28: 70 Days, 3 Lessons

Seventy days ago today my world collapsed. For better and worse, it has been an Odessy.

I’m going to make two posts here on the topic and one on the closed blog. If you are interested in reading and contributing your thoughts to the private blog, email me or subscribe and I’ll add you. They will post over the next three days.

After seventy days here is a short list of truths.

I’m not a victim

I haven’t received a meaningful word from C in 70 days. That isn’t a complaint or criticism of C. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. I’ve never asked for any.

I’m stating a fact & math. This isn’t a crime story.

Don’t judge her. I betrayed her. She doesn’t owe me a word, consideration, or concern. I’m not a victim. I’ve never claimed to be.

However, I’m human and the loss, silence and the armchair psychologists’ ghost stories from glory-hounds working out their own shit through our pain still hurt deeply.

Even the self-inflicted gunshot still bleeds and needs time and love to heal. I won’t be getting either from C.

My writing and friendships are attempts to find a balm for my soul and I’ve never blamed C or called her names. I’ve simply stated what is happening, how I feel and what I am attempting to do.

I’m not a victim. Neither am I a monster.

Secrets suck

I’m grateful I’m not carrying the secret. I carried the secret of my betrayal and lies for a long time. No one wakes up trying to make a bad situation worse. None the less, it is obvious even with my best effort I clearly developed a special skill for making it worse.

We all have secrets. Some are just more public than others. I know someone when he found out about my affair, bragged about sleeping with an ex-wife but says, “that bitch knows better than to call my wife.” Another married man I know is still married to his first wife. One of the best people I know is on her fourth boyfriend in her five-year marriage.

Some people find power in their secrets. Mine simply made me miserable and angry. “Anger is often a red herring,” writes Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed., “which covers up more vulnerable feelings such as embarrassment, sadness, and hopelessness.” My secret was internal fodder for all three.

The weight was incredible. Of course, lying to people you care will make anyone miserable and angry. I liken it to strapping a bomb to your body and knowing it you are one phone call away from detonation.

You know you’ve failed the people that trust you and that at any moment you will go off. You feel like you cannot tell anyone about the bomb. You don’t know how to ask for help. And the one person that you trust and love is the one person that you don’t want to be collateral damage.

Knowing what would happen if my secret was shared with the small rural community and a tight-knit circle of C’s friends filled me with embarrassment, sadness, and hopelessness. Knowing the consequences and how people we care about would react is why people lie.

It is truly a hopeless situation.

While carrying the bomb I was never so alone. Keeping secrets from the people I loved and that loved me is emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting.

As a result, there were moments that I was horrible to be around. On more than one occasion I took it out verbally on others including C, her kids, and K. I once yelled at one of her boys, calling him an “entitled little fuck.”

Regardless of what he was doing, he certainly didn’t deserve that treatment. I talked to several people about the incident and eventually sat him and C down to talk about how wrong I was.

Still, the thought of my secret driven behavior makes me sick. You are only as sick as your secrets. My secrets cast a shadow over anything good that may have passed between us.

It would be simple to say I despise kids, but in truth, I was trying to push everyone away because I knew discovery was only a matter of time. I just kept making up more and more extravagant lies to deflect K’s attention away from C. I made more and more lies up because I didn’t want to lose C. She made it very clear she considered infidelity unpardonable. People go to great length to avoid a death sentence, even when they know it is deserved.

Secrets are the tool that is used to avoid the down and dirty work required to create meaningful and intimate relationships. Secrets are the tool we use when we are afraid of vulnerability and intimacy. We use secrets to protect things we need and want and we use secrets to get the things we need and want. Are we that afraid of being hurt, abandoned, or rejected?

Clearly, in my case, yes.

I think C is relieved about the affair and lies. I can see now looking back she was giving me lots of signs she wanted out. Perhaps, I was ignoring these hints and giving her a pass because of my secrets. Perhaps, my affair gave her what she really wanted and needed.

Perhaps, that was her secret.

Neither of us will ever know and that is the problem with secrets and vacuums. They both suck.

Friendship and Ghost Stories

“People are watching and they don’t like what what they are seeing.” – Peanut Gallery

“Fuck ‘people’. It’s not the critic that counts.” – Me

You call people out you love, you don’t kick them out.

This has been a hard one for me to adjust to. There are people I considered dearest friends that completely ghosted on me and are part of the armchair psychologists movement. They haven’t spoken to me at all and consider my writing and loss just a pathological attempt at manipulating the narrative.

I consider them friends and made one or two attempts to pursue a conversation and relationship around day thirty. Instead, they’ve devolved into a lynch mob of ill-informed trolls. So be it. Their opinion of me is none of my business even when they’ve gone out of the way to tell me.

At first, their trolling and assumptions made me angry and I would respond angrily. Sometimes I would push back against C. It’s taken time but just like their opinion of me is none of my business, it isn’t C’s fault either. Yes, she is benefiting from the theater of it all but I see clearly that is also none of my business. She is doing what she needs to do. We all are.

I recognize now they are just using my infidelity as an excuse to vent their own pain over their own issues. I’m working on seeing their actions in light of their lives, not a definition of mine. Even my Doctor said, “Diagnosis of pathology should be left to professionals.”

As someone wrote to me said, “You deserve her anger, resentment, and pain, but you don’t deserve it from anyone else other than her. You are not a monster but a man with issues, frailties, and traits shaped by your life and who has made some very bad choices.”

The second group has been surprisingly open to me – provided I don’t bullshit them about my pain or feelings. As I drove across thirteen states and five-thousand miles these people listened to me cry and hurt. They offered me friendship, comfort, and a warm bed. “What the FUCK, Sean!?,” was probably the most honest response. She may still be mad at me but she allowed me to store my favorite lamp, chair, and painting at their house.

In a crisis, people choose to either be part of the solution or are part of the problem.

The choices of the second group saved my life. They provided solutions.

I am eternally grateful for their friendship. The reality is after my infidelity I didn’t think I deserved any friends, compassion, or understanding. It’s taken a few weeks to shed the ghost stories being pushed on people trying to get inside my head but as a friend said, “Sean, you fucked up. I guess you’re human too.”