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My husband was leading a double life. How I fell apart, then found strength.

One woman's story of finding strength during divorce and deceit.

My husband was leading a double life. How I fell apart, then found strength.

A few weeks after giving birth to my first baby, I was wracked with pain to the point that I could barely move.

Swinging my legs, one after another, out of bed took nearly all my willpower. This pain had nothing to do with the physical stress of childbirth or the stitches still holding my swollen private area together.

This pain came from a place so deep within me that I could not determine where the pain ended and I began. We were intertwined. It was all-consuming.


It felt as if half of my DNA had been ripped out of my body and I was left with a dangling half-strand.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized that my husband had become a part of me. Now, in his absence, I felt an emptiness where he had been. I knew I would never be whole again.

In “Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and writer Carolyn Gregoire explore what happens in the aftermath of a traumatic event:

“The more we are shaken, the more we must let go of our former selves and assumptions, and begin again from the ground up. ... Rebuilding can be an incredibly challenging process. ... It can be grueling, excruciating, and exhausting. But it can open the door to a new life.”

I know that door.

I found out my husband was leading a double life almost immediately after I gave birth to my daughter.

There was another girlfriend, and a secret credit card. Then other women started to come forward.

I was suddenly on my own with a newborn baby. I grieved him, and the future I thought we would have together, like a death.

Photo from me, used with permission.

While these have been without a doubt the most difficult months of my life, there was also something incredibly freeing in being ripped to shreds and then rebuilding myself piece by piece.

I told my therapist that everything seemed somehow clearer. “I feel like the human interactions I do have are very genuine now. I used to make kind of superficial small talk a lot, and I don’t do that anymore. I can’t really explain it. I just feel like I see people now.”

She told me that these moments of clarity are made possible precisely because you no longer have room for a lot of the crap you used to spend so much time thinking about. You are stripped clean.

You’ve always possessed this power. Maybe you just never knew how to access it.

Before experiencing trauma, I cared very much what people thought of me, from close family and friends to strangers. I had trouble making decisions because I wanted to please everyone. Even navigating a grocery store could be stressful — all those strangers silently observing and judging me.

Then, for months, I was trapped in my own body, forced to sit in the pain. Let me be clear. When I say “sit in the pain” I mean not running into someone else’s arms, not getting sloshed every night, and not hiding behind work.

Being trapped in my body meant that I couldn’t run from the darkness or try to do whatever it took to feel “good” again.

We humans naturally try to avoid feelings of discomfort — especially today, when instant gratification is just a click away on social media or a swipe away on an online dating app, when endorphins can be produced and manipulated simply by picking up an iPhone. People are even less likely to be still. To just feel.

But as I sat in my pain, I slowly started to trust my own intuition. I became grounded in a very clear sense of self.

When you begin to truly trust and like yourself, you tap into an immense amount of power.

Photo by me, used with permission.

You’ve always possessed this power. Maybe you just never knew how to access it. You find a power within yourself that’s like an anchor, freeing you from a lot of life’s insecurities that seemed so important before.

Dr. Sharon Dekel says, “Post-traumatic growth can be defined as a workable coping mechanism, a way of making and finding meaning involved in the building of a more positive self-image and the perception of personal strength."

The other side of pain is not comfort, or health, or well-being. It is truth.

When this truth comes pouring in, you begin to see all the grimy layers of protection lift away, and you discover that your journey has just begun. You begin to let the light in and, what’s more, you begin to seek out the light.

One morning I woke up and had a sudden realization. The thought entered my mind like a lightning bolt:

“You were always whole to begin with.”

So as much as I sometimes want to scream and rage at my ex-husband, I also want to thank him. I want to thank him for forcing me to become the person I was always meant to be, for showing me that I am a fighter and that I will never give up.

But most importantly, I thank him for allowing me to become this person before my daughter ever knew anyone else.

You can read more about Jen's journey in her memoir "A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal."

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.