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Monday, August 24, 2015

Misery Business, The Vlog Series.

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I'll be honest, when the first reports that the group that hacked Ashley Madison did, in fact, release the user data, I was downright giddy. Having watched my own marriage fall victim to the site and it's purpose (though, honestly, it would have fallen sooner or later as obviously things were not as fixed as I believed and no website or lack thereof was going to replace the work needed from both parties) I felt slightly vindicated all these years later.

And for the record, yes, I checked for his email. It's there. So I'll suppose his payment information is as well and ... it's really not my problem anymore, now is it?

Anyway, so for about a full day, I was as self-righteous as ever as reports of minor reality stars and other creeps were revealed and I could nod my head knowingly and give thinly-veiled comments and responses on my friend's Facebook walls and so on.

But the next morning, I saw a marked increase in self-help-like articles not directly about the data breech, but more about things such as how to handle being cheated on, how to survive a sudden break-up, when do you know it's time to get a divorce, etc.

And my heart sank into my stomach as I realized I was being triggered not only by my own memories of discovering an affair twice over, but by the realization that the world over, so many women's hearts and lives were being shattered to bits, the rugs pulled out from under them so suddenly, their dreams obliterated with little to no warning.

And then.

Then the messages came. The emails, the texts, other private notifications from people wanting me to tell them what to do, now. Because I talk so publicly about being cheated on in my marriage, and now about being the third person in someone else's marriage, I must look safe. My smugness must have come across as confidence and now, there are real faces with heartbreaking questions looking to me for guidance, the ones brave enough to speak, at least.

But what about the ones who don't feel that brave? Or the ones who feel they have no one to talk to?

I was lucky, forever ago, to find women going though the same things. Not everyone is or will be as lucky.

And in talking with someone of those women, who are the fiercest #squadgoals you could ever aspire to, we realized that we all had things we wish we could say to our former selves, to help us through the moment. We all had the advice that was handed to us by someone who had walked the path before, told in hushed whispers behind closed doors, that we wanted to impart upon the thousands of women now treading that same path behind us.

We all never wanted anyone to feel as alone as we did.

And so, I decided to start a vlog series on, essentially, surviving infidelity from a real, gritty point of view -- and doing so without losing your sanity. At least as much as possible.

And here's the beginning of that.

There are three more videos over on the YouTube page, with a couple more in the pipe when I can get to them. I know it's not uber professional looking, but the point isn't how shiny it is. It's about helping people facing some tremendous and terrifying circumstances to do so with some grace if at all possible.

I don't have a schedule yet on how often I'll be able to post, but hopefully pretty regularly. In the meantime -- I don't usually ask for shares and likes on things, but if there's anything I know, it's that for every singular person who speaks out, there are five more suffering silently due to shame, fear, lack of resources, what have you.

So if you are willing, please share the videos or this post where you think it might do the most good. And please, keep sending people my way -- I'm always up for answering questions, talking more specifically about certain topics, and virtual hand-holding. Just remember I'm not legal or psychological counsel -- just another lady who's seen both sides of this coin and lived to tell about it and hopefully help others limp through it slightly less damaged.

We'll all make it through this. It's just easier when we can do it together.

Monday, August 17, 2015

On Self-Love, Forgiveness, and Magic.

I've been thinking a lot about self-love, lately.

It's come up numerous times in therapy, as well as in my online support groups and my social circles. I see quotes and poems pop up on Pinterest and Instagram; I read articles upon articles shared in my Facebook feed or sent to me through private messages.

And the truth is that I didn't know what that really meant.

Maybe it's because of my complicated relationship with organized religion and their use of the concept of forgiveness to kind of backhand blame people or make them feel lesser, or maybe the way that forgiveness has often been framed for me as basically acting like a trespass never happened and shoving whatever feelings it brought up in you into that pressure-bottle in your soul to fester, but the concept of forgiveness has always been incredibly hard for me to wrap my mind around and process without a negative, submissive, agency-less connotation.

After stewing about it for quite some time, I realized that I was having a lot of one-on-one conversations with people I love and trust that kept chipping away at the same themes. I've been fortunate in recent years to find my tribe both online and off, and I realized that this quandary was one I could most likely throw to my circles and have it be regarded with intelligence and kindness. After hemming and hawing a bit, I finally just asked like the filterless person I am. I threw up a small post on Facebook, then shared a screenshot to Instagram to cover my bases, and I waited.

And the best response came early in the general poll.

I'd link to it here, but part of my process lately has meant setting up some boundaries, which has led to most of my social media going private. It's not a permanent situation, but I think it's what's best for me right now. I've also been doing some shedding of follwers and blocking of unwelcome eyes so, you know, sorry for those of you who maybe got caught up in that. It's rarely personal, and in 98% of cases 100% legitimately about me and not you.

Anyway, so the response that not only floored me, but many other people who weighed in had to do about forgiveness. Namely, forgiving yourself. Your supposed flaws, your perceived shortcomings and failings, your imperfections that make you human.

And I realized, that's where I've been stuck.

When I decided to file for divorce, I did so believing with every fiber of my being that I had done everything within my power to save my marriage and the broken man I called my husband, even though I knew only he could save himself. I knew without a doubt that I deserved to be happy and be loved the ways that felt right to me -- not settling for whatever I was handed, not making excuses for the lack, not bowing to another's every whim and losing my own agency. I knew that I wanted more for me, more for my kids, even if that meant it would only be the three of us for the foreseeable future.

Of course, I didn't actually think it would be the three of us, alone. I thought it would be the five of us, combined, but not immediately. I not only had my whole process to undergo, but Matt had yet to even take the first real steps. I knew it was years off. I was ready to wait, to work on myself and build myself back up while he got his affairs in order so that when we were both ready, it could be everything we'd ever dreamed and hoped for a family and a partnership, not the shallow facsimiles that our respective current marriages pantomimed.

So when that was ripped away, I beat myself up. For being stupid for loving someone just as unavailable as Kyle had been for way longer than I had ever really admitted to myself. For believing words said to me that either were never meant or only meant in the moment or in a parallel fantasy universe or maybe actually meant but had no real bite, no substance to them when it came down to punches. For devaluing myself so much as to allow myself to continue to be second best to someone I was putting before myself and my own needs, again.

For wanting someone willing to walk through the same inferno I'd had to, to show me (and everyone watching) that I was worth choosing, worth loving above everyone else.

Because if I couldn't see it, if I didn't have proof, then how could it be true?

Long ago, I'd forgiven myself for Kyle. I'd forgiven the scared, lonely, anxious young woman I was when I met him, directionless and trying not to drown in the riptide of impending adulthood. I forgave the neglected and desperate new young mother that clung to him as a life preserver when she couldn't even trust her own mind and instincts, her two core most strengths, to guide her in this new phase of life. And I forgave the beaten down and battle-weary housewife that listened to him over her own intuition and her own sinking gut when the proof showed up in her hands over and over again, only to give him one more shot, one more chance to turn down the gas on that lamp post and claim the light never changed, it's just my eyes are going bad.

Until I couldn't do it anymore. There was never anything wrong with my eyes. Or my head or my heart or my spirit.

There still isn't.


I forgive the long-ago broken heart so desperate to be seen as magic by a pair of kind, yet hungry eyes. I forgive the self-righteous facet of my spirit that condemned others for the exact behavior I exhibited, while remembering so freshly the pain it could, it would, cause. I forgive my hands for wanting things that weren't there for me to touch, not really.

I forgive myself for loving someone I knew, in the deepest recesses of my soul, would break my heart, even though I hoped and prayed with everything I had that this one time, this one everloving time, I would be proven wrong.

I forgive myself for being brave and opening myself up to something unexpected, something that was truly lovely for the time I was in it. I forgive myself for my vulnerability in the face of adversity. I forgive myself for the pain I have caused others and for the pain I have let others cause me. I forgive myself for wanting and hoping and wishing and scheming and bargaining and sometimes even raging and counting on someone when the only person I should have ever counted on was and is myself.

This was a lesson I needed, a way to illustrate the negative relationship patterns that consistently reappear in my life. This was the thing to break the cycle I was stuck in with myself. 

Since the discovery of Kyle's first (at least that I know of) affair, I've done a lot of things I never thought possible, from physical feats like learning and performing pole dance, aerial silks, and lyra (even in public!) and running half marathons to mental challenges like traveling alone both near and far, speaking my mind in large groups, and even winning an award for taking daily pictures of my face. I have learned to look at myself with kindness, to see my own beauty both slathered in makeup and without it, and have found the confidence to present myself as I see fit, not according to how others think I should or is appropriate for whatever reason. I have learned to advocate for myself through advocating for my children, and I know I can handle just about anything life throws at me because I've made it this far, haven't I?

(Though it would be SUPER EXTRA NICE if the bad things, the hard things, cut it out for a minute. Some nice things would be excellent, actually. Just putting it out there for the universe to manifest, that's all.)

I have learned I am capable of anything.

Through this whole terrible summer, I have found through the eyes of my friends and family, people I've known my whole life and people I've never met in person, that I am lovable. I am worth loving. I will be loved, someday, for not just the good attributes I possess, but for all the things I have and will forgive myself for, daily.

Because, frankly, I'm kind of amazing, and there's only one me in the whole wide world.

And in forgiving myself, I'm also making a promise to every iteration of this purple-haired woman I now am and ever will be -- that I will never settle for anything less than being treated exactly as such from anyone ever again, amen.

I am human. I am inherently flawed. I will make mistakes and fail and have regrets. But I will also work hard and fight for what I love and believe in and hold on to the beauty that every single person on this earth contains and I will stay vulnerable and honest and I will never stop pursuing the magic that is out there, and the magic within myself.

Because I am magic.

And I forgive myself for believing that was only true through someone else's eyes instead of my own.

Monday, August 10, 2015

On Scents and Sheets.

{Ed. note: I wrote this almost a month ago. I've been sitting on it, unsure of wanting to share, but I think it's the first step in a process I've begun that I'd like to talk more about, so, here it is. - t}

I changed my sheets last night.

This in and of itself should seem non-monumental, and for many I have no doubt it is.

But for me, it was full of significance ... mostly because it had been definitely an incredibly long time since I'd last done it. At least two months, probably more.

(I know, I'm gross. But the truth of it is that in the span of a day, all of the menial tasks I have to accomplish bear their full weight at the end of each day as I crawl into bed and sleepily think that I need to change the sheets, but it can wait until tomorrow. If I'm the only one who is dealing with it and it doesn't bother me to any noticeable degree [of course, until it does] it's one of those things that just slides into weeks and yes, months, of tomorrows until I finally get to it before I'm already halfway under the covers.)

These sheets, however, were my last tangible reminder of Matt. They were the last linens he laid upon the last time we saw each other. They were where the scent of him -- his hair products, the cologne he sometimes wore, just him -- lingered on the pillows and blankets, wafting around me as I laid for so many nights, clutching to the remnants of his presence for as long as possible. They encapsulated the last physical impressions of where he and I and we shared moments and a space with nothing between us but our hopes and our dreams and our passions and desires and in the quietest moments, our seemingly unconquerable love. They were where I knew, if I laid just right and burrowed myself just so, I could inhale and hold that breath with the faintest of scents and feel a flicker as if he were just beyond my body space in the bed, sleeping soundly, awaiting my touch to wake him.

They were the last things I could lay my hands upon and still feel where he used to be, feel that residual energy and emotion and for fleeting breaths flash back to before all of this, before, when I believed him and that I, that we, could and would be happy together in plain sight in the very near future.

But they also were where, while I was in New York at BlogHer, where Kyle slept despite me asking him not to. And they were where, before that, I briefly allowed him to trespass in my brokenness and loss. They were where the scents and the memories intermingled until I couldn't discern to whom they belonged but it all carried the tinge of loneliness, reminders of who once was and then was no longer the body next to mine, the other half of a space and a life built for two.

Coming home and sleeping in my bed with Kyle's scent finally snuffing out the last hidden wisps of Matt's was the death knell I had been so ardently avoiding.

So last night, I changed the sheets. I breathed in the singular soft scent of my laundry detergent and felt the cool smoothness of unrumpled fabric. I purposely picked the silkier set, to encourage my fairly deprived tactile senses to stretch out and claim the whole space for myself. I nestled into crisply and freshly folded corners where movement had yet to disturb and unravel them.

And I exhaled.