It’s summertime. And in my house, that means adventure. I’m a big travel junkie and I like to travel to off the beaten path. It’s one of the things I let go of, when I first had my kids. And it’s one of the things I purposely restored in my life, after I examined my overall happiness post dday.
Last week, I went off the grid with my kids. Packed the car up and hit the road. Just the three of us. We weren’t even out of LA when my daughter fished out a CD, which I didn’t even know was in this car (I rarely drive it anymore). Traffic was thick, so I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was doing but the next thing I know, the lyrics started up and it took me back four years. Memories of immense pain and longing bubbled to the surface as I kept my eyes fixated on the road. I must have listened to this CD a thousand times, I thought. Music put into words what my heart and mind couldn’t say back then. I couldn’t believe she was actually playing this.
I think of you
I haven’t slept
I think I do
But I don’t forget
My body moves
Goes where I will
But though I try my heart stays still
It never moves
Just won’t be led
And so my mouth waters to be fed
And you’re always in my head
My mind instantly went back to CEO and how these words would echo through the chambers of my heart. Every word from each successive song matched the emotions back then. How apropos that I was on a journey, looking back at the most painful journey of all.
“Did you remember to pack my bathing suit mom?”
And just like that, I’m snapped back to reality. “Yes honey. It’s in your bag.”
”Can we eat the chips now?” my son chimes in. “Ummmm, no buddy. We’re not even 20 miles from our house and you are already asking for food?!?”
The music fades as the kids chat about Pokémon, why I took their iPads away for summer and if we will see a bear (like last time we went off the grid). I let their conversations drift into the back of my mind as the lyrics took center stage. The next song begins and my mind suddenly travels back in time.
Call it magic, call it true
I call it magic when I’m with you
And I just got broken, broken into two
Still I call it magic, when I’m next to you
I remember being split between my husband and CEO back then. Neither getting all of me. It broke me into two- literally. And definitely wrecked my spirit juggling these two relationships…and yet, there was magic between CEO and I. Undeniable magic.
Dating an entrepreneur is fraught with difficulties. First, they are married to their start-ups. And their time isn’t linear. This posed problems in our relationship. I learned through knowing CEO that my love language is time- and there never seemed to be enough of it. I need that face to face connection in all of my relationships. Daily contact was there via technology, but nothing replaces looking into each others eyes. Seeing the way his eyes danced as he recounted a story. Or hearing his laugh.
As I drove along the highway, I reflected back upon the negative undercurrents of our relationship. The lack of real, valuable time together. Did I think we could improve the amount of time we spent together back then? Most definitely. I truly believed we could find a middle ground there. I believed we could find our way.
And if you were to ask me
After all that we’ve been through
Still believe in magic?
Well yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Oh yes, I do
Of course I do
My wanderlust was dimming and so had my conversation with the kids. Vivienne looked over at me and asked, “Are you okay mom? You seem distant. Like you are thinking deeply about something.”
“Yes sweetie. I’m fine. Just going over in my head everything I’ve packed.”
”Did you remember the bacon for Zane?”
”Oh crap. I didn’t pull it out of the fridge. Can you google for the nearest Whole Foods on mommie’s phone?”
Needless to say, we had a little detour before we got out of proper LA. It was a nice break from what had been going through my mind. But the second we got back in the car, my daughter continued to play the album with the significance lost on her. Each song was like a journey into my past.
Got a tattoo that said “together through life”
Carved in your name with my poker knife
And you wonder when you wake up, will it be alright oh oh
Feels like there’s something broken inside
All I know
All I know
Is that I’m lost whenever you go
All I know is that I love you so
So much that it hurts
Urgh- the pain started brewing in my chest. The hurt was unreal back then. In an instant, I was brought back to the turmoil of loving two men. One I had built a life with. And one, I had fell in love with. My broken heart realized I needed to box up that love and ignore it for life. I loved Nial so much and this song tore at my heart, every time I heard it. Memories came flooding back. Me- leaving my house for the first time, after I had confessed. Driving away from my neighborhood. Then once I was at a safe distance, just screaming at the top of my lungs. Trying to get everything out, so my kids wouldn’t see my pain. I was conflicted. Truly. Knowing I had purposely dropped an atomic bomb on my relationship with CEO so I would be forced to do the “right thing”, even if my heart was utterly in love with him, was gut wrenching…
“How much longer till we transfer freeways mom? Do you think we will be able to find a swimming hole or waterfall once we get there?”
“Don’t you fret my pet. Mom’s got it covered.”
The melodies faded into oblivion, while giving birth to the next song. Miles tick over on the odometer as the road opened up. As I juggle the past and present, memories of Niall continue to flood to the surface.
For a second, I was in control
I had it once, I lost it though
And all along the fire below would rise
And I wish you could have let me know
What’s really going on below
I’ve lost you now, you let met go but one last time
Tell me you love me, if you don’t then lie, oh lie to me
“Are we going to stop for lunch on the way?” Zane asked softly. “Yes darling. We will get lunch soon.’
And then the keys on the piano begin. Notes take shape. Softly, yet full of every conceivable emotion. It rhythmically tells the story of my heartbreak, note by note.
A flock of birds
Just a flock of birds
That’s how you think of love
And I always
Look up to the sky
Pray before the dawn
‘Cause they fly always
Sometimes they arrive
Sometimes they are gone
They fly on
A flock of birds
Into smoke I’m turned
And rise following them up
Still I always
Look up to the sky
Pray before the dawn
‘Cause they fly away
One minute they arrive,
Next you know they’re gone
They fly on
So fly on
Maybe one day I’ll fly next to you
They fly on
Maybe one day I come fly with you
I’m stronger now. I’ve forged a new path. But it’s in moments like these, I realize just how far I’ve come. And how I can listen to Coldplays entire Ghost Stories without bursting into tears.
And yet…I still miss him.
Thats what 4 years post Dday gets you.
My good friend Madeline over at https://madelineharper09.com blogged about the ending of her affair. For those of you who follow my blog, I haven’t even begun to write much about mine but suffice to say, our stories have overlapped since the beginning. She has since moved on but it was difficult for me to read along, as I’ve been there. I empathized with her pain, as well as knew first hand the pain of being a betrayed spouse. I also understood her affair partners reluctance to engage in the relationship any further. Juggling two relationships takes more work than anyone realizes (take my word). It taxes the mental file boxes so to speak.
Grief. Confusion. Pain. Sorrow. Love. Fear.
So many emotions pulse through your veins when facing the end of an affair. I haven’t divulged about my affair, but I wanted to share an actual email which I sent to CEO at the end. It mirrors so much of Madeline’s pain. Our lovers may be different, but I get where Madeline was at. I understand how it feels breathing through a vice-grip day in and day out, all while trying to function for your children. As humans we strive for knowledge, to make sense of our world and the relationships within and around it. At least we should.
Esther Perel once said, “Depending on the circumstances, anyone is capable of anything. This is a crucial piece of knowledge to hold, if there is true intention, to engage empathically with our fellow human beings. It is easy to cast off those that perpetrate or endure horrific things, as being unlike us or different in some way. And my worry is if we operate from that standpoint, we will always be operating from a place of disconnection and isolation. Empathy entails putting yourself in the shoes of another. It is important that we all challenge ourselves to cultivate this ability, because given the right circumstances or right conditions, we are all capable of anything.
The importance of struggle and pain is crucial to the development of character. The process of recovery is transformational. There is a great cost to the character of human beings if things are achieved too easily.”
As I followed Madeline’s journey, I couldn’t help but sincerely wish that her pain transformed her, just as the pain I caused transformed me. You should realize, I am in a different place than when I wrote this letter. But make no mistake, I sat in the crosshairs of gut-wrenching pain and my consequences for a long, long time. I struggled immensely, yet grew out of those ashes into a better person–a better wife–a better friend and better mother to those around me.
I came to the beach and ran all the way to the end. I wanted to feel close to you. To see your face amongst the crowds. Maybe even bump into you going for a run (we never did race!!)
My mind pondered so many things, thinking how just 1 week ago you said “I want you.” And how on a dime, that suddenly changed. I still don’t get it.
I ask myself constantly “Did he ever truly care for me?” You said you weren’t the man I thought you were. What does that mean???
I think you did care for me but I am so confused. I reached for my tablet this morning, wanting to turn it on to see if you had written. But I had to stop myself as this habit is so ingrained in me, to include you in my day to day life.
Last night, I took Vivianne to the outdoor concert. I left my phone at home by accident. Normally, I would have sent you a message talking about date night or our plans for the weekend. And in that moment, I realised just how much your presence truly was in my life.
We may have started off as adventure seeking lovers but you became one of my closest friends over the past six months. And I adored that CEO. Simply put, losing you and your friendship hurts me the most. I have felt your support and laughter through so many months now, seeking advice, sharing my thoughts, concerns, fantasies and more.
I grew….as a person…..by knowing you CEO. That is one compliment which I’ve never said to anyone. Read that sentence again, slower now. Because very few people have ever come into my life and impacted me in so many ways. You are one of them–having made such an impression on my heart.
I look for the number 1 to appear in my inbox all the time. Seeing a message from “CEO” pop up gave me companionship during the chaos and monotony of my days. I noticed your name says ceo (lowercase) now in my inbox. And I wonder what you changed in your settings. I wonder if this is another step forward to disconnecting what had been our connected lives. It makes me well up in tears and I fan my face trying to breathe through the pain.
I hear footsteps behind me as I sit here watching the waves. And I wish they were yours so that I could tell you just how much I will miss you in my life. Waves of grief wash over me as if I have lost an arm or something. It hurts that much.
As I ran here today, I saw a vision of me working late at night putting together a business plan. The next picture was me at a table negotiating with a bunch of executives. Then finally another picture of me reading a news article talking about my company. I was giving an interview and they were asking “How did a mom get involved in the industry–how did you do it?” And I answered, “I met someone who inspired me to dream again. A CEO who showed me how to juggle a house of cards….I dedicate this to him.”
With that picture in my mind, I burst into tears thinking that in time, you and I will be referred to in the past tense. I never want to lose your friendship and tried to ask you how our interactions would be going forward. Likely this may happen over time. But right now, I can’t let go of someone whose friendship meant the most to me of all.
I care about you…always will. And CEO–you may not feel that you are a great person. But I felt it with you. And I know you are. I still believe in you. Everything with you was magical and that is how I will remember us.
I remember being in so much pain when I wrote those words. Thinking of not hearing from CEO every day ripped my heart out of my chest. Our lives had become so intertwined, both of us were a source of encouragement to the other. Whether he was having a bad day because an investor pulled out, or if I was struggling with the work I was handling–we always reached out. Losing his friendship was the death kneel, but I knew No Contact would be for life. It killed me to think I would never see his smile again. Never hear his laugh. Never share our fantasy world again.
But…over a year later, I can say that the pain diminished enough to function. It waxed and waned over those first few months but the overall trajectory was there. Two years after Dday, you are solidly looking forward and living your life, without the constant feeling of missing their presence. It may not feel that way in the beginning (the first three months of No Contact are brutal) but you do get through it. Make no mistakes, you carry the memories of them wherever you go, but they’ve been relegated to a filing cabinet that rarely gets unlocked. The mental pictures you had swirling around in your head for so long, become fuzzy. You don’t see their face with clarity and definition any longer. It’s like they become a photo or snippet of a movie, when memories pop up. And you are seeing it from afar.
I believe in order to move forward in your life, at some point you stop looking back so much. You just do-instinctually. You begin to live more in the present and little by little, you dust yourself off and rebuild your life. One day at a time.
In the beginning, it’s an accomplishment to not burst into tears every time you drive or hear a song on the radio. Or maybe just being present long enough to say, “I’m good, thanks” when a grocery clerk asks how you are. A few moments suddenly becomes a few hours, and then it grows to a whole morning that you didn’t think about “them”. As time moves forward, eventually days fly by. And one day, maybe a whole year later, you get an entire week or two as a reprieve for your hard work. That’s pretty much the first year after Dday in a nutshell, my friends.
Truthfully though, you won’t ever forget your affair partner. The good memories or bad ones–they are in that memory bank for life I’m afraid. But you do heal. You do. In time.
I’m proof of it Madeline.
Well we finally arrived after two flights and a long layover in between. The kids took it in stride and even walked themselves through immigration. I feared they would be asleep and we would be carrying them ourselves, since that is when they are normally sleeping. But it worked out perfectly.
As we came out of the airport, someone was there to greet us with the car we had rented. No waiting in lines- wow, I could get use to this. As my husband placed our suitcases into the back of the car, he jammed his suitcase against him. His right hand caught a piece of metal which was at one time, part of a side carry handle. I looked at his face, then saw the blood, and he said, “I think I cut my finger down to the bone.”
The woman took him to a nurse who works in the airport. We sat next to our rental car saying prayers for Daddy to be ok. And for this to please, not inhibit the fun he has looked so forward to. My heart sunk knowing all the water activities we had dreamed of doing while here. Fifteen long minutes passed when Daddy suddenly appeared saying, “It’s not to the bone-just a deep cut.” Phew…a huge sigh of relief came flooding out.
We drove about an hour through villages and such, till we finally reached a stone sign. As we drove down a twisting road (think Lombard Street in San Francisco meets the jungle), we suddenly broke out in the giddiest of grins.
You park your vehicle and then the resort ferries you further down the ravine in little tuk-tuks reminiscent of the ones in Thailand, only much nicer. As the driver turned the last corner, there stood our own private butler- local drinks in hand literally welcoming us to paradise.
He brought us into our room- and it was stunning. Views of these majestic mountains coupled with white plantation shutters…four poster bed covered in a white mosquito net.
I’m a visual person so this place is a feast for your eyes and for anyone who loves architecture. I still can’t believe we are here…in such paradise enjoying our marriage and family after so much destruction. I feel grateful beyond words that my husband didn’t give up on us, that we have finally rebuilt a solid marriage where honesty reigns (despite how difficult that has been) and that we haven’t allowed our past to destroy our family.
I never thought being 2 years past Dday could feel so great…but it does. We are making new memories and CEO feels so far behind us now. This is proof that all those articles you read after Dday are true: some couples rebuild their marriages into stronger, more resilient ones. I am very grateful to say, we are one of them ❤️🌴☀️