Welcome to Part 2!
I will never again be a full-time stay at home mom to my kids and that’s okay. In this new life my kids see me going off to work. They see me paying bills and being a role model. They see me having to juggle things and weigh whether or not it’s worth it to take time off. Both of my kids are older now, and while I think teenagers especially need parental influence and supervision, they will be fine without me standing at the ready 24/7 to take them wherever they want to go. We will always have the many memories from when I was able to stay at home with them.
My old home with its granite countertops and 4000 square feet of living space is a thing of the past. In this new life I get to focus on what truly matters- and that’s not a house. For now I am living with my mom. With Rock Star off to college I actually have a room and a bed to call my own (at least while she’s at school). Picasso gets to spend a lot of quality time with his Nana. She’s willing to do my laundry and willing to cook most nights.
When I do finally go looking for a house I don’t need 4 or 5 bedrooms. I don’t need 4000 square feet. This time, on my own, I’m looking for quirky and charming, with a low mortgage payment. Honestly, I look at the $300,000+ homes in my area and I am appalled at how little you get for so much money. Most of it is location, and since I don’t have to worry much longer about school districts I can move anywhere I choose.
I can replace all the “things” that I once owned. Hopefully, this time around I will be pickier about what I choose to purchase. I can always shop yard sales, consignment stores, and Goodwill/Salvation Army.
In my new life I am closer to family. We are able to get together for birthdays, Mother’s Day, and other special events.
In my old life I was married to CF. He spent most of his life in his bedroom, watching TV. There were frequent tantrums, freak outs, and crying episodes when things weren’t going his way. He didn’t like PDA, although strangely enough that didn’t stop him from groping me in public. Almost every picture we took together he looks like he’s in a hostage situation. He didn’t support me; hell, I don’t think he ever really knew me. His big contribution was his paycheck, and he liked to lord that over me, even when I was working as well. He didn’t usually participate in family events. He dreaded the holidays. He pretty much sucked the joy out of life.
In my new life I’m with the mobster, and that is probably the best thing in this new life. I finally have someone who is sane and normal. He doesn’t freak out over the little things. He doesn’t look like he’s being coerced into posing with me every time we take a picture together. He supports me; he tells me I’m wonderful and that I can do anything. He cares about my kids and is willing to help out with them where he can. He loves the holidays and loves being a family man. He is joyful and funny. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
Infidelity and divorce is a game changer. It forever changes “normal”. What I’m about to say doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a while for this message to finally sink in. For me it’s taken damn near three years. In many ways this is an exciting new chapter. You can write whatever story you want. Yes, there are humps. There are fucking mountains! There are challenges. Ultimately though you are the author of your own destiny. You have a chance to do anything you want to do.
Did you want to go back to school but your spouse always discouraged it? Now you can. Did you want to take dance lessons but didn’t think you could because it would take time away from the family, or your spouse just didn’t want to? Now you can. Did you want to have cereal for dinner, or tell the kids to fend for themselves while you watch Netflix and munch on popcorn, but you always needed to make dinner for the spouse? Now you can. Did you always love Indian food but your spouse hated it so you never made it? Now you can make it as often as you’d like. Did your spouse discourage outside relationships? Now you’re free of that; rediscover those friendships. Did your spouse always insist on watching something, or mock what you wanted to watch? Now you don’t ever have to listen to that person complain about it again. I will say this much for having your life upended: You are now able to take the time to figure out what makes you tick. What do you like? What do you want to do?
Have you ever seen that story about going to Holland? It was written by Emily Perl Kingsley, a mother of a special needs child. In it, she’s trying to explain what it’s like when you give birth to and raise a child with special needs. She compares it to planning a grand vacation to Italy. She talks about how you research before you go. You read up on all the tourist sites, everything there is to do there. You plan out what you want to see when you are there. You investigate the culture and the food. You might even learn a few phrases of Italian before you go. You immerse yourself in all things Italy. And then the big day comes and the flight attendant says, “Welcome to Holland!” You are stunned! This was not the plan. You were going to Italy! But alas, the plans changed and you are now in Holland and you can’t go to Italy. Holland is where you will remain. So now you buy a different guidebook, and you learn different phrases, and you will eat different foods and encounter people you never would have met if you had gone to Italy.
I think that’s a wonderful analogy. We didn’t plan this. We had something completely different in mind for our lives. We got married, had babies, maybe accumulated a few pets, bought a house, maybe moved around the country, and planned on spending the rest of our lives with this person we married. We thought we knew our destination. Italy! But instead our plans detoured. Our spouse cheated. The house had to be sold. Maybe we had to move out of town or out of the state. Friends were lost. Family was lost. The spouse is gone- off with the affair partner. And now we are in Holland.
Here is the important part. As the author says in her essay, “The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.”
I suppose in those early days we could argue about how horrible and disgusting this whole process is. But she goes on to say, “But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around… and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills… and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.”
I will never be back to my old normal again. I don’t have a large home with granite countertops and a pool and brand new furniture. I don’t have my air hockey table or foosball table anymore. I can no longer spend whatever I want. I don’t volunteer for PTA, or play Bunko. My friends are scattered all over. I’m no longer a stay at home mom with plenty of down time. Instead I am trying to develop a new normal; I will try to appreciate all the things that Holland brings into my life. Being in control of my own life. Not having to worry about what CF wants. Having a wonderful new man in my life who appreciates me. A whole new life and adventure. Focusing on different things. Trying to advance at my job and take any new opportunities that come my way. Maybe I’ll even go back to school to get my Masters or to develop a career in the medical field. Just because I don’t earn much now doesn’t mean I can’t earn more in the future. I won’t volunteer in PTA but that doesn’t mean volunteering is off the table forever; it will just look different.
Yes, you will mourn, she cautions. She writes of how everyone is busy coming and going from Italy, bragging about the wonderful time and all the fantastic things they’re doing. “And for the rest of your life, you will say, ‘Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.’ And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.”
That is so true. Even once you make your peace with it you are still reminded of what you’ve lost. Every time I hear “The Best Day of My Life” I want to cry. It reminds me of the lip dub Rock Star’s school did. There she was, a brand new freshman, on the gymnastics team, and she was doing back handsprings and a full in the video. She was amazing, and so happy. When I hear “Steal My Girl” it reminds me of the days she and I would sing along in the car on our way home from practice. When I see pictures of those long ago days- Picasso surrounded by his friends, Picasso dressed in full hockey gear, or Rock Star posing with her teammates or best friend, it reminds me of all that was lost. I still have the real estate app on my phone from when we were house hunting in Virginia. I can’t take it off and yet it pains me to even look.
The trick is to stop focusing on the pain and to focus on the new, to focus on what is waiting. As the author reminds us, “…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
I won’t ever be one of those people who says that divorce is a good thing. It’s painful, even when cheating is not the reason for the split. It destroys families. It does a number on the cheated on person. That’s not to say, however, that good can’t come out of it. I believe it can. I believe that there is a life worth living out there. You just have to take the initiative and go for it. Sometimes we love the lives we had and we think we’ll never have anything close to that again. After it’s all been smashed to smithereens we find out that the old life was an illusion; it was never what we thought we had. And this new life- it’s real. It’s ours. We discover that this new, authentic life is the one we were supposed to be living. This new life in Holland can be awesome if you only let go of the dream of Italy.