Late Life Heartbreak, Part Three: Refusing stereotypes
One reader offered her experience, which she has permitted me to post. Writing some years after those first months, she provides a longer-term perspective, for which I thank her deeply.
Refusing a Stereotype:
When I read through your list of things to do after a split, this was the one that struck me most, perhaps because it is the most insidious and because I honestly believe this is something one truly can control. I have also seen others who have fallen prey to it - it is unpleasant and I refuse to have anything to do with it or them. In fact I had to cut off a relationship with an old friend who was also divorced - I refused to join her club of anger and self-deprecation.
I am a fortunate woman. I have a career that I love and could never have imagined the level of success I have achieved. I have always had friends but now I have friendships of a depth and importance that I would never have imagined. I have terrific kids who are turning out pretty well. I have serious interests that I have been able to pursue. Shortly after my marriage broke up I entered into another relationship which was not meant for the long-term but was loving and meaningful nevertheless.
There is a Jewish philosopher named Abraham Joshua Heschel who said something to the effect that one should create their life as if it was a work of art. The psychiatrist Victor Frankl said that one of the few things we can control in life is our attitude. I thought about these ideas a lot - I realized that with the divorce I had been given this opportunity to create the life I wanted - that was, the inner adult life I wanted - certainly there are many many constraints on what I can do, but at the same time I realized it was an opportunity that I had not had before. It sounds a bit simplistic but something worked. I think that one of the biggest aids was surrounding myself with people who had a creative and positive (although realistic) outlook.
If I sound like Pollyanna, you should know that I am not. I am a critical thinker, have serious responsibilities, and refuse to sugarcoat what is in front of me. At the same time, I refuse to let anyone else write my story for me - it is my story, and to the extent that I can write it, I will insist on that."
What began as two posts drawn from the experience of friends and acquaintances has grown, and I appreciate each comment and e-mail.
Living through the end of a long relationship is like walking a maze. You may not know what direction to take; the only thing to do is slow down, set out, choose the next few steps, and trust yourself to end up at the center, in the right place.
The reader who wrote the above comment mentions philosophers whose writings helped her; a book I found invaluable is "Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life" by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg. One of the women who contributes to the first two posts likes Byron Katie's books, especially "I Need Your Love–Is That True?"