The Loss of Innocence
aftermath of the affair
by Kelly O’ferrell
“This is not the face of an ingenue; this is an old soul in a new body- wary, wise to her own long past, on to the wiles of the world, and having miles to go before she sleeps.”-Sarah Ban Breathnach
I stood one day and listened as a co-worker told me about her new girlfriend. They’ve been friends for three years, were mutually attracted to one another, but never single at the same time. Now, finally, they are both single and have started dating-and everything that comes along with
“I think I’ve finally found the one I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.” she said. Suddenly, I felt my body rip down the middle. “The one forever,” is what I heard her say. Those words were vibrating in the room.
I wanted to run from the room. But first, I wanted to grab her and scream “THERE IS NO FOREVER!!” Stop looking forward to forever with this woman. Wake up now before you get hurt.!” She was pouring salt in a wound that had almost healed up. I had almost forgotten that forever isnt real. About two years ago I heard the words, “I’ve had an affair.” I wasnt expecting to hear those words – not from her. I had always heard, “You couldnt sandblast me out of this relationship and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I didnt live my life wondering if, when, who, where.
All my co-worker heard from me was, “That’s really nice.” All she saw was me smiling as she continued telling me about her new love. I had to ask her: “Have you ever been in a relationship where someone had an affair?” I wanted to know to what extent her history has shaped her belief in forever. I just wanted to know that if the answer was yes AND she still believed in forever, then maybe she could tell me how I could believe in forever again too. “No,” she said, “but there was one girlfriend
who I still believe had an affair but she denies it to this day.”
“Just for today, Kelly” someone `reminded me. “Just for today you can believe her.” She was telling me that I could believe in my new girlfriend. “There was no guarantee of forever in your last relationship
even when you believed there was.” Even in my innocence, the truth was there. I asked my friend Betsy, if she believes she’s with Anna “forever”. I know she loves Anna very much. And she knows the truth too. “The possibilities are endless,” she said. “And I know that I want to do whatever I have to do to stay with Anna.” Anna just looked at me, laughed and said, “You’re making my stomach hurt!” I wonder if I will ever feel – what? Like I did before? No, I will not feel like that again. There’s something about ‘going back’ thats unsettling. So I guess I will feel something new. But why does that thought
leave me feeling a little sad?
I talked to my friend, Jaime, about this concept of going back. “Back to what,” I asked him. “Back to innocence?” No. We couldnt find the word. “Here’s another word for innocence,” he said, “unconscious. And here’s another one – ingenue. It means a naive girl or young woman.”
Interesting. As a child, an ingenue, I was unconscious because of my limited experiences. I thought that my pets would live forever, that my family and friends would always be there. I had no experience of death and in my case, no family members divorcing.
And then, as I grew older, I began to have experiences – my pets died, my grandparents died. When I was in college, a friend who was 18 years old was killed going home from work when he fell asleep at the wheel. When I was 24, I went through a divorce with a man I didnt really plan on spending my life with. Someone I did plan on spending the rest of my life with left and I didnt see it coming. And then there was the sickening feeling of hearing, “and I’ve had an affair.” I’ve since watched friends and family battle cancer and heart attacks and survive. And, as I continued to grow older, I watched my friends parents die. And as sad and scary as all of that is, it increases my consciousness to be mindful that the people, pets, and things in my life are as temporary as my last breath.
No. Im not interested in going back – back to being unconscious. I know that pain and joy are equal ingredients that have made my life , the paths I have taken, a more conscious, wonderful journey. If the chances of a relationship staying are there too. the possibilities really are endless.
Just for today I am dating a woman that I like very much. Just for today, I love my life with my friends and my dog Lucy. I do not know what my life will be like tomorrow. The loss of innocence is a process of growing older, an increase in awareness comes whether I’m ready or not.
Two years ago, I did not know when I woke up that morning, that my life would be so painfully, radically different before I went to sleep that night. I did not know that what happened in that one day – when I was told about what had happened- would change how I felt forever.
Ah, there it is again – forever. Apparently, sometimes, in my innocence I still believe in forever. But, not this time. No. I will not give her affair that much power. Thats my part – how how I choose to let it shape my future relationships. So, just for today, especially with my girlfriend Holly, I will believe….