Telling the Truth

I must confess that this weekend has left me in a state of Facebook-induced depression.  While I’ve been sleeping off a migraine brought on by Kraft macaroni and cheese (yesterday) or cleaning up fruit punch and cracker kid barf (today), the rest of you have been out there finishing the color run, going to prom, enjoying the beach, walking about in London, putting in gardens, firing up the grill or getting your hair did.  Except for Craig–I saw him at the Kroger, but we didn’t even get a chance to talk because we both had already paid for frozen stuff.  Ding dang it.

It’s not uncommon–this habit of comparing ourselves to others–but I think social media connections make it even easier to compare my outtake reel to everyone else’s highlight film.  We all put on a mask to go out into the wider world.  Now that I have Facebook, the wider world is right there in the den, along with the whining kids and the toy strewn carpet and the yoga pants that are the only comfortable pants I own.  I couldn’t show this on Facebook…it’s too….true.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons.  By Katie Tegtmeyer, 2006.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons. By Katie Tegtmeyer, 2006.

Since I wrote that post called “The Door Mat,” about finding out that my first husband was cheating, I’ve been thinking a lot about telling the truth and how important it is.  Good Lord, when that happened in real life, in real time, I didn’t tell ANYONE.  Now with some distance, I can put it out there for anyone who wants to read it.  It’s the truth and it’s my life and if you are going through something similar, I want you to know that you can tell me.  Or someone else.  It will be OK.  I’ve had many private messages from women who say, “Yep, that’s the same thing that happened to me.”  This is our chance to step into the light.  There is no reason to be ashamed because someone mistreated YOU.  

I felt like a pariah, a failure, an unworthy woman when Fartbuster cheated on me.  How could I have confided in someone???  It was my fault, right?  Good wives don’t have husbands who cheat.  I remember standing in front of a class that I was teaching during this time–I had gone to the whiteboard to write something and as I turned my back to the class, my knees almost collapsed with the fear that someone “could tell” what I was hiding.  I still remember the exact moment and the blue cardigan that I was wearing and the angle of my hand and the color of the marker I was using.  It took everything I had to keep talking normally, to turn back around and go on with the class.  That was the moment when the veil was thinnest–the veil between the image I was trying to maintain and the everyday life I was living.  Have you ever had a secret like that?

When you write a blog post and tag it “infidelity,” you get some heartbreaking links in your “suggested topics” reader.  I read one the other day from a woman who said, “I’m going to cut back on work so I can focus on getting him to value our marriage.”  Oh, honey.  Honey, honey, honey.  There is no way to be married enough for two people.  It’s time to tell the truth.  I read another one from a woman who listed the names of her paramour’s minor children and spurned wife!  That there is “boiling the rabbit” crazy.  The first time I went to see a therapist, she asked why I was there and I said, “Well, my husband wants a divorce.”  She said, “Oh, so you’re getting a divorce.”  I said, “That’s still up in the air…”  “No, you’re getting a divorce.  If one person wants a divorce, you’re getting a divorce,” she said, while looking me right in the eye like it wasn’t the end of the world.  Dang it if she wasn’t RIGHT.

Last weekend, on Easter, I had a gift of a moment that showed me the importance of telling the truth.  I have a beloved person who has struggled with addiction for many many many years.  It was the undiscussed topic for a long time and it stayed in control of her.  Now?  Now she’s telling the truth and it makes my heart believe that she’s going to make it.  She said, “These days (holidays) are my hardest sobriety days.  If I can make it to six o’clock, I’m good.”  She spoke her truth, telling the truth about who she is today (and the implied truth about the shadow of herself that she was all those other days) and it was OK!  I am so proud of her because she’s living in the real world.  It ain’t always pretty and she can’t control every part of it, but she is driving the wagon instead of being dragged behind it.

A simpler example–writing down what you eat leads to losing weight because you finally face all those “well, it’s just one….box of cookies…oh.”  The truth shall set you free because it puts you in charge.  I have learned that I have a limited amount of energy.  I can either spend it maintaining an illusion or I can spend it getting to a healthy place.  Don’t get me wrong–I still maintain plenty of illusions, but I’m a work in progress.

I spent a year feeling embarrassed that my husband cheated on me.  I spent a year feeling like a failure because I was getting a divorce.  My good friend, Andrea, told me that one day in the future, I would quit checking the box on forms for “Divorced” and start marking the one for “Single.”  She was right.  I remember asking Fartbuster, on one of those horrifyingly awkward dinner dates where it was just the two of us (and that other shadow of a woman)–“How is she better than me?  What can I change?”  He said–and I will never forget it because it took me months to understand–“It has nothing to do with you.”  WHAT???  It has EVERYTHING to do with me.  It’s my life that’s being ripped open.  My reality that has to shift to include this storyline.  My fingers that scrub the lipstick out of your shirt.  I finally understood what he meant (with the help of many thousands of dollars worth of therapy from trained professionals)–I wasn’t the cause of his cheating.  I couldn’t have changed it and I couldn’t fix it.

In a very unguarded conversation, after we had spent some time together “putting things back together” but I found a book in his car titled :Should I Stay of Should I Go?,” he said, “I had made such a mess of my life and you kept saving the day.  I just wanted to be the good guy for once.  So I found someone more screwed up than me.”  I think he even used the expression “white knight.”  In a more guarded conversation that showed Fartbuster in his prime, he accused me of being “too supportive.”  Y’know, keeping the mortgage paid and food on the table and stuff.  Pffffft.  What a conniving bitch I was to do that!  There’s a really good reason we call them our EX-HUSBANDS.

This is rambling and disjointed and you know what….it’s the TRUTH!  It’s OK!  It’s me doing my best!  So next time I’ll talk about the one and only phone conversation I had with The Other Woman.  It’s a doozie.  It’s all about owning what you own and not taking on what you don’t own.  For today, I just wanted to talk about telling the truth.  It’s a way to clean the wound.  It all gets better once you start telling the truth.  Because sometimes the truth is, “It’s not your fault.”

18 thoughts on “Telling the Truth

  1. Jennifer (Word Witch) Johnson

    Hey Ashley, your doormat story was inspiring, and not because I have a cheating husband, but the truth works for any relationship–professional and well as personal. My boss’ last day was today–well, I guess you could say my supervisor. My boss boss is still here, and we’re in good shape together. But my supervisor is a liar and a user. I kept things going at work because I needed to, but this supervisor showed me over and over what he was, and what he thought of the people we worked with. It was sad and unjust. But thinking about the doormat–it was helpful to me as I said goodbye to him and wiped the dust off our feet even though he was the one who is leaving. You know, that wiping the dust off–that’s a positive image. A positive posture. Biblically, wiping the dust off means you’re getting rid of the yuck and moving on. Moving out. Kind of like that Billy Joel song. I love the doormat story. It’s good for all of us to remember.

  2. maryhelenc

    It’s very hard to tell the truth. I was in this really strange situation where I had been depressed for a long time and my friends admitted they were enabling me because it was easier than dealing with the guilt of telling me the truth, that I was becoming a negative, mean person, which is the opposite of who I am. Once they said it though, I didn’t cry or wail. I just sort of went “Yeah…you’re right.” Like a light bulb went off. Then I did just what you did, wrote it out and owned that part of my life, because I find once you own it, no one can use it to hurt you and you can move forward.

    So, good for you for telling the truth. It’s liberating…and it’s not your fault he cheated. That guy is a dick.

  3. Amanda

    OK, so here’s my truth: this past weekend was spectacular, as I wrote in my FB post. But a big part of the reason it was so great was the contrast from the prior weekend when I couldn’t (and still haven’t) read any of the posts about how other people’s Easters with their children were so joyous. My children were out of the country with someone I didn’t trust, so not only did I miss them, but I also stayed worried about their safety and well-being for a solid ten days. So on Saturday, I was enjoying the beautiful weather and the fun activities I was doing with someone I love and who loves and values me, but I was also rejoicing in knowing that the following evening I would be able to stop holding my breath because my children would be safely home. When I’m in the middle of the kind of pain that I felt Easter weekend, it’s hard to remember that others also are struggling even if they don’t show the whole (or any part of the) world.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      EXACTLY. Wouldn’t it be a safer world for our hearts if we could post, “I’m petrified that something will happen to my children when they are 5000 miles away from me.” I’m glad they’re back and I’m glad your heart can rest. I love you.

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  5. debrahelwig

    I talk a lot about “imposter syndrome”, where I get afraid that someone’s going to figure out that I don’t have it all together like you pretend I do…. This is that, only even more real. Well done, my friend, well done.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Oh….I may or may not heard of this “imposter syndrome” of which you speak….from my therapist. Ahem. Yep, the idea that it’s all going to come crashing down one day when people figure out that I am essentially an idiot.

  6. Gay (BIG) Garrett

    I knew the reason that my husband cheated on me…I didn’t have big breast.
    Life gives you an education. Being stupid takes you on a journey Look for the light! Crawl,, drag, walk, run to the finnish line…….and grasp a helping hand..

    1. Brett Coppock

      Nothing and i mean NOTHING is more time consuming than living a lie. Being stupid took me on a journey that i never meant to take. Thank GOD for those helping hands. Embrace who you are and your journey. My years have given me the comfort to reveal my failures…that’s what connects me to humanity. I can relate to others, i can help others, i have been there..done that and can live my truth.

  7. catroth

    WOW. Our exes must have read the same book, because I got the exact same lines. “It has nothing to do with you.” It may have been the only truth he ever told.

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