The Slow Crawl Back to Life - Part 1 The Slow Crawl Back to Life: A Two Part Series Part 1 Part 2 You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety. ~ Abraham Maslow I don't know if I have said this yet, but when I talk to you about hope and recovery, I am also talking to myself. I am still on this journey too and I get discouraged, frustrated, angry, and sad, so I am also encouraging myself as I focus my thoughts in these blogs. I hope you don't mind me tagging along for the ride. I was thinking the other day about all of this, and stopped for just a moment to take a look in the rear view mirror of recovery. Looking into the past is easy. I do that every single day and you probably do too, thinking about the "what ifs," and I wish this or that had never happened, and definitely the "what was real and what wasn't" trips down memory lane. Those are still very real parts of daily life. But that's not what I'm talking about today. I'm talking about looking back to the beginning of this recovery journey and even at where I was just a few months ago. The experts recommend being intentional about assessing progress periodically, but realistically when pain is the predominant emotion of the day that intentional reflection goes out the window as pain management takes all the energy and focus I can muster. So that's why it was so profound when I found myself thinking about this. I was on a run, listening to one of the bazillion podcasts I have saved on healing or relationships or God or life in general. I was enjoying the sun and a nice breeze and thinking about what I was going to do when I got home. Did you catch that? I was enjoying it. Actually enjoying something. Not tolerating it, managing it, or gritting my teeth to get through it. It was nice - truly. It made me pause and think. And when I gave it my full attention I could honestly say I was having a good day. Taking a moment to look back, it had been a pretty good few weeks. In hindsight, even the last couple of months had been better. Not rainbows and butterflies - but markedly better. Does that mean I had just figured out how to stop thinking about it? Nope, not at all. I still think about it all the time, pretty much all day long. I don't believe the goal is to stop thinking about it. I do anticipate that after more healing occurs I will naturally think about it less than I do now, but that is not the end goal at all, at least not for me. My goal is to somehow have this integrated into my life where I can think about it and I don't fall apart. Where I can find peace with what has happened and still be ok, and maybe even happy someday, for more than an hour at a time. It's not that I don't feel pain at the thought of my husband sharing himself with another person in ways that were supposed to be only mine. I most certainly do. That still hurts immensely and I am still on this journey too, so I can't tell you if that will ever truly go away. I guess I'll let you know on that one. However, what I am noticing is that on my better days (let's be real here, sometimes it's only minutes or maybe hours) when I think about it, it just doesn't matter as much. Now that I've said that out loud, those words hang in my throat and threaten to choke me, creating fear and confusion that I've even generated that thought. It is so hard to articulate, especially to those of you early on who are still reeling with the shock and overwhelm in the first weeks and months after discovery. For me, I find the more work we do to become closer as a couple - really gut level close - good, bad, and ugly; the more the pain moves into the background. I am not going to lie; it often comes right back to slap me in the face and mock me for what a fool I am to even try to heal from this. I have to remind myself that if I felt hope and momentary glimpses of peace yesterday, then it is possible to feel those things again, and to build on them. It is a battle of the mind, heart, and faith to be sure. I am not a fan of what my friend describes as "mental gymnastics" to trick myself into believing things are better than they are; that's just smoke and mirrors and doesn't actually accomplish anything. But there is a distinction between thought maneuvers intended to distract and sugarcoat, versus actually processing something to the point that the perspective on it is more objective, less hurtful, and overall healthier. My husband's decision to have an affair will never be ok. I will never try to convince myself it was for our greater good or somehow needed to happen. No. It never should have happened and I never should have been subjected to any of the cruel and destructive things he did, but here we are. He made all of those choices and there is no going back; there is no "undo" button. Trust me, I have tried to press it at least a million times and I just can't change our story that way. But now we can take this and use it to create something. I can be grateful for the opportunities it has provided for us to grow as people, closer to God and to each other. I can be a better person, a stronger person, and a more compassionate and empathetic person than I ever could have imagined. We can be a more connected and intentional couple, in a marriage made up of two people who have walked through fire and fought to stay in this together. We know what it's worth now, with eyes wide open. So am I still disappointed with my life, knowing my husband willingly and repeatedly chose to betray me? Yes, every day I feel disappointment. I feel it deeply in my chest as I type these words to you. I don't know if that will ever change and I am not going to pretend otherwise. But I also feel immense gratitude. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned about myself, about him, about marriage, about God, and about life. I am grateful that I am a different person in so many ways. I have so much more compassion, empathy and patience than I ever had before. I am much less judgemental and now I often view another person's bad behavior with an eye toward potential hidden trauma in their life. I am deeply grateful for the man my husband is today; I could not build a better husband if I tried. We are deeply connected in ways we may never have reached without this trauma, I don't know. But I still feel pain. I still feel discouragement. Sometimes I still feel resentment and anger too, but those are more easily managed through the lens of compassion than they were in the earlier days now that I know and understand him so well. Some days the disappointment prevails, some days the gratitude does. Most days they are intermingled and I feel them together in a weird twisted bittersweet mix. What I am discovering is that these feelings can coexist, side by side. That felt unnatural at first, as they are seemingly contradictory, but as my mind and heart expand on this journey I am more open to understanding and experiencing things than I would have been previously. This is growth, no matter how the big picture looks on a given day. I even have a recurring calendar notification on my phone that reminds me every morning that "I am healing." Some days I feel it and others not so much, but it reminds me that even when I don't feel progress, it is there. I now have happy moments, even days. I feel like "me" again. Truthfully it's still a sad version of me, but it is the real me, no longer the vacant shell of a person I had been for a long time or the raving madman that took over at times. Let's face it, it's hard to stay motivated to do all this work only to strive toward a goal of "tolerable." I still have moments when I wonder if I will ever really be OK. I don't know the answer to that and I won't sugarcoat my words and say that I do. But I do know that in the early days of recovery I never thought I would stop crying. I never thought I could sleep more than 2 hours a night. I never thought I would smile again. I definitely never thought I would laugh without faking it. And here I am. I have done all of those things and I do have good days. I never thought any of that would happen; in fact I was absolutely positive none of it would. So is "real" healing possible? I don't know yet but my own journey has shown me that things are possible that I would not have believed, so I am open to the possibility in ways I wasn't before. "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." Viktor Frankl I want to invite all who have been betrayed to our Annual Hope Rising Conferences - on Demand, and gain momentum, strength, and community on your journey to wholeness. Watch Now!