My Brave Heart

After any major life changing event, there comes a point where you either accept things or it slowly begins to define you.  We all know that person, the one that holds grudges against their ex-spouse.  The ones that spew hatred for anything that triggers them.  The ones that have literally lost years of their lives being enslaved to the travesty which they endured decades ago.  I didn’t want to become one of those people.  That was for sure.

It took listening to a news program for the penny to drop.  For me to see the bigger picture and wipe the mess off my rose colored glasses that was clouding my view.  Essentially after much soul searching, I figured out real quick that my husbands infidelity had less to do with me and everything to do with breaking up our family.  And I wasn’t about to let that happen.  My kids, quite frankly, mean everything to me.

So on that spring morning as I drove back from yet another doctors appointment, I returned home a changed wife.  I recounted the news story to my husband and told him, “I don’t know how I am going to forgive you.  If it will come in stages or one lump sum.  But today, I chose to forgive you.  And each day I wake up, I will say those words until they become my reality.”

He cried.  I cried.  Then we had sex.

If I could go back in time, I would stop myself.  Looking back years later, I realize that I fast tracked my forgiveness for the sake of our family.  I placed all the pain and hurt into some imaginary box because let’s be honest, I had a life growing inside of me.  I didn’t have time to wallow in this mess.  Like Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart shouting, “Onward!”, I too had to keep pressing forward at living.

So I did.

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Therapy

As I sat on the couch filling out a questionnaire, I found myself looking around at the dark wood panelling left over from the 70’s and thinking, “I can’t believe I am actually sitting in this office.”  It was quiet, yet I could hear a faint buzz from the outdated fluorescent light bulbs above me.  As my pen hit the paper, I heard a voice and what sounded like tissues being pulled out of a box.  Then the door swung open and a pair of legs went scurrying by.  This was another wounded soul.  My compadre.  But out of mutual respect, I kept my eyes cast downward and proceeded onto page two.

“Would you like to come back now?” she asked in a cheerful voice.  So I picked up my belongings and sat down on the Rachel Ashwell slip covered chair.  Sitting across from her, I studied her face noting it was full of wrinkles from years of laughter.  I began telling her the story, from A to Z which was sprinkled with tears at the most painful of parts.  She had a reassuring nod and the hour whizzed by.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first therapy session, but maybe if I scheduled another, things would become more clear.  We agreed that twice weekly sessions were needed right now.  A hundred dollars later, I walked out the door unsure if therapy was even for me.

That time in my life was what I refer to as my “crisis” mode.  I was able to hold it together for my kids, but any moments alone were spent crying.  Often times, I found myself pulling into parking spaces only to have no recollection of how I got there. Mentally, I was having conversations in my head every time I got behind the wheel.  Or I would replay moments in our marriage and then piece together business trips of when he cheated on me.  Music either lifted my spirits or caused me to burst into tears. And often times, I cried at the most inopportune times.  In line at the grocery store–check.  Driving Vivian to preschool–check.  And my most memorable–the time I burst into tears before having an ultrasound.

Life has a way of bringing people into your world that can offer advice or healing words.  Marti was mine.  She was the ultrasound technician working the morning of my appointment.  You know, the appointment where you get to see your baby for the first time on a screen.  The one where it’s usually filled with tears of joy and awe for the little child inside of you.

Only mine didn’t play out quite like that.

For reasons which I won’t go into here, I found myself telling her all about my husbands betrayal.  She listened and cried, telling me the story of her fathers affair and how it affected her mother and her childhood.  As she moved the wand over my belly, I felt horrible for crying.  Here I had this little child inside of me, and he/she didn’t deserve to be washed in this sea of pain.  This poor little soul was literally being created inside of me while I wadded through the worst, most excruciating pain of my life.  And I felt guilty for that.  Still do actually.  Even to this day.

But Marti, a complete stranger up until that morning, just held my hand and let me cry.  She was so deeply affected by what I had shared that she contacted me a week later, sending me a handmade card.  I am pretty sure she broke hospital protocol, but in times like these, rules are meant to be broken.  I keep it in my nightstand, along with the confession letters, as a trophy of what I have been through.

“It has been several days since your visit and truthfully, I have yet been able to shake the image of this kind and beautiful patient before me, so visibly upset, sharing her story of ultimate betrayal.  

After a great deal of thought, I must share with you my sincere appreciation for your strength as you consider resolution rather than abruptly, and understandably so, declaring an end to the relationship.  You exemplify courage and strength, commitment and compassion, qualities we all hope to recognize in ourselves.

I hope the burdens on your heart are soon lifted and you can acknowledge your courageous soul and the fine example you are to your beautiful children.”

Words have meanings.  They aren’t just letters on a page.  She got that.  And got me.  My pain.

Everything.

The Letter

“I have an assignment for you.” I emailed later that week.  “I want a confession letter outlining everything.”  My email was longer than that, but that was the gist.  The idea being this was his shot to be 100% honest with me.  There would be no miscommunications regarding what was said during this time in our marriage later on.  It would be there, in black and white, for both of us to see.  And it would be in his own words.  No more lies, no more trickling out the truth.  I wanted every gory detail.

“You have one week to give it to me.” I said later that evening.  I thought that was quite considerate considering the situation.  However, I wanted dates and times which required him digging through cell phone records and other documents.  He agreed to write it.  What choice did he really have though?  It was either that, or divorce.

When he handed me the letter, I checked the last page.  I was wise enough to request that he end it with some truth statement.  I wanted to know that his confession letter was actually truthful and not packed with lies.  He included it, which meant he actually read my entire email, kind of like those riders celebrities include in their contracts to ensure only white M&M’s are kept backstage.  Only I wasn’t famous.

Things were icy between us that week.  He got asked to travel to San Diego for work, which meant another business trip was on the horizon.  You know, the exact situation which triggered him cheating.  I wasn’t about to let him go alone either.  So the three of us went on his business trip, enjoying the pool while he worked.

On our journey home, Viviane fell asleep.  It gave us time to talk.  I had been pondering one of the things he had confessed to and wanted to double check a few details.  Like did he really use a condom, which is what he wrote in his letter.  If so, did she have it in her purse?  Or was it him?  Being the detailed person that I am, I couldn’t shake this feeling that he lied about that part.  So when I pressed further, when I asked if he had bought them before heading back to his hotel, or if she whipped it out of her purse, he caved.  Through tear filled eyes he said, “I lied in the letter.”

That is all it took for me.  I phoned my mom and informed her that I was dropping Vivian off for a few hours.  That me and hubby had some talking to do.  It was the longest 45 minutes of my life till we finally were alone.  I pulled up to our driveway and slammed shut the car door, then ran inside our house and closed every single window.

I then proceeded to scream every profanity known to man while my husband stood stoically at one end of our house, me at the other.  Sitting on the floor of our kitchen, I was sobbing.  Then screaming anything that came to my mind.  “You fucking lied to me.  You asshole.  You have destroyed our family.  You have single handedly ruined everything we built.”

It was a cathartic release.  Something primal coming out of me during those dark moments.  Up until that point, I had been in control of my emotions.  I had handled everything diplomatically.  But this was different.  This was my moment to let it all out.

And I did.

The following day, I wrote a post on a mommy blog asking for any good therapist referrals.  At last check, it had thousands of page views and nearly crashed their servers (ok well maybe not exactly).  But it got a helluva response, as if that should have been a surprise.  One unintended consequence was that my post got included in their email blast.  And I received two emails, from two different friends, who had seen my post.  They were offering their support, but at the same time felt as if they had just read my diary or something.  Obviously, they felt torn, as if they shouldn’t know about this.  But they did.  And they wanted to see how I was doing.

That night, after I put V to bed, I cried myself to sleep.  The pain was gut wrenching.