Forgiving Yourself for Marrying a Man Who Cracked Up

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What would I say to a friend?

You were young. You didn’t know. You couldn’t possibly predict the future. Yes, there were signs, but you were also hoodwinked by a pro. You had noble and honest intentions. You thought it would work out. You tried your hardest. You never gave up until you needed to walk away. You worked so hard.

It’s okay. It really is. 

You are moving forward. His power is diminished.

It will be even more okay. It really will.

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We Need to Get Out of the Closet

Gay Equality Advocate Ash Beckham is on to something big.

Today I listened to her latest Ted Talk – about the hardships of living in the closet as a lesbian. And about the courage, compassion, and empathy necessary to step out of the closet and start to really live.

She starts with some revolutionary ideas:

Everyone, at some point in their life, will experience hardship.

Hardship cause pain, shame, anger, and secrecy.

Hardships put people in the closet.

Everyone, sooner or later, will be in a closet.

The closet can be anything:  sexual preference, feeling “different,” divorce or infidelity, cancer or death, an addiction or accident, an eating disorder or financial problems, abuse, learning disorders, lawsuits, bullies, bad parenting, getting fired, a lie, making a huge mistake, mental illness, whatever.

Beckham says, “All a closet is, is a hard conversation. And although our topics may vary tremendously, the experience of being in and coming out of the closet is universal. It is scary, and we hate it, and it needs to be done.”

Beckham went through a militant stage, when she didn’t want to have this conversation. She worked as a waitress and spent her days waiting to launch verbal grenades at little children who all had the exact same question when they met her: “Are you a boy or a girl?” Then one day she looks down into the face of a four-year-old girl in a pink dress.  “Are you a boy or a girl?” the child asks, predictably. And Beckham takes a deep breath, leans down, and starts to explain slowly and simply, “Hey I know it’s kind of confusing . . . “

The child listens to the explanation, nods without missing a beat, and asks for a pancake. This is the beauty of children. Their question is answered, and now they can move on to what’s really important: breakfast. The difficult conversation is over, and as it turns out, it wasn’t that difficult after all. 

One of the surprises of  divorce is that many adults act similarly about the conversation. Oh, a divorce. A bad divorce. A bad soon-to-be-ex. Messy and difficult. Ahhh. Okay. Got it. How can I help? And let’s order a glass of wine.

Beckham’s brief conversation with the four-year-old makes her realize that not everyone is out to get her. Also, that life is hard, and we all struggle, and what’s critical is not to judge others or compare hardships. It’s all hard. Hard is not relative. It’s just hard.

So how did Beckham get out of the closet? Here is her advice:

Be Authentic. Take the armor off, be yourself. 

Be Direct, rip the bandaid off.

Be Unapologetic. Speak your truth, never apologize for that. Apologize for what you’ve done, but never apologize for who you are.

But of course it is not just gay and divorced women who live in closets. It’s everyone, at one time or another.

So I suppose the first question is: What is our closet? What are we hiding?

And the second question is: Do we have the courage to step out, have difficult conversations, and start to move towards bigger and better things? Because it’s true: a closet is no place for a person to live.

Gratitude List: 10 Gifts of Divorce

Gratitude. It’s a difficult exercise when you’re going through a divorce like mine, which drags on for years and can suddenly suck out all the energy and joy of a beautiful day.

On the surface, I’ve lost a lot. But I’ve been thinking about some of the good things I’ve gained in the past 2.5 years. I’m a little surprised by my list. These are really and truly gifts.

1. The Truth: No more lies. I tell the truth, and I expect others to tell me the truth.

2. Independence: I can do all sorts of things myself. I can fix a garbage disposal and pay the taxes;  fly across the country and drive 1,000 miles with two little kids; throw a baseball as well as the dads, and hold family meetings all by myself. I can pretty much do anything that my soon-to-be-ex-husband can do. And I do most of these things better, since I actually pay attention.

3. Boundaries: Everyone stops asking you for favors when you’re getting a divorce. Soon you start to realize that your quality of life is vastly improved when you’re not running around like a lunatic trying to please everyone. So now I help out when I can, but I no longer always feel obligated to donate, volunteer, show up, or listen. I  can say no without guilt.

4. Authenticity: I rarely pretend everything is okay when it’s not anymore. I’ve learned that appearances don’t mean a thing — my soon-to-be-ex and I looked pretty good on the surface. I’m not perfect, and everyone knows it now — my marriage could be an exhibit in Brene Brown’s Museum of Epic Failure. Also after facing real problems, I  learned quickly that gossiping and social climbing are empty, soul-sucking pursuits.

5. Vulnerability: This is a hard one for me, but I try my hardest to show up, be vulnerable, and lean in to all situations. My reward is deeper connections. Since my divorce, people have shared so many important and personal things with me, and for this I’m grateful.

6. Confidence: I have learned that when I step outside my comfort zone, I will be okay after all. From speaking in public to standing up for myself in front of lawyers and evaluators, I can do all sorts of things I never thought possible just two years ago.

7. Health: My free time is my free time — running, time outdoors, hikes with my children, walks with friends. Plenty of sleep. Good food. I take care of myself and my children.

8. Compassion and Self-Compassion:  My little children know that “Only God is perfect,” but I guess I missed this message until halfway through my divorce. Now I know it: none of us is perfect — and on top of that, anything can happen to anyone at any time. My divorce has made me more compassionate, first towards others, and finally towards myself.

9. Creativity: When I stopped worrying what everyone else thought of me, I started getting creative. And if nothing else, this divorce has given me some good material.

10. Freedom: Sink or swim, it’s all up to me now. I refuse to google my soon-to-be-ex, or feel embarrassed by him, or be held back by him anymore. Pretty amazing.