A QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER (We’ll call her Becka):
I am 29 years old and have nothing to show for it. My marriage is on the outs, I have NO friends, I have NO job, and I’m living miles from home, which means I am homesick. I feel hopeless and helpless. You know what the sad part is? My life has been like this for a few years now. I’m tired and fed up. I don’t have enough strength to leave my husband, even though I, and everyone else, knows our marriage is going nowhere. He has all the glory, while I am lagging behind with nothing on my plate of achievement. In my heart of hearts, I’m ready to move on and reclaim my life. To start all over again, the right way. But I have no clue as to where I should start. Can you please lend me a few words of encouragement?
29 with nothing to show for it? Becka, I’m guessing your sun damaged skin might beg to differ. But so will your heart. Because like it or not, you do have something to show for it. You have what you’ve learned. It’s why they aren’t just breakups from our past; they’re hopefully breakthroughs, too.
I know it’s easy to underestimate the value of "what you’ve learned from all this" when you look at your life’s to-do list–you know, that list upon which you believe you’re measured and judged. Given the limited amount I have to go on here, I’m guessing that you put a lot of stock into what others think of you. You mention that your husband "has all the glory," while you’re "lagging behind" as if it’s a race or competition. Even if you’re just trying to draw a comparison, you need to ask why you’re comparing yourself to anyone, especially him. Instead, you should remind yourself that no one in the world is exactly like you. You’re special not because of what you’ve achieved but because you were born, as you. There’s value in that, in you, just as you are, without the list of accomplishments. If you need to list something, make a detailed list of the three happiest, most breathtaking places, moments of your life. At least that list will make you feel good AND remind you that you have something to show for your 29 years here: you have memories. And you have the opportunity to make new ones.
I cannot comment on your marriage because I don’t know you or your particulars. Personally, I’d ask myself how I got there, to a place where I felt so isolated. Seriously. Ask yourself. Right now. Don’t ask yourself just so you can beat yourself up over it, ask so you can learn from it. What part did I play in creating this reality? And why did I choose the way that I did? What emotions were behind those decisions? Why did I get married, why to him, why do I think we’re "on the outs?" Why don’t I have any friends? Why haven’t I gone out and tried to make a new one today? Why, why, why? And most important, why have I allowed myself to feel this way for so long without doing anything about it? My guess… fear.
You say you "don’t have enough strength to leave" your husband, even though you "know" your marriage is going nowhere. Obviously I don’t know any of the details here, but I feel the guidance you’re seeking can split here depending on what’s really going on.
First path: Let’s assume that in your heart of hearts, your most authentic self is telling you to get out of this marriage. And let’s assume that gut instinct of yours is the right one (a big assumption), then we’re dealing with your fear. And with fear, the only way out is through. You can continue to avoid it, to make every attempt to distract yourself from it, but you’ll always circle back and be left to face it. The only way to beat it is to confront it, to walk straight into it, knowing that you were born with all the tools you’ll need to get you through it.
Second path: Perhaps the best way to move on from a relationshit is to stay in it. And to work on yourself. Many of us drag our issues from one relationship to the next, expecting things to change because our partner does. Since I don’t know you, I feel compelled to at least point out the possibility that maybe you’re lumping your stress about not having a job or friends, not feeling as accomplished as you’d hoped, in with your marriage. I don’t know. You might not even know. A therapist could help you figure it out, get to the heart of the matter, nail the sucker down, and help you devise a plan to confront the shit out of it. But I can’t.
Change is that bitch sales associate giving you the elevator look: it’s obnoxious and makes you feel self-conscious. Change is frightening because it means you have to face the unknown. Know what’s scarier? The thought that you could stay exactly where you are for the rest of your life, saying things like, "My life has been like this for a few years now. I’m tired and fed up." If you’re truly fed up, you’ll do something about it. Know what’s more fun than sitting on your ass, freaking out about what you’ll do next? Reminding yourself that this is an adventure. This will be the start of the most exciting, most rewarding, most kickass time of your life. So, start planning it.
The same amount of effort goes into wishing that goes into planning. At least with planning, you’ll have something to show for it. Purchase a brand new journal, begin with a clean page. Write down everything you want, be as detailed as possible. Don’t worry if some things sound shallow, just get it all down. Add to the list in the coming days and weeks. At least now you’ll know what you’re living toward. You say In my heart of hearts, I’m ready to move on and reclaim my life. To start all over again, the right way. There is no right way, but there is your way, the direction in which your deepest self wants you to move. Listen to her and you can’t go wrong.
Also, this email I received just now might also bring you some comfort:
I just have to write (again) and share my good news with you! I’m
getting married, this New Year’s Eve, and I honestly don’t know how I
would have ever ended up at this place without your books, your blog
and your kind, but honest, emails. Getting out of a bad relationship
is hard, but having self worth and being open to new love during the
recovery of a bad break up feels nearly impossible.
You helped keep me motivated and believing in myself at a time when it
was difficult to just get out of bed. I stayed open to love and met an
amazing man. I could not feel luckier and I can not thank you enough!
Thank you for putting your story out there, thank you for responding
to my emails, thank you for taking all of the shit that comes with the
books/blog/honesty thing, because honestly, I can’t even imagine where
I’d be without the support, advice, and sense of community.
If it wasn’t totally irrational to think that you’d hop on a plane to
Virginia, I’d pressure you to come and dance the night away with us!!!
Thank you again for being a huge support for me!
GOT QUESTIONS? NEED ADVICE?
If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address. I’m no doctor, not a therapist, but since people are asking me anyway, I promise to give you my opinion, straight up.