Although I can’t quite bring myself to write “Dear Other Woman”, I do want to tell you from the start that this is primarily a letter of gratitude.
I know, I know, you don’t believe me, but hear me out and you’ll see that this letter is a list of thankfulness.
A thank-you note is required.
When I realized my primary feelings toward you now are ones of thankfulness, my Southern heritage got the best of me and I felt a Thank-you note was required. Know that my words are quite sincere, because thanks to you, I am now living the life I was created for.
First I’d like to thank you for bringing to the light, the rotting stench of resolution that my marriage had become. There were reasons we got there- just as there always are, and we both played a part, it’s true. I don’t believe that excuses validate what you did, what he did, what you did together, but I am grateful that the zombie-dead thing our marriage had become was exposed for what it was. Only then could there be a change.
The next several thank-you’s all relate to that.
As I went through the stages of despair and depression, grief and anger, separation and starting over, I was forced to face myself and who I had become. I was forced to deal with long-held beliefs and patterns of behavior that just weren’t true.
I was finally forced to face them and change or continue on in who I had somehow slowly become. I was forced to learn to TRULY forgive- others and myself, to see hope and possibilities in outwardly dead-appearing situations, to know that Joy CAN be found independent of our circumstances. I truly, deep down, for the first time- incredibly- understood His unconditional love and adoration for me. I FINALLY understood that “peace that passes understanding” and for the first time, understood that faith is a GIFT, not something I earn.
I realized I had the opportunity and duty and ability to change things in my life- even my job and my hobbies and how I spend my time so that I was more simply and clearly living out the life I was created to live. I learned that I DON”T want all those “things” that I’d spent the last 2 decades chasing and I felt the incomparable lightening of the burden of living a life I wasn’t passionate about.
My next set of thank-you’s revolve around my marriage. I am not going to go into detail about these because I don’t think that would be good for either of us, but I can’t thank you enough for making me see that by NOT seeing my marriage and my husband for what they were- what they had slowly become- I was losing them both to complacency and hopelessness. Thank you for making me see and helping me start the process of transforming my marriage and my love for my husband. He is truly one of my greatest gifts and I took for granted how blessed I am to be his wife, to be loved by Him.
As the first hardest months passed by hour by hour, it was all I could do many days to awaken, shower and eat. Thankfully there are so many who were there to walk beside me- to be my alarm and my reminders, my meal-sharers and my hope-givers, and to my surprise, my sharers in this horror of infidelity. I realized that I was NOT alone, I was not the first one who had been through this and that others had made it through to the other side; some with marriage intact and some forging a new life alone. I realized how self-absorbed I’d been, how confident in my “perfect life”, how judgmental on those who were in situations “I’d never be in”. I realized how sometimes help and support come from unexpected places and that walking with others through pain can forge bonds that are stronger than the strongest material made on earth. I am grateful to the point of tears for the friends who loved me, supported me, tolerated me, encouraged me and held me up when I couldn’t see past the pain of the minute. For THAT I am eternally grateful.
Then, it started.
The last set of “thank-you’s” I have to share. The phone calls, the texts, the emails, the visits, the messages- “My marriage is struggling and I don’t know who else to talk to”. “My friend/brother/cousin/whomever’s marriage is struggling- can I give them your number?” I certainly did NOT-do not- feel qualified to “help” anyone else as I was (am) still stumbling through all these lessons and pain but I knew what it was to have someone listen and say “I understand” when nothing else could help. The truth is you can’t truly understand- the depth of pain, the despair, the fear, the SHAME, the anxiety, the worry, the perseveration.
The hope, the dashed hopes, the anger and the apathy, the joy and the acceptance, the roller-coaster rides and the decision to get off. The glimmers of hope when real change begins, and the quiet acceptance when sometimes you have to move forward alone, in faith. It was through all of this that I realized what I was created for and what really matters in life and for that, there are no words that could ever show my gratitude.
I will end by just saying, once more, from the heart- Thank-you.
If you asked me today (and many have) if I would trade having gone through this, one part of me says “Of course- are you insane?!”. The other part of me quickly asks though, “Would I have to give up the lessons I’ve learned, the new knowledge, the life and love I’ve found?” and if the answer to that were “Yes” then I can tell you without a doubt, my answer to you would be a proud, resounding, confident “Absolutely not”.
You see, because of you, I am now truly me.
Dear Anonymous: Your words take my breath away. It is true that we really don’t understand what another has gone through until we are there. But to see thankfulness in the midst of heart-ache is a gift. A gift from God as he needs you to be there for others. Blessings on your journey ahead with your husband.
Dear Reader: If you have encouraging words for Anonymous, please leave them below. Have you been there? Are you there now? This series began as 31 days of Anonymity, but as letters continue to come in I want to give you a voice. Read all the letters in the series here. If you have an anonymous letter you’d like to write you can send it to alenesnodgrass [at] gmail [dot] com.