The above photo has gotten the more traffic on Facebook and Instagram then any other post I’ve made. It was taken on 16 October 2018, in Flachau, Austria. For the viewers, its probably because it captures the essence of what travelling in a minuscule caravan with too many animals actually looks like. For me, the photo is one that makes my stomach hurt, in both good and bad ways. It’s a frozen moment, a moment on our trip that will be with me forever in crystal clear clarity, one I’ve relived many times since and will likely continue to do for some time to come.
Just before this photo was taken, I received a text message from a woman I loved more then I have ever loved anyone else in this entire world. The text message was part explanation, part defensive accusation, and reading between the lines of those two things, part pleading for understanding. The message served the purpose of shattering the few remaining intact pieces of my heart, while somehow simultaneously giving me a way of taking the first step towards putting those very same pieces back together. To say that I was emotional when this photo was taken would be an understatement. To say that it was one of those precious moments when travelling with every single one of my menagerie was 100% worth it would be entirely accurate.
A few weeks prior, I had been notified that this woman was now romantically engaged with my husband. There’s another frozen moment of this trip, one I thankfully don’t have a photo to remember by. That moment was sheer devastation. The fact that I had “known” for many months, that I had “suspected” for even longer, and that it was this very “unfounded fear” that had ultimately ended my marriage didn’t change the force of the shock that blew through me. It was even worse to realise, in that moment, that I was still hoping for a reconciliation, that I still loved my husband. There are few betrayals that can compare to when your best friend and your husband fall in love, let me tell you.
And that was the first feeling I had, that I had been betrayed. Then there was a trickle of relief, that I hadn’t been crazy after all. This was followed by an unexpectedly soft feeling, one that I can only describe as joy; joy that two people I loved had found love in each other. Which was quickly overridden by anger: vicious, bright, hot, ugly anger. And then finally, that emotion that has ruled the entirety of my feelings towards the failure of my marriage: grief. While the other feelings would cycle in and out over the next days and weeks and months ahead and I imagine, those that I still have to get through, the grief has remained constant. First he broke my heart, then she broke my heart, then they broke my heart… its a lot of things to grieve for at the same time.
In this photo, I am smiling. And it is for that reason that I decided to share this moment here. This was not, no matter which angle I examine it from, a happy moment. A bitter one, yes, and a bittersweet one, undoubtedly. Yet there I am, smiling away, and its not the least bit fake. Part of that smile is for those that are surrounding me, comforting me, in my time of need. Being under a furry pile of love is certain to make even the most horrible moment bearable. The other part of that smile is for me.
I only read her text message one time before I sat down and typed out my response. I typed for ages, pouring my heart out, refusing to censor myself, letting all those feelings of betrayal, rage, confusion, joy, and grief roll through me and in to my message back to this woman I had considered my soul mate. When I was done, I pressed send before I could go back and read what I had wrote. So much of what had led to this moment had been dishonesty, lies, claims of trying to protect someone from more hurt, accusations of wrongdoing or not doing enough; all of those nasty little things people tell themselves and each other to try to avoid the painful reality of what was actually going on. I wanted my response, I wanted this moment, to be nothing but truth, my truth, no matter how ugly that honesty may be.
I thought I would have written back something that I’d later be ashamed of. I thought I would have called her awful names, accused her of breaking up my marriage and ruining my life. I thought I’d have told her how stupid she was, how foolish, how arrogant to think that he would be any different for her, after she’d watched the affairs he put me through, held my hand through what he’d done. I was so sure that all that would come out was hate, that hate must be that overwhelming emotion that I couldn’t seem to identify through the confusion of all the others that had built up over the years and months, and most recently, weeks since I had found out. So you can imagine my surprise to discover that the message that I wrote was one purely, singularly, overwhelmingly, of love.
In that photo, I’m smiling because in one of the darkest moments of my life, what burned most brightly inside me, what poured out of me, what I wanted her to know most of all, was that I loved her, that I loved them. Love. Even as I grieved, I loved more. There is a version of me out there, somewhere in my past, that would not have ever found this inside of me. The frozen moment this picture captures is thus not only one of pain, but one of pride, for the woman I am becoming, one who is still very capable of love.
The conclusion to this moment doesn’t exist yet. This situation in its entirety would eventually trigger the biggest mental breakdown I have experienced since I first came forward about being raped five years ago. All those emotions swirling around inside me continue to do so, sometimes soft, sometimes hard and painful. Every day since I found out has been a battle for my own sanity, but I like to think that even when I don’t win every daily battle, I’m winning the war. That’s helped along by the fact that a few days after I responded, I got a message back… This time, she was also full of nothing but love. I hope that as long as I live, I’ll look back at this photo, at this frozen moment, and remember the lesson it taught me: love is always stronger then hate.