It would not be easy to number the things I have learned in the two years since falling in love with another man.
Although if I did, I might discover that the number is actually finite—because sometimes it feels infinite. It feels as though I am still (and endlessly will be) discovering more.
For now, I’ll begin the task of trying to quantify my understanding to date.
A disclaimer: I am in no way promoting having an affair, nor am I assuaging myself of the guilt I carry for my actions—lest anyone should think otherwise—this is just my personal inquiry of the wisdom I can derive at this point in my life as I work to let go of and heal from the impact of this experience.
I am actually capable of anything.
Now, all of the things I once categorized as—“I would never!” have become an accidental bucket list.
Having an affair was the biggest, juiciest doozy on that list. It was the one thing that I would truly never, of all my nevers.
This affair became the undoing of who I always thought I was. It was the removal of the innermost layer of self-righteousness that kept me from being ‘one of those people.’
In this way, of decidedly ridding myself of this self-image—I learned genuine compassion for my fellow human beings.
I learned what forgiveness takes. I gained a sincere understanding that there are no wrong paths, there are no bad intentions—that we are all doing the best we can do, given where we are on our path and the resources we have available at the time.
It gave me deep love and appreciation for our collective experience here and a sense of belonging. I am capable of anything in the human expression, just like everyone else.
I am not special. And this understanding is extremely freeing.
I distract myself from my own life.
Now, hear me out. I know it may seem crazy or impossible—because hello—how can I distract myself from the life I am living? I am immersed in it after all.
But it’s true. For someone who claims to be present, I rarely am. Most of the time, I only pretend to be present. The impact of this can no longer be ignored.
It is evidenced in my day to day life, in my relationships, in my work, and in my ability to even be with myself in meditation. Having an affair was the easiest method through which I would distract myself.
It was my drug of choice—simply for the gigantic intoxication factor of the potent emotions I experience. It quickly grew into my most intense craving, the withdrawals of which were exquisitely painful.
Until now, I have been at the effect of this need. Until experiencing the penetrating starkness of this impact, I only wanted to keep the addiction satisfied.
I am now interested in healing this disease. I am now interested in choosing my life, in this moment, as it is.
Without wanting to change, alter or fix anything. In many ways, experiencing this long distance love affair—gave me new life.
I am now moving toward balance in every possible way.
I am actually worthy of my own love.
The love I seek is not outside of myself. The expression of my love is generated within myself, for myself and for those around me.
Looking for it outside of this source is fruitless and endlessly frustrating.
When I discovered that no amount of love being shown me was enough to satisfy my need, I realized that it was not possible to be satisfied this way.
I realized I had been looking through a distorted view. I learned that what I am seeking is my own love; my own acceptance, my own faith, my own devotion.
I love having sex with my husband.
For years I complained that we didn’t have it often enough, but it was never my fault.
I would place the blame on him, as though he should be responsible for initiating sex (as girls, we’re often taught this ‘should’… and I carried it too long into adulthood).
I learned that sometimes I love having sex and sometimes I don’t want to have sex and that this ebb and flow is natural for me.
I learned how deeply personal the experience of sex is and how important it is to me. I learned that because it is so sacred to me, I want a partner who holds it equally sacred.
I learned that what I want in a partner, is precisely what I must to bring to the table. I want to be someone who holds the sacred, sacred. I want to be someone who walks her talk.
Someone willing to be honest, vulnerable and naked with herself and with her partner. And finally:
Love is not just an emotion.
I found myself sinking deeper into the guilt and shame about being someone who could actually have an affair.
Depression, anxiety, insecurity, self loathing—all took me over at one time or another.
Yet, having to face myself day after day while feeling the emotional pull of loving two men—having to put one foot in front of the other and manage to keep breathing, as I watched my little family stumble and we all became strangers in our pain and our anger and our fear.
Feeling the weight of my choices heaved upon my husband and daughter—knowing their new struggle was given to them without their choice, that I had laid this burden directly upon them because of my love for another man.
Getting to know them this way, as we all struggled with each other, the three of us; strangers to each other and yet still managing to hold one another when there were no words.
I learned that real love isn’t only a feeling; like light, it is a wave and a particle.
Love is emotion. Love is also manifested action. It is the ‘what I am’ and it is the ‘who I am’. Love isn’t about who I am with physically. Love is about who I am being in my own life.
And I am worthy of fully being who I am. This is the beginning stages of an ongoing inquiry into myself.
There are so many emotions attached to this experience, that it is easy to be distracted by them. It is my intention to remain open, to deepen my practice of presence, to start to do things differently.
I will explore this experience for all that it gave me, with gratitude and with reverence and with grace.
“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid.
You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression.
You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.”
This article originally appeared on ElephantJournal.com