This I Believe

ANN - INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana
Entered on March 7, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: setbacks
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This I Believe…

It happened at 9:15 pm as I arrived home from work. I think of that moment as the Hiroshima of my marriage because it knocked me flat without an instant’s notice to duck and cover. As I walked in the door my husband was on the phone. He kissed me between sentences and mouthed the words, “I’ll just be a second.” He hung up the phone with a pained look and then he dropped the bomb. “I’ve packed some things, I’m leaving and I’m probably not coming back. I’ve been having an affair. We’ve grown apart.” End of story. After 21 years, our marriage was over in less than ten minutes.

I have spent the last few months cleaning up the wreckage from that night. I have cried so hard at times I actually thought I might give myself a heart attack. I have questioned the meaning of love and forgiveness daily, but I still can’t fathom how fifty percent of the population is able to go about its business while lugging around the pain of divorce. Yet at the same time, I have experienced the most stunning kindness and compassion from people. Words of commiseration from strangers who have seen me break down in public, warm hugs from passing acquaintances, and endless hours of listening and reassurance from friends and family have made the difference between my sinking into the rubble and climbing out to heal my scars.

Amid the fallout from that night, I’ve also discovered something I have long wanted to deny. That hackneyed psychobabble notion that we can’t love others fully until we love and accept ourselves is actually true. Deep down we can’t depend on people to make us feel good about ourselves, nor can we blame them for our self-loathing. I’ve learned that until we come to terms with our own standards of conduct, many of us will be downright miserable. But in the meantime, while we grapple with that complicated issue of how we feel about ourselves, and this I have come to believe more strongly than ever, it does still matter how we treat each other.