"Are You the Other Woman?"
I got dressed thinking of the text messages exchanged between my childhood best friend and myself this morning. She told me, “It wasn't that I didn’t have time after my lunch. My honest feelings – it was pure exhaustion with the roller coaster of you and (him). And that was after you sent that huge group message about (breaking your engagement), which rubbed me the wrong way. Prohibiting me from asking about him… someone who I have spent a lot of time and energy helping you navigate, someone who came to my wedding and met my closest friends and family… but I wasn’t allowed to ask about it. I didn’t think it was fair, but not my decision.”
I felt like this was entirely hypocritical of her – if she were exhausted by discussing the situation my relationship had become, then how could she also claim to be hurt by my letting my closest girlfriends off the hook in the blatant statement that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore? Because trust me, I knew everyone was purely exhausted by it. I include myself in this exhaustion; it was the definition of insanity and I didn’t want to hurt anyone with it anymore… Not him, not myself, not any of our loved ones on both sides who were being dragged up and down, up and down on this rollercoaster.
For a minute or two I felt the familiar aloneness that has, unfortunately, become the norm of my conscious brain, but I must have assimilated a quote into my subconscious Jo had sent me last night, because the anger and loneliness didn’t debilitate me, or even stay long. The message said, “Anything that annoys you is teaching you patience. Anyone who abandons you is teaching you how to stand up on your own two feet. Anything that angers you is teaching you forgiveness and compassion.
Anything that has power over you is teaching you how to take your power back. Anything you hate is teaching you unconditional love. Anything you fear is teaching you courage to overcome your fear. Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go. – Jackson Kiddard”
And just like that, my thought pattern switched; “I’ve done this alone before and I will do this alone again.” I walked out the door with purpose – I needed to get out of this apartment and working at The Original Farmer’s Market on 3rd & Fairfax, a place that provides me comfort and inspiration knowing that four generations of my family have frequented it, was the aim.
Along the way, I made myself useful and listened to Sheena Iyengar’s TED talk “The art of choosing”. In the middle of it, Sarah messaged me from London, “Fuck everyone!!! (Except for you.) Another recruiter just canceled on me! Basically 3 cancellations this week! It seems I am alone again and very fired up about it!!” My god, however many months or miles between our interactions, this woman and I seem to have a magical connection. I sent the link to the TED talk and told her it was “required homework for us to discuss tomorrow” on her way to pick her daughter up from school.
About the same time, I passed Fat Dog and was reminded of the last time I saw Jeremy, a high school love interest but more importantly, my long-time friend that I had fallen out of touch with. We often disagreed and needed space in our friendship, but he had been exceptionally distant the last few years. Not having spoken to him in I couldn’t remember how long, and knowing his affinity for the Japanese culture, I sent the TED talk to him as well, with a silly note hoping to rebuild the bridge.
With letting those informational seeds go, my attention turned to my blog – my content had become so serious as the realities in my life in this era are all, very serious. I wanted something light and positive to write about, but I would really have to dig for that subject matter… BAM! My phone started ringing. It was Jeremy’s photo and name, but when I answered, it was a woman. “Hi, this is Jeremy’s wife,” she said.
Now, some women may have found this shocking, but I didn’t. As a matter of fact, I was all too happy to meet this girl. Amongst the first minute of our interaction she was clear and calm in her communications with me and I had immediate respect for her. First of all, she is not – by far – the first woman to accuse me of having an affair with her husband. You name it: different countries, ages, relationships, ways of my finding out women were convinced I was fucking their husbands… I’ve heard most of it. And the one time I was that woman, I didn’t hide it from her. I knew her husband had been cheating on her for over 15 years – it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with their relationship’s irreconcilable differences. So my basic response is now, “It’s pretty simple: if I wanted to fuck your husband, I would, and you wouldn’t know about it – unless one of us wanted you to.” Secondly, I kindly explained that although I, of course, had slept with him many years ago, I definitely was not having an affair with Jeremy. Third I said, “And pardon my initial reaction, as I don’t even know your name, but all I really want to say to you is, ‘Congratulations!’ I’m so excited you guys got married!”
This stranger and I spent the next 40 minutes on the phone discussing our nearly identical situations in life, and our similar qualms and feelings about living in them – the only difference was, she married the guy, whereas I pilot-style ejected from my wedding plans. Both of our friends don’t want to hear about the up’s and down’s of our relationship’s roller coasters anymore, both of us are questioning the line between “practice, learning and just plain life” and “remaining in the definition of insanity.” We agreed that the only one to know that tipping point is us, and yet, it is so difficult to find this tipping point from inside the relationship.
This was so crazy to me, as if looking at a perfect reflection of myself in her voice – it seems to me that had I fought to stay with the same guy I fell for in high school (not that this was an option) or I moved around the world (which I have done a handful of times now)… I would still be in the same position, battling in the same fights! The same underlying habits, the same personality traits, the same refusals of intimacy, the same separation techniques, etc… Sure, “he” looks different, has a different name, is from a different place, holds a different job title and all the rest of it, but strip all back, and they’re the same.
I always refer back to my pearl necklace explanation: each pearl on a necklace is compromised of pearls that grew in a different oyster, in a different place in the ocean floor, with different temperatures and currents swirling around it, different experiences for each animal, etc… But they all ended up on the same string, and that underlying string is what I’m interested in. What are the invisible associations uniting all these seemingly similar-yet-different (or seemingly different-but-similar?) behavioral patterns? And once I figure out those, then it’s deciphering what lessons they’re here to teach me, so that I can overcome my own blockages. Phew… life is so hard.
Weirdly, this stranger and I seem to be on the same trajectory in our love lives – learning similar lessons, (whatever those are, we have yet to figure out)… Just as Sarah and I are on the same trajectory in our careers. We have all these different wavelengths within our lives – constantly weaving with others’ wavelengths as they align on the same hang-up’s or success lines, either way providing a comforting, “you are not alone” feeling, a sense of belonging and being in the trenches or on the podium together. These wavelengths touch when we need them to, ride along for a bit, and then lead us off in other directions to other wavelengths that are needed more when the time is right.
“Imagine the power we would hold as women if we continued to treat one another with this up front confidence, respect and nurturing? What a better place this world would be. You’ve started it today. WE have started it today. With the women in the mirror!” I told her. She agreed that a lot of women would not have called and that a lot of women answering that call would have just hung up, “but not us,” we united. “We are brave and strong and will make the world a better place by being these things together,” she told me.
We were strangers no more and I felt so grateful for her bold confidence when he offered for her to call me from his phone. I didn’t stick to my rigid, Germanic, calculated schedule today, instead, I went with the flow… and it’s turned out far better than I ever could have imagined, or planned for. Here, across the street from the Writers Guild of America, West – a union I hope to join – from a table on the sunshine speckled patio of Dupar’s – a place many of my family members for generations have eaten on – I wrote these thoughts and experiences about fucking other women’s husbands.
“Oh, the places you’ll go,” Little Lady. Hang tough.