I was on the verge of an affair. Okay, maybe seven. But, one in particular, with the Sweet Talker.
I love words. Early to speak, early to read, words have always been my thing. No experience is complete until I figure out the perfect way to articulate it. Living life is swell, but describing it in words is sublime.
I’m married to a solid guy. He’s my rock. But, as is sometimes the case with those who are rock solid, I often have to ask, “Knock, knock. Is anyone home?”
He had a joke that went like this: I told you once that I loved you. Unless I tell you otherwise, assume that I continue to love you.
It was funny for a few years. Then I was like, oh geez, he’s serious.
But, for most Manitoba Women, when you don’t have something you want, you don’t whine about it. You get to work. So, I did. I had baby after baby after baby, homeschooled, built my business, and cultivated an amazing group of friends. No affection or affirmation in my marriage? No biggie. We were awesome partners in so many other ways. No one has everything. Don’t be a whiner.
But, when the Sweet Talker was eager to give me 100ish daily reminders that I was beautiful, clever, and irresistible?
At the time I wouldn’t have said I was starved for attention, but to be honest, he had me at, “I don’t know if I should be texting you.”
If you have been married longer than a minute or have ever taken care of a living thing you know there is a big difference between being needed and being desired.
Feeling needed seems like an admirable thing toward which to aspire and some women profess to like it. To me, it felt like performing an excavation during a tornado, lots of heavy lifting, somewhat dangerous responsibility, and no way of knowing if I was making any progress. I was dizzy and very tired. If there was a mirror close by I would stumble toward it and wonder, is that me?
On the other hand, desire felt a lot better. It was like I’d had a massage and a makeover on the same day and was discretely hooked up to an IV of dopamine. If there was a mirror close by I would strut up to it, strike a pose, and truly believe I could provide inspiration to Beyonce.
All at once I felt intoxicated and intoxicating. I felt drugged and like I was a drug.
Just like anyone who has used a drink, or food, or fill-in-the-blank, to take the edge off when things feel hard, the question of whether this texting love affair was a problem or the circumstances of my life were the problem was a difficult one for me to answer.
To an outsider, the answer to “is this good for me?” was quite clear. But, to live it was far more confusing.
Trying to rationalize to myself why I was not happy when I had a lovely looking life was agony. I would watch coverage of the international refugee crisis and think, these women are carrying their babies for miles, through WAR ZONES, and you are not content? With your first world problems? You’re awful. Just awful.
No surprise; that wasn’t very helpful. Don’t ever do that to yourself. And don’t ever do that to someone else if they open up to you. It makes the guilt and confusion heavier. And that’s one of the reasons people keep things like this a secret.
When you start something new, dangerous, or exciting, it can, at first, make you feel more alive. And when you’ve been through any of life’s tornados, feeling alive feels like rediscovering yourself.
I had signals that I should have heeded, like when I forgot to pick up my shyest son during his first week at camp, or when an automatic door almost ate my toddler, or when I felt my conversations with my friends getting shallower, but it took me a while to figure out that this relationship was taking me out of connection with my real life.
It was not giving me inspiration; it was serving as a distraction.
No matter how exhilarating something may feel, I don’t want it if it makes the rest of my life look less vibrant.
And even though a decade of accumulating different roles made it hard to figure out who I had become, I decided I didn’t want to look outside myself to find the answers.
It was part of a greater trick the world plays on us. Look here for approval. Look here for direction. Look here to know if you measure up. Look here to find out if you are beautiful and clever and irresistible.
Don’t fall for it, my loves. The only place to look for any of those answers is inside.
You’ll have to get quiet and you’ll have to get still and you’ll have to block everything that serves as a distraction. Block up, block down, block all around, blockdiggity. But the answers are there.
They may not be what you want to hear, but keep listening. I was forced to face that I wasn’t perfect, my marriage wasn’t perfect, my life wasn’t perfect, and that it never would be. And that was really annoying, because, guys, I’ve spent a lifetime trying really hard.
I felt the fear rise up. And then I remembered this, “We can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved” – Glennon Doyle
Real, please. I choose to be real.