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Annette Powers

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Binging on Bitterness

Posted: 12/29/11 05:25 PM ET

The past month has been one long binge. With the joys and stresses of the holidays and the promise of starting over on January 1st, December can lead even the best of us down a path of overindulgence.

All the diligence I had done over the past year to eradicate myself of habitual late night pints of Ben and Jerry's and trips to my boss's M&M jar, went by the wayside as I noshed my way from Thanksgiving toward New Year's.

I've always had a sweet tooth, but I never much cared for bitter, not in food and not in people and, certainly, not in myself. Despite the disappointments life had handed me from time to time, I tried to remind myself of the blessings I had received and beat bitterness down. I did not think myself capable of becoming embittered. It was anathema to me.

But after my "happy" marriage suddenly burst into the flames of deception and infidelity, I went through a significant bitter period. To the outside world, I was handling this shock with grace, but in my own world, it was another story.

My bitterness manifested primarily in daily, sometimes hourly, text and email rampages aimed squarely at my husband's conscience. These electronic assaults were filled with baking chocolate bitterness. And he was trapped because there was no apology that could satisfy, no explanation that could suffice. Eventually, he just stopped responding, which undoubtedly led to more vitriol from me.

This bitterness was a necessary part of my healing process, but one that left me feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. As acceptance slowly crept in, bitterness became quieter and, with much hand wringing, I had all but stopped the cyber pummeling over the past few months. One or two angry messages eked out from time to time when something specific incurred my wrath, but they had dwindled down to almost nil.

But as we inched closer to the holidays, my bitterness flared into high gear.

I was bitter that I wouldn't get to go with my son to his grandparents' for the holidays; that I would be without him for six long days. Although I was making the best of it by taking a much-needed getaway to visit close friends, the reason for my vacation left me forlorn.

I was bitter that instead of me going on this family trip, SHE was going. SHE, who stole my husband was now stealing time with my son and my rightful place at family reunions. I knew very well the holiday rituals in their house and could picture every activity in my mind. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone where instead of me, SHE was there - sitting among dozens of rolls of wrapping paper on Christmas eve, eating Christmas breakfast casserole by the tree and doing the funny gift exchange with my father-in-law's family.

I was bitter that I wouldn't get to enjoy watching my son interact with his grandparents, open their carefully-wrapped presents and impress them with his new rendition of the Beatles' Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da.

I was bitter that I wouldn't get to share a cup of tea and intimate conversation with my mother-in-law, who I adore and miss terribly.

And I was bitter that I was bitter -- that I allowed these feelings to get the best of me and thrust me backward into this binge of bad behavior. Like the ten pounds I had lost from January through October only to regain by eating donuts and chocolate in December, I felt the sting of failure jabbing at me like a woodpecker on the side of a cabin.

Experts say that relapse is an important part of changing any negative behavior and that we need to retrain our brains over and over until good behavior can take root once again. Until then, I guess I'll fake it till I make it.

So, on the eve of 2012, my resolution is succinct: to try again to banish bitterness and focus on the sweetness of life, in whatever form it takes today.