It was a house of cards.
Everyone was busy playing their hand.
We took our own deck, a bottle of wine and a corner table.
At the end of that night, the bottle was empty. Everyone was gone.
And there on our table was this beautiful house of cards, stories, hopes and secrets.
Something we built unknowingly.
She looked at me with starry eyes and whispered – can we keep it?
You know we can’t, I said.
Having an affair is like that.
Like building a house of cards.
It always comes crashing down.
When it does, you enter a pretend prison. Made of your own thoughts and words.
It becomes a favourite pastime to punish yourself for your perceived mistakes.
You revisit your bad decisions like old friends, because the pain is familiar.
Shame jumps in the car and comes along for the ride.
It’s a soul-eating emotion.
Getting its power from being unspeakable.
Shame eats self-love for breakfast.
People think shame is empty.
But it’s full.
It’s a weight.
It’s the loose skin on the back of your shoulders caught on hooks, chained to a wall made of all the futures you thought you’d have.
Imagine living with a scream inside of you.
A choice between two pains.
Staying or going.
I was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to overcome.
We’re all honorary citizens of that primal forest.
And our burdens and our weaknesses always remain.
They are an ineradicable part of ourselves.
They are our humanity.
But when we bring the light, the day becomes ours.
And their power to determine the future is diminished.
This is the way it works.
The trick is, you can only brighten the forest from beneath the canopy of its trees.
To bring the light, you must first make your way through the bramble-filled darkness.
Those last lines about the forest were written entirely by Bruce Springsteen. The rest is me. I once built a house of cards. I lived with a scream inside of me. I don’t anymore.
If you want to hear more about this story, check out The MeaningMaker Podcast on your favourite streaming platform.