“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.”
Around Day 66, C wrote to me and said I would be “proud of who [she] has become.”
The reality, is I’ve always been proud of C. I always bragged about her creativity, smarts, strength, focus, and Vision. I still am proud of her and miss her, even if I don’t like her much at the moment.
However, over the months I’ve given a lot of thought to that email conversation and the issue of being proud. Pride certainly wasn’t my friend as I worked through my betrayal and subsequent behaviors. In many respects, it undermined my ability to ask for help or face my failings as C’s Partner.
And I have many failings just as I have many strong qualities.
But now? Five months into my adventure?
Five months on the road has reinforced my resiliency, provided a sense of power, and a new found self-respect. It has buttressed my strong qualities and forced me to confront and reset the weaker foundations of my character, life, and mindset.
The consequences have forced me to ask for help, thicken my skin, and be more patient. It has also made me more compassionate and less judgemental. It’s made me kinder and less angry. I have better, more honest, and truthful friends that look at me they see my failings and not a failure.
As multiple people have said to me, “You’re taking this on the chin like a man” and they “couldn’t live like I do on the road day after day.”
Let’s review. Not for sympathy but for perspective.
I slept in my van five times in the first 20 days. For the first 100 days, I slept in 80 different hotels, AirBnBs in 80 different cities. In the first 100 days, I ate in 180 different restaurants and drove 17,000 miles.
In the first 90 days, I made nearly 400 cold calls. 300 of them were straight up rejections. I would walk into a manufacturer knowing it would lead nowhere. I made every stop with a smile and enthusiasm while I was dying inside.
Sometimes I even made a joke…or cried. Sometimes both.
I did it on a straight commission income.
I did this while I carried my own shame, guilt, loss, pain, humiliation, and remorse. I did this while trying to carry C’s hurt and harm as I understood them. I did this as trolls took my four emails of shame, truths, half-truths, and ghost stories sharing them with still more friends and associates.
I did this knowing every single mile was a mile away from my heart and home. I did this while my entire being was on fire.
I did this not knowing where I would sleep that night, where my friends went, what C needed or wanted me to do, and while ill-informed trolls sought me out on social media and accused me of being malicious, manipulative, dangerous, predatory, and cruel. I did this in a vacuum of information from C.
As I said, I don’t need sympathy. These are consequences. I failed. There needs to be consequences or why else change?
I faced my shame and humiliations publically. I’m not hiding behind self-aggrandizing bravado. I’m not pretending to be something I’m not. I have nothing left to lose.
I’ve publically made myself vulnerable and open to C and trolls alike. I opened up in my writings on here, twitter, and my personal FB page. I’ve openly discussed my remorse, shame, lies, secrets, and guilt. I tried to be transparent and give C opportunity after opportunity to confront me. I’ve let her know in a 1,000 ways she is the one.
I didn’t do those things out of guilt and remorse (I have plenty of both), but out of love, compassion, and understanding for C and how hurtful my behavior was to her and our family. My guilt is mine, not hers to carry.
I’ve struggled regularly with finding the balance between fighting for the relationship and letting her go. Vulnerability is a complex tightrope for the betrayer to walk. How much is too much? How little is too little? What is too soon? Too late? Necessary? Unnecessary? Will it be confused with pleas for pity or sympathy? Narcissism? Pathology? Game playing?
I honored many other vows I’ve made to C. I haven’t shown up on her doorstep like a lost puppy. I haven’t begged her to take me back. I haven’t stalked her online, hidden behind, or trolled through multiple hidden accounts. I’ve repeatedly discouraged friends for standing up for me or encouraging her to talk with me.
I’ve never blamed C for my decisions, pain, or betrayal. I’ve not lashed out at her for asking me to leave and not talking to me.
I’ve written letters taking responsibility for my behavior and apologizing for humiliating C to her, her father, LS, her ex-husband, and her Twins. I FB messaged apologies to her brother and other family members. Around Day 120 I wrote a letter of apology to my personal troll for reacting so harshly to his personal trolling.
Just like my betrayal and subsequent behaviors shows a failing of character, how I’ve dealt with the consequences are a reflection of my strength of character. No one is all one thing. We are complex creatures.
I’m looking to own my failures and strengths, learn from them, move forward with, as Emerson wrote, “an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old.”
I have two successful clients. I’ve gotten back on my feet financially. I’ve settled on a new apartment in Yo-Yo Town. I fixed my broken tooth. I refinanced the van. I’m selling my ’59 Shasta camper for $6,000. I’ve largely fixed my cash flow situation.
I jump started my regional passion projects and networking group. Several people have encouraged me to run for the Village Board again.
I have a plan for the next 90 days.
Every day I turn towards my fears and move towards it. I’ve not only survived but also, in many ways thrived. As a result, I’ve begun to reclaim power and self-respect.
I said recently the personal and professional impact of my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies will take years to recover from. What I’ve come to appreciate since I wrote about consequences a few weeks ago is I don’t need to recover.
I need to mature.
I’m glad to be rid of most of the material things and my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies has made almost no impact on my professional relationships. A few people may not trust me with their wives or daughters but they trust me with their money, their business, their clients, and their property. They are capable of separating the act from the actors.
Actually, being secret and lie free has brought me closer to clients and friends alike. As a friend said to me around Day 12, “I guess you’re human too.”
I have the courage to openly write about my fears, shames, remorse, behaviors, anguish, loss, and heart’s desire without the burden of a toxic masculinity romancing some long-forgotten high school glory days, threatening and demeaning other people, or objectifying women as a violent and vindictive Barbie Doll.
A self-righteous and angry hater said to me recently, that I’ve “got balls coming back to Yo-Yo Town!” At first, I was annoyed and then I remember: “Yes it does.”
Leaving Yo-Yo Town would be easier but the reality is it has been my home for over 4 years. I have other friends and a life. I cheated – and everything that entails – on C. The only person I owe any loyalty or amends to is C and those friends that have been willing to confront and talk with me and not simply criminalize my behavior.
Trolls, of course, may spin my choice as somehow sinister. However, everything I’ve ever done looks sinister to them now. They’ve admitted all they see is a monster. However, I’m past caring how trolls see me or my choices and I have no idea how C sees it because she has never said. I’m again left to assume she wants nothing and needs nothing
Therefore, I’m free to choose my life without concern for hers.
When I leave my home it will not be because a small handful of self-aggrandizing bullies decided. It will not be because my fears and anxiety rule my decisions. I will leave when it is time. And it will be the time when I decide — not trolls or C. I’ll leave when I’m ready.
For now, I’m looking to create the same stable environment C has had access to since Day 1: to be near my friends, in my community I love, around people that want to be around me, and living in my own home. I deserve that too.
All of this experience reflects a life in progress. I’ve never been in this situation before so I’m left to fumble my way through the maze I’ve created.
However, unlike a maze, there is no endpoint. My trudging path along this road is fraught with orange barrels, potholes, mudslides, and self-aggrandizing bridge trolls, but also long stretches of beaches, forests, streams, mountains, lakes and rolling fields of spring flowers. What matters is what I turn towards.
I’d like to believe C would be proud of me too. Many people would run for their own reasons. Many people run from their humiliations and anxiety. Many would run because of the threats and intimidation tactics.
I’m running towards my humiliations, anxiety, and failure. That takes courage and honesty; that takes balls.
More importantly, I know what I did. I know who I am. I can no longer be blackmailed by my shame or trolls. Since the day I met C I’ve known where I belong.
However, our roads have diverged as a consequence of my betrayal and her post-discovery choices, and as such, I’ve got a long adventurous road to travel. But it is my road. I get to choose where I’m headed.