I used to read tarot cards. I’m no longer involved with them in any metaphysical sense, but I find them very useful in filling in the gaps when I can’t find the words to talk about people, music, and life situations.
Whatever anybody tells you–even if you believe that periods of good and bad are temporary (that’s Wheel of Fortune, disappointingly)–there are “good” and “bad” tarot cards. Some of the newer oracle decks try to put a serene spin on every card, but, as someone with anxiety, I’ve always find Rider Waite to be the most honest deck.
Two of cups, the The Lovers, is one of the best cards. I don’t think it’s even come up for me in a reading, this calmly happy partnership with good communication. (Everyone tells me “oh you’ll find someone” as if it’s a divine right. I did have it, I don’t anymore, and there’s no reason to assume I’ll find it again).
The World is lovely. The World is what you think the world is when you’re young. The reality is Wheel of Fortune–I found that a source of disillusionment, but I think I’m coming around to a point of comfort about it. (That’s what this post will be about once I stop babbling about tarot cards).
My therapist says I make too many excuses for people I care about who are letting me down, so I’m familiar with The Moon (inability to see things as they are with a “denial” flavor), The Devil (inability to see things as they are because someone is deceiving you…similar to 7 of swords, but 7 of swords tends to refer specifically to a romantic partner), 10 of swords (betrayal), and The Tower. These cards all stink, but, apart from the last one, they tend to just indicate bumps in the road. The Tower is such a frightening card because it represents the kind of upheaval that has to be rebuilt from the bottom up if it can be rebuilt at all. The Tower is what people think Death is. The Death card has a reassurance that this is all going somewhere okay, but the Tower will fuck your shit up in such a way that you can’t see the other side.
The Tower is the top of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale: end of a career, the death of an immediately family member, a divorce.
(I remember sending that to my ex shortly before or after he left after he insisted that divorce was neither expensive nor particularly stressful).
Speaking of lists: I saw a bucket list going around Facebook that had both marriage and divorce as items to check off. What a strange to-do list. I see finding love as a complete game of chance, and I don’t want myself or anyone else to feel like a failure because they just didn’t happen to come across someone who would stay and love them. I imagine that it’s bad enough being alone and it not being your own fault.
And divorce on a bucket list…WTF? I mean, it’s on my to-do list in the sense that cleaning my bathroom and paying my bills is. It’s not exactly “see aurora borealis.”
I have to admit, though: it’s at least on the radar for many of people with whom I’m close.
I had an unexpectedly intense conversation with a mom at Chuck E. Cheese this weekend. Our daughters had been together for both years of preschool, but we’d never talked any deeper than activities, jobs, cars. She opened by asking what I was going to be doing [for Father’s day]. I sort of stumbled, because I figured she didn’t realize I was divorcing, and I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.
She knew, though…I guess this was a friendly way to steer the conversation into bleak territory. She complimented me for how good a job we were doing co-parenting and staying friendly (which made me very happy), and she started to ask me a little bit about our divorce. Then she told me her story.
She wants out, he does not. She had a masters degree and a career; he discouraged her from working. She’s working now, but whenever she takes the initiative to talk divorce, he retaliates financially (failing to make car or preschool payments, canceling her cell phone).
Her family suggested that she just be happy with what she has. I blurted out “NO ONE that I know who’s married with kids is happy. No one is happy.” How could she find happiness at this point with such an obvious imbalance of power? Who would choose to fall in love (or back in love) with someone who’d try to get at you like that?
She’s getting pressure from her family to stay, to just hang in there, at least until ____. Until when? Her children are single-digits. High school graduation? She’s afraid he’ll then flake and not help with college. Marriage? That’s 20 years out. She told me about someone she knows who stayed with it until her children got married, and her children were still angry with her for not just staying.
Starting over is hard at any time, but people who don’t know how it feels to be her, how it looks inside her house, are suggesting that she sacrifice decades of her life and stay unhappy until she’s old because that’s what makes her family members more comfortable?
It’s not just that–she’s afraid, too. She knows that divorce is The Tower. She can’t picture what her life will be–only that it will be completely different and, for a long time, with very little comfort or stability. (That would be true even if her husband hadn’t already demonstrated that he will make it even more difficult for her).
I told her that it was easy for me because the choice was made for me. I didn’t have to try to push someone out of the house or figure out the time to tell him it was over. He just left. All I had to do was survive, and then cope.
No one is happy–not even those who have everything. There is maybe one married couple I can think of whose Facebook representation I actually believe, and “wedded bliss” isn’t their brand. (They don’t have a brand, obviously, or I wouldn’t believe it). That doesn’t mean there aren’t more…it’s just that they’re the only ones I know well enough to say that the misery that I haven’t seen in them probably does not exist.
I know that I’m one of those people who has everything but is unhappy and/or feels that something is missing. I’ve tried giving myself shit for being an ungrateful brat, but doing so hasn’t made me happier or less of a spoiled brat. I think what I’m going to try is just accepting that I’m not particularly happy. I’m even trying to tell myself that it’s okay to feel that something is missing because I don’t have (romantic) love. That’s okay. It’s not a character deficiency to want to partner up; it’s normal and natural.
Love…not necessarily marriage.
Marriage is #7 on the stress scale.
I remember being shocked to find out that my ex was talking marriage less than a year into his relationship with his girlfriend, before I even knew about it. I couldn’t believe he was dumb enough to still idealize marriage, to want to jump in again. It’s not that I’m anti-marriage…I just don’t understand viewing it as going hand in hand with eternal love.
I don’t mean to turn this isn’t an indictment of marriage. Being married was much better than being single. Marriage is neutral; it’s divorce that’s terrible. But it is true that I don’t know anyone who is really happy in their marriage. They’re either miserable, or have bigger fish to fry than the question of whether or not they are getting what they want out of life.
That bleak realization opened something up in me, though. I don’t feel as alone. I feel much, much less alone when people share things like this with me. It would make me very happy to be of use for someone who’s contemplating or going through divorce. I feel honored that this mom shared this with me.
I had found out some time into our marriage that my ex consciously thought that marriage was going to solve our problems. I couldn’t believe he thought that, but I guess it explains how suddenly he decided to propose after seven years together.
I didn’t go into marriage with that particular delusion, but I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I did think it was going to be okay.
Tomorrow, you will ask me if I do
Know that the sorrow will drop away
Like June, from a flower in bloom
When you say “I do”
When you say “I do”
Tomorrow, you will take me for your bride
And know that the grey skies will blow away
We’re forever and I feel it inside
When you say “I do”
When you say “I do”
When you say “I do”
I know that he was happy with me, that it wasn’t all pretending in order to please me. I read the woman for whom he left me saying that he didn’t know if he’d ever be happy again, that he had been happy, but it was with the wife and child that he was leaving.
When I talk about being “unhappy,” I’m not talking about life disappointing you by failing to provide all of the things to which you feel entitled..I’m talking about finding out just how much the people who you love can let you down.
If I were to revise Erik Eriksen’s theory of personality, I would add acceptance of this at each stage of a adulthood. One of the things that arrested my development was my inability to move through mourning my parents’ imperfection. I think everyone has to do this, because everyone’s childhood ranges from “imperfect” to “traumatic.” Once you do this, it isn’t as much of a struggle to accept how others let you down by minor or major abandonments like silence, breakups, and death. One of the good things to come out of the end of my marriage is that it finally made the upsetting parts of my childhood almost a non-issue in my everyday life. Sometimes the only way to get over one disappointment is to experience a more acutely painful one.
This sounds bleak, but I feel that a little part of me is somehow freeing itself. I feel less alone. I’m still depressed as fuck, but I’m not fighting it. It feels valid. I see that everyone else feels the same way, I don’t have to make any major decisions, and I can just kind of get on with it. In a weird way, I feel hopeful.
I’ve also experienced what I want vicariously.
There are two people in my life who are keeping me afloat in terms of believing that love and happiness might be attainable. One of them had a failed “starter” marriage that led to a disastrous next relationship for her. She then found someone on Match with whom she just seems quietly suited. Their relationship was supposed to end, as he had applied for a promotion in the military that would lead to him moving to God-knows-where for two years, and she had just bought a house here. He ended up leaving the military to stay here with her. I keep thinking about it, how romantic it is, but they also made decisions along the way that demonstrated that they were choosing this because they were healthy and independent.
The other one is my one-person divorce support group. He and his wife separated for a year, tried to get back together, and then finally divorced with at least the peace of knowing that they tried everything to work it out. He’s now in a new relationship, and they’re in love. I love hearing his stories, because we fall in love similarly, and I somehow get hope for myself seeing things work out for him.
I thought about life after divorce, after realizing that there’s no inherent value in checking that “marriage” box, especially once you’ve find yourself on the bad side of statistics and learned that there is no security. I’ll never feel freed by the knowledge that no love is unconditional, but maybe love after divorce is like going back to school. I loved both of my masters degree programs. Yes, undergrad is a little fantasy bubble of maximum freedom and minimal responsibility, but you can’t know that at 18. I appreciated and enjoyed school much more as an adult. The innocence doesn’t come back, you’re paying for it yourself while working, there is no dorm…but you chose it, and you’re studying exactly what you want to study.
If I ever fall in love and move in with someone, it’ll happen independently of any “to do” list. Maybe that’s what my ex’s second marriage is for him. The statistics on marriages that start as affairs are bleak, but surely he’s learned enough to marry for the right reasons…whatever those may be. I’ve never seen “second marriage” on any kind of checklist of things you are supposed to do in adulthood.
Adulthood is a disappointing, lonely trek to disillusionment, but maybe the dreaded Tower card forces open some routes to fulfillment. Those two friends I spoke of both lived through the Tower, seeing their views of the future destroyed and unseeable for months or years. Now, they are in love and full of hope. He’s in the “butterflies in your tummy” stage (but isn’t that wonderful to not have life and lovers beat you down so much that you’re incapable of that?), and she’s cohabiting with her boyfriend and building a life with joy and without drama.
I’d much rather just find myself not wondering why I’m so unhappy, but that doesn’t seem to be an option (for anyone, really). I’m not happy, okay. I’m depressed, okay. That’s okay. I’m going to shift my focus from “wasting energy feeling like I’m an asshole for being depressed despite what an easy life I have” to accepting that I’m depressed. I’m going to let these two little dots of light and hope appear brighter in the darkness allow myself to trust the feeling that this may just lead to better things for me.
I’ll edit this later. I’m afraid if I don’t publish, I’ll never finish it. Thanks for reading, anonymous few.