I’m sure by now you’ve realized you did not get the life you were expecting.
You can react to that in two ways — you can hold your breath and turn blue waiting for the life you expected to emerge. Or you can adapt, overcome, and be open to the possibilities of a different life.
Take your pick.
If you choose the first option, you’re going to spend a lot of time being disappointed and, well, literally blue. If you don’t first pass out from asphyxiation, you’ll probably expire from self pity. Measuring every day by The Loss is a recipe for misery. Other people are whole, but not me… I have The Loss. Nothing will ever be the same since The Loss. (That’s probably true… and so what?)
If you don’t get the life you were expecting, good luck trying to control the outcome. This is the mentality that feeds the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Just try harder! Feed your sense of failure and send me $399 and I will affair proof your marriage for you. Did you not follow the program? Well, I think that’s your fault. I will not refund your $399 — you failed.
If you would like to spend your life measuring yourself by the standards of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex, please go right ahead. Internalize that marriage is the measure of your worth. What kind of marriage? Doesn’t matter. Just stay married and shut up, okay? Don’t be one of those pathetic divorced people who fuck up their children with their selfish, selfish divorces. Don’t be one of those sad single people who will die alone with cats. Don’t you know everyone is a cheater and all the good people are gone? You have to work with what you have, and so your spouse is a bit of a fixer upper. Well, so are you. In fact, it’s your very inadequacies that drove them to an affair in the first place. Spend the next several decades of your life working on that, and I’m sure eventually a unicorn will appear.
What? They left? What? You quit?
Or you can take the second option. Adapt, overcome, and be open to the possibilities of a different life.
If you take the second option, it’s going be difficult. Mostly, because people who don’t get it (which is the majority of people) will measure you by the first option — that you could’ve controlled this and you failed. So part of your job is to prove to yourself and those morons that they’re really fucking wrong. Because you’re MIGHTY. And it’s going to be difficult because it is an actual Loss. And you’re going to grieve about that. Grief isn’t self pity. They’re two very different things. Grief is coming to terms with a different life than the one you expected. Self pity is very much about staying stuck on the injustice. Yes it was unjust. Okay, and NOW WHAT? Self pity answers, “It was UNJUST!” Okay, and now what? Self pity is on a loop, it just feeds on itself and doesn’t get out much. Self pity is simply awful on dates.
So, let’s just establish that adapting, overcoming and being open is fucking DIFFICULT.
Apparently, I haven’t been sending that message very clearly because according to Gio (I did read some of my comments in the last four days while I was out of town, folks) — I believe life after divorce is magically falling in love at a blues festival. Oh, it’s easy for ME to say, move on and be open to the possibilities from my cushy, smug position as a Superior Married Person who doesn’t understand the slings and arrows of outrageous singleness.
I believe it was also said that I don’t know what it’s like to be single at 50, 60 and I judge from my 40-something armchair, and I think someone added that widowers who date too soon are dreadful beyond measure. Oh, and women have it harder in the dating world.
Folks, this isn’t the pain Olympics here. Whoever you are — woman, man, gay, straight, bi — someone’s got it worse than you’ve got. I guaranfuckingTEE it. Is it hard to date at 60? I’m sure it is. It’s also fucking hard at 30 with a toddler and an infant. Or in your early 40s with two divorces (raising my hand). This shit is no picnic for men either. How would you like to paternity test your children, or share them with psycho mom and her rotating cast of scary boyfriends? Please shut the fuck up about how you’ve got it worse. You’re in pain. I get it and I’m sorry. But your pain does not supersede others — that’s the mentality cheaters have. Don’t be that person. Know that you’re a voting member of Chump Nation and we don’t need the particulars of your special exceptionalism.
On the widower comment — you think that guy is too dreadful to date? So disrespectful he is to his hardly-cold-in-the-grave-wife? Take a pass then. There are a lot of women who’d be happy to have him. My friend Yoma was one of them. She remarried at 76 and her widower husband was 73. Did he move too soon? He’d been nursing his dying wife for TEN YEARS. He was depressed and met my friend at the retirement home she’d just joined and invited her to join the photography club. They’re going on their second anniversary, traveling around, happy as can be. They busted a move on this commitment thing. In your 70s, they figured, you don’t have a lot of years left.
Oh, that’s scandalous. He should’ve sat alone in his room nursing vodka tonics committing to the memory of his departed wife.
It’s not scandalous. It’s reinventing your life from the expected path.
Which is what I want you to do. Say YES to the invitation to join the photography club. Not because I want you to date and partner up again (although if that happens to you, mazel tov!) — but because I want you to GAIN A LIFE. Be OPEN to the world. Quit looking back at what you were cheated of (a narcissistic loser) and start captaining your own ship.
As to my smug, married 40-something ass? I know what it is to have your nose pressed against the glass of other people’s Perfect Intact Family Lives. I lived most of my 30s and early 40s as a single mother. Going to every school event alone. Hearing about other people’s Disney vacations. Going on dates, being rejected. (I remember one guy who looked like a potato — seriously, a POTATO, lumpy, oval-shaped, pock marked — dismissing me most clearly as Not What He Expected or clearly felt entitled to. Like… oh, you showed up. Ew, send it back.) Chump matrons in your 60s with 30 years of married life? I’m the single mother you never invited to your dinner parties. I know from suckitude.
I also know what it is to reinvent yourself. I know what it is like to suffer a divorce, find the strength to be open to life, recommit to another human being, move my life for them and discover they’re a serial cheater.
Did I come out of that nightmare going — oh, all the good ones are gone! I’m a 40-something two-time loser. Hang it up.
Sure, there were many days I felt like that. But I built a good life for myself anyway. Had a lovely home, raised my kid, grew my garden — and I knew something I did NOT know after my first divorce — this life was ENOUGH. It was hard won. It was peaceful. It was full and I was happy in it. I had no expected life plan. Maybe I’ll get a boyfriend, a friends with benefits. Maybe I’ll never have sex again and it will be enough to just plant oriental lilies. Who knows?
There is a freedom that comes when you’ve got nothing to lose. When you’ve lost it all anyway. It was that what the fuck attitude that took me to New Orleans, Sacred Mecca for the What The Fuck Saints of Nothing to Lose. An openness. A lack of smugness. An attitude that enjoys the moment and embraces possibilities. That drinks rum hurricanes and falls in love.
Does the story end there? Tracy gets her Happy Ending and everything is restored? No. Every happy ending has a steep price of admission. There was moving a life, there were painful goodbyes, there was my house flooding, there was blending teenagers and resulting drama, there was sick parents, and general life crises. But being a MIGHTY chump, being one of the WTF Saints of Nothing to Lose — I knew I’d seen worse. I knew I could get through it. And I knew I could reinvent if I had to, because I’ve done it all before.
I did NOT get the life I expected. And thank God for that. What I have is so much more joyful and interesting. And it’s authentic. I don’t eat shit sandwiches any more. I don’t keep up appearances. I won’t be nursing a narcissist after a health crisis, and he won’t be abandoning me in mine. I don’t try to resuscitate dead things. I live life open to the possibilities.
You chumps are tough motherfuckers. Happiness is yours if you’re brave enough to invent some for yourself. I have no idea what shape that will take for you, just like I had no idea what shape it would take for me. (Texas?! Really God? REALLY?!) But I know that it is out there. And I know it doesn’t live with your cheater and your past life.
So embrace the new life. Good people still exist. How do I know? Because my smug, married 40-something ass says so.