Leading up to the discovery of my husband’s affair, happiness was a constant presence in my life. It’s not because he made me happy. In fact, he frequently let me down, especially around the time he became diagnosed with depression. I created my own happiness. I organized adventures with my children and my community of good friends and neighbors. I valued gratitude, and I chose to live happy.
7 months ago, I had had it with the lies, with the stories not adding up, with the looming sense that something was off. I presented him with an article explaining that it is often the trickle truth that destroys any chance of recovering a marriage. I was shaking and crying, yet I was fueled by an unstoppable force. I sternly told him to read it alone and think about it until he was ready to tell me everything, or we would have no possible future together. The longer I waited for him to return, the more I realized that something was very, very wrong. I went to the bathroom and looked into the mirror, telling myself that I would be ok. I told myself that no matter what I find out, I will be better than ok. I am strong, and I can handle anything. Nothing could prepare me for what he shared that day.
My husband confessed to a year-long affair with a mutual friend. This revelation immediately and systematically began to poison everything I believed about myself and the world I lived in. Like a cancer, it tried to mutate every cell in my core.
Luckily, I immediately fended off some of my own lies: You must be stupid. No, I trust because I am good.
Other narratives are harder to shape into something less wounding. This is my rocky trail I am still navigating. I don’t know what majestic splendor will be revealed at the end, but I trust that whatever it is, it’s better than before. I will be better than I’ve ever been. I’ve read that it takes a minimum of 2 years to recover from betrayal trauma, and I recognize I have a long way to go. It’s not just time that cures this all encompassing and consuming pain, it is work. It is very hard work.
Work requires examining each poison 1 at a time: looking at it, probing it, rubbing it on your skin until it burns, letting it eat at your organs, and then finding a way to neutralize it. The work requires the inspiration of an alchemist, transforming the toxin into something better, something to grow from.
Through all of this, I choose to not solely focus on the pain. I also choose joy, and if I say it enough, if I focus on this goal, I will make it happen. I know I am a long way from living joy, but I have moments. I have laughter. I have experiences, like the time I took myself to the Art Shanties on a frozen lake. I wandered from structure to structure, exploring the art and absorbing the bond of community. At the Wish Factory, I wrote a wish for myself, for the world, and for the person behind me. The person in front handed me a small piece of white paper, folded in half.
I wish you joy.
Joy keeps appearing every direction I look. It is in the movie I watched, the tattoo on a woman, the conversation with a coworker, the piece of paper from a stranger. The universe is asking me to notice it, to revel in the simplicity of 3 letters. J-O-Y. The universe reminds me to practice now what I want in my future.
Joy is not something that can be given to you. Joy is not owed to you. It is a choice under any circumstance. Joy is an intention.
I choose to see joy in my life, create joy, and spread joy to others.
“Cause the world owes me nothing. And we owe each other the world.” ~Ani Difranco