The heroes have their demons and the villains have their virtues. No one is all-good or all-bad, just variations on shading between.
I’ve been reading Lisa Arends since almost the beginning.
Her book and journal details both the fall of her marriage and the rise of her recast self. She documents the steps she has taken to own her life since the bottom. Her writing reveals a constant self-awareness and dedication to learning more about herself and the people around her.
I need her writing.
She is a constant reminder that healing is my responsibility. No one else can do for me what I need to do for myself.
Arends was instrumental in showing me that no matter the pain or bottom that I could make something better from it. I could take one of the darkest and Ugliest chapters of my life, openly talk about it, and turn it into something useful and meaningful.
I could do this in a way that was true to the experience without being morbid or full of self-pity.
When I first read this post last February I was less than 80 days into my new life, sleep deprived, angst-ridden, emotionally charged, hotel hopping across the country, pursued by trolls and flying monkeys, and just at the beginning of sorting out my excuses and justifications from the understandings and patterns. I was moving through my bottom. It wasn’t a one-time event but an ongoing bounce.
Arends openly acknowledges that at her bottom she “was livid. Enraged.” She writes that she, “blamed him for putting me in that mess and all of my energy was directed towards that end.”
And like so many of the men and women I read that have been betrayed, that rage and its energy “carried over to anyone that admitted to ever stepping out on their relationships…I ascribed all of their actions to the cold calculations of a malignant soul.”
Of course, I understand that.
I have, on more than one occasion over the last 15 months found myself voluntarily leaning into pointless discussions with ill-informed people over issues of my identity, my life with my xp, and the decisions I was making before and after the discovery. However, I also recognize that early on I consistently lacked tact and skill in negotiating those troubles. As I look back on it I realized it was almost always anxiety leading the way.
I have never shied away from owning the Ugly of my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies. Paraphrasing Mal from Firefly, “I did it. And I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character…”
For some people, my Ugly will be the only Truth about me that matters. They will, because of their own perceptions, like Arends, “ascribed all of [my] actions to the cold calculations of a malignant soul.”
However, what sets Arends (and people like Dolly Allen, Tiger Lily, Elle Grant, Moisy Swindell and others) is they all recognize, “All that anger never altered what he had done. All that condemnation never altered the actions of any cheaters I encountered. All that blame never made me feel any better.”
Arends and I were chatting about this on Twitter recently, and she said something wonderful, “Blame is empty calories. Feels good in the moment but makes you ill if you binge.” Having been angry myself, and at myself, I recognize this as true for anger as it is for blame. The longer I choose to remain angry, the more ill I become.
From my perspective, once Arends began to focus on listening to what she was experiencing instead of avoiding it she discovered her, “personal pain began to fade,” and she “began to listen.”
The difficulty is many people won’t listen.
Instead, they will choose to hold onto the blame and anger and avoid the pain necessary to heal and understand. This is true for anyone that has had their heart broken. An experience that isn’t exclusive to man and woman that have been betrayed. It is a human experience.
Through this process, Arends has discovered, “the heroes have their demons and the villains have their virtues. No one is all-good or all-bad, just variations on shading between.”
I understand. This concept has allowed me to walk away from the nonsense that I am simply a cheater with “a malignant soul” and towards a more inclusive and vulnerable sense of my good, bad, and ugly. As a result, like Arends, “I also uncovered important information about the pressures we put on marriage, the isolation of mental illness, the anxiety around conflict and the fear of being alone.”
And as I have uncovered those things I have learned, regardless of the pain-filled and shallow narratives painted by outsiders and by my own shame, I am more than the sum of my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies.
I am a person and my pain, loss, joy, and experience matters too.
Read the rest of her journal by clicking here –> via Walking the Narrow Line Between Seeking to Understand and Making Excuses