Your head throbs at the temples and aches at the base of your skull, though you manage to listen to unsolicited advice without wincing, while you wonder when the analgesic will take effect.
Disoriented by the latest court action that you never saw coming, by an insurer who refuses a claim you know you are entitled to, by paperwork and meetings and distractions your boss doesn’t understand, you finally throw your hands into the air and admit that you’re beaten.
Except you aren’t.
When children are involved, defeat is not an option.
You’re exhausted by the runaround from Doctor A, who refers you to Doctor B, who sends you to Doctor C who’s nice enough, but inept. By the time you encounter Doctors D, E and F, it’s more costly to pinpoint the source of your pain as the bills stack up, the worries stack up, and the pounds fall away in what is glibly called The Divorce Diet.
Happy news: You’re three sizes skinnier as you make small talk with the parents at soccer practice, small talk with the date whose eye wanders over martinis, and small talk with Doctor G’s receptionist who is immeasurably kind. You’re embarrassed to be weeping for no discernible reason, but she extends her hand and says: “It’s okay, you look like you’ve been through a lot.”
You go about your business like nothing ever happened because it’s been a year or maybe two, and everything is All Better Now. No need to dwell on your heart that was broken and your family that was broken and your beliefs that were broken, and let’s not forget about breaking the bank. Your nosy neighbor says “Honey, at least you’ve got your health,” and she doesn’t know any different and nor do you let on: There are palpitations and panic and insomnia and migraines, and flashes of fury to be cordoned off or tied down.
Besides, don’t you look pretty today! And think how well your children are coping. Acquaintances remind you that “children are resilient” and a little adversity will make them strong.
Mantras are a marvel, aren’t they? You stare into the mirror in the restroom at Kroger and murmur “You’re fine.” You stare into the mirror at the attorney’s office and repeat “You’re fine.” You stare into the mirror over the sink in the examining room as you wait for Doctor G, and you whisper “You’re fine.” The rear view mirror offers additional opportunities to practice for your public.
Everyone you encounter is pleased to note your detachment. Surely this is progress, they say, and you tell them you’re doing fine.
You dream your 93-year-old grandfather dies and he leaves you a tidy sum. While you’re sorry he is gone, you are inexpressibly relieved. The funds are just enough to pay your legal debt to lawyers with apartments in the city, and houses in the suburbs, and cabins in the mountains. Of course there’s medical debt to the alphabet doctors, and dwindling revenues remain a concern, but expenses will be significantly slashed.
When you wake, you realize that the man who walked you down the aisle is long dead, and there is no money to lighten the load. If only you could drift back to sleep, but instead you find yourself counting nouns that have you stymied. Among them: hypocrisy, authenticity, loyalty, integrity. The first two are popular, albeit misunderstood; the third and fourth have fallen out of favor.
On a good day your children do not act out, your phone does not ring, the mail is not delivered, and your head does not explode.
The sky is sinfully blue when you look up.
Conventional wisdom instructs us in optimism and self-sufficiency. Lesson 1: You can be anything you set your mind to. Lesson 2: Love conquers all. Lesson 3: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Lesson 4: Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Lesson 5: You make your own luck.
You make the most of “it” whatever “it” is. This month offers the usual menu:
You didn’t like the job you lost anyway. You weren’t loved in your marriage, so divorce is for the best. Losing a home may be a step in the right direction, because isn’t an apartment easier to maintain? Your children are resilient. It’s only a series of headaches blooming in a neon cluster; eventually they disappear.
When you run into a married acquaintance in Produce and she asks how you are, you smile brightly and respond “I’m doing great!”
Getting back to basics is a terrific opportunity, and starting over can be so exciting.
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