Betrayal; when someone betrays your trust, your loyalty, and your love, the first response is primal. Our first thoughts turn to revenge. But, if history has taught us anything, it is that joy does not come from retaliation. Wrath, one of the seven deadly sins, will only take a hold of our mind and send it onto the same immoral path as our betrayer. Sure, there may be a sense of satisfaction from “getting someone back.” But, if we grade our potential reactions, the biggest satisfaction comes from turning the other cheek, because it does not sully our own morals, mind, and heart. It’s just hard to see this, because being the victim of treachery causes tunnel vision.
So, what happens when life betrays you? And trust me, it can. I know because on August 10th, 2012, life pushed me and my family onto a dark and painful path with a cancer diagnosis that turned even more miserable with the death of my husband.
When life betrays you, it discredits the belief that you get what you give. If you are empathetic and hard-working, you assume things should go your way. So, when things turn in the complete opposite direction, there’s a feeling of being completely and totally ripped off.
Garry and I were good people. We worked hard. We were kind to those around us. We waited to have children until the roots of our business were deep and strong. We waited through seven years of marriage until we thought the time was perfect. We had just entered a beautiful summer rhythm of hard work with well-deserved weekends at the beach.
My childhood wasn’t particularly stellar; so, the family unit was extraordinarily important to me. I wanted more than anything for my children to have a wonderful childhood with two loving parents. Who doesn’t, right? Nonetheless, I felt as though life had stabbed me in the heart when I learned the father of my three-year-old and one-year-old boys had stage 4 stomach cancer.
Throughout Garry’s illness and after his death, many phrases would scroll through my brain over and over. Why us? Where are you? But, the most prevalent was, “It’s not fair.” There it was; that feeling as though life had unfairly served me a sentence I didn’t deserve.
But, you know who never felt angry? Garry. Garry would simply say, “It has nothing to do with fairness. It’s just bad luck.”
Now, he didn’t mean bad luck as in broken mirrors and black cats. Garry was overly logical. He just meant, “C’est la vie.” That’s life; people get cancer and people die. He never felt wronged. Although he fought like hell, he accepted his situation and whatever his outcome might be.
Maybe he did this for his family. Maybe Garry knew the trappings of revenge.
Maybe I should learn from his disposition.
This internal dialogue that comes from, “It’s not fair” is ultimately one that leads to feeling bitter. One starts to understand some of the great literary characters and their actions. One starts to identify with Miss Havisham from Great Expectations or Heathcliff from, Wuthering Heights.
But, what you might not see, is that just like with seeking revenge, a bitter heart will soon turn to jade. Falling into the it’s-not-fair cycle will not bring peace.
Maybe this was the reason Garry didn’t give into the wrath from being wronged. Maybe he knew it wouldn’t bring him any peace. And, he was the one who was betrayed the most.
Garry was an amazingly strong person. I don’t think he knew that until he fought cancer. He was strong in the way he put up with suffering to gain another day with his family. But, I now see his greater strength was in his resolve not to give into anger. He was sad and hurt. But, he also painted our fence, started canoeing, and made trips to see family and to Niagara Falls. Garry left us feeling peace.
It’s been almost a year and a half since I lost Garry. And, in that time, I’ve had many ups and downs. As I write this late on a Sunday night just before one of our favorite holidays, I can clearly see that if I continue with the it’s-not-fair mentality, I will be the one who betrays my own future. I will bring myself down. I can’t seek revenge; there’s no one to exact it upon. I’m the only one that will suffer. I have to be more like Garry. I have to find my own Niagara Falls. I have to turn the other cheek on life, and believe that letting go and living life as a good person will help me to find the happiness I so desperately want once again.
Thank you for listening.
The painting, Miss Havisham, featured in this post can be purchased on Etsy.
We hope this Widow’s Column provides hope, support and a sounding board for anyone who has lost a spouse. We know we’re not alone. We want to hear from you. Share your experiences and comments and maybe we can learn, grow, and heal together.