I found out I was being cheated on from an anonymous good Samaritan via email.
An anonymous email, ladies and gentlemen.
They didn’t say who they were or how they knew the details they knew. They didn’t give me anything else. They just dropped this intimate bombshell into my inbox, into my computer, into my lap, into my life. And then they disappeared just as effortlessly as they came.
I was crushed. I had never been cheated on before. Theoretically, I knew that being cheated on happened in the world of humans and relationships, but I didn’t think it happened to ME.
Before you think I am the world’s biggest egomaniac, let me explain: I didn’t think I was immune to this kind of cowardly treatment because I thought I was some sort of Madam Fabulous. I just didn’t think anyone I knew and liked would be that mean.
I had been told many times by people that cared about me that I was naive. They weren’t wrong.
The comfortable bowl of my world tipped and my confidence spilled out onto the floor around my feet.
Unbeknownst to me, everything I did after that cruel to be kind email made things infinitely worse and I am finding myself now, 20 years later, making some of the same mistakes when it comes to my wellbeing.
Different circumstances, more serious circumstances, to be sure, but similar stunting impact.
The last time I saw my (ex) boyfriend, let’s call him James, before The Email was when he came to visit me in Japan a couple months earlier. I was living near Tokyo for an exciting and cushy 9 month contract and I was loving every second of it. Fun work, the best people, delicious food, learning a bit of the language in a country that was in my Top 5 Dream Countries to Explore… heaven.
I excitedly introduced James to all my new friends and colleagues. We went to temples and we strolled through markets and we fooled around and we drank shochu and we did all the things you would expect a 20ish year old couple with too much disposable income to do when reunited for a limited time in a truly incredible city.
I was still in Japan, sitting at my uncomfortable desk in my bedroom when I got the email.
James was cheating on me with his Dad’s assistant (oh god yuck)
It had been going on for for quite some time (what is happening)
Everyone knew except me (of course they did)
My informant signed his/her verbal grenade with “Old Blue Eyes,” which somehow made it worse. What does this have to do with Frank Sinatra? Do they actually have blue eyes? Was that a clue? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
I couldn’t breathe.
The days after were filled with ranting to my sympathetic roommates and crying into my pillow and self-loathing into the mirror and numbly pacing through my neighbourhood.
I tried to call him but he wouldn’t answer. Eventually I did get through and when he heard my voice he hung up.
I was heartbroken and enraged and gut wrenchingly humiliated. There was no reason for me to be embarrassed, of course, but I was still at the stage when I blamed myself for everything and didn’t know better yet.
And then I started doing the dangerous thing. The thing that I would never ever advise my friends or my children or even people I don’t like to ever do. The thing I have watched myself do more than once over the years and that I am seeing myself do again.
I started taking steps to dissolve myself from the good things that made me me.
I started staying in my room alone, for a larger portion of the day. I stopped going to my immaculately spic-and-span gym. I cancelled my way over my head Japanese lessons. I dropped out of Aikido. I ended my singing lessons.
My singing teacher, Charlotte, warned me that walking away from the things I enjoyed was one of the worst things I could do in the midst of a broken heart, but I shrugged and did it anyway. I was sad and feeling powerless and I opted to make myself smaller.
Right now I am watching hearts being broken on the news.
Even wrapped in the privilege of distance, I am feeling sad and powerless and small.
We are watching a war being waged on a sovereign nation. Too many of us are in the thick of it right now. Whether in the Ukraine or so many other countries where wars are thrashing through neighbourhoods, bad and unjust power struggles are making the lives of families impossible.
I am finding myself unhelpfully doom scrolling and constantly refreshing my feed.
Casualties. Children. Nuclear war. Sanctions. Civilians.
I feel powerless and angry and scared and my head and my heart aches. I am finding myself dissolving.
I love reading, but I’m not reaching for the stack of my books waiting on my bedside table at night, I am scrolling. I am distracted and irritable with my children. I am not booking a lunch with my mom. I am not going for a walk. I am not writing.
I am waiting for things to get better. I am waiting for powerful people to fix this. I made a donation and I read the “Breaking News!” and I scroll and I wait.
I thought about not doing a new thing for March because this 12 month challenge of mine seems so indulgent in the face of so much struggle. How can I dare to go on an axe throwing date when… well, you already know what is happening.
I decided to ask my kids (I have two kids, one 9 year old and one 6 year old) what they thought I should do.
They know all about my challenge and they most certainly have suggestions.
Even though my son had, and I quote, “the Worse Day of his Entire Life” (he only got ONE slice of pizza at lunch and he was sooo hungry, and he didn’t feel like going to gymnastics but I made him go AND he bit the inside of his cheek at dinner really hard), he still had plenty of recommendations for me to consider.
And if a six year old can still be creative under those circumstances, who am I to not at least try?
After MUCH discussion and debate and Google searching and that whole tragic cheek biting fiasco, the winner is…
You know those businesses where you are locked in a room and you get clues and you have to figure out how to get out? I’ve never done that before, so that is what I am going to be giving a try this month.
Ever since my son heard about these magical places he has wanted to bust his way out of one, so we’re doing it. Do they let kids into those places? I don’t even know. This could be a painful disaster, what have I got myself into?
Of course I eventually got over being cheated on (backpacking and Australian beaches and perspective will do wonders for the heart). I didn’t ever speak to “James” again, but if I ever saw him now I imagine I would throw in a, “Hey! You’re that ass who cheated on me!” and I wouldn’t at all feel the need to throw something heavy at his head (I may have definitely wanted to do that for a few years…).
I don’t expect to ever get over the infuriating sociopathic infatuation with war. Who would want to? The fact that we are here as an international community again (and again, and again) is completely unacceptable.
However, disappearing into a frozen shell is not the answer. I suspect getting bigger is closer to the answer.
For now, for me, that means continuing to work to participate in my life. That includes not only educating myself about the pain of the world around me, but also diving into my own life and helping my kids explore theirs.
And for the month of March, it means going along with my son and his inspired ideas.
I am conducting an experiment: I have challenged myself to try something new each month in 2022. Here are my (self imposed) rules. Let me know if you have ideas on fun/ interesting/ novel things I could try in the comments. Or join me, that would be even more lovely actually…