Often we forget the simple things. Things that once meant the most to us. As I sit with my ankles crossed on a floral-patterned fleece blanket I’ve spread upon the fresh cut grass, I can’t help but look around. I see the young men playing basketball shirtless on the court, a couple pushing their restless toddler daughter on the vibrant colored swing set, and a father catching his anxious daughter at the bottom of the slide. I crack a smile as I listen to the sound of the many birds whistling in sync throughout the trees, while shamelessly indulging in the scent of fresh pine from the surrounding forests.
While the simplicity of nature is mesmerizing, the best part is when I recline back onto the soft blanket with my big brown eyes to the infinite sky. Looking up, I see a shade of blue so tranquil and beautiful that only our creator could make. The temperature outside is seventy-two degrees, slightly breezy and mostly sunny. My big, kinky, curly hair is blowing with the touch of each key stroke. In my mind I’m envisioning and reminiscing of the deep stroke that put me to a sound sleep last night.
So, who am I? I’m just like you. While you may not be a 5’9” African-American woman in her early thirties, you and I are both temporal and we both have at some point experienced a degree of love and an analogous degree of desolation and pain. When we’re emotionally hurt, we find we are more subjective to vulnerability, or at least that’s what we convince ourselves. So many times, we are so afraid of our own truths that we look for answers everywhere but within us. It took for me to go through nearly two decades of hurt and pain before I learned most of my pain and misery was created by me. In those leading moments, I discovered that I held the secret to my own happiness the entire time. The beauty about life is that we are all unique and we have our own divine purpose to fulfill. And in getting there, everyone has their own personal story created by them and told through them.
As the beauty of life amazes me, I can’t help but think of the reality that lies back at home. The reality that I’m in my thirties, I’m at my wit’s end in my marriage, transitioning between careers, and still trying to “figure out” life’s next move. One thing for certain is that life is about choices, and your choices determine your destiny. I own my decisions, both good and bad. I want to live; I want to do the things that make me most happy. I’m emotionally-driven with an insatiable curiosity, and while at times I can be a bit overly defensive and sensitive, its only because of my desire for genuine, incontestable love.
No person wants to work at a job they despise and dread just for a mere check. If you, like most of us, must invest forty to sixty hours a week in doing something, there should at least be some degree of gratification beyond financial. Living a fulfilling life is about making the choices that align with your destination. I don’t want easy as most things worth having will take hard work to not only get, but to maintain. So often I’m mistaken for being condescending. But the reality is, I’m quite the opposite. Do I have expectations for and from my life? Yes. And I’ve learned to not apologize for fulfilling my dreams.
While I’ve come to know the true value of my inner beauty and my worth (which cannot be justified materialistically), I can’t help but ponder on the fact that the truth remains the same. So how did I go from making a competitive annual salary, vacationing in Miami and cruising regularly, to being alone and losing a grip on the things that meant the most to me? Life hit me like a speeding train all at once, but I will take it back to November 2015 …
“I don’t see why we have to go to school when Thanksgiving break is only a few days away,” mumbled Jada, my nine-year-old mini-me.
“You’re going to school and this is non-negotiable. You girls played in the pool all night knowing we’d be flying back to Memphis at five in the morning, knowing school starts at eight a.m. So, yes! I will be outside in the truck waiting on you two,” I said to my little queens as I prepared to take them to their preparatory academy.
I sat in the driver’s seat and pulled down my mirrored sun visor to apply my favorite cocoa shade of lipstick that complemented my medium-brown skin tone. As I watched my girls walk back inside through the rearview mirror, the thought of not being in their lives brought an instant chill to my spine and pain to my heart.
The more I replayed last night over in my mind, the more disgusted I became with myself. After spending four fabulous days in Daytona Beach and Universal Studios with my family, an unexplainably intense feeling hit my heart … like a part of me died instantly.
I found myself knee deep in the Atlantic Ocean at midnight contemplating suicide and I didn’t even know why. A non-holy spirit came upon me that I couldn’t explain … like something was telling me that I couldn’t go on anymore. My husband followed me out the beachfront hotel and stood in the sand as I explored the unfamiliar waters.
He fearlessly tested my insanity, allowing me to venture out into the ocean waters. When he saw I showed no fear of depth nor death, he quickly rushed in, pulling me ashore before I went to the point of no return. I can’t swim. He insisted it was just a phase—a pre-midlife crisis of some sort—but I couldn’t ignore it, couldn’t shake it, or put my finger on it. Then came the storm of life.
Chapter 1: The Storm
Like clockwork, my bladder wakes me up every morning faithfully in the early two o’clock hour to use the bathroom. This particular morning when I awoke, there was a continual blue light gleaming from my husband’s side of the room.
“TJ wake up … baby get up,” I said as I nudged my husband in his side while he slept serenely. He lay there motionless. He’d only been home for a couple of hours.
I knew he was exhausted. His nine-year-old daughter, my only step-daughter, got hurt earlier at school that day. He sat at the children’s hospital with her for several hours. I offered to accompany him, but he insisted I stay home. He didn’t know how long the parent’s presence would be required, and he didn’t want me to be away from the kids for too long. Although my husband and I have no ‘biological’ children together, he has been an energizing part of our lives for the last seven years. I love his two children as I do my own.
I tried to wake him to let him know that his phone was doing something, but he didn’t budge. He must have left his phone in his jeans when he got into the bed. I started to make my way to the bathroom on the opposite side of the room. I stopped dead in my tracks when I indeed confirmed that I heard his phone vibrating. Immediately I thought it was something urgent at that time of morning, especially considering the incident with his daughter. I bent down to pick up his pants and his cell phone fell to the cold hardwood floor. When I picked his phone up, I could feel the vibrations in my palm. My heart dropped when I turned it over.
Words cannot describe my disappointment and hurt to see that it was an incoming call from his ex-mistress in the wee hours of the morning. My first thought was to answer the phone as I thought the affair ended years ago, but the shock wouldn’t allow me to come to terms with the fact that she was still in his life and her contact name was saved as “wifey.” My issue was not with her at that point. I can’t control the agenda of a wicked or promiscuous woman. My issue was with the man who I made a commitment to and desired loyalty from above all. He had an affair with her less than a year after we got married and she managed to pop-up sporadically over the years. He always dismissed it as a coincidence and insisted she meant nothing, but deep down inside I always had that gut feeling that she would eventually pop-up again … and again.
Once the phone stopped vibrating, I took a deep breath and proceeded to unlock his phone with our mutual unlock code—our anniversary. I went to his text messages and saw a series of new text messages.
Wifey: “The baby is coming!!!” 1:51a.m.
Wifey: Image (Photo of her in a hospital room in a gown holding her stomach) 2:25a.m.
Wifey: “Where r u babe? U said u were coming rite back.” 2:38a.m.
I dropped his phone onto the hardwood floor in our bedroom. What was once clear was now a haze as I looked around the room in despair. I looked over at him sleeping peacefully in our bed, not bothered by the noise or turmoil brewing inside me. I thought about all the things that I could do to him while he lay asleep without a care in the world. All of the things I should do to him in this moment. A cast iron skillet to the head, hot grits to his chest, or Lorena Bobbitt to the dick to name a few. I thought about how I’d invested the last six years into a marriage that appeared perfect to the world, yet was a lie being lived every day.
I picked up his phone off the floor and I invaded his privacy as if it was my given right to do so. I walked over to him slowly. I took a deep breath as my chest pounded heavily. I forcefully threw his phone at his bare chest. He awoke abruptly.
“What’s wrong baby?” he asked astonished as he started to sit upright and squint his eyes.
He could see the hurt and pain in my face. I was beyond tears as I had been through so much that I couldn’t shed another. I leaned over to him and whispered into his ear.
“Get your shit and get the fuck out of this house. Don’t make a scene and don’t get loud with me.”
The kids were asleep and I wanted them to stay that way. His phone continued to vibrate and after he unlocked his phone, reality became transparent as he sat in silence. He saw where I screenshot their text thread over the last two weeks and sent the images to my phone. I didn’t care enough to delete the messages from his sent folder either. I wanted him to know I saw everything and I knew everything. Also, just in case I needed evidence to prove infidelity in court, I had all the proof I needed.
He sat at the foot of the bed and watched as I paced back and forth. Neither one of us was certain as to what I was going to do. Of all the things he could say, when he finally spoke he said, “So you’re really going to throw our marriage away all because of a pregnant hoe lying on me?”
I looked at him and laughed at the way he insulted my intelligence. I laughed at the way he thought I would sweep this under the rug like every other act of infidelity. I read how he said that he was happy she was having his child and they’re a family. I synced my iPhone to my Bluetooth speaker and began listening to Sade. I packed his belongings, although many of his personal items were still in the oversize suitcase from the trip we’d literally just gotten back from. Tears streamed down his face as he pleaded to talk to me about the situation at hand. I walked past him as if he didn’t exist to me anymore. I heard the kids awakening in their rooms but urged them to go back to bed. It was only 4 a.m. at that time and too early for them to be up.
I locked myself in the bathroom and cried the tears that I didn’t know I had remaining in me. I had to be at work at 6 a.m. but couldn’t bear to face him—the world—anyone. I stared into the mirror and saw a face I could no longer recognize. My pain was written all over my face. I felt so much shame, hurt, and embarrassment. How could this have gone on for this long? How could he lie about his daughter being injured? How could he have been so reckless and so damn careless? How could he bring another life into this world when he has a whole family at home? I worked hard as the breadwinner and rarely asked him to contribute financially. I went into debt to build his damn cleaning business from the ground up, and for what? How could I hide this from the world like I’d done in the past?
The questions were endless, though I never questioned God despite the hurt being painfully overwhelming. I called my immediate supervisor and was instructed to take some time off from work, as much time as needed to figure things out and recuperate.
One day off turned into three weeks off and before I knew it, Christmas was only a couple weeks away. I hid from my family and friends. I shut everyone out of my life seeking solitude and peace within. Despite all the things that I erased, the truth was something that couldn’t be.
It’s ironic because a year or so prior to the ultimate lovechild affair, an incident involving a dating app and multiple women occurred, and he reassured me that it was never anything physical or sexual. He said that it was just for entertainment. I worked a lot and was oftentimes tired. Nothing but messages and pictures were exchanged, so no harm done he insisted. I know that as humans no one is perfect, so I chose to accept the situation and work on getting us back on track. I found a reputable therapist and it took months of begging and pleading before he agreed to go. But he finally agreed.
TJ was very indifferent about going to counseling as he felt it would be another episode of the blame game, shaming and antagonizing him. I do recall one specific counseling session that we attended. During the entire session, TJ was quiet for the most part and when he did speak, he spoke as if he was genuinely apologetic for the affairs and pain caused as a result. At one point however, he told the therapist that “If you go looking for something, you will find it.”
The doctor asked me how I felt about that statement. My reply was, “I think its bullshit. If I go outside looking for a million dollars, will I stumble across it? No. If something isn’t there, then it simply isn’t there. Point being, if you’re doing nothing then there is nothing to hide. If I’m loyal in my marriage, there is no way he could pick up my phone and magically signs of infidelity appear all because he went on a quest to find something.”
As time began to pass, I knew I had enough vacation time and sick time accumulated to cover my absence, but on the same token, all the free time on my hands was driving me insane. It drove me crazy because I wondered if he was with her. I wondered if going back was even a considerable option at that point. I passed time by making hand poured massage oil candles and sitting at the park for hours at a time, writing and reading. I passed time by not acknowledging my emotional state and just hoping it would go back to normal on its own.
Less than a week after finally returning to work, I had an unexpected visit from a woman I was unfamiliar with. I overheard her specifically requesting my presence as the matter at hand was urgent. She asked me if I could step away since it was a private matter.
I agreed and we stepped outside the building. She introduced herself, using only her first name—Angela—as if I was to automatically know who she was. She then proceeded to remind me of the text messages she and I exchanged a couple months ago regarding TJ. But there had been so many women, I honestly had no recollection of any of it.
Angela stated she had to do this in person and waited as long as she could, but I needed to know that my husband was the father of her daughter. The baby was only three months old at the time, making both of his new additions only three months apart in age.
In its purest form of honesty, I was still so incredibly numb from everything transpiring in my life that it didn’t immediately register, so I showed no emotion or regard to the matter that she was trying to discuss.
I was very nonchalant and informed her that her alleged child with TJ was not my problem as we were no longer together due to the bombshell of another baby and I walked away. She attempted to show me text messages and pictures of him with their child to confirm, but they were all so irrelevant at that point.
Needless to say when confronted with the truth, there was total denial across the board from TJ. It was then I realized that you can’t want or expect more for people than they want or expect for themselves. We are who we are individually and just because we have certain values, morals, and beliefs, we can’t expect others to share them, accept them or agree with them. Clear communication is critical in any successful relationship. Whether it be home, work, school, etc. Clear communication removes misconceptions as it’s open, honest, and unfiltered. It doesn’t mean that you must be obscene or offensive, simply be a person of good character. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Stand by your word as it goes hand-in-hand with action when it comes to defining your character.
As the new year approached, I was too afraid of what the future held, so I chose to live in the fears of the past. My fear gave me permission to withdraw from life and I felt the misery of my isolation and loneliness. So, I went back to the only thing that made sense, the only thing that seemed safe to me in a world filled with chaos and deceit. I went to TJ for comfort and familiarity, sneaking and creeping with my own husband as I knew he’d taken on the role as a new father and forced provider.
While I don’t fault myself for seeking his presence as I value marriage and what it stands for, I do fault myself for not allowing myself adequate time to heal emotionally. I wanted to be with him for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be with him because I didn’t want him to be with them. I wanted to be with him because I didn’t know how to be without him … because I didn’t want to feel defeated.
I knew that the pain was real because I felt it every time I looked at him, every time I thought about the babies. But there was always this unrealistic, deranged part of me that thought this wound would heal on its own as the human body possesses an astonishing capacity to heal itself. I waited and waited for something that never occurred. The days turned into weeks which turned into months. We were just holding onto hope, too afraid to let go. While I knew that he was whole-heartedly putting forth a genuine effort to mend our shattered relationship, it just wasn’t enough, or maybe it was just too late. I knew what I needed, but I masked my feelings behind what I felt I wanted at the time.
Don’t misunderstand me when I say that I was totally blinded by the infidelities. My husband is 6’2”, dark chocolate skinned tone, slim to medium build and has the potential to be a good mate. He has secrets, insecurities, and a past like we all do, so perfection was never my objective as I too am perfectly imperfect. However, when I say he’s a good man, I mean the brotha hustles hard in the streets, cooks gourmet meals, cleans the house from top to bottom like we have a maid service, loves to organize, runs my bath water, helps with the kids’ homework and projects, pampers me like we are still in the honeymoon phase, puts it down like he deserves the crown, and is protective like a soldier. He is all of that and beyond. The man even combs my daughters’ hair in styles that are often complimented, and I’m not talking that blow-and-go hair. I’m talking grease, edge control, barrettes, and old-fashioned straightening combs. I honestly don’t know how or even when he managed to find the time to be both my husband and their lover, but somehow this life sort of just happened, and this is just the aftermath.