I am in awe lately of Alex Steed’s blog. His columns about his struggle with alcohol, and with himself, are so honest and raw I can’t read them without tearing up. As a blogger who also writes about very personal issues, I know the sheer courage it took to put himself out there like that. It can be a mixed blessing. There are those who seem to have nothing better to do but tear apart folks who write or post online. I’ve watched with sadness as so many have said really hurtful things to Erin Donovan when she blogged about her divorce. However, I have found that with every truthful heartfelt blog, there are readers who write to us and say “thank you so much for your words, they were exactly what I needed to hear.” So for those folks, we keep making ourselves vulnerable and writing about our innermost struggles, our heartaches, joys and successes.
I have a comedy act I perform. Oh no, it’s not like Erin’s. I don’t stand on stage and no one pays me. It’s the act I do for free in a group of people in any social situation when the topic of marriage and divorce comes up and it’s usually quite funny. I performed it again this week for a new friend when the topic of my marriages came up.
It’s a front.
Making ourselves vulnerable to people is hard. It’s hard with those in our inner circle. It’s hard with those who read what we write but it’s even harder when you make new friends in real life. It’s even harder when you make new friends you really enjoy and you worry what they will say when they find out your sorted history (insert your particular sorted history here).
We all have STUFF. Some folks have stuff involving multiple failed marriages, or abusive relationships, or struggles with alcohol, or struggles with mental health, or issues with our children, or maybe a coming out story, but every single one of us has SOMETHING. Anyone who tells you they don’t, well that person is struggling with lying! (Those are the only folks I can’t stomach, the liars, everyone else I welcome you and your struggles, your demons, come on in, you have family here).
And it’s the folks who face their struggles head on, those who can say out loud that they failed and are trying their best to do better, those are the people I love most of all.
Middle age is a time to reassess. It’s a time for tremendous personal growth, if you are willing. It’s a time to rethink all your life choices and make a few changes and try a few new things, while you are still young enough to enjoy them. During this time, if you are making new friends, if you are back in the dating game, if you have a new relationship, you end up making yourself vulnerable when you are not necessarily your most confident! That’s scary stuff.
I have a couple of friends who went out on first dates this week. I felt hope for them but I also felt panic. They have to tell their stories again, they have to open themselves up to hurt again. Lord it’s frightening and they were so, so brave to do it!
Sometimes married folks look at those of us who are divorced and think we probably gave up too soon, we didn’t stick it out, or we didn’t have the courage to see it through to the end. I can understand that, it’s a hard experience to get if you’ve never had it yourself but the divorced folks I know are the bravest people on the planet!
Refusing to accept less than what you deserve out of yourself, out of your partner or out of your life, and then making changes, is an act of immeasurable bravery!
Let me tell you. Divorce takes guts. It takes more guts than I ever thought I had. More courage than I ever thought I could muster. I’m not alone, it takes guts for women and men in all sorts of situations, young, old, healthy, abused, broke or with plenty of income, each struggling with their own situations, those who sought a divorce, and those who were dragged into it unwillingly. It’s hard. It’s devastating. We do it not because we feel callous about marriage but because we often feel it is our only choice for survival: mental, physical or emotional.
Yet, we also come out of it a little weary. If we’ve done it more than once, we come out of it very weary. We’ve been hurt enough times to learn to be cautious, with anyone who we allow into our inner circle. So, in front of new faces, we joke about it because to do or say anything else would be too painful, too embarrassing.
We know that we will never get back that fantasy of living happily ever after with the person we raised our family with. We know that we will miss out on 50th anniversaries and grandchildren coming to visit in the same home their parents were raised in. We have mourned these losses and moved on. Like any struggle, we come out of it survivors. We come out of it knowing that no matter what life throws at us, we can handle it
We know that the partner we are with now, or the person we may meet in the future, will never know the young flawless body of our youth. They will never know the “you” before life’s experiences changed you but that’s okay! This “you” is way better and somehow they fell for you, grey hair, flaws and all. That’s comforting. That’s powerful! We know that some people find “the one” and their quest is over, and that some of us, some of us are lucky enough to have several versions of “the one” and to experience the richness that such a life brings.
We know to be gentle and respectful of others and their struggles. We have learned to not be judgmental, because every single one of us has our own history and our own demons.
And eventually we learn that making ourselves vulnerable, continuing to keep our hearts open to growth, and new experiences, and new people is so very worth it!