To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
Every day that distances me from my old way life is another leap forward into clarity and freedom. The healing power of space and time cannot be negated.
When I look back at my life just over 9 months ago, I was in a radically different place. I was living a lie with a liar, blinded by a romanticized delusion of “love”. It was a time in my life that I barely recognize anymore. What I used to believe was a “good/solid relationship” was the illusion of comfort mired in fear. Fear of claiming the total independence that I hungered for, an impossible task when intimately involved with anyone. Inevitably (and always), “me” loses autonomy, freedom and efficacy within the confines of “we”. There is no way around a watered-down version of ourselves when relational compromise is present. There is no way around a relationship without compromise. While I wasn’t miserable in the relationship, I was restless. But perhaps it’s less about misery and more about the numbness that complacency delivers.
I’d allowed myself to slumber. Sadly, I was just as guilty as most people on planet Earth of buying into the culturally conditioned, heavily marketed, Hollywood version of romantic/ego “love” as the be-all-and-end-all. I’ve since discovered that it’s exactly the opposite. Romantic/ego love, with all of its conditions, complications and concessions, is the lowest common denominator in the splendour and majesty of real love. Romantic/ego love is the “love” we’re trained to believe is required for the separate self to feel “whole” and “complete”. Love—soul love—emanating from love of one’s essential self interconnects with all life. It is the grandest love of all. It lives on a pedestal that few are willing to step upon. Love for, and from friends, is right up there as well. Friendships are unconditional and solid, at least they are in my world. I’ve realized that love should never, ever be work, because it is our natural state. This has been repeatedly shown to me in this year more than any other. There are no expectations, conditions, concessions, judgements, or obligations. It’s just so easy. It’s the exhale I’ve craved for far too long.
Our world has conditioned us to believe that we are not complete if we are not in a romantic/ego relationship; that we must be externally dependent on someone else so that we are never fully internally independent within ourselves. Our language reflects this well: my other half, my partner, my spouse, significant other, second half, better half, main squeeze, life-partner, and so on. It’s disempowering and so very sad. This story has weaved itself so deeply into the collective human psyche that it’s impossible for most people to see how terribly duped we’ve been. They’re incapable of understanding how they are never fully thinking for themselves within the confines of relational compromise. I was once there. I now know something very different. I thought I knew love before. I didn’t. I do now. I know it with my sisters, my friends, my animals, the natural world, strangers, acquaintances, and most of all, I know it with myself. I know love. Finally.
The Complex Beast of Betrayal
The difference between remorse/apologies dripping in guilt versus remorse/apologies driven by empathy and compassion is the difference between chaos and peace. The former is an entirely self-serving attempt to appease the guilty party’s conscience with little to no consideration for the one who was hurt. The latter places the hurt party at the front and centre while acknowledging the pain that was caused. This is the only remorse worthy of expression for creating closure and peace. It is an apology that heals. The former only serves to tear the victim apart that much more.
While the lying and betrayal were very real and have since, only recently, been confessed to in a letter by the ex in an entirely self-serving attempt at self-atonement that served no purpose for me (other than ripping open a healing wound like it didn’t exist), I also recognize how I betrayed myself by not acting on my truth to leave long ago. As author David Levithan writes, “It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.” Because of my mistake to trust so completely, I’m still making peace with the layers of regret that continue to reveal themselves. I’m also learning to be more gentle and compassionate with myself along the way. That is my greatest work to date.
Betrayal is a hideous, pernicious beast. It leaves a deep and lasting wound that slices to the core. It forever defines the perpetrator and eradicates anything good that may have preceded any relationship with the guilty party. As Arthur Miller once said, “Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.”
Betrayal is more painful than death. Death rarely (if ever) has malice behind it. It is a natural occurrence in response to situations, accidents, ailments, intentions, and age. Betrayal on the other hand, is anything but natural. It is the slayer of trust and the grim reaper of self-esteem. Malcolm X said it best, “To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal.” While grieving the dead is painful, grieving the living dead is an entirely different creature. Betrayal renders a person unrecognizable.
After everything we had been through over the years—the laughter and joy, the tears, grief and growth…the love…so much love. I put my all into the relationship. Even though it devastated me in the end, I trusted completely. I loved fully and I learned the immensity of my ability to devote myself entirely to one person. I gave her everything I was capable of. I also discovered the enormity of my capacity for long-term devotion, commitment, integrity, respect, and physical, emotional and spiritual fidelity toward a singular person. I recognized that I am capable of loving someone on a soul level. I have no regret about discovering how deeply I can love through this experience. The love was very real for me. That is clear. What is also clear is that her choice for an ending would have never been mine. If I had led the way it would have never been secretive, cruel, diminishing, underhanded, and shocking. Instead it would have been an openly discussed, loving ending filled with the integrity, honesty and compassion that I believe is necessary for honouring a natural completion. It would have been as sacred as I once believed our relationship to be.
I’m unable to understand why she did what she did and how it was even possible for such a brutal outcome. Perhaps that’s a good thing because it means that I’m incapable of being that way myself. Author, Kamand Kojouri makes solid point when she said, “Some people are in such utter darkness that they will burn you just to see a light.” While I’m hardly perfect, my conscience is solid and I live my life accordingly. Nobody in the history of my 57-year life has hurt me as deeply as she did. In fact nobody has even come close. She wins that trophy hands-down, and that will forever remain her legacy in my world. As Rohit Sharma said, “Love never betrays. People do.” Lesson learned. No need for this to ever happen again. Not ever.
The woman I once thought I knew is dead, yet her corporeal image still walks the earth. She is now a ghostly shadow drifting through the memories of a former life that will eventually fade to black. That cannot happen soon enough. For now, however, a lingering quality of peculiar surreality remains, especially when homogenized with the global mind-fuck that has been imposed upon us all. I recognize that my personal healing would have significantly progressed had a global “pandemic” narrative not interfered. Rebuilding one’s life after such a ruthless assault on the heart amidst a persistent global mind-fuck is not for the faint of spirit.
Betrayal has also proven to be one of my most potent opportunities for healing and self-discovery. It has unearthed every other betrayal in my life, including the betrayals that lived in the darkest shadows of my awareness. The most significant betrayal rising out of the ashes of this ruined relationship emerged with a vengeance a few months ago, saturated in my fathers energy. I’ve since realized the avatar that the ex was for my father, a man who was emotionally immature, secretive and well-known by many for his lying and betrayal. Much like the ex, he hid his darkness well: with a glittery smile and an “Everything is (always) fine” facade. Life was always grand on the outside. What lived on the inside was something only he was privy to…until it leaked out, that is. Hiding one’s self is as effective as one’s own self delusion, and karma always has a way of always catching up in the end. It bites hard—in the ass—and it doesn’t let go. He may have taken his “not-so-secret” secrets to the grave, but he did not die an easy death. When someone causes harm to others, they ultimately end up harming their self, especially when ownership for their thoughts, emotions and actions is negated, and truth is bottled inside. While a conscience can be denied, it cannot be eliminated. What goes around eventually—and inevitably—always does come around. It shows up in vivid dreams, nightmares, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts, stress, anxiety, and illness. There is a good reason why this old adage stands the test of time. Because it’s true.
Through this recent personal experience of deep betrayal, I’ve had a golden opportunity to make peace with my entire past. Goodbye ex. Goodbye dad. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. Despite everything, I loved you both with all of my heart. I lived. I loved. I lost. I’m learning to live a different way now. It’s time to move on for good. There is no longer room for looking back.
The Ship is Turning Around
It’s been an exceedingly tumultuous year; stunningly beautiful in the immensity of love I’ve discovered all around me, and incredibly painful with so much personal loss. It’s been a year that eroded my sense of trust and battered my self-esteem, all while the world fell apart around me. To say that it’s been challenging is an understatement. Things are finally beginning to turn around in ways that are showing me beautiful things about myself, however. My graphic design business is gaining momentum, all from referrals related to a solid past of integrity and deep connection. I’ve worked hard to get to this place. I know this to be a reflection of how I show up in the world, and a testament to my commitment to delivering beautiful, meaningful and impactful work.
Now that I’ve tasted the freedom of living autonomously, without the burden of obligation, distraction and compromise that inevitably accompanies an intimate relationship, I’m unwilling to settle for anything less. I’ve craved this freedom for so long and it’s now mine.
An interesting shift has been happening in tandem with this expansion into freedom over the last while. Now that I’m feeling more solid within myself, without the obsessive sting of bitterness consuming so much of my head and heart space, I’m being shown that I’m still “desirable”. A meaningful interaction on a hike with my dogs. A lovely conversation outside a grocery store. Laughter and conversation after a swim workout with a fellow lane-mate. A flirtatious interaction with a humorous tattoo artist (yes, I do have tattoos. Before there were two, now there are ten). Between requests for dinner, future dog walks, and my phone number, I confess to feeling rather flattered. While I have no interest in dinner, dating or anything romantic whatsoever (the mere thought makes me feel claustrophobic), there is still something self-affirming about knowing that I haven’t lost my mojo. The truth is, other than my sisters, my clients, my friends and my beautiful animal family, I’m not interested in an intimate relationship with anyone but myself. I’m still getting to know myself in ways that I was unable to for the last 20 years. For me, that is sacred.
In both my personal reality and our global reality, I’m finally feeling a greater sense of ease with who I am. I know that as I continue to live my life in my new personal reality within this strange new world, I will still have moments of discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, grief, bitterness, and a sense of chaos in my body as I try to make sense of it all. When I remember who I am, however, I can relax into the emotions and trust the unfolding as yet another opportunity for growth, evolution and potential. I don’t need anyone for that.
As I continue to move through all of this, I’m discovering a greater sense of my strength, resilience, and power. I’m also more forgiving of my imperfections, recognizing the magnificence of these scars, wounds and blemishes as part of my uniqueness. There is no such thing as “getting it right” anymore because when I do what is right for me, my life works…even when it hurts.
What has proven to be the darkest chapter in my life is also proving to be the best thing that ever happened to me. While it is nothing that I could have ever imagined for myself, I know that as I continue to heal, I have the opportunity to become better than ever before. Because I’ve experienced the most profound heartache of my life, I’m seeing the world differently. I’ve now had real experience with deep betrayal and things that I never wanted to experience, but because I have, I’ve been transformed. While I’m still a work in progress, this experience has given me greater tolerance, compassion and empathy for others who have not only gone through the same thing, but anyone who has ever known the agony of betrayal and decimated trust. I can now support others as I’ve been supported myself. I’ve met so many women (and a few men) over the last few months who have been through emotional infidelity like myself, and they are the strongest, most courageous, resilient, loving, solid, joyful, and wise people I’ve ever met.
While I confess to still being on the mend, I can honestly say that I’m happier, healthier, and generally feeling more relaxed and peaceful than ever before. Where I once thought I got the short end of the stick, I’ve since realized that what I got was the world. I’m surrounded by a magnitude of love and support that still moves me to tears. I have a clear conscience. I sleep peacefully, and I’m no longer half of anyone or anything. I finally feel whole within myself, scars, bruises, flaws and all.
I’m now experiencing life directly, not filtered through a relationship anymore. There is an indescribable richness to experiencing all of it on my own terms now. It takes a lot of energy and attention to sustain and maintain a relationship with its endless obligations and compromises. I much prefer channelling my energy into experiencing life itself: my own thoughts, feelings, responses, discoveries, and observations. It feels like a luxury. To walk and revel in the birdsong, stop and stretch when it feels right, to have all the bed covers to myself and lovingly share this sacred space with every animal in my home. To be spontaneous in the moment, and move with my own rhythm without the expectations, obligations, complications, and judgements of someone else lurking over me. The many perks of my singleness are becoming more evident by the day.
No Closed Doors
While I don’t believe in closing doors to potential, I do believe in the clarity and boundaries that come with self-discovery. If I should ever decide to allow someone else into my life in a romantic way, I now know exactly what I want and need. For starters, they must be intimate with their wholeness, flaws and all, and be unapologetically accepting of who they are in their most vulnerable moments. They must be willing and able to meet me where I’m at with radical emotional transparency. They must be self-aware with humility and a strong, unwavering conscience. They must be sensitive, honest, emotionally mature, and courageous enough to stand naked with me in exposed self-expression. They must live out loud with integrity and self-respect. I will never again settle for anything less. I will never again compromise my wholeness for anyone. In this way I will be whole, they will be whole, and together we will create something entirely new without losing our individual wholeness within this collaborative creation. I know that if this is meant to be, it will happen exactly as I need it to be because I no longer need to learn from, and grow with someone else’s emotional immaturity and self-unawareness. As I shared with a dear friend recently, “When it is meant to be, it always works out.” This applies to everything in life.
I realize that my expectations are a tall order that may well ensure that I remain romantically alone from now on, but what I have now is so much greater than anything I’ve known and I’m unwilling to compromise. I have autonomy. I have freedom. I have unfiltered expression. I have greater self-awareness than ever before. I move entirely to and with my own rhythm. And I have so many beautiful friendships and relationships that will never be secondary in my life again.
I have peace.
In the end, she gave me a gift. A gift in a cowardly, terribly executed and ugly package, but a gift nonetheless. If she had not chosen dishonesty and betrayal so that my own personal drama could unfold, I might not have had the long-overdue healing with my father that I’ve since experienced. I might not have discovered the self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, self-reliance, and comfort within myself that I now have. I might not have realized the compassion and tolerance that I now have for myself, my world, and for so many others. That woman and her ruthless “personal development” collective (including the new lover) helped me to trust my life. The heartbreak, betrayal, dishonesty, loss, sorrow, bitterness, grief—all of it enabled me to fully trust my life.
Crisis, Adversity and Breakthrough (Personally and Collectively)
When choices aligned with our deepest inner truths are negated, we eventually find ourselves in a state of crisis. Crisis is the cumulative effect of disconnected choices, often unconsciously made. Sooner or later life shows up and instead of asking politely for change, it demands change. Crisis has a way of breaking us down so that we can re-create our lives. On the other side of crisis, life is often enhanced because as we move through it all, we are forced to grow. We cannot grow within a comfort zone. We can only grow when the comfort zone is shattered and we are forced to face ourselves.
Adversity forces us to go deeper. It forces us to awaken to the deeper dimension of who we are. In accessing the essential foundation of who we are, we are liberated from fear, and clarity descends upon us. If we don’t allow ourselves to go deeper, however, we needlessly suffer. If we meet a situation head-on in a state of awakened consciousness, there is no longer anything to be concerned about because growth is the natural outcome.
A breakthrough happens the moment we make a new choice. When I chose to become a master of gratitude and compassion, even in the face of lies and betrayal, and even in the face of a dystopian reality, everything changed. My greatest work now is in my ability to sustain this.
In so many ways and for so many of us, the great illusion is falling away before our eyes. This is happening in both our personal lives and in our collective reality. Can we allow ourselves to see beyond the uncertainty, worry and fear that is clouding our inner vision? Can we allow ourselves to step more fully into our own essential nature?
While my personal experience of relational breakdown and death may seem separate from the dystopian reality we are all now living in, it is not. What happened in my life on the micro is happening to the world on the macro. We have all been betrayed by a reality we once trusted. We are all being forced to face into ourselves and to grow, adapt and transform. Failing that, we will be consumed by our bitterness, division and fear in an unstable story with shallow roots that will inevitably destroy us…long before biosphere collapse ever has a chance to do us in.
This begs the questions: who are we capable of becoming through all of this? What is our tolerance for chaos, uncertainty and for not having the answers? Can we embrace the chaos? Can we allow ourselves to experience the uncertainty, and trust that it will be ok in the end? Even if ok means “death”? Can we trust that the very essence of who we are does not wish for us to suffer? That every experience, no matter how painful it is, offers an opportunity for stepping into greater potential and evolutionary expansion. We cannot find these answers outside of ourselves or through anyone else. The answers live within each and every one of us. It is up to us to listen.