I’m back from Australia! More than a little jet lagged, so if I don’t string sentences together with my usual panache, please forgive me. My ears haven’t unpopped from yesterday’s flight yet and it feels like it’s 2 a.m. somewhere. Our luggage is still at LAX, probably enjoying itself in the holding lot, freebasing Tim Tams. (Yes people — American Airlines is HOLDING OUR TIM TAMS. Forget our collective wardrobes, shoes, and souvenirs, there are Australian snack cakes in jeopardy.) I’m more than a little angsty about it.
But enough of my re-entry crabbiness (work? I have to go back to WORK?), I need to tell you all about the Southern Hemisphere Chumpapalooza.
It. Was. Amazing.
For those just tuning in, I was an invited guest speaker for Zhuchi, a mental health seminar, in Newcastle, NSW. Ostensibly this was an event for counsellors — but really it was a celebration of resilience, a chance to meet the mighty chumps of Australia.
The daylong event examined the Reconciliation Industrial Complex, this blog, and changing the narrative around infidelity. I don’t know what I was expecting from the shrinks of Australia — push back? Hostility? A rallying defense for “unmet needs“? Instead what I got was love. Nodding heads and affirmation. Great questions. And maybe even a couple of “Amens.”
Australia, have you always been such a receptive and open-minded sweetheart? Now, it could well be, the naysayers sat it out because I’m not a therapist myself, so why listen? But those who did attend (many whom I suspect were chump/therapist hybrids) were energized and on board with “Leave a cheater, gain a life” ethos.
And really, no one needed convincing that leaving cheaters leads to better life outcomes, because the mightiness was on evident display right there — chumps! Gorgeous, funny, wise-cracking, brainy, insightful, badass Aussie CHUMPS!
The stories will stay with me forever.
You can’t imagine how completely surreal it is to travel half way around the world and meet someone who hugs you and says, “Chump Lady saved my life.” What? My words changed your life? But not just my words, YOUR words, CN. Your stories. I got to see the power of this community in ACTION in people’s lives.
It’s so incredible. You have to realize, I don’t get out much. Chump Lady lives in my head. That’s how it feels day-to-day. It’s column deadlines, WordPress wackiness, troll attacks and IT headaches. The blog gets amazing comments that I read, and I’ve gotten some beautiful letters too, but I don’t often take the opportunity to meet the people beyond the page. I’ve been to two meet-ups in 6 years, and the book launch. (Which was EPIC.) But mostly, I’m an introvert behind a computer screen.
I met a woman who told me she’d just left a 26-year marriage to a serial cheater thanks to this blog.
A self-effacing dentist (“He looks just like Sting!” said my husband) introduced himself and quietly told me he had to travel to meet me, because my book saved his life — both of them. He produced a copy of my very first self-published book to sign. (My husband kept saying what an idiot this man’s ex was “HE LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE STING. And he’s a DENTIST!” Thereby proving the Lola Doctrine that cheaters never trade up.)
“Lefthimattheairport” and I had a good cry together, especially when she showed me pictures of her children at Disney World. She’d had a harrowing international escape from a cheater, and we wrote back and forth in real time as she was plotting to leave him. So to MEET her, a couple years after her successful daring escape and new life? WOW. She graduated a master’s program last Valentine’s Day and her gift to herself and those kids was to take them to Disney. You’d sob too.
Ozziechump is an artisan baker and brought us all the most exquisite bread and pastries to share. She farms, she bakes, she runs a business. She left a cheater. HOW TALENTED IS THIS WOMAN? Then she told me, Goddamnit, she’s 60 years old and she wants to go back to medical school, because that’s where she was when she met the cheater. How’s THAT for “gain a life”?
One Aussie Chump sent a care package of tea towels that she created called her “Defiant Series” with uplifting post-cheater messages like “Fuck That Shit” and “All Washed Up? NEVER!” Need one for your new life? Look here.
SheChump broke her foot, but that didn’t stop her from traveling 10,000 miles from the Pacific Northwest to meet the Oz chumps. She financed it with her nice divorce settlement that she achieved thanks to advice she read on this blog.
Another chump, I won’t name, shared a story that I hope it’s okay to share here. It really shook me. She told me her son suffered from an eating disorder. It was terrible and he was near death from not eating. They had to keep vigil in his bedroom to make sure he wouldn’t throw up. When she left the cheater? He began to eat again. She told me: “I never realized it until you mentioned it just now in your talk — I think it was the secrets. He was carrying the secrets of his father’s affairs.”
I’m tearing up again. Thanks, CN. Thanks for entrusting me with your stories. Those stories are changing lives. You might not ever meet the folks who read your words, but last week I did. And it was one of the single most powerful experiences of my life. I’m so grateful to Liz Edwards at Zhuchi for inviting me and organizing this, which must’ve been a monumental amount of work. She’s leading the charge, changing the infidelity narrative in Australia.
I also want to say thank you to everyone in Oz for all the gifts and the Tim Tams, and for hazing me with Vegemite (pictures below). I love your country.
I’m going to wrap this up because I have to go pop my ears and have a nap at 8 a.m. Thanks Aussie Chumps! I’ll be back to my usual snark and letter answering tomorrow.
Some Oz pictures below…
Vegemite hazing ritual:
Tracy discovers the joys of mushy peas.
The beach in Newcastle — is this STUNNING or what?
Tracy and Paul (Mr. CL) in Sydney
We love your country, Australia. Please adopt us. Love Tracy