I’ve always been ahead of the curve when it comes to major life events.
I was in a huge rush to get married and had the ring on my finger by the time I was 23 and two years later, I was pregnant with my first child. I am familiar with being the one to provide all the firsts as the oldest sibling in my family and oldest grandchild on both sides of my family. But I also stood alone in my close circle of girlfriends in thinking that getting hitched and knocked up so young were especially good ideas, so became the first among us to sail into those unchartered – and as it turned out – stormy waters.
Unfortunately, I’m not especially good in the role of leader. I’m much better taking my cues from someone who’s already done all the work. Maybe that’s the issue, I’m just lazy. I’d rather be the Indian than the chief.
So I’ve also spent a lot of time surrounded by people who never know quite what to do or say in a given situation and woefully unable to guide them. I never know what to say or do, either.
I memorized “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and hoped for the best.
When I was going through my divorce at 42, it felt as if I was the only person I knew to enter Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell. At the time, no one in my immediate circle of friends had called it quits in her marriage and once again, I felt like some weird trailblazer.
I could have used a “What to Expect When Your Marriage is Crumbling,” but unfortunately no one has penned that guidebook yet.
I live in a small town and was so self-conscious during the height of my own personal scandal that when I would venture out I felt like I had a big “D” emblazoned, Scarlet Letter-style, on my chest and that everyone was staring at me and whispering.
It also didn’t help that I had an ex running around town with another woman. Literally, they jogged around our little town each morning as all the other moms and I drove our kids to school.
One of my pals told me at the time it was all she could do not to swerve and knock them off the road. A true friend is someone willing to commit voluntary manslaughter for you (someone should put that on a cocktail napkin or t-shirt).
So I tried to keep a low profile and kind of dropped off the grid. In retrospect, I don’t really know who I thought I was, Jackie O or something? I practically wrapped myself in a headscarf and dark glasses to pick up cold cuts at the supermarket. Did all the good people in town really care about my marital woes? I mean, they did only long enough to dish a “Did you hear?” or “Would you believe?” before moving on to the next piece of gossip.
It’s what we all do.
I got a divorce because I needed to get out of a bad relationship. I wasn’t looking to find myself or somebody else. I just knew the situation had unraveled beyond repair and I needed to make my exit.
And it was scary and terrible and I do not recommend it unless you have no other choice – much like an amputation — but it also turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, right up there with coloring my hair.
I’m a better mom and a better friend. I’ve been able to develop professionally and grow creatively. Divorcing has let me move closer to becoming “the girl I intend to be,” as my girl Sarah Bareilles so smartly sings.
Next week will mark five years from the day I told my then-husband I wanted a divorce. Actually, I said I was unhappy and he countered quickly with, “You want a divorce? Get a lawyer.”
And for that I thank him. Without that big push, I’d probably still be standing on the ledge, wondering whether I should just turn around and make dinner.
Instead, I jumped.
And now it seems like every other woman I know is taking the divorce plunge.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had two women call for attorney recommendations. One friend’s request came as no surprise but I almost fell off my chair when the other woman told me why she was calling.
Who knew? Apparently, there are a lot of unhappy people out there.
Now there are ladies getting divorced all over the place, it’s like an epidemic. There’s one gal in my knitting group who has started down the scary path and one of my college buddies ended her marriage recently, too.
A woman in town who I used to see a lot when our girls were little emailed me to say nice things about my blog and mentioned that she had divorced since we were last in touch. What?
And the other night at the local Chinese restaurant I ran into another mom in town I’ve known forever, someone I would see for years with her husband at band concerts and back to school nights, telling me what Match.com had done for her love life since she separated from him, while I waited for my wonton soup.
Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m divorced. I can’t believe I had the energy and the nerve to see the thing through. But I guess it’s like having a baby: Painful and a little bloody, but worth the effort in the end.
And there’s not one dirty diaper in sight.