By Jennifer Upton.
There is no way to dress it up for you not to judge, or for my eyes not to pour quarter-sized tears as I voice my shame.
I cannot place my naked truth into poetic flow for it to roll off your tongue, so I am just going to say it:
My husband and I committed adultery. He knocked on a woman’s door that wasn’t ours; I opened our door to a man who belonged to someone else.
Our marriage story as we told it — girl and boy meet at the tender age of 12, marry at 18, have a baby boy at 19, and live happily committed ever after — was a lie.
There was no happily committed ever after. We failed and we broke into millions of pieces after finally admitting, after eight years of secrecy, that we’d each had an affair almost one year to the date of the other.
We knew well our individual acts, but never imagined we’d both swum in the same dark waters of adultery.
The day of Revelation, December 17th, 2010, was not a pretty one. It was messy. There were tears, crawling on knees on our marble bathroom floor, poison spewed from insides, limp bodies on the floor of a white-tiled shower with heads to the drain.
But what we feared the most — the telling of our secrets — is what set us free.
Tongues pulsated after years of being held in submission.
Chains dropped to the ground.
When you place yourself before someone you aren’t knitted to, your heart becomes bitter, your mouth tells lies, and you cover yourself in a garment of shame. Afraid of being seen, you become imprisoned.
Had either of us walked away that day, we would have been homesick forever, gypsy travelers bent beneath the weight of leaving.
It is only through grace that we were able to stay.
We almost lost this love of ours. We have fought long and we have fought hard. We have roared and we have wrestled. We have captured, and now we are re-claiming what remains in the ashes of the blaze that burned our marriage down to the ground. But the blaze did not reach beneath the surface, into the depth of who we are at our cores.
To mark 19 years of marriage and 9 years post-adultery, I made a request of my husband to place a Sharpie in his hand and press it into my skin. I needed to feel the words that I now believe to be true.
There is something sacred about the sinking, the rooting, the breathing, within the full attention of one’s self. Messages, holy and sacred, that will grow deep into me — the always of me.
I dredged my body from within the deep, soaking wet. I removed the garment of shame, hanging it on the cross along the shoreline of my arrival. I laid myself bare — no makeup, no dyed hair, no turquoise nails.
Just me, all of me as I am, naked and unashamed, my body an altar, the pen in his hand like a match striking up a flame, his words speaking the truth of who I am, setting my soul ablaze while burning away any remaining lies, lies that say I am not good enough.
It isn’t enough to just hear words being spoken. I also need to feel them pressed hard against the landscape of my flesh. I need to see them through my lens as they sink beneath wounds that pulsate. I need the truth of who I am to shore up a foundation beneath wounds that are trying to crevice their way into my heart.
I am tired of hiding. Tired of trying to be her, the one whose door my my husband chose to knock at nine years back.
I was tired of walking into shoe stores and wondering which pair she would choose, making myself believe that they should also be my choice because that is what the man I have loved since I was 12 years old desired.
I was tired of reliving the day my husband was out of town and I opened the door to our family home when the knock of another man rang out.
After years of burning, this day was the day in which what remained in the ashes was given fresh ground to be planted upon — holy ground — truth planted on our sacred ground like the olive tree whose roots cannot be burned away.
Jennifer Upton is a storyteller, an excavator of the sacred, exploring the world with an open and listening heart, diving deep into the wooded areas of life to uncover the stories hidden there. She writes as an act of faith, sharing the gritty truth and beauty of life on the pages of her blog, and shares the world as seen through her lens at A Shared Lens.