After cheating, a yogi learns that you have to forgive to heal.
My intention is to write this piece from a place of forgiveness, so that I can break free of my prison of fear and any meals of shame.
According to The Power Path (a shamanism wisdom website) the theme for December is forgiveness and if we are to believe the theories on this site, which have often served me in the last year, we want to move into 2013 having forgiven our karmic debts—let go, surrender and have a sigh of relief. I am writing this piece to purge, to cleanse, to clean out my karmic debt junk drawer and wash my hands of this story once and for all.
In 2001, I cheated. Not only did I cheat, I slept with my husband’s (and my own) best friend. Not only did I sleep with him before our divorce was final—before the ink had dried on the papers—I discovered I was pregnant soon after. Not only did I get pregnant, I brought my son, this adorable creature into the world—against all odds, without a support structure, operating entirely on my own courage.
I consider myself a good person. I did not intend to wreak havoc on everyone’s lives. I was simply looking for love.
And yes, the Waylon Jennings’ song, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” comes to mind. At least, it should. Our best friend, let’s call him “Bill,” was not the place for me to be looking for solace. My husband and I had been in the midst of rocky times, but they weren’t that bad. We had fallen into a routine of partying a lot. Like five nights a week in the Austin, Texas live music scene.
None of this is ground breaking or all that unusual, but we had drifted apart in our mission to have fun, a mission created to avoid the pain lurking beneath the surface of our broken marriage. From the outside, we had it all together. We had a cute house, great jobs, both of us were attractive, kind and fun. But behind closed doors, we were anything but in love.
Our solution? Escapism via partying. We’d hit the scene: someone’s house, a club, a restaurant, a music gig. We’d get to the place and we’d go separate directions. We’d intersect here and there, but we just simply had our own lives going. I knew I was in trouble when one of my dear friends looked at me one night as my husband and I stood side by side but worlds apart, and said, “I’m going to sentence you two to a night at home alone together.”
I remember the breath being knocked right out of my gut and everything in my biology screaming, shrieking, “No!” Instead of saying something and speaking up for my soul that was in such agony, I just looked at him (and he at me) through glazed, uninterested eyes. We were already gone by then, our vows washed somewhere under the bar with the fifth or sixth beer glass, dirtied and stained with a rim of cocaine and a smidgen of ecstasy. We just didn’t have anything left to stand on.
So why did it happen? How could I participate in something so callous, self-righteous and ugly? I was then already a yogi, although I was not yet a teacher. How could any self-respecting yogi be such a shit? I’ve often wondered this and only recently have I come into some understanding of my behavior.
When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears—the fear of being abandoned, unworthy and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain—there’s no event, no obvious evidence of broken-ness. It can feel crazy-making.
I believe that is what happened to my first marriage. With all of my heart, I believe he disengaged and I chased after him in “crazy-making” mode. I couldn’t reach him, so I began to do more and more outlandish things—more drugs, risqué clothing, unnecessary spending, wild decisions about my career and more. And on and on it went, until finally, I engaged in the ultimate act of treason, the greatest (read worst) depth I could sink to get his attention: adultery. My act of treason set off a chain of events that ultimately led to divorce.
We are both remarried now, and I will say this: I am so keenly aware of how wonderful my new husband is. We work hard, oh-so hard, to stay connected. I do not take him for granted, not even for a second. We are raising my 10-year-old son together. Yes, if you are wondering, Bill is still involved in my son’s life. He’s an excellent father and still a friend. And my new husband and I have a one-year-old baby girl, whom we lavish love upon.
This quote spoken by the character Po, in the film Kung Fu Panda 2 sums up why I had to finally forgive myself .
“ … You stay in your prison of fear
With the bars made of hopelessness
And all you get are three square meals a day of shame“
Yes, good people do commit adultery. Forgiveness of self is key.
This was previously published in content partner elephant journal.
Image credit: abhikrama/Flickr