Sometimes when we are in a state of anxiety, we do stupid sh**.
About ten years ago, I discovered my then-husband was having an extramarital affair. We were living in Wisconsin at the time, and he was studying at the UW-Madison.
Upon my discovery, we separated for awhile, but then decided to work things out. He came back home.
You may be reading this and thinking, “How can she tell this story so matter of factly, as if it was just a little blip on the screen of life, with no heart wrenching emotions attached to it?”
Wait for it. The emotions are coming.
(I’m just “building background knowledge,” a term we educators use, in order for you to fully understand the forthcoming story.)
One day, soon after our reconciliation, my husband told me he was going to the University to study in the afternoon. It was summertime. I was at home, working on chores.
Five hours later, it was dinner time, and he still wasn’t home. My stomach was churning, and my heart was heavy. I tried to call him. No answer. I tried again. No answer. I texted him. No answer. I waited another two hours.
Anger and fear was slowly building up in my chest. I had to do SOMETHING. I was tired of living like THIS. I was tired of feeling anxious and angry about a situation that–to me at the time–felt completely out of control.
This is a picture of me on that day:
As I previously mentioned, sometimes when we are afraid, we do stupid sh**. We do it to prove to ourselves that we can do whatever the heck we want and nobody can push us around and ruin our freaking lives, damn it.
I left my house and drove to “the other woman’s” apartment.
I was not one to ever do such ballsy things. Confront my husband’s mistress? Good heavens, no!
It was as if this little, quiet shell of Emily had transformed herself into a bad b**** from hell. This is me, driving to her house:
When I arrived to the apartment complex, I barged into the building.
I found the buzzer with her name. I buzzed it. No response. I buzzed it again. No response.
“Those &$!@%#^*ers aren’t going to keep me from coming in!” I said to myself.
I started buzzing other people’s buzzers.
Lo and behold, someone who didn’t know me buzzed me in to the building.
I go up to this chick’s apartment door and bang the hell out of it. For some dumb reason, she answers it. For another dumb reason, she let me in.
I spotted my husband coming out of a room that I perceived to be a bedroom.
I do not remember much of the conversation that ensued. But what I do remember is this: I looked into the eyes of his mistress and I saw a young woman who looked ashamed. She looked sad. She looked scared. I looked around her apartment. About fifty empty cans of Bud Light were scattered around the living room. The place was a complete mess.
This woman, who I had targeted with a bullseye of contempt on her chest, had suddenly removed herself as my target when we made eye contact.
I had imagined many pictures in my mind of how my husband’s mistress would look–the woman I saw was the opposite of those pictures.
It was so much easier to attach hate and anger to a stranger than it was to deal with the real issue at hand–that my marriage was unhealthy and I needed to not be in it anymore.
The infidelity I experienced was a SYMPTOM of the real problem. I had missed the target. I was shooting in the wrong direction. I was making the same self defeating decisions that caused me to remain in a tornado-like state of anxiety. I didn’t know how to deal with my anger or fear or sadness. I just kept trying to shoot pinballs at a machine that wasn’t working and those pinballs were shot back at me every. single. time.
Enough with the shooting analogies though. 😳🔫🎯
What I learned from all of this was that while it momentarily felt good to be that big bad bitch version of myself, that energy wasn’t helpful when it unfairly targeted someone that had NOTHING to do with my happiness. I was putting two other people in charge of my life, and I thought if I “stopped them from having the affair” I would regain control.
A year after my divorce, I received a FB message from this woman. In a roundabout way, she apologized to me for any hurt she may have caused me as a result of the affair. She stated that she was in the process of a divorce herself because her husband had cheated on her. She stated that she “felt my pain,” and was sorry for it.
For various reasons, I chose not to respond. However, when I contemplated a response, I thought of sending her a poem that I had pasted on the back of my door in my apartment in Wisconsin. I knew the words in it were meaningful to me, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around it until I got my spirit into a healthy state. These words definitely helped to get me there, though:
“Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.
This is it.
No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.
At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.
There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.
Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.”