I was walking out of the mall last week, which is not my favorite place in the world to be.
Far from it.
What makes it even more unpleasant for me is the salespeople at the freestanding center aisle kiosks—you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that sell anything from hats to hair extensions, from toys to toiletries. The most annoying of the lot are those who try to “randomly cherry pick” you from the crowd because they have the “perfect product” that you in particular cannot live without.
Those who take their jobs most seriously may even try to catch you in stride, talking incessantly as you walk by and, just shy of begging, plead with you to let them show you their product.
Now, I am far from a strong-willed, look-the-other-way type of person. In fact, I often feel for those kiosk salespeople: usually I will take their samples and then walk just far enough away so that they cannot see me throw them in the trash. I admit it. I am weak. And, I am a lifelong, card-carrying member of the People Pleaser’s Club (not a club I would recommend, mind you).
So that is why this incident stands out so clearly in my mind.
I was rushing out of the mall, as I am apt to do, mostly because it has become a great source of anxiety for me since my divorce. The crowds and the happy couples in them always bring me to a place in my head where I do not want to live. Anyway, this tall, dark boy-man sides with my step and tells me about the moisturizer that could “change my life.” I almost stop dead in my tracks. My brain freezes. I think: if only that were true. How great would it be if a simple moisturizer could change my life?
“I’ll take a case of it,” I whisper to myself as I walk on, trying to hide the lone tear as it drips down my face.
If only that were true.
Exiting the mall that day, I thought about what would I want that change to be. “Everything” was no longer sufficient. My brain struggled for specificity. It yearned for the answer to the question which had plagued it for so long. If I could just take a pill or use a moisturizer and my life would change, what would that change look like? I began to realize that this was at the root of my biggest problem: I wanted something to change, but I was completely unclear about what I wanted that change to look like.
As I continued towards the car, I challenged myself to spell it out. No more excuses, no more darkness. There had to be an answer.
Without a clear vision, I was risking staying in this cold, dark, lonely middle ground for longer than anyone should. And that was not going to be my destiny.
Not if I could help it. And, in fact, I realized, I was the only one who could help it.
The first order of business was letting go of the notion that I needed my family to be “complete.” Because “complete” had always meant it included my children’s father. And that was never going to happen. Neither one of us wanted that.
Moreover, being with that person was a life sentence of being alone. So, as hard as it was, I had to change my view of what it meant to be complete. And I had to dispel of the notion that “complete” included my ex and I walking our children down the aisle together, or holding court in our family home, the place where all the children returned, with their wives, their significant others and hopefully children of their own.
The family “home” was going to have to be, as Billy Joel sings, wherever we (my kids and I) were together.
And that was going to have to be enough.
Next, I had to make the changes in my life that would prepare me to start anew. “Life 2.0.” This meant getting out into the world, seeing who and what it had to offer. It meant not hiding from my difficult situation, but rather dealing with its necessary and continuous twists and turns. I had to find the strength to deal with my new reality.
As all the newly divorced know so well, once we admit that, we have to close the door to the past and open the door which leads us to finding a way. A path to our new life, be it a person, place or perspective. We will never find it laying in bed or hiding in our backyard. We have to be ready and willing to listen to the advice we have heard so many times about getting out there, out into the world, to find the places where we can make those new connections.
And our journey cannot be driven by fear; it must be driven by wide-eyed curiosity and excitement.
This is our second chance. We have to jump in and, contrary to the way many of us have lived our lives up to this point, we cannot look before we leap. We have to close our eyes in order to open them.
That is the only way we can take those steps without that fear pulling us back, back to the safety of our bed, our backyard, or wherever else it is we chose to hide.
Author: Jill Carlin Schrager
Editor: Renée Picard