Yeah well so much for wedded bliss. An unknown elixir I’ll always miss. So tell me when will it all start? After the fault finding of my heart? Or post hissing names in my head? Or after the blow meant me dead? Was that when the happy marriage began? Or will I live forever as an also-ran? Or should I wait after the days of silence? Forgiven after months of muted penance? Perhaps that’s when love would finally begin Once I’m finally forgiven of my unknown sin. Or perhaps now you no longer overspeak, And see me listen quite mild and meek. Was that the solid foundation missing? Or am I Prince Charming over wishing? Or once you’ve finished the loving glare, But chide me still for daring to stare. Or those moments of push and shove. Such body contact must be true love! Rhapsodies and harmonies? Syncopated symphonies? Tell me when does true love start? Why re-open a broken heart?
I’m the one behind the boulder: you can’t see me. Always the advantage belongs to me. On my console: you the white blip on a green screen. Pull the trigger: you explode light unseen. Close up too close: I can smell your breath and sweet sweat. Gamer convention: was that where we met? I feel you weight as we begin our last dance. Breathe in my ear that’s the end of romance. We fumble together, it’s a surprise attack. You lead me, step by step, I can’t lead back. We find each other’s knife, both strike together. Last time a soldier was this close, I died to her.
Twitter is like someone sitting next to you while you write. And as soon as you look up, she winks at you. Then you go back to writing again. Until you stop and she winks at you again. Until you put down the pen or stylus and return the look. For you realise that she has been waiting for you. And when you do, you have to stop yourself from staring. For something new has appeared.
As happened to me when I looked up after Twitter winked at me. That Twitter eye catcher was Trust, and the Only Fruitful Response to Betrayal in Intimate Relationships Maria Popova’s review of Martha Nussbaum’s book, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (public library).
I can only rely upon the book excerpts in the blog. And similarly to the blog, my experience was eerily similar. Except I’m now staring aghast at this new thing I’ve learned.
Yes I was betrayed. My trust was utterly vapourised. And me being me, I told myself it was my own fault for being so vulnerable. And not being watchful enough.
Yet vulnerability as that blog above states is the way back. For me, the other ways didn’t work. If there are better ways, I’d be happy to learn.
I falsely thought I had forgiven the betrayals. No I had simply coloured over the incidents. And yet I remember many things clearly, for instance, the pattern and colour of my baby high chair. Until four years later when the perpetrator recalled them. Then my life was a video replay of the content that I won’t divulge here. When challenged, the perpetrator denied them completely. I was still focussed on the act rather than being angry at the person who did it as Nussbaum states.
That betrayal still constantly denied, found me and made its home in me. Have you ever had anger turn in on itself and feed itself? Still my response was repression, ignoring the video replay in my mind and the taunts in my ears the best I could. Nussbaum refers to my feelings as a status injury, which made me an ex-husband well before I separated!
Then three years later, she admitted the betrayal was true! I still recall the date, the time of day, the light that afternoon, the trees in the driveway, where the car was, where she was standing, where I was standing and how I reacted. I chose suppression. I said nothing and walked away. I had to.
But this time the anger was different. It wanted truth over revenge. It took me eight or nine months. Until I confronted her. She denied it again. This and every other time I had focussed on the first incident. That night, for the first time, I described the exact details of the second incident including the danger I experienced. There was no response. For all defences had collapsed.
This time, no answer was an admission of truth. She knew it too. Afterwards, I would joke to myself that like the spies say, “Everybody talks”, that is everyone tells the truth eventually. Yet the truth can also be told by omission. For what had been excluded had finally formed the real picture.
After the admission, came the explanation. I shook my head and walked away from that too. It was a contradiction of present words versus previous actions! I can laugh at its inanity now. Then I was too sad. When I was angry afterwards, I had nothing to feed now I had found out the truth. And being angry just made me tired and sad. I suppose I had met the truth at last.
That was the way out. And in time I left.
But the problem with grief is that it is so easy to keep it at a distance. I was simply afraid that if I didn’t it would overwhelm me and crush me. Then I would have to admit I was vulnerable.
Which it did. It took another relationship for that. And this is where Maria Popova’s blog devastates me. For one cannot ignore grief. I had read about grief in Kluber-Ross On Death and Dying, but I never really had it happen to me.
Grief? It’s the wave taller than you that flips you and lifts you then throws you down to the sea floor until you become sand.
It leaves you with nothing. But I knew that. I just didn’t want to experience it!
From nothing, all I could do was renew. I think what I was doing was Kintsugi reassembling broken pottery with gold!
That was the way back. I did what I needed to renew and review. From that nothing, I studied, I wrote, I walked, I listened to music, I had people appear and help me, I made friends and I started a charity. Every day I looked for joy. And nearly all the time, I found it although I was still unexpectedly surprised!
I consider myself lucky that I could get through. Not all of us can. It is better to admit vulnerability and ask for help. I have done, I still do, although I find it challenging. The road is not ending anytime soon. And as I have found there are switchbacks and recurrences.
So often, one forgets those times and are then unprepared for its recurrence. And still unprepared to recall the resilience that saved. Besides I don’t like fairy tale endings. Living happily ever after almost certainly is death by boredom!
Now that I’m out of the fairy tale, there is learning ahead. I learnt and am still learning to trust myself. I learnt and am still learning to accept my vulnerabilities. Then I learnt and am still learning to forgive myself. It sounds so trite and easy but it’s ruddy well not! I have not always succeeded either and there are relapses. That’s what the self-help books don’t tell you. The road is endless.
In there, somewhere, I don’t know where exactly, I learnt to forgive the betrayer, the betrayal and free myself. And leave them to deal with it.
In truth as Nussbaum writes, all of this runs closely together. For I had chosen all this. I was therefore responsible for the negative consequences. I know better why I chose it and I’m the wiser (not yet wise) for it.
I’m also responsible for the positive consequences which is, once you get through the worst, you know what you can get through, then you look back and discover life has given you a bonus. That was last week’s truth.
Now I’m left with today’s truth. Betrayal, misusing trust and taking advantage of the vulnerable is too difficult a life to bear isn’t it? Yet such behaviours are an admission of vulnerability from the perpetrators too.
For them, the road hasn’t yet begun. For me it has yet to finish.
A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.
I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.
Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.
No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.
She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.
“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.
That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.
Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!
Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”
“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.
I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…
“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.
The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.
Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.
Then she stops stock still.
No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.
Oh no! Daddy workout time.
Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”
I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.
I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.
I stand up and throw her high into the air.
Giggles, then laughter.
I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!
“Again. High as the sky.”
More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.
She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.
Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…
Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.