Not long ago, while on assignment for a story I was writing, I was mocked by a sticker.
A stupid, little, heart-shaped sticker was affixed to a window over the desk of the woman I was interviewing. It was so stupid, and so little, and so heart-shaped, I lost track of my interview questions and began fixating on the sticker and its sinister message.
It was an evil sticker. Trust me.
“What if you did something really brave today?” it asked in its pretentious, mocking, accusatory tone. (Clearly, that’s how the sticker would have sounded had it spoken the self-righteous words it was sporting on its sticker tummy.)
But the question was so stupid, it was insidious. I found myself tormented, feeling stupid and little myself (though definitely not heart-shaped – more like an apple, sadly…).
Sure, it was a stupid little question. But as I sat there, pretending to take notes and feigning interest in what the woman behind the desk was saying (and literally, to this moment I can’t even recall the point of the interview), I began to ponder.
What had I done that was really brave?
Turns out, quite a bit. I sat there and had a total, Oprah-style “a-ha” moment. Indeed, I had done some pretty brave things, but only in hind-sight could I truly recognize the power of these seemingly inconsequential actions. The upheaval that was inspired by the discovery of my ex-husband’s betrayal created such a whirlwind, such a tornado in fact — probably an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, I’m thinking — that I found myself constantly adapting to the new landscape into which I was thrown. And then uprooted again. And thrown. And again uprooted. You get the picture.
Here are a few of my superhero highlights (take that, stupid little heart-shaped sticker):
- I crossed over that invisible boundary, the line in the bed, so to speak, and began sleeping on “his” side. I decided to stop being afraid of expanding my horizons — even those on my bed — and threw an arm, then a leg, outside of my matrimonially allotted sliver. Symbolic, yes…but huge, nonetheless.
- I stopped being ashamed of being divorced – and in fact, I learned to embrace it (this blog is testament to that). While being divorced does not define me, it is yet another piece of the complex puzzle that comprises me. It is part of me, yet I no longer live in fear that people can see the scarlet letter “D” that I was convinced had become irreversibly emblazoned on my chest.
- I returned to my maiden name. Having an established reputation in a small town, this was an important decision — and took some serious thought. I had created a successful writing business that in the blissful, naïve stupor inspired by a decade of matrimonial commitment, I had named Dahle Consulting. So obviously, that had to go. But an even bigger consideration was the idea that I would no longer share the same last name as my children. However, I realized that I have contributed far more than a few silly letters to their identity, which helped inspire my decision to re-embrace my former, pre-marriage identity (and shirk the name that now only inspired shudders of disgust).
- I decided that people are like socks. Crazy thought, I know, but follow along here: You know how, when you’re folding laundry, you end up with all these white socks? They’re practically identical — except in the smallest of details (the ribbing in one is wider than in another, the seam along the toe line is more pronounced in this one that that, etc.). Well, invariably, I end up pulling a pair of socks from my drawer before going to the gym, and I realize they aren’t exactly the same…and having a wee bit of a Type-A personality, this makes me just a wee bit (read: tremendously) crazy. But then I realize: They seemed a good fit at the time. So, there you have it: I think we’re like socks. There may be one that is closest to a “true” mate, but there are many that fit the bill. My ex wasn’t the closest … but he was a good fit (or at least I thought as much) for almost 14 years. Now I’m looking for the next match. Let’s just hope he’s not rolled up in some fitted sheet and lost forever (which is as creepy as it is potentially tragic)…
- I embarked on a serious, long-term relationship…with a guy! (The end of that sentence is important, considering that post-divorce, many women attribute what happened with “a guy” to “all guys” and thus turn to the “non-guy” side.)
Now it’s your turn: Divorced or not, what have you done recently that has been really brave? It could be big (like making a move, changing jobs, having a child) or seemingly insignificant (remember, I’m the girl who made a big deal out of having a monogamous relationship with my shampoo).
After all, we all need to embrace our bravery — and together, maybe we can show that stupid little heart-shaped sticker that mocking people is unnecessary. And heartless. And just plain mean.
Leave a comment below…pretty please?
I’ve been feeling braver lately. I dyed my hair brown. This was big because I’ve been a blonde my whole life. My hair is naturally dishwater blonde. And blonde hair is weirdly prized as a sign of youth. Well, I’m really happy with this aging biz and hate the idea of doing something other people do to look young (I know that’s a weird sort of vanity, but there it is). So for the first time in my life I’m a brunette. Now I’m trying to figure out how to keep my gray while being a brunette.
The other thing I’m just starting to do. With everything in flux with publishing, fiction is on the front end of a revolution. It’s a really unique time to be a writer. But I worry we’re all going to find a way to stick with the comfortable old dysfunctional business model, whereby writers give an ongoing piece of their financial pie to people who don’t add ongoing value. So I’m starting a press that does stuff differently. We’ll see how it goes. (This is actually the first place I’ve mentioned it!). I doubt either sounds brave to people who’ve gone through real emotional upheavals, but it’s pretty big for me.
You, my friend, are a gorgeous brunette. I hope you know that! 🙂
…and…congrats on starting your own press. I’d love to hear more about it — please keep me in the loop.
Both of these things are totally brave, and I hope you’re totally proud of yourself.
The first thing I did was to get a life. I also set out to prove him wrong when he told me that I would never amount to anything. Instead of feeling defeated, which I did for about 5 minutes, I made a slew of changes, including taking back my maiden name, getting a job in public media, buying my own home and now blogging. Blogging is the best therapy ever!
Wow — I wish I had your bravery when I was newly divorced. Whereas it took you 5 minutes, it took me 2 years to not feel defeated!
But here I am now — reinvented and ready to roll. And you’re absolutely right: Blogging is amazing therapy. Now if only we could earn that elusive $275/hour for our expert advice…
Your ex was probably the type of sock with a lot of holes in it.
I have always been of the impression that one of the most bravest things that we could do, is to greet everyday with a smile and live that same day like it was our last on this mortal coil. I try to live that way, do you?
I, personally, have never been through divorce. I can’t imagine how I would act or what I would be like if I were to go through one. I salute anyone who is facing that situation or is going through it.
LOL…definitely LOTS of holes! 😉
What you say about greeting every day with a smile is so true. I tell my children all the time that happiness is a choice. Choosing to be happy — especially when going through something like the turmoil of divorce or separation — can prove difficult. But every day, I choose happiness. Well, at least I try…
Thanks for stopping by … I hope you keep checking back! 🙂
I just want you to know that your blog has inspired me to tell a bit of my story more, about my divorce and how my ex’s harsh words actually motivated me to have my own Rocky Balboa moment. Anyway, I’m posting it later this month, plus I have another one coming out next week on the state of divorce, but it’s done tongue-in-cheek. In response to Matt, nothing, absolutely nothing prepares you for divorce. It can be extremely painful, heart ripping, bitter and it did take me years to get over him. Mostly I needed to get over the loss of a dream. But proving him wrong was a snap compared to getting over the loss of my marriage. Does that make sense? Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. 🙂
Monica … you are SO not alone! And that’s exactly what I was hoping this blog would accomplish, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me see that I am doing what I should be doing here! I felt the exact same way about my marriage — when it was over, it was completely over, and my head knew that — but my heart couldn’t get over the fact that I had made “forever” vows. And I completely identified myself with my “married” self…so I lost a huge part of “me” in the divorce. But I have gained new insights and a brand new sense of self post-divorce. I hope you have found the same to be true.
I can hardly wait to read about your perspective — and your Rocky Balboa moment! 😉
I told him off. It was a big deal to me. I’d been quiet since he left, hadn’t uttered much of a peep. So this week I told him off. Felt loads better. Not as good as I would feel if I could run him and his teenaged girlfriend over but good nonetheless. My next goal is to tell his mother off. 🙂 Divorce comes with perks! In-Laws are no longer a requirement.
Awesome … way to look at the bright side! It does feel good to talk, express, get it out there. This blog is my way of “talking it out.” I’m glad you got a chance to do the same!
In keeping with the spirit of your blog – the biggest and bravest thing I did to date was travel clandestinely across 4 states, grab a Sheriff and take back my horses and my dogs ,have the Jack Ass served and held while I drove though a blizzard to cross state lines.
Wow. OK. You’re my new hero.
Seriously brave shit!
I think I’m kinda brave, all though I haven’t gone through divorce…
I moved halfway across the world (I’m from the Netherlands), left family and friends behind and quit my job, to live in China…
My fiance moved here too, but he traveled first for three months (partying and having fun while I was lonely and scared waking up crying) while I had to finish up back home. I think the bravest thing I will have to do is forgive him for the pain and suffering I went through during our seperation. He is Irish, so I’m familiar with the “holding a grudge is a beautiful thing”, but it isn’t and (three months later) it still hurts. The thing is, that we’re still not really together because he lives in another town and we see eachother during the weekends only…
Okay, I should definitly shut up now, sorry.
I love your blog!
No need to shut up … this is a venue for sharing and healing! I’m so sorry for your pain — sounds totally awful.
And yes, you’re exceptionally brave. Congrats!
Hi I have just come across your blog and am solo + 8 years. I began by painting the kitchen and am now the proud owner of a chainsaw and axe – not to use on his head! – who needs men? I am not an ‘all men are bastards’ sort of woman now but I will not hitch my wagon to someone just because that is the way the world expects of me. I made the choice initially so as not to disrupt my children’s already disintegrating world and have come to the conclusion that, outside of doing useful little jobs, it would take an incredibly special guy for me to want to make room in my very busy life. I look forward to reading on!
Congrats on your 8 years solo…I can understand your choice in terms of the kids. It definitely seems the best solution in some cases…
I laughed out loud when I read about your chainsaw and axe. It’s amazing the things that empower us when we find ourselves solo! And I also started my reinvention by painting, but mine was a focal wall in my bedroom (formerly our bedroom), which I painted blood red. On purpose. 😉
Good luck to you, and I hope you enjoyed the reading!
I made the decision to stay.
And I have had to re-make that decision every day since I found out my wife was having an affair.
Some days the choice is easier to make than others, but it has been the most difficult choice I have ever had to make and the consequences have been rather severe, at times.
I didn’t stay for the children (we have 3). I didn’t stay because I was afraid to be alone (I’m perfectly comfortable being alone and quite confident that I could find happiness with someone new). I stayed because I am still deeply in love with my wife and because I promised I would.
In order to give our marriage even the faintest chance at surviving, I had to accept responsibility for what I was doing to damage the love my wife once had for me. That’s not to say that adultery can EVER be justified, only an acknowledgment that my behavior had pushed my wife to a point where she no longer cared whether or not we stayed married and, therefore, no longer cared if she stayed faithful. She knew what she was doing was wrong, she just didn’t care. Or, at least, she thought she didn’t.
She was actually relieved when I finally had undeniable proof of her betrayal. Unlike your situation, there had actually been signs for me – times where I *KNEW* in my heart that they were together and, as it turns out, I WAS RIGHT! She always had a reason for being around him (they were in a study group together) and assured me that she would NEVER be interested in someone like him (he’s 15 years older than she, divorced/remarried, foul-mouthed, smoker, father of an 18-month old son with his “new” wife… Your basic “man-whore-coward” with the standard M.O.: “My wife doesn’t love me/You’re the only one who understands me/I never believed love existed until I met you/If only there was some way I could leave my wife, I’d run away with you!”). Well, here was his chance to have her! And what did he do? He ran away. As fast as his little, cowardly legs could carry him.
Putting the pieces of my shattered heart back together while simultaneously trying to win back her affections has been challenging, to say the least but, as it turns out, my wife cared more about her marriage – me, our family – than she realized. Thankfully and despite the fact she didn’t like me very much at the time, my wife agreed to all my conditions for her to stay: She cut off all contact with the coward, she stopped going places alone, told me where she was going, who she was going with, who she saw when she got there, etc. Anything that I needed in order to have some semblance of a feeling of security she willingly provided. We started counseling. We started talking again – honestly this time. We started dating (each other) again.
Two and a half years later, we are still taking it one day at a time. We are MUCH better than we were, but there are still days where I wonder if I made the right choice. Will it all be worth it? Will there ever come a day where I no longer think about what happened? A day when I don’t get that “kicked in the gut” feeling when an image pops into my mind? A day when I can trust her completely again? I pray each day that the answer is ‘Yes’ to all of the above and then I make my decision and recommit to stay…
Regardless of how it all turns out, I can thankfully say that I have become a better husband, father and friend – a better man – as a result.
And I *KNOW* I’m not coward.
I would love to rub your head for good luck, I know that women voice their pains but you really understand. I’m glad to hear that its must be done everyday not sometimes or once in awhile but every day!! As you can tell, I stayed too. I would love an easy love, no looking over my shoulder or wondering if I should be looking for something. Awwe but that is not to be my life. wishing you well, M.e.
Mike, this is such a moving account of your bravery. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing.
You see, this is exactly what married people deserve from one another. Now, I don’t know if I could EVER be strong enough (or trusting enough) to choose to forgive after infidelity, but the fact that you are in the process of trying shows the strength of your commitment to your vows. And that, my friend, takes giant cajones — made of steel!
It sounds like you are both doing everything possible and necessary. And whether in the end it works or not, you have demonstrated your tenacity and shared yourself more deeply as a result.
Congratulations. You’re truly a Super Hero!
Best of luck to you, and I hope to see you around here again…
A friend of mine just turned me onto your blog. I’m going on 6 years post divorce. In that time I have bought a house, sold a house (I couldn’t afford) fallen in love, fallen out of love, and gone back to school for 4 arduous years to become an RN. And bravest of all? I’m now refusing to jump in the sack with a guy until he can make some sort of a commitment. I’d rather walk away emptyhanded (or empty-other-parted) than to be hurt again. I’m brave, and I’m glad you are, too.
Cecilia — you totally rock. Those are some incredibly brave steps, and I for one am proud of you. I know firsthand how difficult it is to fall in love again — let alone out of love.
And congrats on becoming an RN … brave work indeed.
I hope you keep reading. I think all of us who are embracing our 2.0 versions (or 3.0, 4.0, etc.) can learn from one another!
I love reading all these life stories! To think we feel so alone as we go through these trials just to find out there are so many with the same experiences. Thank you for this blogg and all the courageous comments.
I have been divirce for 3 years now and am a single mom with 3 children. I have a little twist to my situation that i am focusing on in my blogg- namely to be the one beside the addict. The co-dependent. I haven’t quite gotten to the dicorce part of my story but when i do it should be fun 🙂
Absolutely…that’s one of the primary purposes of this blog: SHARING! It has totally opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many of us out there, and that we have a right to react and heal and emote. I was told for so long by my the “others” in my life that I should just sit back and shut up and that I only look bitter when I talk about it.
But you know what? I GET to talk about it. Many of us have been victimized in a lot of ways…do we tell people who’ve been the victims of violent crime that they don’t get to talk? Nope…we encourage it, in fact.
Now I’m in no way comparing my situation to violent crime — I realize my victimization was far different. But it’s victimization, nonetheless.
I can’t wait to stop by your blog — and I’m so sorry for your ordeal. Keep on keeping on, and I look forward to seeing you around here again.
Biggest thing I did this year….more like a stream of occurances: Walked away from the man I was going to marry and had been with for years to later find out he was cheating anyways (bonus points to me for the good decision)! Didn’t let the nightmare of my ex taint my views on guys (shocked that didn’t happen). Moved an hour away from my hometown to a place where I knew absoutly no one. Went on a 5 day vacation for a third date with a guy I met on a plane, moved in with him two months later. Stripped down to an itty bitty bikini and posed on stage in front of over 2000 people. And found monogamy with a shampoo too (it was bliss)!
Very good post. I’m glad that I found your blog. I enjoy the sock bit. I think I’m feeling the exact same thing. I thought my socks were a perfect fit, unfortunately I’m realizing that we’re not as similar as I thought when we paired up. His stripes are different now.
I crossed the invisible line after the divorce. It seemed to help ease the “no one is over there where he is supposed to be” thing. After four years, I’m ready to move back. The vents are properly positioned on my old side of the bed. It’s closer to the bathroom. I’d prefer NOT to have HIM on the other side of the bed anyway. Might be as monumental as my first line crossing.
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