“I had a perfect life. I had two toddlers, a successful husband, a sought-after career as a Television producer, the type of work that they made movies about. Was I happy? I was so distracted with the endless to-do lists of motherhood and a demanding job that kept me at the office until all hours, that I never even asked myself if I was happy. I was an afterthought and apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
It was a regular day at the office. My husband had been acting weird for the last few months. I thought he was going through a mid-life crisis since turning 40. After all, we just had a baby a year ago and our four-year-old daughter was quite the handful.
It was the night of our 8-year wedding anniversary. I made a reservation to show him that I was making an effort in our marriage. That was important to him and I wasn’t great at it. As I pulled up, I see him standing outside holding a red Solo cup. He came with a cocktail. I thought to myself, ‘Interesting.’
We went into the restaurant. I knew he was already a bit tipsy. We sat at the bar as we waited for our table. I was in the corner. He chalked it up with the bartender, discussing whiskey and trying their different varieties. I felt invisible. I never felt invisible to him. We went home and I asked him what was going on, he wasn’t himself. He admitted that he felt ‘lost’ in our relationship. I was confused about what ‘lost’ meant. He asked if he should get an Airbnb for the night. I thought that was ridiculous. We had never discussed moving out, separating or divorce, where was this coming from? So, we went to sleep. We spend the rest of the weekend, pretending to be the perfect couple in front of our kids, our friends and family. But my heart was aching for answers and I wasn’t giving up on finding them. Sunday came around and when I pressed him, he said he had booked an Airbnb and would be staying there for the next week. I was heartbroken, lost, confused.
As the days passed, I still wasn’t getting answers, so I agreed to go with him to therapy. The things he would say in therapy were like I was sitting in a room with a stranger. ‘I am superman in the bedroom’ he said one day. I thought to myself, ‘Who is this man? And why haven’t I seen Superman?’ It became clear that someone else had, so I did some digging.
I started with our bank statement. Nothing. I looked at our credit card. Weird. I can’t see any purchases. Hmmm. I emailed our money manager, ‘Can you please send me all withdrawals from our savings account from the last 18 months?’. One hour later, I saw the purchase from Tiffany.
That was the turning point in my life. Those seven letters which typically bring such joy were destroying my ‘perfect’ life. I emailed my husband, ‘Any idea what this charge is?’ Radio silence. So not like him. Hours later, ‘we can discuss it when I get home’. I was right.
My life turned into a made for tv movie from there. He came home from work and I could barely wait till the kids went to bed to hear what he had to say. I was locked in my room, having just put our one-year-old to sleep, while he put our 4-year-old to bed. I heard his phone buzz in his jacket pocket from the closet. I went to look at it. I had never done that before but why not? Nothing to lose at this point. As I looked inside his jacket pocket, I found his phone and a letter addressed to me. I opened it.
‘Carrie, I’m sorry and regret that things have come to this point. I am a villain of my own making and as a result, have not been myself for a long time. It’s a role that I am not comfortable playing. You’ve sensed it, experienced it and hated it — justifiably so! I hate what it has done to me, and frankly, I hate what it’s done to you. You don’t deserve it’
A sense of terror and relief came over me. I was terrified to read the rest of the letter but relieved that he justified the weirdness I had been feeling for a long time. I’m not crazy. Whew. So, I kept reading…
‘You have asked me to come clean and be honest so I will — I am seeing someone. Who it is, is unimportant right now because her ONLY presence in my life is that OUTSIDE of our home. Away from you and away from our kids…. So, I guess this admission brings us to the part where I’m forced to resign my role as your loving husband.’
Tears of hurt and anger began to pour down my face. I felt like the Hulk and wanted a car to throw or a building to smash but instead, I found his phone that was still beeping. I felt a sense of freedom at that moment. He wasn’t going to tell me that I wasn’t entitled to know more than this selfish admission. So, I started with his phone records. Nothing. Checked his email. Nothing. He was smart. I knew this about him. Then I checked his email drafts. Bingo. I found an email that he never sent to his former assistant, with whom he was having this affair. In the email, he was begging her for more time before he left me; pleading for three more months. I was devastated. All the signs were there; the late nights, disappearing acts, but I never envisioned him as a cheater. How could he cheat on me? I was smart, pretty, had a great career. But sometimes, life delivers unexplainable events that are outside our control.
When he finally emerged from our daughters’ room, he asked me to sit down because he had something to give me. I pretended to read the letter while he watched; feeling proud of myself that I got to control this moment. Once I was done pretending to read, I said, ‘I would like to read you something now.’ I proceeded to read the email he had written to his lover. From there, things got messy. I kicked him out after a huge argument filled with expletives. I felt like my entire past had been rewritten. All of the questions now had answers. Just not the answers I wanted.
I called my mom, who lived in Florida. She consoled me like she had done my entire life. She reminded me how amazing I am and that he was a fool to let me go. She assured me that everything was going to be ok. I was always the strong and steady one in my family; the one that never asked for help. Until now. ‘Mom, I need you to come out here. I can’t do this alone. I need you here with me.’ My mom said that she wasn’t feeling well and was getting over the flu but assured me that she would be on the next flight out to California as soon as she was better. I felt relieved. She would be better soon, and she would be here.
The next morning, I woke up to a banging on my door. Who the heck would show up at 7 am? I rushed to answer it before the noise woke up my kids. As I opened the door, I saw my mother-in-law. Great, I really didn’t want to start my day discussing the explosion of my marriage with her. But instead of saying anything she just handed me her phone. It was my sister. ‘Hello? Carrie, Mom wasn’t feeling well last night and said she couldn’t breathe so she went to the hospital. She had a heart attack while she was there. She died, Carrie’. I had her repeat it several times because I just couldn’t understand what she was saying. ‘Mom died? How could she die? I just spoke to her.’ She was supposed to come to California. She was supposed to help me. She can’t die. She promised she would be here.
From there, life became a blur. I flew home and arranged for her burial. I was a walking zombie, unable to comprehend what just happened. When I arrived back home, things got worse. My husband wanted to see the kids and started taking them every weekend. I was left alone, with no one, for the first time in 12 years. I didn’t know how to come to terms with the fact that in the span of 5 days, I had lost the two most important people in my life, my husband and my mother. I felt completely broken, like a shell of a person. I just wanted to go home. After all, I had a house that I could live in since my mother’s passing. My family had a business I could work until I found something more suitable. I had a family that I could depend on if I needed help. It seemed like the most logical plan of action. Unfortunately, my soon-to-be ex-husband did not agree, and a giant custody battle ensued.
As our divorce progressed, a giant custody battle ensued. The most surprising and hurtful thing was the realization that my ex no longer loved me. I mean, he admitted it in the letter he gave me, but I thought he would have some regret. I thought he would be compassionate and remorseful. I thought he would sacrifice some of his money for his new-found happiness. But I really saw how little he cared about me when it came to the division of assets. He wanted what was entitled to him and more. And I saw how little I meant to him.
When people talk about hitting rock bottom, I now know what that feels like. When it seems that life will never have meaning or happiness. When the clouds around you are so thick that light cannot shine through and becomes an afterthought. I didn’t know how I would make it. I just tried to get through the day without bursting in tears. I failed on most days. And while I blubbered around in a pool of tears, I started talking to people. With work, kids and husband, I didn’t have any close friends. But when you need something, life has a way of delivering. And somehow, I found myself surrounded by women who were willing to listen to me. They let me cry endlessly on their shoulders. They defended me when I thought everything was my fault. They reminded me of my worth and value, even though I rolled my eyes when they said it. They were there for me and I was finally allowing them to see me in all of my brokenness.
I wish I could say that I had some secret solution that ended my pain, but life just isn’t that easy. I kept pushing forward, stumbling my way through this new life I was leading. I tried to occupy my time with outings with friends where I would continue my blubbering cryfest. On one occasion, as I was recounting the unfortunate events of my life to one of my friends, she offered me an opportunity. ‘Why don’t you audition for this new workout program I created? I can’t promise you that you will get cast but it is worth a shot?’ said Autumn Calabrese. ‘Ok,’ I said, thinking that no one would cast me in such a thing. I went to the audition and I cried because that is what my life consisted of at that moment. I told the producers how I felt empty and ashamed of myself. I told them that I had zero confidence because it was stripped away in my marriage and its dissolution. I told them that I wanted to feel better, not just look better. And as I left, I thought to myself, ‘Man, you really blew that one’. The next day, they offered me the job.
So, the next four months I was forced to focus on myself and it was uncomfortable and painful at times. I showed up on set, five days a week and I worked out. It was the hardest workout I have ever done. In addition to the workouts, they gave me an eating program to follow which consisted of lots of veggies, some protein, fruit, and healthy fats. What it didn’t consist of was all of the things that I thought would make me feel better like alcohol, sweets and my ultimate favorite, cereal.
But as the days passed by, I began to transform from the inside out. The program wasn’t just a workout to me. It was a way to prove to myself that I was valuable, that I could do hard things, that I was worthy of success. I started to feel better about myself. I started to feel confident again. Then my body started to do things; I saw my first two pack abs, I noticed that I actually had built a butt. My work was building things that I never thought would be possible. It was a valuable lesson; if I could make my body do things that I never thought would be possible, what else could I do that I didn’t think was possible?
This opened a door of possibilities for me. I started thinking of all of the things I wanted to do that I had been scared. I started dating, I went places by myself, I tried new things. The feeling was exhilarating. Was I scared? Of course! But the feeling of accomplishment and pride far surpassed any fears or doubts I had. I took charge of my life; I finalized my divorce and agreed to stay in California for the sake of my girls, I got my real estate license because I always wanted to but never had the guts and I sold my own house in a matter of days.
After the workout program, I felt like a new person. From the outside, it looked like I was in the best shape of my life but on the inside, I felt like I was actually happy for the first time in a long time. I couldn’t believe that exercise and healthy eating could have such a drastic and transformative effect on my life, but it did.
I remember the day the program went public, I had an internal debate with myself. I had not publicly talked about the program at all on social media. In fact, I barely used social media. I had an Instagram account that had two posts and 10 followers and a Facebook that barely kept friends and family in touch. But since I was embracing scary things, I figured what the hell. I played the first workout on my computer while my girls watched, and I hit record on my phone. I filmed them asking if that was me on the screen and watched their amazement as their mom appeared on TV. I posted this clip as the third post on my Instagram. Each time I opened my Instagram account, I was amazed. Thousands of women followed me and encouraged me as I continued my journey. They said things like, ‘You are an inspiration’. Coming from a place of pure brokenness to a place where people viewed me as an inspiration was almost unbelievable. I felt that I owed them my honesty and so I continued posting about my experiences, good, bad or ugly. And they continued responding. It was the most beautiful thing and a wonderful gift.
In one year, I built an Instagram following of over twenty-eight thousand women. The experience has taught me to embrace my integrity and authenticity. It showed me to never hide or pretend to be perfect. It helped me embrace change and showed me that we are never too old to grow. It helped me find my happiness again by enduring the most painful experience of my life. It has given me a new outlook on my life and the things I want it to include. It made me a better mother, a better friend, and a better woman. We, as women, are capable of amazing things. If we all could find the strength to believe in ourselves, imagine the things we could accomplish. Never stop believing that what you want is possible.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carrie Pyle Lawrence of Woodland Hills, CA. You can follow her journey on her website here and on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best stories here.
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