In my 30-something years, I've made many dating mistakes, although I rarely committed to anyone. In fact, my first long-term commitment was with my ex-husband. But I hung out with, made out, and rendezvoused with quite a few guys who looked good on paper but were awful in real life. Some of the quotes from these men that stand out to me the most were:
"You can't graduate college."
"You can't write."
"You'd make a good stripper."
Some of these men I cut loose instantly and others I embarrassingly admit, I did not. Why? Well, it's not easily stated in one simple sentence, but let's just say I didn't believe I deserved better. I thought this was what I had coming and had earned. I didn't hold my head high. I let myself be whoever these guys needed me to be because I wanted to be loved by them more than I could love myself.
And then finally! After my own personal therapy and time, I found him: my ex-husband. He looked like Prince Charming. Dark hair, dark eyes, clean cut. And he was lovely and loved me. He made me feel like Cinderella; I was no longer cleaning the kitchen (metaphorically speaking) with guys who wanted me at their command. I was ball-gowned and saved!
So six years later when our marriage started to go downhill, I panicked. What would I do without him? He had been my family for so long, and I was sure — so sure — that it would work. We were opposites, but we balanced each other. Without him, would I be out there in the cold? Not just financially, but also emotionally. Would I be with jerk after jerk after jerk? Did I really believe in myself? Could I do it? Had the girl who believed she was just worth being someone's eye candy and "just for laughs" babe grown strong enough to not only be on her own, but stand tall without crumbling to self-destructive behaviors?
And if this marriage failed, I thought, doesn't that mean that I am a failure? I told everyone, "Look, I finally met the right one," and people were thrilled that a nice girl like me had met a nice guy, for once. Yet apparently, I was wrong. I had lied. I felt that admitting the marriage had failed meant that I too was destined to fail.
I could not fail! That's just what everyone expected. How could I let myself down? My husband down? My daughter, everyone, down.
We tried counseling after counseling. We discussed trying and trying, and yet no counseling or trial separation ever brought us back together, for good. There's love there, oh yes, but no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to make him happy. To make the love feeling last. We are both two great people, but somehow together, we can't make it work, all the time. I beat myself up with regrets and told myself, "No one will want me. I'm just too X, Y, or Z." I picked at myself the way people pick at leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
But something has happened recently since the divorce in the past few months. It's funny. I noticed that one day, I was happy. And then another day came and guess what? I was happy again. And again. I actually asked myself, "Is there something wrong with me? Am I like, overly hormonal? Mood disorder."
There's nothing wrong with me. It's just, for once, I feel truly happy, all on my very own — no man responsible for my glee. Sure, I have moments of sadness, worry, and anger, but overall, I feel happy. Why? Because in the midst of my darkness when I felt as if my life was over, I somehow pulled it together to make this pact. To make sure that I never feel that defeated again.
To Not Settle
No matter what, if I'm with someone who makes me feel less than or as if I'm not "good enough," it's done. I won't settle for a stand-in or a fill-in boyfriend for the night, week, or month that doesn't make me feel good at the end of the day. I won't hang out with someone to avoid being alone. I won't find someone else to fill up my life with happiness because I am enough, on my own. I like my own company!
I am not the same girl, premarriage, letting men stroll over her face as if she's a doormat. I own my happiness. I enjoy the fact that today, I woke up and I'm healthy.
I won't cater to someone else's ego or needs and diminish the person I am just so I can be the woman some dude needs.
I am loud, sensitive, goofy, and perfectly me. If a guy wants a mouse, he can find one. I'm not a mouse, and I won't shrink myself.
My ex-husband and I may have not worked out, but he was a good man and a sign that indeed, I was, am getting stronger.
I will wait for that one, big, great love. He will love me as I am, flawed and all.
It will happen for me. Until then, I am alone, strong, and happy with the person I have become.
Believe in My Dream
Even in my darkest days, I still kept pursuing the things I loved the most: writing and performing. I remember someone telling me my blog was ridiculous. That my degree (yes by the way, I graduated college from Columbia University) was meaningless.
Life is not worth living without a dream. If you don't have something to reach for, something to hope for, you're missing out on what's great about life: possibilities.
No one will shut my dreams down. Only I have the power to do that to myself, and I won't.
The Worst-Case Scenario Road
It's never going to get better. The worst will definitely happen. I went down the "worst-case scenario road" time and time again throughout the beginning of this divorce process. And yes, my finances are utter crap. The house I live in could foreclose or sell any day now. But there are some things I have little control over and others that I do. For the things I cannot control, I have to let it be. I can plan and prepare, but there is only so much I can do. Worrying and making myself sick and miserable is not the way to move on.
I've decided to leave the "worst-case scenario road" in exchange for hacking away and making my own path. Living in negativity is no good.
Not Keeping Up With the Joneses
I felt horrible knowing my kid wouldn't grow up in an "intact" home like many of her friends. That she will grow up in two homes with fewer resources than had we stayed together. That I probably won't be able to take my kid to Disney before she is 6. I actually don't know when I will be able to take her. These things ate at me.
But I realized that that's life. At the end of the day, she will be fine. I gave up trying to be like everyone else, and instead, I'm just trying to be my best self. Not every kid gets to go to Disney (I didn't), and not every kid gets to have one nuclear household, yet kids grow up just fine. It's not the homes that matter but the people inside those homes that do. If it's two homes for her, that's great. As long as there is love inside each home.
For my daughter and me, getting a stable new home is more important than meeting Mickey Mouse, and years later my daughter can say, "My mom worked so hard for me." That means more than a pair of mouse ears.
Let It Go
That Elsa knew what she was talking about. I tried and tried to repair my marriage. And then I tried some more. And some more. But sometimes, it takes more strength to let go, then to keep holding on.
And so that's what I am doing. I am letting go of him. I am saying goodbye to what was. To the marriage. To my old life.
And in the throes of this goodbye, I am building day by day, a new life, and one that includes him as my coparent. Does it hurt? Sure, but how much longer could I keep gluing together something that just won't mend?
We tried, and it didn't work. We can keep holding on, or we can squeeze each other's hands goodbye and say, "Good luck, friend. I'm here for you."
Here's to our future — even if we aren't in it together. It's going to be bright. It may take longer than we want it to, but if we believe, it will be OK.