I admit I began feeling a little mopey while writing about this so-called radical acceptance earlier. I’ve thought about it some more and I’m going to give it another try.
I still think radical acceptance is about finally acknowledging and accepting that the life you once had is no longer. It’s a completely different looking life that you are leading. You lean into it instead of fighting against it with everything you’ve got.
It’s easy to feel sorry for myself. My God, I’m 50 years old and I am living with my mother. I don’t have a bedroom of my own. I own almost nothing anymore. My standard of living has decreased by probably 75%. But you know what? Everyone has a sob story. I’m not the only person who has lost everything thanks to a divorce. So what to do now?
Years ago Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” In many ways losing everything has freed me. You learn very quickly what’s important and what’s not when you’re forced to leave almost everything behind. The good news is I don’t have anything left to lose. I’m not chained to the bullshit. I can speak my mind. If they want to fire me at my job who cares? I can replace that job easily. At about $30,000/year it’s not like it’s the job of a lifetime. I will never be thinking, “Oh my goodness! I’ll never find anything this good again!”
I can lament all that was lost or I can celebrate the freedom to recreate my life. For the first time in a very long time I get to be in charge of my life. I don’t have to move because someone else got a job. If I want to move to New Orleans I can find a job and move there. If I want to stay here for the rest of my life I can. If I want to go back to school to get my Masters I don’t have anyone discouraging me from doing so. All these decisions are mine to make now. No one else.
I’m not sure that’s what Janis had in mind when she sang that but that’s how I choose to look at it. This is my life and I’ll live it the way I want to.
I can focus on everything that was lost- my home, my pool, my furniture. Pretty much everything I’ve ever owned. I can dwell on how I moved back to my home town, in with my mother, completely defeated. Or, I can celebrate how I survived that hell. I didn’t just survive it. I rocked it. I got shit done.
I was 46 years old when I realized my life as I knew it was going to radically change. I had been a stay at home mom for 15 years at that point. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. I knew I would end up on aid and that we would pretty much be living in poverty. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: If it weren’t for my mom, my kids and I would have been out on the streets, or living in our car or in subsidized housing somewhere.
Even knowing how badly life was going to suck I continued to put one foot in front of the other. I continued to do the things that needed to be done. I interviewed lawyers and filed for divorce. I fired my first lawyer and hired my second lawyer. I continued to take care of my kids.
Later, after moving back to Indiana, I continued to do what needed to be done. I got my kids enrolled in a new school system. I applied for Medicaid and free lunches and textbooks for my kids. I took a seasonal job at Target, unloading trucks and stocking shelves that had me getting up anywhere from 1:30 to 3:30 in the morning. And then I took another seasonal job at Kohl’s where I worked from noon until 6 or 8 pm. That’s right. I worked two jobs while he worked none. Do you know why? Because it needed to be done. I had two choices. I could cry and bitch about it, or I could do something about it. I chose to do something about it. Yes, it meant I fell asleep sitting up many a nights. It meant I relied on my mom to get my kids where they needed to be. It meant that there were days my feet and back hurt so badly after working both jobs that I limped out to my car at the end of the night. It meant I woke up at ungodly hours and I worked 21 straight days before finally getting a day off. But I did it. I did that. Chumpy little me. A stay at home mom for 15 years with no great job prospects.
Then I pushed for a show cause hearing to get the support my kids and I needed and deserved. And then I hired an expert witness to counter his PTSD bullshit and I kept going through all of it.
I did all of that, and I did it without someone by my side telling me how wonderful I was and how I deserved to be happy. I had many days where I would cry all the way to Target, wipe my tears and go to work; then come back home, pick up my daughter, take her to school, get ready for my full-time job, and cry all the way to that job as well. Once again, I would wipe my tears, put a smile on my face and go to work. The biggest compliment I ever received was a co-worker telling me she would never have known I was going through all of that because I was always so sweet and cheerful, always had a smile on my face.
Radical acceptance means saying goodbye to your old life and embracing this new one. It means celebrating all that you have accomplished instead of focusing on what was lost.
I did so many things he never had to do, things I don’t think he has the balls to do. I raised our kids with no help from him while working two jobs for a while. He can’t say he’s ever done that. He can’t even say he worked and raised his kids because all of their care fell on me. He never took a single day off because a kid was sick. He never had to tell his boss he couldn’t go in early, or that he wouldn’t be available to go out to dinner with the bigwigs from corporate at the last minute. Because I was there, making sure everything went smoothly for him.
Today I no longer work two jobs but I donate plasma twice a week so that my kids can have a nice Christmas without me stressing out over it. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it anywhere close to what my life was like five years ago? Oh God no. But you know what? Christmas will be paid for and I won’t be running up any credit cards or worrying about how far my paycheck will stretch. I am free to concentrate on the fun parts of Christmas. Ultimately, fair or not, I’m getting it done. I could cry (and believe me, I did a lot of crying in the early days) or I can choose to celebrate the badass I am.
Am I where I want to be? No, I’m not. But again, I can cry and gnash my teeth over my poor paying job, or I can do something about it. Radical acceptance, to me, means accepting that it’s not going to be handed to me. It doesn’t mean lying down and playing dead; it doesn’t mean I accept this as though it’s my fate. If I want a change I need to go after it. Maybe that means going back to school. Maybe it means getting a different job.
It’s so easy to get sucked into that cycle of feeling sorry for yourself. Look at all that I’ve lost. Look at what I’ll never have again. At some point though it’s necessary to give thanks for what you do have.
I have two great kids who love me. There are those out there who have been cheated on and discarded and their children have turned against them as well. I have been fortunate in that my two have remained steadfastly loyal. They demonstrate on a regular basis how much they love me and how important I am to them.
I realize he does not value the same things I value and yet I still feel fortunate to be able to say I am a large part of their lives. They talk to me and tell me things, I get to laugh with them and make new memories with them. I get to be with them and be a part of their lives.
I have a mother who has gone above and beyond for me. She’ll take Picasso his lunch if he’s forgotten it. She’ll get him where he needs to be after school. She’s provided a home for us these last three years. When I was working 12+ hour days she would take Rock Star to work or pick her up so I could sleep. I am truly fortunate; I know many others do not have the luxury of going back home.
Divorcing Jerry Lee meant that I was free to pursue a relationship with the mobster. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know I happen to think this man hangs the moon. He is a much, much better partner than Jerry Lee ever was.
No matter how sorry I’m feeling for myself every time I talk to him I’m filled with happiness, and am so overjoyed he is in my life. That other stuff doesn’t matter nearly as much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would rather live in a one bedroom apartment with him than in a mansion with Jerry Lee.
If I were still with Jerry Lee, living in my big ol’ house with my brand new furniture, and my luxury pool, I never would have met the mobster. I’d never have experienced all the wonderful weekends we’ve spent together. I wouldn’t know the joy of Athens or Columbus or Chilicothe. I never would have known a man would actually rinse your jeans out for you when you shit yourself on a bike ride. I wouldn’t have my cute little glitter jingle bell elf slippers. I wouldn’t have been kayaking or visited wineries or gone geocaching or known anything about Pokemon Go. I would have missed out on a lot.
I have amazing friends, both near and far. So many people rallied around while this was happening. And moving back to my hometown has allowed me to spend more time with my oldest friends.
I once wrote about going to Holland when you thought you were going to go to Italy. Radical acceptance is a lot like going to Holland. My hometown isn’t a horrible place. It has lots of great things. It has wine walks and Jeff Dunham shows and cool movie theaters. It’s close to Chicago and Lake Michigan. It’s just not what I had planned.
I won’t ever live in another 4000 sq. ft. home unless something very unexpected happens. I don’t think I even want another house that big. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever have a home. Hopefully one day the mobster and I will share a home. It will be quaint and charming and homey. It will be a haven for us and our combined six kids when they choose to visit. Except for Picasso. I’m pretty sure he’s going to live with me forever.
My job isn’t horrible. It doesn’t pay very well but it has a few other perks, and it turns out I’m pretty decent at what I do. Like I said earlier, I can always get another job. Right now I’m lazy. I haven’t looked because I haven’t had to.
I may not be able to buy my kids all the creature comforts that I once could but a little hard work won’t kill them. I’m extremely proud of my daughter and how hard she already works. She sets a goal and she goes for it. She got a job at age 16 and has been working ever since.
Plus, if the mobster and I were to ever marry I feel like I’m contributing equally to the relationship. It’s not him going out to work and providing for the family while I stay at home and do nothing (at least that’s how Jerry Lee viewed it). He’s self-employed so I always figure at least I can bring insurance to the table.
I can’t say that I’m all the way there, or even that I won’t backslide now and again, but I do feel like I’m further than I’ve ever been before.