Caution: f-bombs ahead!
Most of us have been there. Some of us are there now.
You’ve been betrayed.
Someone you trusted did something out of character, something fucked up, something you didn’t expect, something you probably never planned on.
Something that set off a typhoon in your body and left you scattered in pieces. Your heart is on the floor, your head is rolling somewhere down the street, your feet—they’re buried somewhere beneath the ruins; you don’t have the energy to even think about looking for them.
For me, it’s been a few different types over the years: a partner, a friend, a person that should have been but simply could not be trusted, at the time. Despite a few unique details for each type, it’s pretty much the same process.
There’s the shock, the denial, the fury, the pain, and the wreckage—the aftermath.
And there is the question that I always seem to ask myself but only recently answered:
What is the source of this profound pain? Am I really upset with them—the betrayer—or is this pain possibly something else?
No, I am definitely angry at them, they made a selfish choice. They made a choice that included hurting me and that’s fucked up, no doubt about it. But still, that’s not the part that stings the most.
I can forgive them in time. I know that everyone makes mistakes. Eventually that information will seep down from my brain into my heart. Lord knows I’ve made my share of stupid choices and I’ve learned from many of them. Maybe they will learn something too, maybe they won’t.
I can choose to keep them in my life in the same way, in a different way, or not at all. Either way, I know that eventually, when I’m ready, I will harness the energy to find my feet and move forward.
The rest of my body—my heart, my head, will catch up and I will get over them. My feelings for them are not what’s sitting in the pit of my stomach like lead—making it hard to breathe, to sit up straight, to move, making me plead all day and night that something has to give.
When I pour over all of the worst parts of my life, the traumas, the betrayals, I find a theme: there is always a part of me, however subconscious or irrational, that feels responsible.
Either I didn’t see it or I lied to myself because I didn’t want to see it. Either way I let myself down. I let myself get K.O.’d.
If we can’t trust ourselves—our perceptions, our decisions—how can we really trust anything at all?
This, to me, is the worst part. It is a dragging around of lead in my belly—an incessant worry about the accuracy of every thought, every perception, every decision I make. Short of employing a full time life coach, how can a person live like this?
I asked myself in earnest: do these betrayals really mean that I can’t trust myself? Was it really my fault?
Honestly I’m not sure. So I did some research.
I think about it, write about it, ask my loved ones about it. It turns out that these betrayals were, for the most part, simply not my fault. But there are still some aspects that are not so clear cut.
If I am honest, I have to admit that I closed my eyes to some things I should’ve let myself see. I may have allowed things that I shouldn’t have allowed. I could’ve done some things better. In some ways, in some cases, I simply fucked up.
So, now what?
I review my decisions and find that among my periodic fuck ups, I’ve made some decent decisions along the way too. When I’m at a loss, and feeling particularly shitty, I enlist some friends and family to help me brainstorm. They come up with some good ones, some I wouldn’t have ever thought of. They say things like, “Remember that time…? Well, you were dead on.”
And finally, that lead in my belly starts to dissipate a little, and I breathe a little easier.
By my estimation, the best we can do is this. We can decide that it’s okay to only be right a percentage of the time (maybe shoot for the better side of 50 percent?). And when we decide to trust someone, we can promise to be honest with ourselves.
We can look red flags in the face instead of closing our eyes and wishing them away. But we will have to accept that there will come a point when, despite all of our lessons and observations and best efforts, we will simply not know.
We will always have to take a risk.
And if we lose, if we get screwed over, we can trust ourselves to deal with it, to hurt, to mourn, to grieve, to heal, to forgive ourselves, to survive—to gently pick our body up off the floor, breathe, move forward, and do it all again.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Renato Ganoza at Flickr