Each time I drove over the Vincent Thomas Bridge to see my lover in Long Beach, I felt like I was escaping the depressing reality of my life. I was incredibly unhappy in my marriage. I found my solution: I took a lover.
Now I was happy. But only when I was with him. The fact I had to drive over a bridge to get to his place just enhanced the sense that I was living two separate lives. I had my home life and I had my life with my lover. The bridge drew a distinct boundary between the two.
When I drove over it, I left my husband and children behind and entered a fantasy world. But still, it felt very real to be with my lover. We’d spend the morning together, doing yoga, then having sex. He fed me healthy food and brought me back to life.
But at the end of the morning, I still had to drive back over the bridge to return to my “real” life. I could never truly escape it. If I truly wanted change, I had to confront reality. Though cheating on my husband might have felt like an escape — I could never truly be free of my unhappiness until I left my marriage.
I dreamed of leaving forever.
Whenever I drove over the Vincent Thomas Bridge en route to my lover’s apartment, I would look down at the port below. The Port of Los Angeles is where ships from all over the world dock daily to offload their cargo.
The different cruise liners also dock there. From the bridge, I could see exactly where the vacationers got on board. The ships would depart, and for a week, maybe more, the vacationers left their real lives behind to sail off to paradise.
I would think about how much I wanted to get onto one of those cruise ships and travel as far away as I could away from home. I could escape with my lover and never return. We’d go off somewhere where we could be a real couple.
But then reality always sank in. What about my children? My husband? My marriage?
I was no different than one of those vacationers on a cruise. I eventually had to return home. I could bask in a short-term fantasy that my lover and I actually had a future together. I’d show up at his place, spend a few blissful hours with him, but then I’d look at the clock and realize I had to go back home to pick up my kids from school.
The clock would strike noon and I’d become a married, middle-aged Cinderella again. I’d have to go home to help my kids do their homework and then make dinner, and then get everyone to bed.
I’d sleep in a bed with a man whom I rarely spoke to anymore, let alone made love to. My husband.
No, I wasn’t going anywhere. Not until I dealt with the reality of my life.
It felt great to cheat — but it was just a fantasy.
While I was with my lover, though, the fantasy felt very real. As long as I was living it, the fantasy was tangible and seductive.
My lover spoiled me. It wasn’t just the way he treated my body. Yes, the sex was amazing. But he was healing me from inside, too. He wanted to make me healthy again and fed me greens.
I needed to become healthy again. I felt incredibly physically unhealthy. Each time I looked in the mirror, I saw the dark circles under my eyes. I looked tired. I was tired. I felt tired in my bones and I was tired of feeling stuck.
I remember one late morning after yoga and sex that my lover handed me a bowl of greens he had prepared for me. “Do you mind if we eat with our fingers?” he asked. “I don’t have any clean silverware.”
I didn’t bolt up to go wash the dirty silverware like I would have at home. At home, all I ever seemed to do was clean. I cleaned up after my husband and my children. With my lover, he served me.
Did I care if that meant eating a salad with my fingers? No. Dipping my fingers into the bowl, I enjoyed the greasy feel of the dressed leaves against my fingertips. Placing the nutrient-rich veggies into my mouth, I relished their flavor and freshness.
When it was time to leave, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. The dark circles under my eyes were gone. My skin glowed. My lover was making me healthy again. But how healthy could I ever be when I continued to lie to my family? How could I become truly healthy again when I was betraying them?
Yes, coming to see my lover was an escape, but until I dealt with my life head-on, my situation would never change. I would continue to be unhealthy. My life wouldn’t improve until I tackled my ugly truth.
Having a lover felt like being in paradise, but it wasn’t real.
I’d been seeing my lover for about a month when I first noticed the island. It was visible from his balcony, right off the coast of Long Beach. It seemed so close it was as if I could swim to it. Why had I never seen it before? It looked like a paradise. I saw palm trees and a high-rise hotel. I wanted to go there. Was it possible?
“No, it’s just an oil field,” my lover said.
What? But it was true. It was one of the THUMS "islands" of the Wilmington Oil Field. The hotel was just a façade — nothing more than a sound wall built to conceal the oil drilling facility behind it. The island itself wasn’t even real. It was a bank made of dredged-up sand from the seafloor.
It struck me that this was a good metaphor for our relationship. When I was with my lover, it felt like I was in paradise. But it was just a façade. It was just a fantasy, one in which I didn’t have a husband and children at home.
But I did — and until I started grappling with my real life, I would continue to feel paralyzed.
To find true happiness, I had to stop living a lie.
Two months later, I finally decided I was finished living like one of those oil drills, concealing my reality behind a sound wall, appearing to be an island paradise but all I was doing was polluting the bay with my toxicity.
That’s what I was doing to my family by cheating. I was polluting my home with my lies. I finally mustered up the courage to come clean to my husband about my lover.
We divorced. I was free. I finally started to heal.
This is the only reason I’m the healthy person I am today — because I stopped living in a dream world and started fixing the problems holding me back in the real one.