In a moment, my heart was shattered, catapulted into pain, for nothing could have prepared me for that emotional blow.
Left with a broken sense of security, my weakened, limp body with contorted, barely clothed limbs lay in the snow.
My children’s precious knuckles were knocking against a glass door, growing louder with concern. Their mother was living an emotional death. The snow’s coolness seeping through my clothing, and overwhelmed with vulnerability, I faced his silver-platter gift of betrayal, deceit, and manipulation.
He towered over me with boots untied and a loosely put together shirt—“Come on, please get it together.”
I felt paralyzed, numb to the circumstances of his affair. What was I going to do? Struggling to acknowledge my emotional pain, I was overwhelmed and in a state of shock—I wanted it to go away.
My soul wept with compassion as I rose to stand beside the very being who attempted to shred it. I vowed not to take his act of betrayal personally. I stood in courage, knowing that our soul contract was complete. Courage was a perfect cocktail of falling, rising and daring to live.
Others can only love you to the degree to which you love yourself.
No one could have prepared me for the fall—it hurt like hell. I was desperate for release from his story, the replaying of details, the imprint of my husband courting another.
Re-enacting his confession—he no longer felt love, watching the packing of my possessions into cardboard boxes, and consumed with denial, it was time for me to acknowledge my truths. I was married to a man who no longer loved me, but I had fallen out of love with myself a long time before.
I grappled with wanting to identify myself as damaged goods, convinced that a broken marriage was my identity as an inadequate lover and most certainly not worthy of loving. Our circumstances of broken hearts, jobs lost and marriages undone do not define us. Falling is not a indication of failure.
The truth is, moments of falling are golden opportunities, disguised catalysts that invite a remembrance of who we are.
We are reminded of our strength of heart, our internal flame, our perseverance. Falling is a foundational pillar; we rise in acceptance of ourselves. Until I acknowledged that gnawing urge to rise, I had underestimated the degree to which I had fallen, a fall I took long before his confession that New Year’s Eve.
I had emotionally abandoned myself and broken with courage. The truth is, I was lost and had cast my light away, deeming myself unworthy of any degree of love. Courage is a silver lining on our platters of hurt and pain. Our stories offer an opportunity to remember the beauty of both our light and shadow selves.
Rising is living life—fully, with courage as our co-pilot.
Rising is moving into our pain, not fixing it. Intimacy with pain opens us, becomes our ultimate gateway into vulnerability.
I was searching for courage before I realized I am courageous. The task at hand was to commit to healing the illusion that I was not worthy of rising. I had become a tight, emotional ball in an effort to predict and prevent any emotional blows, and a false sense of safety was created. Buying into the belief that I was weak, damaged goods, I allowed men to come and go, proving the same story of emotional unavailability, of cold hearts. I was sure to bypass any red flags, because red flags pointed to something much more daunting in their origins—me.
As emotional trauma would have it, my ex-husband’s affair shook my core foundation, lending waves of emotional pain and suffering. It wasn’t until I started to stretch back into my roots, to expand back into my life once more, that awareness was gained: I had complete authority to shift this paradigm of patterning in emotional abandonment.
Not my ex-husband, or any other man I dated—it was on me to take a good, hard look at how I was struggling to nurture and mother myself. The time had come for me to grow into myself.
This was the true test of rising in courage: not in facing my ex-husband, not in supporting my son and daughter, but in daring to hold my mirror close as I rose. Rising into courage is learning to trust ourselves, by saying “I will not forget you.” Choosing to see ourselves as victims to our circumstances means choosing a life stapled by waiting—for things to happen, for others to change their behavior, for life to cut us a break.
When we rise with courage, we buckle up, daring to remember who we are. We drop our fear-based attachment to our wounds and the judgments we cast onto ourselves and onto the world. Instead, we use these painful, emotional catalysts to serve as springboards.
When our cores are shaken, discomfort grows and we are given a choice: move into the unknown or fight for what was.
Embracing your right to choose.
Experiences inevitably change us—there are no rewind or fast forward buttons. Living began I admitted I didn’t know what to do. Instead of trying to fix how I was feeling, mend the situation, or take the pain away from my children, I needed to just be. This meant giving myself space to heal from the emotional trauma, while mourning the loss of my marriage.
I was choosing how to relate to myself while experiencing grief, how to reestablish a sense of family, how to rebuild emotional security and safety. Boxes piled high in my living room became metaphoric to my life, moving one box at a time deeper into my grief and pain.
In my story, I played a wife who didn’t offer her husband a desired sexual connection, a mother who was struggling to balance the demands of a career and raising two small children while tending a household, a daughter who worked hard to earn her parent’s love, a small town community member fighting for respect—but this was not living. I was good at keeping myself “busy” with drama, gossip and mayhem, but the truth is, I was scared to show up as me, no bells and whistles, just me.
Living fully is surrendering to the circumstances of our lives, and daring to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. There is an opportunity to reevaluate how we show up for ourselves, to own what is valued and dissolve patterns that no longer serve. We commit to a new way of being, to living in personal freedom. A new foundation is laid to rebuild trust within ourselves. We gain a deeper knowing that when we fall, we can rise with grace.
With our intentions in tow, our values reawakened, endings rewritten, and a strength of heart, we create the life we love.
Emotional trauma leaves us wide open and raw, but provides an opportunity to grow. The freedom I sought came from appreciating my wounds but releasing attachment to the story of my battle—we are not our stories. Rather, they are life experiences carrying a potential for deepened compassion, love and empathy.
The wound of his betrayal became my mirror and a gift of insight into how I was emotionally abandoning myself. Personal freedom is believing that we are not just our stories, we are all souls having a human experience. Exercising our courage to stay awake allows us to fall, rise, and live again.
This is what Betrayal Feels Like.
Author: Jennifer Cabot
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: With permission from Kathryn Oliver
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