The D-Word and the F-Word

I’ve been pretty quiet on here since my divorce in June. It’s certainly not because I haven’t had anything to write about; to the contrary, I could have published a litany of posts about marriage, relationships, and divorce, but I’m glad I didn’t because my thoughts and experiences were so jumbled by depression and stress and uncertainty that my thoughts not only wouldn’t have been coherent but would’ve been fairly cynical too. Now, I’m finally staring to feel better. Not better as in “Everything is fine!” but better as in “I don’t want to kill myself anymore!” I’m kinda like the dog in that GIF:

this-is-fine.0

Which is way better than I used to be, so I’ll take it!

Here is part one of my post-divorce thoughts, which I’ve entitled “The D-Word and the F-Word.”

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Whenever I tell people I got divorced, their faces contort into sorrow and they moan, “I’m soooo soooorry!” Then I’m immediately placed in the awkward position where I either 1) have to find the energy to smile and happily reassure them that I’m fine, or 2) if I don’t have the energy to do #1, just shrug it off. By this point I’m used to the constant outpouring of sympathy, and I’ve been through enough therapy that I genuinely am feeling good about myself, so I’m a little jaded by the Pity Train that starts chugging my way every time someone notices that my ring finger is conspicuously bare.

I’ve recently been given a new position at work that I’m really excited about. I was introduced to a new colleague I’d be working with last week, and when she asked if I was married and had a family, I responded, “No, I actually got divorced this summer.” I braced myself for the oncoming onslaught of simpering platitudes. But instead, she replied,

“Congratulations!”

I literally hugged her. Finally, an appropriate response to what I had been through! “Well,” she told me, a little flustered, “Either you decided to leave him, and in that case, it was the best decision for you. Or, he left you, which in that case, it’s his loss and now you can be with someone who deserves you! In both scenarios it was for the best.”

YES!!! So much yes!

Don’t get me wrong…getting divorced is hard. It is painful. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through in my life. However, being divorced is great! Not necessarily “wake-up-every-morning-with-a-smile-on-your-face” great, but “wake-up-every-morning-and-even-if-I’ve-been-crying-all-night-I-can-pull-myself-together-and-get-through-the-day-knowing-I-have-made-the-choices-necessary-to-eventually-obtain-happiness” great. Just as my colleague said, whenever anyone makes the decision to part ways, it is never taken lightly and is always a result of serious deliberation over what is in the couple’s best interest.

In my case, Scott and I had developed different life goals and values throughout the course of our marriage. The things we each wanted out of life in 2018 were very different than what we wanted when we got married in 2015. There was no way to reconcile or compromise on the things we differed on, and we would have resented each other had we stayed together. Whatever pain we felt immediately after the split pales in comparison to the unhappiness we would have experienced as an incompatible couple later in life.

So, it kind of annoys me that the D-word–“divorce”–is so stigmatized in today’s society. It is associated with another dirty word, the F-word: “failure.” You got divorced, so your marriage failed. You failed to be a good wife. When I tell people that I’m now single, I am haunted by those stigmas. But the thing is, I honestly don’t believe that’s true! I could’ve done a lot of things differently in my marriage, I regret the way that I handled (or didn’t handle) certain issues, and I sure as hell could’ve been a “better” wife by some definitions, but I DO NOT feel like a failure. In fact, because of what I’ve experienced this summer, I actually feel like I’m a good person for the first time in my life. Flawed, yes, but ultimately good; the kind of nuanced flux of goodness and weakness just like most other people in the world.

My close friends already know this; I genuinely thought I was a bad person all my life because I did not “measure up” in so many ways. It’s interesting that going through something that society labels as “BAD” made me see how absurd that belief was.

Divorce is rough. I’m lucky that we didn’t have kids or pets together, that our shared assets were minimal, and that Scott was cooperative throughout the process. But it was still rough. I’m not trying to minimize the pain any divorced person experiences in any way. However, I do think we as individuals and society at large can start to distance ourselves from conflating divorce with failure.

I used to believe that “Everything happens for a reason.” Now, I’m not so sure. My approach to life these days is more like “Shit happens,” and that’s been incredibly liberating. Instead of constantly searching for a cosmic reason for my suffering, I can just deal with it head on. Marriages aren’t always great. People get divorced. Shit happens. It’s your choice whether to gripe about how people don’t stay married anymore, or you can realize that the reason people stayed married in the past was because women actually had no rights, and try to understand that just because others make different decisions than you doesn’t mean they are wrong or bad. Just a thought.

Yes, I got divorced. Stop feeling sorry for me; I’m not a failure!

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Off the Grid, Part One: Taking A Leap

This week I decided to permanently delete my most-used social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

To be clear, I do not think social media is bad, and I do not judge people who love social media or use it frequently. Like pretty much everything else in the world, it has pros and cons. What I’m saying is that I’ve determined that social media is bad for me. I started taking breaks from social media beginning last year, and ever since then have struggled with deleting my accounts altogether. I finally gained the courage to go through with it.

But why was this such a hard decision? I did an exercise where I wrote out all the reasons I wanted to leave and then listed all the reasons I should stay. After I compared the two lists, the decision became easy: all my “cons” were significant cons. (See #5 in particular.) All my “pros” were pretty weak, and I was able to contradict them easily.

Here are the results of my exercise, beginning with reasons to leave social media:

  1. I really don’t care about anyone and their stupid BS. Most of the stuff people post, including me, is drivel. I don’t need to know most of this information and I don’t need it in this quantity.
  2. I care too much about everyone and their stupid BS. Seeing everyone’s vacation photos and manicures and nights at the club and new job announcements makes me compare my life to theirs. I want to be as happy and skinny and sociable and interesting as every person on the Internet, and I feel bad that I’m not.
  3. “What is that thing? I want to buy that thing. Now I need that thing.” I’ve learned a lot about digital marketing at work, and it’s appalling the lengths that corporations go to in order to gather information about our buying habits and exploit them to get us to buy more. Don’t need the extra temptation.
  4. I’m on my phone ALL THE TIME. I was at the airport the other day, and I looked around and LITERALLY EVERYONE was on their phone, including me. Doing what? Stupid BS. Why couldn’t I just sit there and be a person? Why do I always feel compelled to be looking at a screen? I know these types of questions have become cliche, but as with most things that are cliche, they are also profound.
  5. Social media makes me sad. I don’t feel good after I look at these apps, I feel worse than before I open them. 90% of the time I don’t learn anything new that will help me in my life. I regret how much of my morning or my lunch break or time I should’ve spent sleeping I waste on these cat videos and people complaining about politics and my number of “likes.” I personally feel more unhappy than I do happy as a result of social media.

But at the same time, I don’t want to leave, and as I wrote out the reasons why I noted they were all fear-based:

  1. I’m afraid of missing out on my loved ones’ lives. The reality is, I don’t keep in touch with my family and friends very well. A lot of the phone calls, texts, and face time I would normally spend with these people has been replaced by social media. Analog relationship-building is a skill that I will have to improve at if I want to delete my accounts but still maintain my friendships. At the same time, are we really that good of friends if the only interactions we have are a “like” here and there every few months? Is that really a relationship worth keeping?
  2. I’m afraid of being left out. I realize that I won’t be “in the loop” with other people, or with the world in general, if I decrease my online presence. Anyone organizing a party on Facebook will probably not remember to invite me. I’ll lose contact with various groups I’m part of. I won’t know the biggest news stories unless I go out of my way to read about them. But how much will these things actually affect my life? We all know that the news is not actually the news anymore, and maybe I’ll get to die peacefully when North Korea drops a nuke on the west coast instead of spending months stressing about the buildup. How much of this apprehension over social isolation is just a silly, Freudian echo of a child’s fear of not getting an invitation to another kid’s birthday party?
  3. I’m afraid of being non-existent in the digital world, which is only getting bigger and more all-encompassing. I’ll be a weirdo without social media, for sure, and not the good kind of weirdo like Andy Samberg. I’ll be one of those weirdos that’s a big bummer in a “stick it to the man” kind of way, like raw vegans or Tiny House Hunters or people who don’t have bank accounts and keep all their money in the form of solid gold bars in their basement. I am going to inconvenience people and cause them to roll their eyes because of this decision. But…you know what? I already do that with my attitudes on weddings and baby showers and other dumb stuff that everyone else does. Might as well be consistent.
  4. To be completely honest, I’m afraid of people forgetting my birthday, because Facebook is the only reason anyone remembers it (except for my immediate family, my husband, and my soulmate Kayla.) Please take note: it’s December 12th.

I’m really looking forward to feedback from others who disagree and think that social media is a force for good, or people who have tried the same thing I’m embarking on and how it’s worked out for them. And most of all, I’m really looking forward to some PEACE AND QUIET FOR ONCE.

Stay tuned for Part Two!