Forgiveness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I woke up this morning, like every other morning, and went for my run.  It’s a poignant day because two years ago, Laura (in my story) sat me down and said, “Start exercising everyday”.  Well, I took that to heart–nearly 1700 miles later, I can say, it’s been one piece of advice that I’m grateful I followed.  In short, it’s been a blessing.

But it’s also been a curse because as someone once said off-line to me, “Don’t you find exercise to be incredibly hard?  Because it is for me–that is when my brain goes nuts and I think back to my affair.”

“Yes”, I said.  “I do too.  But thats also why I run.  To work through all my pain.”

But like Forest Gump, here’s what I discovered during the end of that milestone…I could only ever get so far in my recovery because the one person I needed to talk to–to move forward and heal in my life–I wasn’t supposed to contact.  Yeah….CEO.

For months, my brain has been screaming at me to reach out.  To make peace with him.  To seek his forgiveness for shutting down, walking away, not talking to him or replying to his messages.  For not protecting him from the fallout of my confession.

No matter how hard I tried to move forward with my life (and make no mistakes, I have), this issue remained front-and-center.  I circled around these thoughts for miles, upon miles as I ran every week.  Until I finally sat by the ocean this morning, looked out towards the sea, opened my phone and broke 16 months of no contact.

Yes, my dear friends.  That was me today.

I apologize if I have disappointed you all.  But this is my true reality.  This is my story and how I struggle to remove CEO from my thoughts.  I am trying to move forward with my marriage, at warp speed no less.  But how can one truly move on, when there is this giant bolder of pain sitting over there that needs to be forgiven?

I recognized how unhealthy it was to hold everything in.  Clearly, I’m an expert at that.  Heck, I haven’t even begun to write about our actual affair that’s how great I am at holding every card to my chest.  But I needed to say the things that I did.  My contact with him was for MY healing.  To move forward with my husband and not have this constant dialogue running through my head.

I was taught as a kid that if you did something wrong, you sought someone’s forgiveness.  And all this time, I wrestled with doing just that, in order to fully move on and heal.  Going “no contact” and pretending that you caused no damage to another persons life and marriage is naive and cowardly.  I had a part to play in all of this and I needed to face it head-on, or else I felt I would never move past where my husband and I had worked so tirelessly to get to.

So as heartfelt as I could, that is what I did.  I contacted him.  CEO’s response was terse, and awkward.  Hell he could have been in a meeting for all I know.  But once I started, there was no stopping me.  Reaching out was about my healing.  And I told him this.  His responses really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I needed to follow my heart, seek his forgiveness and say the things that have been on my heart for a very very long time.

Did I say everything, cover every last thing in this talk?  No.  Not even close.  You can’t sum up everything in a short message.  I explained that I wished I could explain everything but even if I had an entire day to talk, I doubt that would be enough time to convey everything.

Do I regret it?  Nope.  Because I know this isn’t to reestablish contact.  It’s to move forward.  For me.  To ultimately give every piece of myself to my husband and to not look back any longer at CEO.  For closure on every side.

With breaking no contact, I do feel a sense of relief in addressing how things ended.  I asked for his forgiveness and he granted it to me.  I shared that I wake up every day, thinking he hates me.  He said, he doesn’t.  It’s been healing to see those words, after telling myself over and over that he must.  I explained that I don’t have an enemy in this world, but because of how things ended, I believed that’s how he viewed me.  He said no, he has no enemies.  He doesn’t hate anyone.  That’s not who he is.

So, I have a heavy heart in knowing I broke NC, but my intentions were good.  When my husband came home, I told him immediately.  Read everything I wrote and everything he said in return.  Full transparency my friends.  It’s not easy but it’s the only shot we have at making this marriage work.

There was a part of me that wanted to not tell my husband, because I don’t want to cause him any further pain.  But I knew I had to.  I was emotionally drained and every fiber in my muscles were aching last night.  Strangely, it felt good asking for CEO’s forgiveness but interacting with him brought those all too familiar “friends” along for the ride–fitful sleep (non-existent is more like it), a swirling mind (Did I word my contact properly?  Did I seek his forgiveness in the right way?), utter exhaustion and fatigue.  I wasn’t expecting that to happen.  Truthfully, I don’t miss feeling like that.  But while CEO was in my life, that’s exactly how I felt.

Conflicted.  Over-analyzing everything.  Trying to perfectly word everything and not just be…myself.

I long for the peace and serenity to return to me.  I expect it to.  This would have set me back tenfold had I done this a year ago.  But I wasn’t ready.  I could only reach out on my own terms, when I was strong enough to do so.  It’s taken me sixteen months to get there.  And along the way, you guys have not just been my readers but a few have become genuine friends.  I may have lost CEO’s friendship, but ironically I’ve gained more friends by opening up and sharing my pain.  Real friends that know everything–the good, the bad, the ugly side of Two Cheating Hearts.  And still love and support me regardless.

Thanks for holding my hands Woman Invisible, even during your crazy day yesterday you were there.  And thank you RecoveringWoman for your sage advice and friendship.  It’s helped keep me on this path to restoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Cynical Reality

“It took a while, but the kids are finally asleep.  Do you want to talk now?”

With a deer in the headlights look in his eyes, my husband replied, “Sure.”

I sighed and took in a deep long breathe, steadying my nerves.  “I am not happy in our marriage and haven’t been for a long time.  If I had to guess, it goes back to your confession.  I can’t live another day in this marriage.  I feel as if I am slowly dying, taking care of everyone else’s needs.  I don’t think you even realize how unhappy I am being married to you.”

I wanted to scan his face to see his reaction, but I kept my eyes staring out the windows into the darkness of our backyard.  I pressed on nervously with the echo of my heartbeat reverberating through the open rafters of our bedroom, “I think if you were brutally honest, you would admit that you aren’t happy either.”  A deliberate pause was made, as I noticed my husband slightly nod out of the corner of my eye.  I took another huge breathe into my lungs before closing my eyes, reminiscing about Billy and just how he made me feel.

“I feel–like I am about to have an affair…” my voice quivering as I finally verbalized the extent of our disconnect.  “I am that unhappy in our marriage.”

Motionless, he did nothing.

He just sat there.

Stone faced.

And silent.

The stillness of the night enveloped us, as we both stared out the glass windows.  The moon cast it’s glow down upon the yard, yet neither of us stirred.

My husband always had a rebuttal when we had our “talks” which went something along the lines of, “I know I have been lazy and not trying at home or in our marriage.  I promise I will try harder.  I’ve let you down and I’m sorry.”  I had listened to that script throughout our marriage and knew they were empty words.  Nothing would ever change between us.  Although perfectly worded, his reply meant nothing more than to silence me.  To stop our conversation in it’s tracks, so he could put off our disconnected marriage talk, for another time down the road.  He was in every essence of the phrase, the King of Sweeping-things-under-the-rug.

But this time, he didn’t feed me his usual line of BS.  This time, he just sat there defeated and silent.  I knew, I just KNEW it meant–we were done.  Both likely holding on for the kids sake, but unable or unwilling to face that fact.

For once, it wasn’t his words that told me everything. But his body language and silence:

I don’t love you anymore.  I don’t care what you do and even if you say you are about to have an affair.  I don’t even flinch when you say these words to me now.  That is how far removed I am from caring about you.  And our marriage.

Trying to wind down our brutally honest conversation, I finally said, “Look I am old enough to know that I want and deserve to be happy.    And I think you do as well.  If we divorce now, we are young enough that we could both find happiness again.”  My voice trailed off, pausing, then deliberately stopping–unsure of what to say next.

He sat there silent.

Again.

Saying nothing in reply.

“I just told you I am on the verge of having an affair and you haven’t even said a word.  Do you want us to have an open marriage, where we both see other people?”

Immediately he shook his head, got up and said forcefully, “NO! That is not what I want.”  He proceeded to walk out of our bedroom, as I watched the outline of his body turn into shadow, then descend into the darkness of our hallway.

I sat on the edge of our bed, frozen, listening to a blend of crickets and distant airplanes jettisoning out of Los Angeles.  Saying nothing more, I couldn’t help but wish I was on one of those airplanes.  Leaving this empty marriage.  I wanted nothing more than to feel alive again.  I wanted nothing more than to feel passion again.  I wanted nothing more than to feel those intense butterflies that Billy created inside of me.  I wanted sex and passion and intensity and romance.  I sure as hell didn’t want a roommate for a husband.  I certainly didn’t want a wet noodle for one either.  The thought of him following me around for the rest of my life, while I made all the decisions for our family revolted me down to my core.

I wanted an alpha male.  Someone to uncover the incredibly sexy woman that I knew I was, but no longer felt within the context of our relationship.  The chains of my marriage and confines of motherhood had all but stifled out any sexual desires within me.  Monotony and responsibility replaced my adventurous spirit.  But it was still inside of me, knocking in the lower chambers of my heart.  Like a tiny ember that eventually turns into a roaring fire, I felt it re-awakening from within me.  And I yearned to be uncovered and explored by the right man.

That evening as I tossed and turned having a fitful sleep, I made the conscious decision that if he wasn’t about to change, then I would.  No more waiting.  No more doing more of the same.

I would be the one to change.

***

The next day, after finishing my run, I phoned my mother to talk.  “I told him I wanted a divorce a few weeks back.  I’ve already talked to a few friends who gave me attorney recommendations.  And…”

“You can’t divorce him.  You’ve got kids together!  Look, why don’t I start watching them once a week.  Let you guys have time to talk or go out.  It will be good for you.  The kids will survive.  They may not like it, but you owe it to them to try everything before divorcing.”

I sat there pondering her words.  I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down at her offer, as I knew her babysitting the kids would creep her existence further into our lives.  For very good reason, I kept her at arms length.  She has a lifetime history of making her problems-ours.  My entire life, I have felt like the adult, whereas she is the child.  There is a long list of short-sighted decisions which she has made, all of which impacted me in my own childhood.  And I certainly didn’t want that for our kids.  But for once, I finally said yes.

Perhaps I was nuts.  Or perhaps just at my wits end trying to keep our marriage from crumbling before my eyes.  So far, the kids were sparred from any adult talks.  But I knew that could change at any moment.  For sure we needed time alone to talk–to hash out a divorce and what our family going forward would look like.

“How does this Friday sound? I can be there at six.”

***

We hadn’t gone out, alone, in probably four years by then.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Four.  Long.  Years.  The last time we did, it was for a friends wedding.  And we hired a sitter so as not to involve my mother.  Viviane cried as we left our house, her face smashed up against the glass of our sash windows.  I felt horrible driving away, thinking I was somehow abandoning our only child, essentially to attend a peripheral friends wedding.  It was only for five hours, but still.  Viviane would later inform us that the babysitter spent the entire time talking on her iPhone to her boyfriend.  She spent no time with her, ignoring her entirely.  Never again would I hire a sitter.

So it was with much trepidation that I texted my husband the following message, “Do you want to go on a date this Friday?  My mom will babysit.  Maybe we can do something fun, like before we had kids?”

The only thing that I could think of was, “I want to have fun”.  Something carefree and easy.  Something we couldn’t typically do with children in tow.  And for sure, I wanted great food.  And somewhere that wasn’t kid-friendly.  Anywhere that thwarted families from entering, was fair game.

“So this may sound crazy, but I was thinking of going for a ride along the water.  We can stop at various bars, grab a drink at one, food at another.  We use to do carefree things like these before we had kids.  I thought it might be fun.”

He quickly texted back, “But we don’t have bikes.”

“Leave it with me.  I will sort it out.”

***

Three days later, we said goodbye to the kids and peddled away on what was our first attempt at being adventurous in years.  It felt awkward and strange to be on a bicycle.  Neither of us had been on one in years.  As we rounded the corner, away from our tract of homes, I started to feel like a kid again.  With the wind brushing against my face, I couldn’t help but feel giddy inside, like we were escaping our two little balls of overwhelming responsibility for a night of shenanigans.  I had visions of drunken kisses stollen in alleys.  Maybe an impromptu blowjob at the waters edge when the sun went down, if we could find a private spot.  Feeling excited and more optimistic than I had all week, I looked back to see my husband angrily huffing and puffing along.  Urgh, it was obvious, he was not sharing my same adventurous sentiments towards this date.

Trying to make light of the situation, I yelled over, “Hey, it’s only a mile to the first bar.  Great food and they have a huge selection of craft beers.  Does that make the ride easier for you?”

As he peddled harder through the patched asphalt, he said, “Yeah, fine.  I just don’t get why we couldn’t just drive there.”

“Urgh”, I thought to myself.  My sense of adventure and wanderlust had always been ten-fold to his.  But to already be complaining sent waves of frustration pulsating through my veins.  I wanted to scream, “Yes of course we could have driven there.  But that wasn’t the point. We drive everywhere.  This is fucking LA.  We live at the beach and pay a huge premium to do so.  Where is your sense of adventure?  Is one night riding a beach cruiser going to kill you?”  But did I say it? Nope, I just bit my lip–trying to make peace in this precarious dating situation.

We locked our bikes and entered the small gastro-pub, which by now was making a name for itself in the foodie scene.  It was run by a contestant from one of those cooking TV programs where people get voted off for making subpar dishes.  As we walked inside and quickly took our seats at the bar, it was obvious the waitstaff were overwhelmed.  Full of happy-hour patrons and nearby office workers, the bar was heaving with patrons.

As I scanned the bar to my left and right, I pulled up an empty bar stool and said “I’ll have the Rombauer Chardonnay please.”  I couldn’t help but notice, there was a couple to the right of us.  And another, two seats over from the left of my husband.  But sandwiched between them was a lone male, talking to no one.  He sat there drinking his amber Allagash while staring at the Lakers game playing overhead.

Staring at the TV behind the bar, I finally broke the silence with my husband.  “So how do you envision we split things up?  The reality is, you work such long hours.  You would need to hire a nanny to handle the children if we split custody 50/50.  After alimony, child support, and now a nanny, is there anything left to live on?  You won’t be able to afford living at the beach.  Commute time will increase.  And you would likely end up living in a less than desirable area, purely because of economics.  I don’t want that for the kids, nor you.”

“No I completely agree.  There is only so much money to support our family now.  Divide it up, and we both suffer.  The kids being shuffled back and forth sounds bad for all of us.  Time.  Energy.  Schedules.  It’s already a juggle now.”

Mulling over what he said, I finally replied, “I completely agree.  Well, I could continue watching the kids during the week.  And have you take them on the weekends.  Therefore, you wouldn’t have to hire a nanny and deal with daycare.  But if I am completely being honest, I’m longing for an even split.  Having the kids 5 out of the 7 days, supports your career but not mine….I don’t know how we find a middle road here.”

As my husband nursed his Indian pale ale, I looked over to the lone man sitting next to him.  No ring on his finger.  Likely in his early forties.  Whatever good looks he had years ago were fading.  I could see tiny wrinkles formed along the outer creases of his eyes, from years of smiling.  A pinky hue to his skin matched with pale blue eyes, Irish for sure–well at least somewhere in his ancestry.

Whispering into my husbands ear I said, “Look around. If you and me divorce, this is the dating pool.  See anyone you fancy?  Anyone?  This is the reality of what divorced dating looks like.  This.  Right here.”

His head bobbed back and forth, covertly stretching to look around at women in various states of undress.  Some in office attire, others clearly dressed to impress.  No tens in the bunch.  Feeling utterly cynical I added, “The reality is if we get divorced–we will likely date three kinds of people.  The rejects, climbers or the divorcees.”

“The rejects?”

“Yeah, the rejects.  These are the people that weren’t ever snapped up.  And for good reason.  Scratch the surface and you find something terribly off with them.  Then you have the climbers who threw themselves into their careers and one day, suddenly looked around and realized everyone was married–but them.  They rarely dated because they were too invested in themselves.  Their sole purpose in life was to get ahead, focus on their careers and occasionally get laid.  They are completely inept when it comes to relationships because they never put any time into them.  So it’s like dating a fifteen year old–but with money.  Then you have the divorcees, enuff said.”

Cracking a smile he volleys back, “Aren’t we a bit pessimistic?  By the way, where did you come up with this theory of yours?”

“Trust me. This is what’s in store for both of us, should we divorce.  What do you think the divorced women talk about during girls nights?   Think about it.  It’s the reality of our age and stage of life we are in.”

“You really think it’s that bad out there?”

“Uhhhh, yup.  Marriage is hard, but so is being single.  I’m under no illusions it’s a bed of roses out there.  If you don’t believe me, ask him.  I guarantee the guy sitting next to you is single.”

“You wouldn’t…”

Leaning across my husband, I tilted my bare shoulders forward and reached for the strangers arm.  With a light tap, he turned his body facing me, smiling immediately.  “Hello there!  Excuse me for interrupting your game and I know this is going to sound incredibly weird and yet brutally honest.  But my husband and I are married and have been for a long time.  Things aren’t exactly great in our marriage anymore and we are talking about getting a divorce.  I’m just curious, are you single?  And if so, how would you describe the dating scene for people our age?  Is it hard to meet people?  Do you find that most are divorced?  Or lost a spouse/had a tragedy which is why they are single?”

Smirking and completely dumbfounded he immediately replied with visceral honesty, “Yeah I am single.  But no, it’s not hard to meet people, now with online dating.  You are correct though- a large percentage of people I meet are divorced.  But so far, no tragedies or widows…at least that I know of!”  He reached for his beer to take another swig as I pressed further with another round of questions.

“So for the people who aren’t divorced, have you found a common theme amongst that group?  Like are these people workaholics or commitment phobe’s?  I’m sincerely curious to learn your experience here.”

Re-adjusting on his barstool, he coyly smiled, “Well I guess I would fall into that group because I definitely didn’t focus on finding someone in my twenties.  Just too busy getting ahead at work and traveling in my spare time.  I really didn’t want to settle down and have kids.  Got an established career now, the house, a full passport and loads of friends.  But I’m still out there dating.”

“I completely understand and that totally makes sense.  Please don’t laugh but I have one more question for you.  You’ve been a saint sharing your experience with us.  It’s one thing to be so focused on making partner, building a business or becoming a doctor etc, but do you find the dating scene to be filled with–dare I say, rejects?”

Snickering he replied, “What?  What do you mean exactly?”

“You know.  They weren’t the catch of the day in their twenties.  And here they are almost two decades later still looking to find someone.”

Nearly snorting his drink he chuckled, “Yeah I guess, there are some rejects in there.  Can’t lie.  But for the most part, this area attracts successful people so I would say less rejects and more divorcees you two would find.”

I turned my attention back to my husband, raising my eyebrows and giving him that “see I told you look” when I suddenly heard, “Bartender–this should cover my check.  You two have a good night.”  And with that, the lone, single man briskly walked out the door.

Shaking his head in disbelief, my husband squealed, “You just ran that guy out of here.  He couldn’t wait to get away from you.  I can’t believe you asked him all that stuff.”

“Well look, I’m sorry but this is what it’s like out there.  Everyone thinks the grass is greener till you look over the fence.  I just think we both need a healthy dose of reality should we actually pull the trigger and file.”

My husband paused, looking back up to the Laker game.  Then took a long sip of his beer, while I flagged down our bartender and asked for the check.  Our conversation ceased, just as quickly as it started, and we pulled on our jackets before throwing open the exit doors.  This date wasn’t exactly going to plan.

As comical as our first stop was, the next few bars were lackluster.  We pedaled away to a jet setter bar, only to stay for a quick drink.  The sun had long set and the crisp night air was filling our lungs like knives, as we peddled next to the sea.  Complaining and gasping for air with each push, my husband continued to yell, “Hey, slow down!  Why do you have to ride so fast?!?”

Urgh, I didn’t want to ride slow.  And I certainly didn’t want to listen to him complain.  All I wanted to feel was the wind against my cheeks.  Feel a sense of adventure, like when we were younger.  Besides, it’s easier to cycle faster, don’t you know?  As I approached the pier, I could see the streets filling with college students out on the prowl.  Funny how life works sometimes.  We use be just like them–but now, here we were saddled with the responsibilities of life.  Of kids.  Of a mortgage–the whole shebang.  It was a moment of self realization that we weren’t that young couple anymore.  We had somehow firmly crossed the threshold into middle age, unbeknownst to us at the time.

As I continued to pedal faster and faster home, the buzz from all the alcohol wore off.  I kept hearing purposeful grunts from my pissed off husband that meant, “I hate that you are making me do this” as my frustration mounted each mile.  Continuing to listen to his diatribe, the cynic in me grew more and more.  Although I was trying to see if dating my husband could somehow restart the connection we once had, so far this date was nothing short of an epic failure.

 

Sorbet anyone?

 

 

 

 

Innocent Words

Saying goodbye to Billy was the right thing to do.  But it wasn’t easy at the time.  I poured myself into running each day, while the sound of the ocean lulled my mind from the heartache I felt inside.  The constant pounding of the pavement soothed my soul more than therapy ever did, turning me into a water runner.  It became my place of solitude.  A time just for me, which was something I hadn’t experienced since having our first child.  To be honest, I never felt as if I could take a step back, away from the constant demands of motherhood.  I came last and had for a very, very long time.

Mile after mile, I tried sorting everything out in my head, hoping for answers beyond my immediate reach.

You will get through this I thought.

No. No you won’t, I would hear back.

He made your heart beat again.

Yes, I know…and now, it’s suddenly gone.

Eventually Laura’s words would invade my battling dialogue whispering, “I don’t think you’ve dealt entirely with your husbands affair.”  I would quiet her voice as much as I could, running next to the sea.  As the onshore winds pulled tear drops out from my eyes, I continued to analyze various scenarios running through my mind.  Should I divorce my husband?  If so, how and when?  Should I wait till the kids are older?  Should I just suck it up and keep plodding along hoping somehow, one day, he will wake up from his passivity towards our marriage?  How will we split our assets?  How would we manage joint custody of the children?

I was feeling the pressure mounting in my chest, as I dissected each and every question apart, looking at it from every possible angle.  The final straw was realizing that if we did indeed divorce, one or both of us, would likely re-marry.  Incorporating another person into our broken family unit is a reality both of us would have to face.  Someone else, yet unknown, would share the responsibility and privilege of raising our precious children.  That was a realization I was not ready to face or comprehend, yet it lurked in the inner recesses of my thoughts.  Urgh, I was so confused and stressed out thinking about the realities of divorce, but even more so after calling my brother for advice.

“It’s financial suicide.  The reality is over 70% of divorces are initiated by women but the statistics show, it takes a tremendous amount of time to recover from the financial impacts of divorcing.  Kiss your lifestyle goodbye, or get over it.  He’s not a bad guy.  Most men cheat on their wives at some point, he was just stupid enough to tell you.  He didn’t have to.  Give him a break.”

My brothers condescending words echoed in my head as I reached the end of my run.  My shirt clung to my body from miles of perspiration, as I recounted what he said to me the night before.  As much as I felt our marriage had run it’s course, I felt incredibly trapped.  Neither he, nor my mother, thought I should divorce.  “Well you can’t divorce him. It will mess up the kids.  That’s what is so wrong with the world, everyone just throws in the towel.  Why do you think there are so many screwed up kids now?  Because of parents divorcing just like this.  Did you honestly think it was going to be easy being married?”

Their words reverberated through my mind as I drove along the coast back home.  Every song on the radio seemed to bring me to the brink of tears, but I pushed them back, willing myself to have a positive day.  As I turned the key to our front door, I was met with complete silence.  Both kids were at school, at least for the next few hours.  I had time to myself which rarely ever happened.  Zane had just started preschool and I was adapting to this new phenomenon–absolute stillness in our normal bustling home.  As I jumped into the shower, I again heard those all too familiar words, “Honey, I don’t think you’ve entirely dealt with your husbands affair…

Laura’s voice kept haunting me until I finally turned off the valves.  Stepping out of the hot shower, I threw on my robe and walked over to my nightstand.  My pruned fingers opened the drawer and I gently lifted several robins-egg blue Tiffany boxes.  Under the boxes laid the triple-folded letters which had laid dormant for over a year.  These were my husbands confession letters, safely hidden away, for my eyes only.  The first was his initial attempt at being truthful.  The second was his updated version of events.  The third and final letter- a one page addendum if you will.

 

To my wife,

This letter is an addendum to the confession letter I provided you on May 15th, 2011.

In my first letter that I provided you, I did not disclose the whole truth.  There were sections of that letter that I left out details and others where I lied.  In the account of the New Jersey trip where I took a girl back to my hotel, I lied about using a condom.  Also, I lied about the girl leaving, as she stayed in my room that night.

I know that given the gravity and seriousness of what I had done, there was no detail that could make the confession worse.  That being said, I still chose to try to “soften” my confession by telling these lies.

This letter is to clarify that these details I had provided were a lie and to validate that everything else in the letter is accurate.

I am very very sorry to have hurt you so deeply.

Love, Me

 

It had been a long time since I read his confession letters.  But in an instant, I was transported back to being pregnant and holding these very pages, now covered in brown stain marks from the tears that originally fell upon them.  It had been over two years since he gave me these letters and during that time, I felt like we transitioned into just friends co-parenting our children.  I felt no anger towards him.  There was no malice in my heart.  I just felt indifference, really.  The reality was we were parents now.  And in terms of working well together, we did.  But the heart-stopping love that I felt on our first date was no longer there.  Truthfully, the passion I had for my soul mate died after his confession and my heart had been on life support ever since.

Seeing Billy after so many years made me realize just how far our marriage had actually fallen.  How incomplete it actually was.  And essentially how empty my heart felt.

Sitting on the edge of my bed, I reached over to my nightstand again, this time grabbing my iPad.  I started searching “husbands who cheat” or something to that effect.  Hoping Dr. Google would somehow have the answers to my marriage woes, I pressed on looking for answers.  The search results brought up marriage rebuilder websites and various betrayed spouses screaming at the rooftops about how angry they were.  On one hand, I understood their pain.  But on the other hand, that just wasn’t me or how I would ever choose to deal with my frustrations.

Reading the hatred and vile words exuding from their hearts, I had no endeavor to add rage into mine.  I needed to understand the mechanics and motives for adultery and how our marriage got to where it was.  I didn’t need to fill my time listening to strangers egg each other on about how they were somehow “better than their cheating husbands”.  From the bottom of my heart, I knew I was no better than my husband.  God taught me that we were both sinners in His eyes.  Sin is sin.  Sure, mankind wants to create a ranking system here on earth.  However, God certainly doesn’t lay it out like that.  You are a sinner too.  Laying judgment upon my husband wasn’t going to solve our problems.  It was just going to add more sin upon my own heart.  I had enough pain in there, I didn’t need to heap on more.

However, I didn’t want to listen to that advice brewing around in my mind.  I knew it.  But I didn’t want to follow it.  I wanted to run away from God because I was hurt that he would bring me this broken man as my husband.  This man God?  Really?  This is who YOU planned for me to marry?  I devoted my life to him.  And where did it get me? Last.

Shaking my head in disbelief, I called out to God and heard…absolutely nothing.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if God existed anymore.  With everything that had happened since moving into our home: a difficult pregnancy, being harassed by the crazy neighbor, my husbands confession, a death in the family– where was God through all of this?  I found myself wondering, “Is God even real?”

I started searching for answers and reading voraciously.  Hours worth in fact.  I finally came upon an article that captivated me.  It was the first story I had ever read, that spoke about affairs in such a way, that I finally “got it”.  It was so intense, so passion-filled that I felt like a voyeur looking through the peephole of two cheating hearts.  Naively as it was, I read on, not entirely understanding the subjects lives.  But wanting to.  Curiosity had me engrossed reading paragraph upon paragraph and just how they came to be in each others arms.  It was utterly foreign to me, this adulterous underworld they both lived in.

As I contemplated whether or not this was a work of fiction, I was interrupted by a flock of bright green iridescent birds squawking high above.  Despite their raucous behavior, I envied these parrots for they were free.  Able to fly where ever they wanted, through the canyons of Malibu to the southern tips of San Diego, they roamed the skies.  Free birds is what I called them.  And oh, how I wanted to be free.

Listening to the parrots, I turned off my tablet resting it against my smoothly shaven legs.  I sat there soaking up the sounds of nature while dismissing the lovers story as a work of fiction, too far fetched for real life.  Just a work of epic erotica, I thought.  But there was something mentioned in the article that popped back into my mind weeks later.  The details of that story would marinate in my thoughts as I ran by the sea.  Within a few weeks, my curiosity had grown to such an extent that the next time I found myself alone, I tapped away on the glass iPad keyboard two, simple, innocent words.

My life would irrevocably change from that moment on.  In retrospect, I gave up on my marriage in that very moment, for which I would profusely apologize to my husband in due time.  But that was the moment another domino fell in my life.  And they only seemed to pick up momentum as each one tumbled before my eyes.

Playing with fire will get you burned, or so they saying goes.  Mess with the bull, you get the horns is another.  I’m old enough to know better, but still crazy enough to think I can outrun them both.

And I did for a while.

Until the fire of another mans touch consumed me down to my core.

First course please.

 

 

Goodbye

The following day, as if on cue, Laura rang to see how things were going.  There was no use trying to gloss over the facts.  So I just came right out and said, “I told him I wanted a divorce last night.”  Unfortunately, between her kids and mine, we couldn’t really discuss things further as we were surrounded by several pairs of listening ears.  We both hung up, promising to reconnect in a few days.

I grabbed my iPad and opened up Facebook, only to find I had no reply from Billy.  I could see he read my message though.  And to be honest, it was driving me nuts.  I didn’t know where Billy’s head was at, and all I wanted to do was talk to him face to face.  My heart was still racing every time I thought of him.  But his silence was invading my thoughts during the day.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him going mute, so I decided to go for a run.  In fact, I spent several hours running that week.  I just had to keep myself busy, as any downtime brought my thoughts back to him.  Perhaps Billy just needed time to mull things over before he responded.  That is what I told myself, until Laura finally phoned later that week.

“Please don’t be mad.  I am your friend and I want to talk to you about something.  Are you alone?”

Catching my breathe I replied, “Yeah, I just finished my run.  I’m walking back to my car.  Why?  What’s up?”

Laura filled her lungs in and sighed, “I kept thinking about Billy and how you told your husband you wanted a divorce.  And it was really bothering me that Billy hadn’t replied to you.  I couldn’t sleep.  I kept tossing and turning thinking about everything.  First the reunion, then the party.  By around midnight, I finally got up and logged into Facebook.”

“Yes…and?”

“Billy was online so I messaged him.  I explained that I knew everything.  That I had read his messages and didn’t understand why he wasn’t replying to you.  I said if he didn’t feel comfortable talking to you face to face, would he talk to me?'”

I implored, “And what did he say?”

“He said yes.  So yesterday, Nick and I met Billy for coffee.  Just the three of us.  Nick just sat there listening.  He knows everything too.  But he just sat there for moral support while I grilled Billy.”

“FUCK, are you kidding me?”

“No.  Look, I was just trying to help out because I don’t want you throwing your marriage away.  I told Billy that I considered you a really good friend and as your friend, if he is serious about you, then he better step up and say so right now.  You have kids.  You’re seriously contemplating leaving your husband now.  And while trying to pull this relationship into the real world, it appears he is stalling things.”

She continued, “I honestly think you married the right person.  Yes, he cheated on you.  And yes, you’ve been through some shitty years now.  And likely, you haven’t entirely dealt with that.  But I really believe your marriage can be restored.  I care about you honey.  I don’t want you making a mistake that you will end up regretting later.”

Wiping the sweat away from my face and the occasional tear I said, “So what did Billy say?”

“He admitted to having feelings for you.  And flirting with you.  But he has been down this road before.  And he was emphatically clear that he wants no part whatsoever in breaking up any marriage.  Good or bad.  He just can’t go down this road again.”

“Ok…” I said as I tried to swallow the ever present lump in my throat that was forming.

Laura continued, “You know our church talked about this before.  But I have never seen it play out before my eyes.  They talked about people reuniting with past boyfriends or old classmates from school.  One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, both parties think they have feelings for one another.  The thing that struck me the most about your story was the second you tried to take your relationship outside the virtual world, he froze.”

“My phone is about to die.  And I have to get home.  Can I call you later?”

“Yeah that’s fine.  I just wanted to say that I am sorry if you feel I overstepped any boundaries.  But I felt you deserved an answer.  Billy suddenly turned into this wimpy little kid that couldn’t even communicate.  I mean come on, what are we fourteen?  He needed to man up and respond to you.  This is just bullshit from my perspective and Nick agrees too.”

Feeling pressure mounting in my chest now, I responded, “Yeah I agree.  It’s just I would have rather have had the opportunity to talk to him face to face.  So I could get closure myself.  There is a lot to be said for body language and all those non verbal clues.  I know he feels what I feel.  But I get it.  This would be a game changer for his life.  Who really wants to date a divorced mother with two kids?”

“Honey, there’s a reason why Billy is still single, despite being incredibly good looking.  He sucks at relationships, that’s why he’s not married!  Just keep that in perspective ok?”

“Alright.  Thanks Laura.  I do appreciate it.  The closure part.  Should I email him one last time?”

“Sure, say your goodbye’s but then unfriend him immediately.  I’ll be watching.”

I fished my key out of my sports bra and unlocked my car.  Tears started to well up in my eyes thinking I would never see him again.  But I clenched my teeth and held my composure together.  As I turned the key counter-clockwise in the ignition, chords from a piano started to play solemnly on the radio.

 

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

 

The tears that I had been holding back leaked from my eyes.  One streamed down my face.  Then another.  The salty liquid reached my quivering lips as I felt my heart surging with sadness.  A sense of loss overcame me as I closed my eyes and pursed my lips.  In a flash, I was standing back at the bar.  Billy locking eyes with me.  Smiling.  Staring at me intently.  I could almost reach out to him, it was that fresh in my mind.  The image and that moment seemed purposely ingrained.

So poignant.  That moment.  Sitting in the car.

As the lyrics played out over the radio, I knew what I had to do.

It was time to say goodbye to Billy.

For good.

 

 

 

Four Words

I wanted to see Billy and that’s the honest truth.  Had he talked to me face to face, it would have provided much needed closure on my part. But we don’t always get what we want, now do we? Sometimes, you need to roll with the waves and let things settle where they may. But that’s not how I felt then. I really wanted to talk to him face to face.

Now if you and I were sitting across from each other in this very instant, I would reach over and open a nice bottle of wine. Then hand you my phone, so you could just read the messages for yourself. Surely that would be easier than trying to convey the undercurrent of our conversations. I racked my brain over and over reflecting back upon our talks. It’s a fault of mine, but something that I rarely do unless I feel invested in the person. And I felt invested in Billy, to a certain degree. For he caused an immense physical reaction that went unabated for weeks. I just couldn’t walk away from that, knowing how infrequent that occurs in life.

But for the sake of providing more clarity and looking back upon that time, Billy and I talked about a variety of things: mutual friends, vintage cars, memories of when we were younger, work and kids. Not just mine either, but his nieces and nephews.

They lived out of state where his business was located. And each time he flew back, he stayed with them. It was actually quite cute listening to him talk about those kids, with the same amount of love that I have for mine. “We had movie day today,” he wrote while sending me a photo of two gorgeous little girls. “Omg, they are adorable. What are their names? They must love having you as an uncle. I’m sure you spoil them.”

“That’s Maggie, we call her Mads. And Ella, who goes by Ellie.” Smiling, I wrote back, “Is that Maggie in the braids then? Nevermind. Either way both are cute. Glad you stayed over the weekend, it’s obvious the girls adore you.”

Billy answered, “Thank you, and the kids aren’t that bad looking either ;-).”

A little bit of flirting crept into our conversations, which had been growing in length over that time. We always had a fair bit of banter, even when we were young. So this wasn’t unusual for us. I said to Billy that weekend, “Hope you have a nice flight home.” Billy replied, “Sometimes the pilots let me fly, so that’s awesome.” Knowing what a smart ass he was, I volleyed back “So, you get air points for flying and the mile high club? Awesome, good to know…you must be racking up the miles.” Laughing he wrote, “I wish I was a mile high club member!!!”

Not exactly hard core sexual banter, but Billy was never that kind of guy. At least not with me.

The next morning, I volunteered in Viviane’s classroom when my phone suddenly went off. It was Billy messaging me again. “The girls asked if I was going to be home by trick-or-treat time :-(.” I knew he was sad to be leaving his nieces, so I replied, “Ahhh, breaks your heart. Just wait till you have your own. It opens your heart more than you could ever imagine. It is by far my greatest achievement in life.” He replied, “I agree” while I quickly interjected, “and just for the record, I’m an awesome mom.” Billy answered, “I can totally tell…..Urgh, Southwest sucks. Just getting on my flight. Middle seat and the plane is full.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Billy was over 6′ tall and squeezing him into any seat, coach no less, would be brutal. “Next time, try flirting with the check-in desk. Gotta use those looks before they fade–haha.” Being ever so humble, he replied, “I lost them years ago.”

“Lost them? What are you talking about. You know you’re a good looking guy Billy.” Sensing that I may have made him blush, I followed up with, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” He replied at the same time, “You’re awesome.”

I think I explained previously that the day Billy first messaged me, my heart didn’t stop racing. And this wasn’t for just a few moments either. All day and all night, I had it. It was really annoying but eventually, I kinda got use to it. It felt as if I was living off of adrenaline with no end in sight. That physical sensation represented something so tangible that I kept thinking, “This has got to mean…he is the one.”

Have you ever walked into a room and caught someone’s eye, only to feel in an instant that there is a real, undeniable chemistry there from the start? Well if you have, then I am sure you can relate. I am not talking about the type of attraction that builds over time. I am talking about an instant reaction that is so tangible, that it literally takes your breathe away. You both feel an incredible pull towards one another. Like magnets I tell you. At the reunion, that is exactly how Billy and I were–like magnets to one another.

So despite Laura and Kara counseling me against starting a relationship with Billy, my heart was telling me otherwise. I spent a few nights tossing and turning, reflecting back upon my marriage. And the following evening after I got the kids to sleep, I uttered four heart breaking words as my husband sat next to me on the edge of our bed.

“I want a divorce.”

No tears were shed. The words were said calmly while I looked into his eyes and explained, “I am old enough to know that people are who they are. I need a husband who is a leader and stronger than me. I know this deep in my heart. No matter what, it comes down to that core issue over and over. The way I see it, I either accept you as you are, or move on and hope I find that dynamic with someone else.”

I wish I could say he was stunned. But the truth is, he wasn’t. We had talked about my desire for him to be the leader in our marriage for many years. His affairs were forgiven. And despite putting my best foot forward and not running away the moment he confessed, I was now deciding that my happiness meant more than his or the kids. I could no longer live for them. I could no longer be defined by my role as mother, wife, volunteer and friend. I wanted to be the sexy woman that I knew I was. The one that had come back to life that fateful night I locked eyes with Billy.

As I turned off the bedside light, I flicked open my iPad and sent Billy a simple message.

“I told him I want a divorce. It’s over.”

 

 

 

Overly Attractive

It was so surreal to be opening up my heart to Billy in this way.  We hadn’t even kissed, just talked.  But I felt so strongly that he would be my husband.  That he was truly “the one” I was meant to have married.  Chemistry like that doesn’t come along often.  I felt in my heart that Billy and I would have ravishing, mind-blowing sex.  The holy grail of connections coupled with an intense love and chemistry so elusive, it’s only written about in novels or shown in films.  It was that electric between us.

I continued, “Whether we end up together or not, I can’t say.  But I deserve to have a faithful husband.  And that is all I truly want in the end”.  He said, “You totally do.  But I’ll tell you what I told Anna.  That decision has nothing to do with me and you need to make that decision as if I was never born…And if I’m around, I’m around.”

Our flurry of messages stalled.  I didn’t know what to say.  So I sat there reflecting back on my husbands confession.   Pondering my age and questioning if I had the wherewithal to endure a divorce, when Billy finally replied.

“I do find you overly attractive.  But I’ve been in this once before.  It caused all kinds of problems for all kinds of people.  And I can’t do it again.  No one can blame you for doing that.”

It wasn’t exactly the response I was expecting.  And it confused the hell out of me to be honest.  I felt like he didn’t want any part of me divorcing, but once I was single, if he was still single, then yeah, something would happen between us.  In a nutshell, he was leaving the door wide open.

I didn’t know what to do at this point.  And ironically, both Kara and Laura eventually called to discuss the party.  Kara started with, “Honey, I just want to come right out and ask you something.  How is your marriage?  You’ve been on my mind for the past two weeks but I’ve been so busy with the kids.  I meant to call you earlier.”

Fucking Kara!  Her gifting, as they say, is intuition.  At several junctions throughout my life, she is like having a conversation with my conscience.  Which is why, during my affair with CEO, I rarely took her calls.  I just knew the truth she would be speaking and frankly, I wasn’t ready to give that relationship up.  But that’s getting ahead of things.

I really wanted to talk to her about Billy, so in that moment, I finally opened up.  Very few people really know me, struggles and all.  But Kara is one of them, which is ironic because we see each other maybe three times a year.  Perhaps it’s because she has known me since I was a kid.  Whatever it is, she can pry me open like a can of sardines.  “Kara, things aren’t going so well.  And I am starting to have feelings for someone else.”

“I know who you are talking about…”  She said, “It’s Billy huh?”

My heart dropped.  “How did you know?”

“Sweetie, I could see the chemistry between you two at the reunion.  He spent the most time talking to you.  There was an obvious connection.”

So I told her everything about Billy.  I explained how he had reached out to me.  How we had been emailing back and forth.  And how I was utterly confused as to what to do.  She replied, “You’ve always clicked.  This goes all the way back to Miss Blain’s 7th grade English class.  Don’t you remember the three of us sitting at the back of her class talking?  You guys had a connection way back then.”  Honestly, I didn’t even remember that.  I still don’t. But she is that friend that remembers everything about everyone, going back to when we were little kids.

The next call came from Laura.  Kara must have filled her in because she phoned the following morning.  I sat in my car, with tears in my eyes, confused because I really wanted to talk to Billy face to face.  But he was being distant, and not his usual self.  My heart was racing uncontrollably and I felt as if it would never stop.  Laura gave me two pieces of advice.  The first one being, “You know, your emotions will change over time about this.  Our emotions can and will deceive us.”  My rebuttal was, “Well I have always followed my gut.  And that has never happened before.  I mean I get what you are saying, but my gut has never steered me wrong in this way.”

“Start exercising.  Do something every day.  It will help stabilize your emotions about this whole situation.”  Looking back now, I can say emphatically, that it was great advice.  And I took both to heart, in the deepest of ways.

I started walking, then running.  Religiously.  That first month, I logged 125 miles.  I ran as much as I could.  Even if it was just ten minutes, I carved out time just for me.  Something I hadn’t done since before I had kids.  And I quickly realized, just how much I had missed it.  And how much I loved running again.  It was the only time where my heart got back to a regular rhythm.  For sure, it sorted out my head.  During that entire time, Kara and Laura were there counseling me.  “I know how much your husband hurt you, but I do believe God can restore your marriage.  I think you forgave too soon and perhaps, this connection with Billy isn’t so genuine after all.”

Both Kara and Laura told me to unfriend Billy immediately.  And they went on to say, “Although Billy was a great kid growing up, he’s actually kind of a trippy guy now.  He can’t even give you close to the life you lead.”  And they were right, he couldn’t.  Deep down I knew.  But it took them verbalizing this for it to sink in.

Collectively, we agreed that Billy would always be a bachelor filled with wanderlust.  Never willing to truly commit to another or settle down.  They were right.  Plus I knew leaving my husband would be financial suicide.  We worked so hard to get where we were in life.  It would ruin our kids and turn facets of our lives for the worse.  If I thought things were difficult in my marriage now, they would be compounded once divorced.

But I still didn’t want to let Billy go.  I simply…couldn’t be the one to unfriend him.

 

 

Signal Red

“They call it signal red.”  Billy was trying to enlighten me about the finer characteristics of vintage cars, something that wasn’t exactly on my day-to-day radar.  This was after explaining, “I like the red better than the green one.”  I laugh about it now because I know nothing about cars.  But as fate would have it, my brother crashed his Cayenne that morning.  I forwarded Billy the photos knowing he would cringe looking at the twisted heap of metal.  He quickly responded, “Oh man, that sucks.  He must be so bummed.”

“He looked down at his phone to read a map, rear-ended some lady.  50k of work and they haven’t even gotten to the frame yet.”

“Ouch!  That’s gotta hurt.”

“Don’t feel bad for him.  He can afford it.”

We stayed up talking till 1:00 a.m. that night.  It wasn’t a regular habit of ours.  But that is the night I shared the story of my husband cheating.  He was genuinely saddened to hear that, as he met my husband and thought he was a really cool guy.  As an outsider looking in, we make a striking couple, accomplished and successful with a few kids thrown in for good measure.  But I shattered that vision when I bared my darkest secret.

“That’s a tough position to be in.  I’m sorry.  Tough feeling like you don’t quite have a choice because of the kids.”  I countered, “He’s doing everything he can to keep me.”  Billy waited a second then replied, “As he should.  You’re a keeper for sure.”

Fast forward to the night of the party…At 3:00 a.m. my husband went to bed, leaving me with a small group of friends, Billy included.  We sat on the outdoor lounge furniture side by side.  He showed me his crooked finger, the one that got broken so severely in a college basketball game that it no longer lays flat with the rest of them.  Billy told me about all his surgeries.  But I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw it for myself.  I touched his hand, moving it about, trying to figure out how the surgeon did such a horrible job of resetting his bones.  He didn’t get his money’s worth, that’s for sure.  For several seconds, I didn’t want to let it go.  It was the only moment I had to touch him and I wanted to savor it for as long as I could.

The next day, my husband left.  We previously arranged that I would spend the morning helping Laura clean up.  You know, get her house back in order from the party.  As Laura and I started to wash dishes, my mind wandered to the previous night.  I kept thinking back to the garage and I really wanted to talk to Billy.  I wanted to apologize for putting him in that situation.

I messaged him, hoping he would meet me.  “Billy, I’m so sorry.  I shouldn’t have put you in that situation last night.  It was wrong.  Can we talk?  Either I come to you, you come to Laura’s or we meet at a coffee place?”

And you know what happened?  Nothing.  Total crickets.  He was mute (although I could see he had read the message).

So I upped the ante and sent him a photo of my red bra and matching lace thong.  I wasn’t actually wearing it people.  Come on.  It was just a photo of the actual lingerie, which for me was pretty brazen at the time.  You could say, it was the first sexy photo I had ever sent a man.  In my life.  As in ever.  I know such a prude eh?  But don’t you worry, what I lacked in frequency, I more than made up for it with CEO (and those college photography classes certainly came in hand–it’s about angles people!).

With my heart racing, I hit send with the following message, “Billy, don’t push me away too.  Unless…you don’t want my version of signal red in your life.”

Finally!  He coyly responded, “I do like that red.”

“But you’re married and that’s a bit heavy for me.  I’ve been down this road before.  And I can’t do it again.  Remember at the reunion, you asked why I was single?  Well the girl I told you about at the bar?  You know, the one I pushed away–Anna?  She left her husband and I was the shoulder to cry on.  I can’t do it again.”

“I don’t need your shoulder Billy.  You’re not responsible for the demise of my marriage, that happened two years ago.  I’m stronger now, ready to tackle this head on and leave my husband.”  My heart was pounding as we typed a flurry of responses back and forth.

“Billy, I really wanted to say this face to face.  Not over email.  Not like this.  What I wanted to know was….Do you feel what I feel too?  I’m not looking for an affair.  You deserve better than that.  You deserve all of me.  I need time to wind down my marriage.  I guess what I wanted to know was…would you wait for me?”