were rejecting,
covering my grief,
putting a barrier between me and you.
Shielding myself from your words so that they might
not penetrate, not sink into my soul, but be bounced off
reflected by the bed sheet.
I still sleep in those sheets, on that bed, 
cocooned in a new life
without you.