In the cove just north of Bodega Bay, surrounded by sand cliffs that held back the winds, the dudes and I frolicked with Mr. Jackpot. Well, the dudes and I frolicked. Mr. Jackpot appeared to be having fun, but was a tad stoic.
I can’t say I’ve seen him playful since before our trip to Yachats. The dudes are able to tease out happiness and laughter, but there always seems to be a need to dial it back, as if being happy is unacceptable. Being happy means that he’d need to accept that where he is right here, right now is just fine. As it is.
Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not in his head. And clearly my track record of assessing the human psyche is blemished. But I have been in his presence when a perfectly great time can’t be enjoyed through to its end without somehow turning it sour, so it’s more palatable. So it meets with expectations.
Since our day of fishing I have pondered why Mr. Jackpot spoils the fun – that’s how I saw it – on more than a few occasions. Within a few minutes I would abandon the effort because it’s not about me. That’s on him. I’m going to keep moving along and hope that we both continue to grow. One day maybe all of us can have a rip roaring time that doesn’t have to end in a huff.
Then, as I erased this post a dozen times, I realized that it is about me. Of course. Every encounter is about every person involved; we all have our individual takeaway. Mr. Jackpot’s moodiness means what it means for him. For me, it was a call to look back in time. At myself. Something the Universe has been
forcing encouraging me to do lately.
My ancient laptop has required some serious maintenance in order to restore such frivolous bells and whistles like the ability to play video. Before I brought it out of the Dark Ages and into the early 2000s (there is no bringing it into the modern era), it was suggested that I do a full back up.
A what? (I kid…kind of)
As I teetered between crashing my hard drive and bringing down the world wide web, IPhoto kept opening and freezing with thumbnails of a half dozen albums showing the dudes in various states of infant and toddler bliss: rolling around on the grass at our community pool with huge smiles for each other, in cozy sweaters with snow falling behind them as they cuddled on the couch, in the high chair (Holy time warp! The little dude was in a high chair not all that long ago!), and curled up in my arms, photo taken by The Genius. Below each thumbnail was a date. As I absorbed each date my mind immediately analyzed it in relation to The Genius’ affair.
Oh, that was Year Two. Year One. Year One. Year Three. Oh, gee, Year Four. Wow, when I was carrying a bucket seat with a baby in it up three flights of stairs to the tall dude’s pre-school he was carrying her over the threshold of some hotel room.
Since The Pocket Call I have not once gone back to look at these photos. I thought it was out of lack of desire, but it’s worse than that – I don’t want to go back and look at them because they make me bawl my eyes out. I cry because I can’t look at these photos without thinking about being betrayed. So every picture of the little dude becomes a marker in the betrayal of me as his birth coincides with the beginning of the affair. (That is if I ever really was told the truth about when it began.)
Yea, that makes me angry. And sad. Out of all the challenges his affair has created, the loss of joy surrounding those magical years in the dudes’ lives is the one I have the hardest time accepting. He stole those years from me. Even the optimist in me finds it hard to believe that I will, at some point in the future, be able to look at those pictures and feel joy.
I am so grateful that their shared goal of going to their graves with their adultery a secret was never achieved. My entire adult life would have been a lie. Only shackles and an IV of tequila and assorted chemical sedatives would have held my rage in check. The dudes would have been heartbroken. The upside is I only have to recreate joy surrounding their childhood to the ages of 4 and 6. Everything from that point forward is part of this unexpected and magical journey we’re on. For the dudes, they will have the sadness of their parent’s divorce, but they won’t feel betrayed or used. Had I not discovered the affair and it continued into their adult lives they would have had to bridge the world between the Dad they love and the man who lived a lie.
The Pocket Call saved us all from a great deal more pain.
Seeing those photos conjured up video snippets that live in my brain of encounters with The Genius during that time. Standing at the refrigerator, tears streaming down my cheeks, feeling helpless, unloved, misunderstood, unattractive, not desired, directionless. And him looking at me with eyes that said, I don’t know how to help you. Sitting at a table on the edge of a tropical sea surrounded by hand-holding lovers while I felt short-changed, tears welling up from my heart and spilling over into my salad as he and a friend ogled a girl they named Kitty. (As Jennifer Aniston once famously said of Brad Pitt, He’s missing a sensitivity chip.) A blow up at the shore that sent me out into the humid night sobbing. He said the passion was gone.
I tried to create opportunities for romance, for rekindling our love, but I would never see those opportunities through to a happy ending, instead choosing what I felt was inevitable, a crash landing with both of us disappointed.
Melissa asked me what I gained from staying in my marriage even though on some level I must have known that he was cheating on me. I’ve pondered this question time and again without finding the answer until now, perhaps.
Why did I hold on even though I had already been thrown away?
Because I wouldn’t accept that it was my right to be happy. That it was my responsibility to be happy. Instead of seizing small moments of happiness and nurturing them for my benefit, I shunned them and focused on all that wasn’t right in the world. Instead of losing myself in the beauty of a tropical sea, I begrudged the romance around me, allowing it to shine a bleak light on the lack of romance in my marriage. I fed all that was wrong by not being grateful for what was right.
I wasn’t optimistic.
I was a downer.
I lived only within the walls of my marriage instead of seeing the the full arc of life.
With every failed attempt on my part to turn my marriage around, I can point to the affair as the reason why those attempts never worked. How could I have succeeded when my husband had already checked out of our marriage and into hotel rooms with the Happy Dance Chick? I was given a puzzle that was unsolvable. No matter what I did he was still doing her, which prevented him from ever finding his way back to me.
I didn’t get that I was missing the point.
It was never about turning my marriage around. That wasn’t on the table. The state of my marriage was purely a creation to teach me a lesson. The lesson I was failing to learn was that my happiness on this planet is my responsibility alone, and not tethered to another. It was easier for me to wallow in my mediocre marriage than to accept that happiness is a choice. To be truly happy I must be in love with me.
I was at war with me.
On the eve of the full moon, the dudes and I sat on Stinson Beach with new residents of The Calmmune, a family of four – again straight out of Central Casting – embarking on the next leg of their journey, following their intuition as they settle on this point of land, off the North American Plate and cradled by the Pacific. As our children played tag along the water’s edge, we talked openly about our relationships. She sweetly stated, I don’t know how anyone could cheat on you.
I held her gaze and with total honesty said, I was a completely different person then.
As if to say, I can understand why!
Every missed opportunity, every woe is me, every time I chose to let things fail instead of succeed, I helped to create the ultimate outcome in my marriage. I made it easy for him to cheat. I didn’t give him a reason not to.
I wasn’t supposed to.
Spending precious time in the hyper-analysis of the affair asking How? and Why? is pointless. And it misses the point. How? Simple. He engaged in it. Why? Because he chose to do so. He can’t blame me for his choices, just as I can’t blame him for any aspect of my life.
What matters is that I see the Hows and Whys that are mine to own. Mine to understand. The affair was one of several 3D experiences I could have crafted to teach me a lesson I needed to learn: the Universe is a friendly place and it’s my responsibility to be happy in it.
Twice in the last two weeks the same woman has delivered a very important message to me in the form of a quote from Albert Einstein:
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
(These days I can tell when someone is speaking on behalf of themselves or delivering a message on behalf of the Universe. This one came from the Universe – Hey! I’m not all that bad! As a matter of fact, I’m pretty darn friendly. As I reflect back on the ways in which the message was delivered I can actually see her shimmering as she handed over the words.)
When I was first married I firmly believed the Universe was a friendly place. It was an unconscious belief, but deeply held. I had experienced some heartache in my life, yet I was always able to see the beauty in it. I appreciated the intensity of emotions like sadness and fear knowing that balance would always return.
I was optimistic.
In my marriage I lost that belief and became wary, cynical. I didn’t trust. I was on guard. I found it easier to lament and complain about things that often had no real impact on me personally than to be joyful. Since I was unhappy I didn’t much care about nurturing happiness with others. I met encounters expecting them to be a letdown, or worse, hostile.
Life was hard! It had to be worked at. It was an uphill battle. It’s supposed to be complicated!
I only half-smiled. For years.
Then the Pocket Call. Lots of lesons learned later, I was still battling away at life, The Genius, myself. Gentle messages came from the kittens. It took quite some time for me to acknowledge that they were right: I was angry. That led to understanding that I was still acting as a wife responsible for the emotions of her spouse, which caused me to be anxious when The Genius was mad at me. Releasing the anxiety by accepting that I am not his wife and that his anger is not because of me created space.
In a cove just north of Bodega Bay, in a moment that lasted for all of five seconds, that space transformed into a playground because I didn’t force it to be a jail instead.
It felt good to be playful. Feeling good didn’t make me feel bad anymore. It also highlighted for me the ways I unconsciously create bad feelings. Like when I build a bullet-proof exterior before seeing The Genius, assuring a tense encounter.
A few days after hearing the Einstein quote for the first time, I prepared to hit send on an email to The Genius that had no signature, as has become the norm. I decided to close with, Have a nice day.
Typing those four words felt like crossing a frozen ladder hovering over a crevasse in the Khumba Ice Fall, barefoot with a mouth full of spiders. I am not exaggerating.
One hour later I was wrecked by a migraine headache, and four pimples exploded on my face. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My muscles in my back went on lockdown.
In two years I have not wished to The Genius a nice day, a nice millisecond or anything that could be misconstrued as nice. Those four words (one for each pimple) released an insane amount of toxins that I’ve been stroking and feeding and begging to stick around in an effort to preserve for all time the fact that he betrayed me.
Throwing caution to the wind, I invited The Genius to join the dudes and me at the pool for a Memorial Day BBQ. What better day for a truce? It was simple, easy, and uneventful. For the dudes it was probably a great relief. Dad and Mom can be Dad and Mom in the same place at the same time.
That gesture showed the dudes that the Universe is a friendly place. I’m grateful The Genius chose to join us.
Mr. Jackpot showed me that there’s an easy way and a hard way to move through this lifetime. I chose easy. To him I am also grateful.
My decision is this: The Universe is a friendly place.
It’s just not ‘boyfriend’ly.
I can thank a golf pro, a soccer announcer and a male stripper for teaching me that lesson.
A kitten requested a picture of my dress of icy poofness. Tis here. I posted it to twitter, expecting it to post to my new (TA DA!) Facebook page but that would require the Universe to accept and work with my technical deficiencies. It’s too busy being friendly.
Someday I’ll link the blog with twitter and facebook. That will also be the day I tan naturally, cook only things from my own parcel of land and have a boyfriend.
You get the point…