Before that new year post last week, I had been away for quite a while. It will suffice to say that I was battling with demons. November turned out to be quite a rough month for me. A month in which I cursed and lamented and cried on the floor of my bedsit wondering why on earth she could do something like that to me. My heart had been broken, my trust betrayed and I was drowning in pain I haven’t felt in a long time. I promised myself that it would be better as the days went by. A week of mourning my lost love and nursing a terrible heartbreak tuned into two and before long it was two months before I could finally gather the courage to pick myself up and move on.
It was terrible, confusing and it hurt really bad. At first, I didn’t know how to handle it so I took a pen and randomly started penning down my thoughts and feelings raw as they were. Out of the notes came the last post I did before I went missing in action. That post was sentimental trivialities. But as therapeutic as writing could be to me, I soon became immune to it. My brain refused to cooperate. I needed something else, something that could make me forget the pain even if just temporarily, something more engaging so I took up painting. And in the strong odor of the paint, my wild imagination of what I wanted to create and empty canvases in front of me, the pain faded away slowly. Every stroke of brush and every breath I exhaled in that room filled with paint took a piece of the pain with it.
I became less angry and more composed. But I never forgot, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I thought about painting her face in those rageful moments but the thought of seeing her face, soothing as that face was, stung me deep in my core and once again opened the floodgates of pain. I had to shut her out. Get her out of my system. Purify myself of all things her. Life had to go on and I knew I had to move on.
It was a tough journey to freedom. I cursed in my sleep! I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, “May she wake in torment!” I would say in a grumble with frightful vehemence, stamping my feet on the mattress, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. “Why? She’s a liar to the end! Oh! And she said she cared for my feelings!” And in that rage, I would pray one prayer and repeat it till my tongue stiffened, “May she wake in torment! I guess that’s thirty-one pieces of silver you’ve got now, huh? Sleep well, Judas!” And what does anyone know about traitors, or why Judas did what he did anyway? I would curse and then try to force myself back to sleep.
No failure in life, whether of love or money, is ever really that simple; it usually involves a type of a shadowy betrayal, buried in a secret, mass grave of shared hopes and dreams. That universal mass grave exists in a private cemetery that most, both those suffering from the loss, but especially those committing the betrayal, refuse to acknowledge its existence.
Betrayal is never easy to handle and there is no right way to accept it. When you realize you’ve been deeply betrayed, fear really hits you. That’s what you feel first. And then it’s anger and frustration. Then disappointment and disillusionment. Part of the problem is how little we understand about the ultimate effects and consequences of betrayal on our hearts and spirits; and on trust and respect for our fellow brothers and sisters. In writing, there are only really a few good stories to tell, and in the end, betrayal and the failure of love is one of the most powerful stories to tell.
As time went by, I came to realize that if you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind. And my mind is a precious commodity. I could not allow that to happen.
Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s what unites us. The trick is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens. Don’t let them take that from you. And for there to be betrayal, there had to have been trust first. And I did trust that woman. Loved her. We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them; we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged and healed. And I had acknowledged mine and embraced them.
What irritated me most in that entire situation was the fact that I wasn’t really feeling humiliated, or annoyed, or even fooled. Betrayal was what I felt most, my heart broken not just by a lady I was in love with, but also by, as I once believed, a true friend. The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend. And it is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.
I think in the end, she would have stayed with me, out of obligation or maybe comfort. Maybe I was safe to her, and she needed to feel that. I know how scared she could get of the unknown. To her, I must have been some kind of a security blanket. Do you see now, how that couldn’t work for me and why I had to move on? I don’t want to be there, simply because the idea of me being gone is too scary. I want to be someone’s everything. I want fire and passion, and love that’s returned, equally. I want to be someone’s heart. But in this case, I just wasn’t lucky. This was one-way and nothing close to equally returned love.
She apologized profusely of course. I do not know if to call it lying or withholding information. Perhaps it’s the same thing. She said it was a mistake she made not telling me earlier, but the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting her. She, who had done more than any other human being to draw me out of the caves of my secret folded life, now threw me down into deeper recesses of fear and doubt. The fall was greater than I had ever known or imagined it would be, because I had ventured so far into emotion and had abandoned myself to it.
When you care about someone, you can’t just turn that off because you learn they betrayed you. When you love someone and have to let them go, there will always be that small part of yourself that whispers, “What was it that you wanted and why didn’t you fight for it?” I’m not really sure why. But do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don’t think so. That’s what makes the betrayal hurt so much. Amidst the pain, frustration and anger I was still sure I loved her. I still do. A competitive and insecure person will tell you that “true love” is never giving up on someone you’re in love with. A confident and stable person however knows that “moving on’ doesn’t mean you never loved someone. You realize that letting go is what you need to do because both your happiness and hers requires taking different journeys for emotional and spiritual growth. Letting go is sometimes the hardest thing, but it is the most “real love” you will ever experience.
It hurts to breathe. It hurts to live. Part of me wants to hate her. In those moments of pain and anguish, I did not think I could exist without her even though some part of me knew I was being delusional. Thus, with my lips I denounced her, while my heart, bleeding within me, called her tender names. It was love lashed by its own self that spoke. It was pride half-slain that fluttered in the dust. It was my hunger for her love that raged from the bottom of my belly, while my own love, kneeling in silence, prayed for her magical return. Disappointments in love, even betrayals and losses, serve the soul at the very moment they seem in life to be tragedies. The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.
She was a ray of sunshine, a warm summer rain, a bright fire on a cold winter’s day, and now she is just but a memory buried deep into my conscious. Memories that elicit feelings I cannot hold down or ignore. I am afraid to remember her touch. It is touch that is the deadliest enemy of chastity, loyalty, monogamy, rationality and gentility with its codes and conventions and restraints. By touch we are betrayed and betray others. An accidental brushing of shoulders or touching of hands, hands laid on shoulders in a gesture of comfort that lies like a thief, that takes, not gives, that wants, not offers, that awakes, not pacifies. When one flesh is waiting, there is electricity in the merest contact. And mine was forever waiting for her. Imagine what a memory of her touch would do to me.
Why shouldn’t I hate her? Why can’t I hate her? She did the worst thing to me that anyone can do to anyone else. Letting me believe that I was loved and wanted and then tell me that it was all a sham. How savage is that? It was like being left alone in the desert at dusk without water or warmth. It left my mouth dry and my will broken. It sapped my tears and made me hollow.
When denial can no longer hold and we finally have to admit to ourselves that we’ve been lied to, we search frantically for ways to keep it from disrupting our lives. So, we rationalize. We find “good reasons” to justify their lying, just as people almost always accompany their confessions with “good reasons” for their lies. They tell us that they only lied because of this and that. We convince ourselves they only lied because of that and this. We make excuses for them: the lying wasn’t significant, everybody lies, she’s only human, I have no right to judge her and such other crap.
Allowing the lies to register in our consciousness means having to make room for any number of frightening possibilities: she’s not the woman you thought she was, the relationship has spun out of control and you don’t know what to do, the relationship may be over, you will never hold her in your arms again, she will never smile for you again, and the most frightening of them all is that she will be to another man what she was once to you. And you just cannot stomach the thought of her in another man’s arms. It’s painful beyond painful.
Most people will do almost anything to avoid having to face these truths. Even if we yell and scream at the person when we discover that they lied to us, once the dust settles, most of us will opt for the comforting territory of rationalization. In fact, many of us are willing to rewire our senses, short-circuit our instincts and intelligence, and accept the seductive comfort of self-delusion. I refuse to venture into that rationalizing territory. If you’re betrayed, release disappointment at once. By doing that, the bitterness has no time to take root.
We are all damaged. We have all been hurt. We have all had to learn painful lessons. We are all recovering from some mistake, loss, betrayal, abuse, injustice or misfortune. All of life is a process of recovery that never ends. We each must find ways to accept and move through the pain and to pick ourselves back up. For each pang of grief, depression, doubt or despair there is an inverse toward renewal coming to you in time. Each tragedy is an announcement that some good will indeed come in time. Be patient with yourself.
© C.J. NJOROGE
Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.