PA Announcement: Attention, the following personnel have volunteered to go on a ten-mile fitness hike. [Silence]
- M.A.S.H. 4077 TV episode, Dear Dad
Divorce has once again touched my family and to be honest, I’d much rather volunteer for a ten-mile fitness hike as I struggle with the inescapable need to dole out advice. Not to say I did not give some advice to one of the parties but managed to whittle the book down to three pieces.
Why couldn’t I have experience in something fun to advise — like kittens? Is it because I’m allergic? Can I be allergic to divorce?
Anyway, here are my whittled choices. I know we’ve been here before, just humor me.
Advice no. 1: Leave your ego at the door
The human ego is a pain in the keister, getting us into all sorts of trouble because we are afraid. Afraid of being hurt, taken advantage of, assumed to be weak, stupid, late to the game, or not taken seriously. Afraid we have something on our nose or a wild hair sticking straight up the back of our head. (Reserved for yours truly, BTW!) Resulting in paranoia, misunderstandings, and drawing conclusions.
Battling ego is frustrating, take the television series M.A.S.H., where Hawkeye Pierce, a brilliant surgeon, often struggled with not only losing his grip on reality but having to deal with egos. He joked, cajoled, and hi-jinxed to alleviate not only the very real repercussions of war but also as a matter of sticking it to those who could not, for even a second, remove themselves from formalities. Those who would dress down everyone else so as to hide their fear of dying.
Advice no. 2: Always take the high-road
I will be in the middle of something and suddenly feel sick over something terrible I said or wrote about Michael during and after our divorce. I will recall who I said it to with cheeks on fire and while I understand why, I regret how I let my ego (fear) get the better of me. It is just so easy to hang someone else out to dry for their failures, sins and the like - to put their wrongs on display. It strokes our ego, makes us feel bigger and better, when our own lacking qualities and wrongs are buried out in the proverbial Back 40 or in a closet. You know, those skeletons no one else knows about and thus can’t rake us over the coals for - not so long as those secrets stay hidden between the scratchy wool winter coat and delirously bright purple rain jacket. Not that I’m admitting to owning such an item.
Advice no. 3: Be wary of advice
Some of the worst advice comes out during divorce and all goes back to numbers one and two above. Yes, intentions are generally good but many have an inability to take the high-road. Suddenly there’s a declaration by a friend that they never liked your impending ex-spouse anyway, then a don of team t-shirts and you labeled the good guy. Because the bad guy is always the OTHER person, right?
Thing is, divorce is not something we can easily label good or bad. Sometimes people change, they want different things, or they can’t get along. There are a lot of reasons why divorce happens but that doesn’t mean sides must be chosen and key players labeled. I had a former in-law once compare divorce to death, and rightly so. It is neither a cause for celebration nor necessarily a bad thing. What does make divorce bad is forgetting that we once promised to have and to hold until death do us part another human being. One just as flawed, frightened and drowning in ego as ourselves, who are not doing anything wrong, they want to be happy, too. It is this we forget and create unnecessary enemies, conflict and pain.
Of course, there is so much more I want to say but, you know, advice no. 3 …
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-itis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.