“I think a lot of things in life starts from suffering. It starts from pain and loss and for me that was very true….I found that life was really empty for me…I went through a period of life …where I was super depressed and super anxious, and I wanted to kill myself, and I found love, at that time, at that exact time that I needed it…”
Fiction. Based on a True Love Affair.
by Mingjie Zhai
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Dear Other Woman,
For the longest time, I had blamed you for all my suffering post-divorce. I had thought you were the cause for why Sonny and I did not work out. During the last leg of our marriage, I had asked Sonny to stop seeing and talking to you…well, I had demanded it. I had thought you were the reason why our marriage couldn’t work out—I had suggested couples counseling to him, but he did not believe in it…frankly, we both did not believe in it. I had told him that the reason why he and I are not working out is because there is a lack of trust due to the insertion of your life essence in his sphere, for I knew while I was present with him that his heart was already becoming yours. I felt his spirit fading.
A few months back, Amy had texted me a picture of her and Aaron. She wanted to show me that Aaron was with her during Thanksgiving break, to show me that he belongs to her. When I looked at the picture, I could clearly see that Aaron’s heart is longing for mine. I don’t know if it is lust or love.
Today, I was walking through a small village in Zaton, Croatia, lost and found with Roxy, and came upon a group of cats, the first three reminded me of the first three cats Sonny and I had adopted. They were the same exact colors–one tortoise shelled, the second black with white fades on each side of his ear, and the third a grey cat with lion-like spots. I felt redemption and grace in their presence, as if to say, “we forgive you.”
This morning, the first voice I heard was Pastor Judah Smith’s sermon on Forgiveness and on Jesus’ wisdom on forgiving not just seven times but seven times seventy times when someone has wronged you. I believe I have forgiven you each day as I live, perhaps nine times ninety-nine times, because that was how much I truly hated you for what you did. You turned a blind eye to how much your sphere of influence in your seemingly innocuous love and faith towards Sonny hurt me, dismissed me, and dismantled me.
You had somehow convinced Sonny that I was this unstable, crazy, and hateful person. You have no idea the world of what I had gone through leading up to why I suffered what I had suffered. You don’t know the thousands upon thousands of interactions I’ve had with Sonny that developed into something truly special, one of a kind—real, raw and intimate between us. You had charmed him with shoulds, proprietary, and ideology; you have truly robbed us of the golden opportunity to work things through when the going got tough in our marriage, yet…
It is your very presence that inspired me to transform all that hatred of you towards pursuing the Heroine’s Call to Adventure by investigating where all this hate is rooted in, because it’s beyond you, it’s beyond me, and it has something to do with the Origins story.
Because you started loving Sonny at a time when I did not know how to love him, I had omitted all the goodness I gave to Sonny, all the self-respect I had for myself, all the grounding and deep love I have towards Sonny. I took credit for your evil by pushing him towards you. I was acting like the other woman when the truth is that you were the other woman.
In many ways, the shadow side me delighted in the fact that I had competition on the day I had discovered the picture of you crawling on the bed, with your brown hair down, like some B-rated soft porn on his phone. For it was in some ways my way out of the relationship that I had already felt trapped in.
Truth be told, I had felt trapped long before you came into the picture. I no longer enjoyed waking up at six in the morning driving 60 minutes to work and 70 minutes in bumper to bumper rush hour just to veg out in front of the TV eating junk food and drinking wine to numb the stress of a broken public educational system that was beyond my control to solve or fix when I came home. I had overstayed the broken public education system like I had overstayed the broken relationship I had with Sonny. Truth be told, the relationship started having problems from the second year we were together. He told me that he would always put work before our relationship and if I could accept that then he would have me, as if I had to earn him, as if I had to sacrifice myself to be worthy of his love for me. That’s why when I wanted to pursue world traveling, journalism, and writing, he no longer had a functional use for me because it did not fit his paradigm of what constitutes as an “ideal” relationship. Subconsciously, I knew this but I was too afraid to speak up for what I really wanted for myself because I believed that I need love more than anything in the world to survive. I still do. It’s just not confined to a relationship with a man. I’m learning how to walk with God.
His Genuine Concern
Prior to his leaving, he was genuinely concerned over me. He said to me, “Who’s going to take care of you when I’m gone?”
As if I was going to crumble, wither, and fall apart without his presence.
We both thought so.
I almost did.
But what we both did not factor in was…God.
Sonny had forgotten that God can take care of me because I had made Sonny my god.
Sonny was not aware that he was a psychopath because psychopaths feel the need to play god and will select anyone who will pretend with them that they are god.
I know now.
Because I started seeing life through the eyes of a psychopath.
It had to be my way or the highway.
Aaron and I came face to face, one psychopath staring into the eyes of another psychopath.
During our writing session, he started out as the Hero and wound up with the Villain role. I had become his shadow and asked a series of questions as his shadow. After our group writing session was over, it somehow carried on. I started realizing that integrating the shadow has something to do with two villians staring into each other—like a mirror darkly.
Aaron had accused me several times of being a psychopath, and a deeper, darker part of me delighted in this cruel power to affect fear in his heart.
I think of Dexter, the serial killer that kills serial killers.
There is a part of me that wants to destroy Aaron, completely disarm him, expose him, and reduce him down to dismembered body parts.
There is another part of me that remembers who I was once upon a time ago, the Belle in Beauty and the Beast that offered so much life in Sonny when I attracted my Beast to transform.
And Sonny did transform—I saw the miracle happen when life, purpose and aim was brought in his life. When I was the aim he wanted to provide, protect, and profess over. When I became to him the source of meaning and life.
Except I couldn’t sustain this image of perfection before him.
It was too tiring. I am not God. The task of playing god is too tall and the burden too heavy.
The mask I was wearing became to tight, too suffocating, and one day I had overstayed and overplayed the good housewife role. It wasn’t the full me. I had so much to offer the world than just the “nice wife.”
But I clung onto something that should have been let go a while back. I had clung onto something that was familiar. I needed someone to validate my worth through the label of a “relationship”—boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife just as much as Sonny needed me to need him and put him first before anything else. We both thought we needed to feel needed—but not just needed, but prioritized before anything and anyone else. I expected Sonny to die for me and I expected myself to die for Sonny. That’s how intense the illusion of this need was. I thought I needed this label of “taken” to fit in with society’s hierarchies, even at the expense of my voice.
Around October, I became attracted to a man who took me by the throat and pulled me in for a kiss. I found it offensive, threatening, and psychopathic. It was a very familiar spirit, and my shadow was turned on by his psychopathy, like the spirit of Bonnie and Clyde, but this time I put on the mask of a femme fatale so I can observe a psychopath in the eyes of a psychopath. For I had, by this time, begun to integrate the shadow that Sonny had left for me on the day I saw his life-lie come to fruition when he opened his arms out, confronting me as if I was crazy, while acting like he was protecting you when you deliberately showed up with the baby in your arms, the baby that Sonny and I had planned on having the same year you had sex with him while we were still married.
Do you know that a week later, I tried ending my life from the hatred I had towards you for manipulating the truth about me, someone whom you have never really met, but just made assumptions about? Do you know that prior to the suicide spell, the reasons behind it was that, “I am indeed crazy, unstable, and angry), from the imprint of Sonny holding out his arms acting like he was protecting you, as if I was unstable and crazy just so you could pretend that you’re the victim?
I can see how the perpetrator could act like the victim, for it is a natural projection from the inner guilt that you still hide behind your facade of the perfect housewife image that you know have to take on.
Since then, I’ve traveled to many cities, listened to many love songs, heartbreak and transformations alike, and I’m co-producing a new movement with God called journal-artism, where I get to become the investigative journal-artist to my own life, searching for the meaning in the uniqueness of living, and experiencing agape love throughout my walk with God. I’m living the dream that my soul has been desiring and owning up to the ugly truth of my ugly parts I’ve hidden along the way. I want to expose all my shadows in the shadow integration process, and I want to do it all in fiction, so on when the final bell tolls for my time here, I’ll have transformed all my shadows into mirrors for others to see themselves in the spiritual fight between life and death.
His Smile and Song
When I saw the smile on Aaron’s face the morning after when he serenaded on the guitar about patience and sorry, I now could see through the needs of your eyes. The yearning desire to integrate with the youthful promise of a young soul and the overconfidence in thinking that I could somehow be the solution in raising the spirit of a dying artist; and I could see the delusion overriding my common sense that I am somehow “rescuing Aaron” from the toxic and crazy on and off girlfriend, and I could see the self-justification of convincing him why he is “better off” with the “Christ-centered woman” compared to the woman who has no self-respect. I could see all the self-righteous justifications playing out in my head when the idea of being with him at the expense of breaking Amy’s heart was revealed.
When Aaron and I first wrapped our legs around each other, I saw your need of being wanted, being desired, being inseminated through the eyes of a biological clock ticking in her mid-thirties. I also saw through the eyes of Sonny when I saw the torment on Aaron’s face the next day, when he sat on the passenger side of the car I had planned on selling for the Euro trip that I’m taking now. He had a Plan B pill in his hand and told me that I would ruin his life if I did not take the pill. Initially, I was offended by the idea that our beautiful love making was something to be made wrong, as something that could shame him or ruin his life. But then, I remembered. Aaron had briefly told me that he was on and off again with Amy, his seven year sweetheart. They had been having relationship problems lately. And though Aaron could not muster up the courage to tell me the truth that perhaps he had planned on going back to Amy all along, I could see it from the eyes of the 2013 version of Sonny that he was thinking of his original promise to Amy, the woman that he had given a promise ring to that he would protect, provide, and profess for the rest of their lives, through thick and thin—a loyalty pact. I understood this loyalty. I thought of the promise I had made to myself that I would strengthen my faith that Rylie would somehow still come back to my life. I had also thought of the promise Sonny once made to me when he told me that he would be my lawful wedded husband, for better or for worse, till death do us part. I had taken the Plan B pill, for I knew somehow that this was the right thing to do.
The Simple and Hard Right Turn
I re-read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning today. On page 86, it states: “Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.”
I did the right thing that day.
As shitty and depressed as I had felt the three days following that choice, I knew it was the right thing to do because it was the simple and hard thing to do.
In my hatred towards you, I had almost blindly became you.
But I am not you.
I choose to take Plan B because I have more love for Amy, the 2013 version of myself, than I have hatred towards you, the 2013 version of you.
I guess this is the classic playbook of turning the other cheek.
I had done for Amy what I would have wanted you to do for me nine years ago.
I had taken the initiative to tell Amy the truth—the ugly truth—all of it, plus gave her my number in case she wants all the details.
I had apologized to her for my part, my apathy, my blind eye.
I had told Aaron how inappropriate it is to still be his friend knowing our history, for it is a blatant disrespect to Amy, who I am now commanded to love thy neighbor.
And though we still lust for each other, I now have compassion for you. Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, an age similar to your age when you first seduced Sonny, a married man, I could understand the fear of being alone, the scary idea that at this age, I could be on my last egg any day, and everytime I get my period now, a surge of sadness overwhelms me as if my chances of biological survival in passing on my genetics are dwindling every month, period after period. I could also understand the urgent need to procreate with a genetically fit man, an ambitious and attractive man like Sonny, a man like Aaron, who are made to becoming psychopaths to survive the pyramid scheme of things. On a biological level, we instinctively know who to procreate with men who know how to survive.
Aaron is someone who fit inside me perfect lock and key. We did not just have sex. We made love. The connection came from pure acceptance of each other’s psychopathy and the deepness came from acknowledging each other’s pure crazy, beauty intelligence.
Ten years ago, I remember you telling me that what Sonny and I were working through had nothing to do with you. That was a lie. That evening, when I had called you to demand the truth —the truth you refused to share, I wanted to know if you and Sonny were seeing each other, knowing that the of you were indeed seeing each other, for my intuition was and still is sharp, but Sonny had denied it, gaslighting me throughout, and you were his complicit partner in crime. You told me that your insertion into his life, the love affair that you two both shared, had nothing to do with my working things out with Sonny. But you see, every time Sonny told me that he had work while I stayed home in a house that he wanted, in a house that my parents had put the downpayment for in hope, faith, and good will that he would honor me as his lawful wedded wife, every time I waited for him in this home from the lifestyle he wanted us to have, when he was really out with you, wining and dining, you were in our relationship.
The Life-Lie Acted Out
See, you created the lie that your insertion into our affair was justified, then when I became upset knowing this was happening, you had conveniently justified your actions by dismissing me as “unstable, crazy, and immature,” while you both justified your lust as true love. No, it was not true love. It was convenience, ideology, and safe spaces.
You had created a life-lie that you had rescued him from an abusive, crazy, and unstable woman and that day, when he put his arms out, in a feigned gesture to “protect you,” I knew that both of you were acting out the life-lie that your affair was justified.
I know that the fruit of a life-lie leads to death, and I hope that the son you both share now is the fruit of hope that will deliver you both out of hell and into the redemption of God’s grace.
I no longer hate you. Because I know now the deepness of Sonny’s regret for leaving me the way I saw the deepness of Aaron’s regret when the possibility of our having kids together would have been the spiritual falling of Aaron’s soul in his promise to Amy.
In Warsaw, Poland, I had told Aaron the story of what happened that inspired The Love Story. I told him that Sonny leaving me for the life-lie that I was “too crazy” so he can justify his affair with the other woman who seemingly promised the “lifestyle” he wanted was a tragedy. I could see now, from the point of view of the other woman; Now that I am in your shoes, I realize that Aaron wanted me not for me, but for the kind of lifestyle he wanted to have, a lifestyle where he coveted the courage and faith I have in fusing my love for traveling with art and work. Little does Aaron know that all this power in me came from God.
I now know to fear nothing, no one and no evil except for God. For God is the source of my redemption and the active ingredient of transformation. Even when I had walked the left hand path to the edge of the abyss, He was still there. The only fear I have is pushing God away.
One of the last texts I made to Aaron was to seek God first. I recognized what was missing in what Aaron truly wanted with Amy by his side—the Hero’s Call to Adventure or the Artist Way, and that was what was missing in my life when Sonny and I were trying to figure out what was the root of our marital problems. Had Sonny just trusted God enough to allow me to do what I truly wanted to do and had he just stood by me, he would have discovered what true love really means.
My hope in continuing The Love Story is that one day Sonny could recognize just how much I love him, how much the depth of my love for him have manifested in The Love Story—that even in love’s absence, love is present, because love is sovereign, and thus the main ingredient in integrating the shadow.
I recognized that Aaron coveted my “lifestyle.” When I asked Aaron if he loved Amy, he said, “Yes. Of course I love Amy. She’s done so much for me. How can I not love her?” but I heard something else beyond just “she’s done so much for me….” I heard that she deeply, truly, loves Aaron the way that I could never love him. She loved him when he had nothing, when he was homeless, and she stuck by him, even when he made bad choices, when he hurt her, when he slept with me and made a fool out of her. He is a fool. And she loves him even as the fool.
And that’s the real gold.
See, I loved Sonny when Sonny was still the fool, when we lived in a box, when he had no friends, fresh from Seattle to Los Angeles. I loved Sonny when he only had a mattress in the living room, while his roommate slept in the one bedroom to the apartment they both shared. I loved Sonny when he was socially awkward, shy, anxious, and broken. I softened his heart when his heart was hurt from betrayal of a high school sweetheart, I wrote heartfelt poetry beneath tears of joy when we would see each other after days of no physical contact, we exchanged vows in between sweaty sheets making love everyday.
Still my heart is conflicted and now I finally am beginning to have compassion for you, for indeed, I can see the torment between doing the right thing and doing the thing I want to do.
For if I had it my way, Aaron would drop everything he’s doing, including his seven year girlfriend, and elope with me to travel the world, start a family, and run an online empire while traveling the world doing what we both love doing.
Of course, that would be at the expense of Amy, but who cares about Amy right? I mean she’s mean, she’s superficial, she’s probably codependent and abusive to Aaron right? I could easily justify convincing Aaron that I am the better woman for him and indeed Aaron would not argue with me if I had convinced myself and him that Amy is indeed immature, superficial, and bad for Aaron.
But something is off in that assertion.
What if no matter how much I had convinced myself and Aaron that our elopement was self-justified, it was simply based on self-deception? Because the Truth stands sovereign despite my own self deception. Because what if the truth is that Amy is not all those attributes, and even if she were those attributes, who would I be to self-justify an adulterous affair?
What if Amy is sweet, kind, and loving?
What if Amy bears all things, believes all things, endures all things and hopes all things for Aaron, the fool?
Just like what if the 2013 version of who I was, was actually not mean, not superficial, not immature?
What if I was in a very vulnerable place, lost and confused, and needed the man I had built my life around to step up as a man—as a man of integrity—to show up for me at a time when I most needed him? I acted strong throughout most of our relationship, I acted free, but I hid the parts of myself that were scared, were vulnerable, were hurt, and the period in my life when I started breaking down, experiencing depression, and going within to discover where my place is in life, where my aim should be, what I needed that was missing, that was the time you came into Sonny’s life and affirmed his doubt in who I really was by convincing him that I was indeed abusive, crazy, and immature, so you could get what you wanted.
So, if I had it my way today, Aaron would be abandoning Amy for my will and my way, because why not? I’m the smarter, “more mature,” more fit one right? Just like you were the smarter, “more mature,” more fit one for Sonny right?
Aaron and I could easily dismiss Amy as crazy, unstable, and immature…except for one slight problem….
It’s a lie.
The 2013 version of myself is kind, sweet, loving—towards the last leg of our struggle to work things out, I had believed all things, hoped all things, bore all things, and endured all things in Sonny, the fool. I experienced the life and death struggle for a timeline of a love story that could have been true for Sonny and I, but he had acted out the life-lie that I was crazy and I had acted out the life-lie that I was the mistress and undeserving of his love.
The truth is, I was and still am the sweet, kind, and loving person
…and you know what?
So is Amy.
As of my writing this letter to you, I have blocked Aaron and said my spiritual goodbye to him.
I forgive you
I’m passing the test that you did not pass.
I forgive you.
That is the only way I can prevent myself from becoming the very monster that I had despised in you.
Now, I understand you. I have compassion for you. I forgive you.
Thank God, in my heart of hearts, I am not you.