Have you arrived at the very last stop on the marriage train?
Did you get on the train early and shut your eyes tight, when all along, there were stops where you could have opened your eyes and reframed your outlook, so that you might have been able to ride the train for the long haul?
Like me, maybe you didn’t. But then what?
First comes denial. Then comes recognizing your crumbling marriage. And then comes, what the hell do I do with the baby carriage?
Denial is okay. I think it gives us courage (a cousin to stupidity). If we knew how painful the consequences of a decision were going to be, we wouldn’t act. If you are standing on a cliff overlooking an abyss, wouldn’t it be better not to know how far up you actually were, or how cold the water was? Maybe it’s better to take the plunge first, and deal with the consequences afterwards. Besides, we can’t really deal with the consequences of our actions until they’ve happened anyway, when we have real facts to work with. There’s no point in fearing the hypothetical.
So say you’ve jumped. And the water is colder than you could have ever imagined, and the waves as rough as a tsunami. Drowning, desperate, you scan the area for a lifeboat…something. This might come in the form of drugs to numb the pain, friends who encourage you to drink heavily, or another man who extends his oar in your direction. At this point, grasp for whichever is closer. Hell, hop on all three. Or whatever works for you.
The truth is, we get so hung up on the how, that we are unable to act on the why. But making any kind of major life change, where the fall out is clearly painful, is so daunting, that how is the least of your worries. And that question that burns in the forefront of your mind, what will everyone else think of me? Think about this: nobody really cares as much as you think they do. They will get over it, a lot faster than you will.
There is no easy way to stand up for what you want, because it almost always means hurting people you love. We want things to be easy and harmonious, our actions and their effects invisible, but maybe once we accept that this is not possible, and understand that there is a price for every choice we make (unlike when we were 24 and could make decisions without consequence), perhaps that is when we can start putting one foot in front of the other, down a path that we choose.
I only know what I’ve come to learn going down the path I’ve chosen. And I can’t go back. I learned that the hard way. At first, I tricked myself into thinking that I could climb all the way back up to the precipice I jumped from. Maybe I needed to believe that to jump in the first place. But I do not believe that any path we choose is ever wrong. It’s just different, and sometimes in stark contrast from what we had pictured in our heads – and so it is wildly disorienting when we first set foot on it.
No matter what – it’s going to suck. But you’ll survive. And maybe, you’ll even thrive.
JK Rowling said at her commencement speech at Harvard: “And rock bottom is the foundation on which I built my life.”
You’ve heard of JK Rowling, right?
Cougel’s novel, “The Virgin Wife,” a portrait of a marriage in crisis set in Hollywood, is being shopped to publishers by a literary agent at ICM, and her personal essay, “The Chicken or the Egg,” about the pressures of a woman’s biological clock, will be published in an anthology by Simon & Schuster in 2011. She also maintains a popular blog: “The Cougel Chronicles: Tales of a Jewish Cougar” where she chronicles her struggles as a divorced woman in her late thirties. She has also guest blogged for other dating sites and was featured in the Examiner’s “Behind the Blogger.”