Dear Chump Lovelies,
It’s been a crazy year since I “met” Tracy and the rest of you refugees from the Love Boat, and it hasn’t been easy. But more than forgetting what food tasted like, losing 50 pounds, and more than expensive therapy as an earnest dude silently listened to me sob for billable hours — this place, and talking to all of you, saved my hide.
The walls in my vintage 1979 Double Wide may not be belting Janis yet, but they’re humming. My weekends are hopping or calm as we see fit, the rooms are rumbling with the laughter of tween girls and one perturbed adult son, and life is getting really, really good.
Is it perfect? No. I’m still deeply in debt and collectors still call. I pay my basics first and then their pound of flesh. Am I gorgeous? No. I’m cute. I’m 170 pounds of Casper the Friendly Hobbit. But I can fit in an inner tube at the water park now and nobody at Disney is herding me to the seatbelt measurement line. Am I over it? Is every day meh? Good God, no. Hunt around in the forums or posts for my story– it’s terrifically horrific! But I am bringing mighty back.
Let me share the steps I took to “Just Keep Livin” — Matthew McConaughey.
(P.S. When you take life coach advice from a naked, bongo-playing Texan, you know you’re on the road to healing.)
1. Extreme Self Care. This can be done on any budget. This means you go find the picture of yourself where you looked and felt great about something not related to your Cheater. And you display it proudly and do something every single day to honor and regrow your annihilated self. At first all I could muster was waterjogging at the Y, chanting the simplest prayers not to off myself. Sometimes it was a hike, with a frozen banana as a treat at the end. A comic book action figure that delights my inner kid. A spa day. Whatever you can afford that speaks comfort to the secret you that is still unbroken.
2. Be In the World. Just effing BE. If you have been isolated and made a pariah, smeared by a Narc or told you need to shut up, you’re fat, ugly, rude, test their hypothesis everywhere you go. Smile at cashiers. Give directions when asked. Sit in a coffeeshop and shoot the breeze. Join in on activities at work. You don’t have to go into your breakup unless people ask. Wake up every day and decide you will act for the greater good. Cry if you need to. Hide when you need to. Scream in the parked car after. But get up and do it again, and I promise you will see your kindness and valid place in the world reflected back to you by others.
P.S. Fuck the Cheater and AP. You don’t owe them anything but cool civility for your children. For the Greater Good!
3. Date Your Friends. Noooooo — not like hubby or wifey did with the Co-worker! Date our friends, new or old. Sort through those connections and renew and invest in the ones who stood by you, and put the same effort into it as you would for a potential mate. I am old as balls, but I say yes now to parties. I bring pie, bitches.
I brunch. I cinema, I babysit. I loan a cup of sugar. If you are financially strapped or have no friends, again, invite a neighbor for tea and cake. Invite a co-worker to eat lunch and bring in a treat. Others have probably been interested in you and wishing you weren’t so aloof. Connect, and your anxieties will ease.
4. You Have What You Need. If you never go on another date, and you do the things above, you’re golden. When you die, 97% of those mourners at your wake will have never seen you naked, and those connections matter. And really, I don’t believe your picker is really broken. Unlike Cheaters, Chumps have the ability to stop touching the Hot Stove of Disorder. So if you embrace a celibate fate, that’s valid. But if you’d like to have some attraction and/or action back in your life, read on.
5. Catch and Release. I could go into exquisite detail here about my post-divorce dating follies, and to be honest I haven’t found THE ONE. Mostly due to not trying to. Marriage is no longer the grail for happiness I once thought it was. The kickass job I am doing as a singleton happens to also include a desire to be seen in public with a potential mate, and eventually express myself in a sexual way with a trusted person. But unlike my Cheater, who hops from bed to bed and woman to woman, I’m doing it right this time.
The goal is not to find someone to heal my hurts, to fix me, to prove to ex and Schmoopie and the world that “Seeeee what I can do!” The goal is to know myself, and not bend or be rushed or lovebombed. The goal is to catch red flags and drop that like it’s crap without a look back. My goal is honesty, flirting, mutual appreciation and an occasional hike or ride on a Harley. The smell of grass at a ball game. Two fingers of Bourbon. The opportunity to wear ridiculously pretty shoes. When you fix you, when you feed you, when you share yourself and talents with your community your picker heals itself, and attraction to someone might surprise you. Be ready in those dancing shoes.