Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The emotional turmoil of ending my engagement in 2009 was like a giant fist that squeezed me into some shriveled old prune. As if I were modeling clay, you might have been able to see the palm print ingrained on the surface of my life; the wrinkled lines of the hand looking like parched curls of mud in the desert. I had fallen in love with my ex fiancé differently than anyone before him, and although I knew from early on that disaster was the end destination, I plodded along unable to visualize a world without him.
Like Indiana Jones and his leap of faith onto the invisible bridge, I moved out and tried not to look back. Just like the barefoot kids of summer swing off a rope and into the river, it was as if I had swung out across a great divide in my life and when the rope snapped I landed in broken shambles trailing what felt like 500 lbs of emotional baggage on the same damn rope that had (almost) swung me to safety. Thanks to my fabulous decision-making skills, I immediately lost myself in love with the very next man to come along, the man whom I would later marry – Metal Monkey. (See times of my life)
The ensuing whirlwind relationship brought a fresh breath of life to the desert I was wandering in. I happen to be in love with being in love, like Fergie’s song Clumsy: You know, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me /
This love sick thing / I like serious relationships and / A girl like me don’t stay single for long / Cause every time a boyfriend and I break up / My world is crushed and I’m all alone / The love bug crawls right back up and bites me and I’m back!
Within three months I knew, once again, I was on the road to disaster. Everything about him was so different from my ex fiancé but I realized that had been exactly my attraction to him. It wasn’t so much because of his own merit but because he simply wasn’t my ex in this way or that way or any way. Or at least I thought so. Turns out if you have control issues, acceptance issues, weight issues, self-confidence issues, authority issues, etc. you’ll find a guy to manifest them for you. It’s the universe’s way of forcing you to face your problems. “But I love him, daddy!” said Ariel. Yeah well, love just isn’t enough sometimes.
Fast forward three years and a disgusting repertoire of bad decisions later, married to Metal Monkey with a precious baby boy, I realized the only way to get out of the cycle was to break it myself. I had to choose to do something about it. Obviously he wasn’t going to, at least not in the way I needed. Someone once told me that children learn everything they know about love by the time they are 3. My understanding was that they learn the patterns of respect, trust, and acceptance that their parents show them by that time, among other things. Whether or not this is actually true, I thought about what my relationship with my husband would teach my son. Would it teach him acceptance? Would it teach him trust? Would it teach him respect? Would it actually teach him anything good at all? I thought of one potentially good thing: it would teach him what not to do if he was smart enough to learn that lesson from my experience instead of making the same mistakes himself. Well all those “no’s” made my decision pretty clear for me. Even though the unknown can be awfully scary, the burden of responsibility I bore to the little life cradled in my arms demanded living a life to higher standards than I had previously set for myself.
Leaving isn’t what I wanted to do. It was a tortured decision. But my relationship wasn’t really a relationship. In fact, neither of them were. They were both just three-year-long breakups. I have no break up skills, I’m just really good at moving away to new places. I didn’t know how to say no to the bullshit so I fought and begged and pleaded for change, I demanded it and coerced it, I arrogantly expected it “if you love me!” I left still loving him, still wanting the relationship to work, but realizing that by remaining I was simply perpetuating the behavior I so badly wanted to fix.
My divorce is still fresh enough that I wonder if it’s actually harder than becoming a mother. It still hurts. I have moments of deep regret and sadness knowing I have left such a legacy of pain in someone else’s heart. Alone at night when my son is snoring quietly next to me I wonder if I made the right decision. Before I became a mother I heard so often from other parents that there’s a part of you that doubts every decision you make. I privately wondered how you could doubt every decision but now I realize the insecurity you can experience as a parent, wondering which fork in the road is best for your kid? I don’t give a damn anymore about the consequences to myself, but what about him? I hold fast to the belief that I cannot teach him anything I haven’t learned myself. I must live by example. I’m trying to set the best one I can.
How unfortunate that it took a divorce to bring me to this effort, but sometimes you gotta fail before you can succeed. However, no matter how bad it hurts, no matter how many tears I shed, I will keep picking myself off the ground and moving forward. I have to. I am a mom.