Intermission: Thankful and Thanksgiving

Taking another break from the chronicles of infidelity. Because I am overcome today with thankfulness that I can celebrate, no, really celebrate Thanksgiving in my home again.

In November, 2013, I have a moment encapsulated in forever. All my children had gotten home from college or travel, and were going about the business of reconnecting. HUSBAND was in the kitchen taking the turkey out of the brine and I looked up, was filled with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. I snapped a really awful iphone picture, threw it up on my social media captioned, “Heart is full…Everyone I love is right here…” It was just one of those moments, indescribable really, but the very essence of life.

Except that it wasn’t real.

I didn’t know it then, but HUSBAND was plotting the exit from our marriage to be with his AP. He was present but not present, figuring out when he could sneak his next text and make a quick call and send her a photo of the same scene I was savoring as sacred. He was getting through this last Thanksgiving with me, and his mind was anywhere but on the joy of our being together, the fullness of reaching this incredible stage of real relationship with our precious children. After discovery of his cheating then, and ultimately cheating numerous times, I was unable to process my naiveté, my foolishness and my complete ability to be deceived. I have not been able to spend a Thanksgiving in our home, to carry on the tradition of the 27 years…the pain was too great.

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But this year, we are home. This year HUSBAND and I spent days planning our meal together. It took trips to Costco, Fresh Market and Publix to get every detail right for the culinary prep which we started a couple days ago. It took purchasing flowers and arranging them just so. It took my mom helping me set tables and place candles. Our kids started arriving and there were hugs and joy and excitement. They weren’t aware of the pain related to hosting Thanksgiving. They know our story, but they don’t know details like this so we just gracefully decided to explore farm house dinners with friends and plantation dinners in other states for the last couple years. They don’t realize how special this Thanksgiving is for me, for us.

This Thanksgiving, I’m overwhelmed again. I’m overwhelmed to be able to look at the journey my life was on for so many years that had prepared me for the fight of my life. A fight for my sanity and for my wholeness and for my voice. I see the subtle brokenness that I so cleverly hid in myself and my marriage and that in its shattering was the choice to get rid of the pieces, or figure out a way to put them together to create something new, something so piercingly beautiful and so incredibly strong. I’m overwhelmed in thinking about the betrayeds that have gone before me, and shared their hearts and thoughts and struggles and pains and victories in this community – that have given me the strength to take one more breath and one more step and one more chance. That have helped me navigate my own screaming pain and challenge HUSBAND to be real and whole and transparent. I am overwhelmed with the understanding that it has been your care of me, your bravery to speak into me, your strength when I was weak that has helped me in this path that I never, ever would have chosen.

I am thankful that my house looks beautiful and welcoming, and that the seats will be filled by those I love so much. I am thankful that the smells are already permeating and that there will be laughter and good food and toasts and love. Yes, love. Real, true, love.

But around my table, I see each of you too. All of you…you amazing women and men who have taken time to care for me throughout these last 2 ½ years. I could not be at my table in my home with my family without you. You are here, tucked in every part of who I am now, and I am overwhelmed with my thankfulness, and my love, for you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 6

Looking back through the life of my infidel…considering gaps and patterns and moments and experiences and ways-of-living that could give us both clues into how. Into why. This isn’t a treatise for explaining cheating; rather a process of working through for both of us…so we never end up there again.

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So now we were married. And in looking back…that blind eye…it was tough to open. Maybe all new marriages were like mine. I wouldn’t know, because I sure didn’t tell anyone.

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The day of my wedding, each of my parents privately told me their view of marriage. Mom found a quiet moment amongst the frenzy of the day, looked me in the eye, and told me the key to a happy marriage was to get what I wanted, but make him think it was his idea. I nodded and said, ok, and didn’t really think much about it at the time. But it is a key to who I am, rather who I was. Dad, right before we walked down the aisle, or rather as we began to step, said with all sincerity (although it is an interesting thing now that I know more about who my dad is and was in his marriage), “Wait. I know you’ve heard marriage is 50-50. It isn’t true.” He said it with urgency. “Marriage is 100-100. Ok?” I nodded and looked anxiously…the music was playing…we were missing our cue…

On the drive to our wedding trip, I was exhausted. I slept a good part of the nine hour drive and between naps made conversation, recapping the ceremony and the party and thinking about the food and the flowers. Somewhere along the way, brand-new HUSBAND mentioned that one of his friends had given us a particular wedding gift: pot.

I was a little stunned. Honestly, I was a lot stunned.

I didn’t smoke pot, and didn’t know pot was a big thing for my brand-new HUSBAND.

But I was also a brand-new bride and had absolutely no reference point for how to respond. In reaching back in my memory, I could not catch a moment in which my dad had told my mom that he had received something illicit from someone and was excited to share it with her. Nope, drew a blank. Had no resources to draw from to formulate how to respond. So I didn’t, other than to say something inane like, “Oh, wow. That’s a different kind of wedding gift…”

So my brand-new HUSBAND smoked himself some pot on our wedding trip, and I told myself it was an interlude since we were off and away. He didn’t do it too much, but I remember one flash-bulb moment on one morning when I was wearing a beautiful negligee and the matching robe, making us sandwiches for our horseback riding picnic lunch later that day. I was spreading the mayonnaise lost in thoughts about what had I done…was I really married to this guy…was it really for life…and I heard my name called, looked up and FLASH! He took a photo. I remember so well what I was thinking at that moment, but my face didn’t show it, and I didn’t tell him.

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When we returned from our trip, we moved into his little house in a before-it-was-an-up-and-coming-area area that was about ½ the size of my apartment that I’d shared with a roommate. I squeezed and cajoled my things into his home and tried to make it mine too. The first two weeks, HUSBAND would get home from work, and literally within 10 minutes one of his friends pulled up. They would be guys together, and several times walked out to the back of our little house. And light up a joint. I became more and more frantic as the days went by…that this new HUSBAND of mine was a pot-smoker, and that he wanted to hang out with his friends instead of me.

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Finally after those two weeks, I told him that we couldn’t draw a line down the middle of our house…we couldn’t have one side wanting to smoke pot (both illegal and unwanted by me) and the other with different rules. He agreed to tell his friend, and absolutely to not smoke…he didn’t realize it bothered me…no problem at all giving it up…and I believed him. The friend no longer stopped by. And he no longer smoked pot. I believed him.

We had weathered the first small steps of discord.

Because I believed him.

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Intermission: Grateful in the Chaos

Taking a break from the chronicles of infidelity. Because I am overcome today with gratefulness in the midst of the pain and confusion we are seeing around us here in the US.

It is Veteran’s Day. And I’m grateful. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that we have brave men and women who literally place their lives on the line for the rest of us unknown and unnamed Americans. I’m grateful for my father, a 25 year Air Force vet who flew over 150 missions in the Viet Nam war, and helped to identify a missile base that was blasting SAM missiles at US planes, shooting them out of the sky. I’m grateful for my brother-in-law, a 25+ year Army vet who fought hard for our freedom in several fronts around the world. I’m grateful for my friend’s son, her only child, who lost his life defending our country and our most precious freedom.

I’m grateful, too, for my overwhelmingly brilliant and opinionated and verbose children who eloquently and frequently express their thoughts on political and social issues. Who exercise their freedom of thought and choice and speech, and band together with such passion to bring change they desperately know will make our nation stronger and better. I’m grateful they listen well, and believe in collaboration and will leave this country, and this world, a better place.

And I’m grateful to live in the United States. A country in which we are allowed to disagree and duke out deeply dividing differences in public forums, yet free to choose to find the common places and spaces where we will…WE WILL discover and defend a better solution than any of us could singularly create. We are stronger, together, doing the incredibly difficult work of learning about, hearing, understanding, embracing, caring, loving. Anyone who doubts this is listening to forces and voices that need to be overcome – because they know we are weaker if we are pitted against each other – through our dedication to what this country is all about: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I’m grateful “they” cannot make us believe that this is not at the core of our people, our focus, our commitment.

I’m grateful, today, for this unique, diverse, beautiful tapestry of individuals that have chosen to allow a common thread to run through us and that is defended, brilliantly, by our service men and women. But also by those who work so hard to ensure their voices and causes and victories and battles are heard. We have so much in common, so much more than people outside our unique country could ever understand. I’m grateful for you.

Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 5

Just looking back through the life of my infidel…looking at gaps and patterns and moments and experiences and ways-of-living that could give us both clues into how. Into why. This isn’t a treatise for explaining cheating; rather a process of working through for both of us…so we never end up there again.

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Our wedding…was magnificent. Sort of.

At the time, it was everything I’d dreamed of. I wore a stunning dress and long-white gloves (it was a thing, honestly). My attendants looked gorgeous in their deep teal, ankle-length, satin dresses (that they could wear again – lol) and all the flowers were white, only white. The groomsmen looked distinguished in their black tuxedos, and the flowers…the setting…the band…the food…it was overwhelming. I remember looking at my dad and telling him I felt like a princess. Thank you.

I’m not sure why, but at the altar with my groom, I talked. I kept saying things like, “we are really doing this, getting married. Can you believe it?”

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I think the reality is I couldn’t believe it. I think maybe, deep down in my gut, there was a little turmoil that I just could not allow to come to the surface.

That blind eye thing…even though I couldn’t see it, my gut may have had some insight that just disconnected before it hit my cognitive faculties. It’s hard to go back here, it’s hard to admit. But if I am ever to heal, ever to ensure that I’d never be in the same position again, I have to go here. Putting it on paper and owning my silence…I’m trying to be kind to this girl. I hope you will be too.

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The first thing that I can now see that was really discordant but I just breezed right past at the time? HUSBAND and I had gone out of town together with friends for a couple days. When we got back to town, we went by his house where I had left my car. We walked inside and his roommate told us that he’d had an unexpected visitor the night before, actually, in the early morning hours. Seems HUSBAND’s former girlfriend that had once been his fiancé had been dropped off at the house expecting to slip into HUSBAND’s bed and resume their up/down relationship. Odd that she felt the freedom to show up. Show up and expect…but I justified it in my mind that they’d had such a pattern in the past…

Several weeks later, after HUSBAND had reportedly called former girl to tell her to never come by again…that it was permanently over, and he was moving on, he picked me up. We were headed to a ball game, and we always took his dog with us. When she wasn’t it the car, I asked where she was. To my great surprise, he told me former girl had her.

????Former girl, who doesn’t drive. Who he’d told there would be contact or ongoing anything????

He was surprised that I was uncomfortable with this. You see, they’d both loved the dog. The dog had been part of both their lives for the four years of off-again on-again relationship and he couldn’t really be expected to keep the dog from her, could he?

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After the ball game, he took me home and I didn’t say anything about the dog incident. I did, however, disappear for several days. This was pre cell phones, and I made sure my assistant answered my phone at work. I went to a friend’s to spend the night directly after work. On the third day I came home to my apartment, and he appeared within minutes. I explained that I was not interested in sharing him with another person. If he wanted an ongoing we-are-going-to-share-dog-time-or-any-other-time with her, then I was out. He pledged his heart and apologized and I thought she was gone for good.

And she was, until he told me a few days later that she thought she was pregnant. Ended up she wasn’t. And I just kept plugging along.

Another day we were relaxing in his home, talking about our upcoming wedding. HUSBAND then decided to let me know that he hadn’t paid his taxes for the last three years. BOOM. When I asked why, he boyishly explained he’d just not quite gotten ‘round to it. And what does any smart, confident, independent young woman do when she finds out such a thing? Surely, she insists that he get it straightened out immediately…that he cleans it up and files and deals with whatever penalties and interest and admonishments that may be due. Right?

That is unless she turns a blind eye…justifying that he isn’t as skilled in finances as she is…that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong. And then SHE promptly digs through the past years, gets all the information together on his behalf, gets it all cleaned up. I did ask him to pay the accountant, which he did, and to pay the required financial penalties…at least that is something. I worked hard to clean up the mess. He said thanks.

Then there was our wedding night. I’m not sure what I expected…I was certainly influenced by romantic movies and thoughts of long-drawn out intimate moments and awe of consummating the commitment we’d just publicly made and being a wife. His wife. I guess I thought there would be a beautiful suite, and flowers, and candles, and champagne, and tender touches and…

But what there was instead was a regular hotel room (my folks said why waste the money on a special suite?) and taking his own clothes off and getting into the bed (okay, so I guess I take mine off too) and a self-satisfying romp (for him) and then roll over and proceed to a snoring sleep. Yes…there had been a crazy full day of festivities and food and spirits, but I was stunned. And sad. And got out of my brand-new marriage bed and went to the bathroom and started the bathtub and got in it, alone, and cried.

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Yes. A blind eye. I had it, but it is open now.