"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."~From an essay by The Reverend Victoria Safford in The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled TimesHope. It's a word with promise. A word that inspires. But hope it also a word that can keep us stuck in a place that's all wrong for us. A place in which we've abandoned ourselves for someone or something else. A place that isn't even close to where we want to be, to where we should be. But no matter. We hope that things will change. We hope that he'll recognize what he stands to lose. We hope that somehow we'll wake up from this nightmare and everything will be as it was. As it should be.
Hope. It can build movements, it can liberate the oppressed, it can assure our survival in the worst conditions. But it can also keep us stuck.
The "Hope" that Reverend Stafford refers to is the hope of rolled-up sleeves and gritty determination. Her Hope isn't made of fantasy and innocence. As she writes, "It's a difficult, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your soul first of all..."
Does that sound like the place you're in? Cause it sure as hell sounds like the place I was in. And sometimes find myself again.
Read her lines again carefully. Hope, she says, is truth-telling. It's not wishful thinking. It's about asking yourself, honestly, where you want to be. It's about asking yourself, honestly, what about my husband makes me believe he deserves the second chance he's asking for. What in his past makes me think he could be a better man in his future. Is he a good guy who made a mammoth mistake? Or is he showing me who he is?
Hope, she says, is a place of "resistance and defiance." It's about resisting our cultural prescription to throw him out and start over with someone else, unless that decision comes from conviction that it's the right path for you. It's about resisting our cultural narrative that men cheat because their wives get old, or they nag, or they don't put out enough. It's about defying that deep-down fear that he cheated because we're not [insert-adjective-here] enough. Not pretty enough. Not nice enough. Not smart enough. Not skinny enough. Not sexy enough. This is truth-telling, remember? We're absolutely enough. It's his moral compass that's defective, not us.
And, as Stafford writes, hope is about seeing the world as it is, how it could be, how it will be. It's about allowing ourselves to open to possibility. To understand that growth happens even in the tiniest cracks in pavement.
Finally, and I know this is a HUGE stretch for those of you who are new to this site and to the devastation of betrayal, it's about glimpsing the joy in the struggle. Joy? Am I crazy? Yeah, a little bit. But yes, joy.
There's joy in overcoming. There's incredible joy for me in all of you who come here to lay down your pain, for just a minute or two or twenty, who trust me and my incredible guest bloggers (Steam! Laura S! The volunteers at the Infidelity Counselling Network!) with your stories. There's joy in seeing that my husband has kept his promises – to me and to our kids, but more importantly to himself.
There's joy in having survived.
And now I stand here, able to see what I can see. To see that it's possible to survive this and feel joy again. To see that it's possible to use the experience of being cracked open with pain to begin to plant seeds of healing from not only this but long-ago wounds. To see that it's possible for marriages to become stronger and more resilient. To see that it's also possible for marriages to crumble but for the betrayed wife to nonetheless become stronger. To not crumble along with it.
It's a helluva view. I hope you'll join me here soon.