It makes me sad that my sister and I don’t have a better relationship, but we simply don’t get along. As I was sending her the “check in” text that I randomly send, my smarter self was saying “Don’t Poke The Bear”.
I have used that phrase quite a bit when referring to my ex- husband. I used to wonder what was going on if I had not heard from him. I had lived with him in silence for many years, until the occasional volcano would swell and erupt into nastiness. Once the divorce was final, I would worry if the child support be on time. Would he disappoint the kids by not showing up? As time passed, I learned that if I had not heard from him, I should celebrate the silence. It took time to come to that lesson. I used to send a text to remind him about the support, or send him the cute pictures of the kids only to find that when I poked that bear, the end result was always painful. I have learned that unless it is absolutely necessary, I do not reach out to him. In all these years, he has never said thank you for the pictures of the kids, so I stopped sending them. Luckily he is never late on the child support, so there was no reason to send the reminder.
Back to my sister… she is married to a man who makes a lot of money, and in spite of her complaining year after year, she vacations, lives in a beautiful home and takes very good care of herself. He cheats; she cheats. It drains your self-respect, I would imagine. When I said hello to her today via text, her response was the same as always- things are bad here. I can’t leave ( Her youngest is in college, by the way). We cannot support two households. I started to respond. I wrote a nice paragraph about making choices, and being happy, and living one life. I wrote about all of her jewelry and designed handbags that she could sell. I wrote about being thankful for all she has. I asked her if she thought that it was easy for me when I filed for divorce. I told her about working several jobs at a time, and living paycheck to paycheck. I told her that I know how it feels to have a car repossessed, and to pray hard that your groceries will last until payday.
Then, I did one more thing.
I hit DELETE-backspace, backspace backspace…. again and again, until all my verbal diarrhea disappeared. It is not my decision to make. If her life was so bad, she would not remain in it; she would find a way. She would live in 500 sq ft if she had to. She chose to remain where her self respect was beaten, and she invited him to do it over and over.
I learned my lesson I thought. She would end up yelling at me, via text, eventually in CAPS.
I chose not to battle. When I didn’t engage, the conversation failed to continue. It was a hard learned lesson. Do not engage with people who will hurt you or make you feel badly. DO NOT POKE THE BEAR. The bear is sleeping, let it lay.
As I wrote and un-wrote that text, I thought about some of the lessons that have been most difficult to learn. Divorced 11 years, I write them out now as a reminder. Like the gum I swallow, forgetting the indigestion I got last time I did such a stupid thing, I need to remember that lesson. Remembering it saves a lot of heartache later.
1. Dont poke the bear- I am putting it here again, because it is one of the most important for me. Since the divorce, I have lived in fear. When you are dependent on someone whose behavior is erratic, life can be scary. Silently tip toe away and don’t look for engagement. It never ends well.
2. Don’t Wallow – We all have the occasional pity parties. I know I have had my share. My sister, on the other hand, has been saying the same things about her marriage for over a decade. I don’t understand wallowing like she does. No matter what the issue is, it is always better to keep on moving. Eventually, a solution will find its way to you. If you stay still, you will simply drown in self pity.
3. Let People Make their own decisions- I never realized how important this was, until I felt trapped in the decisions of my husband, my mother, then my ex husband. Every decision that I made was made because of someone else. I truly feel that my own growth has been limited because I was surrounded by people who never let me make a decision. I take this to heart with my children. I have attempted to raise them to be good decision makers, so that they are not paralyzed with fear if they are on their own.
4. It’s OK to cry. It really can be cleansing. Let out the negative, and then find some reason to smile. It sounds so trivial, but it is very, very basic. You have a right to your feelings. If you are sad, you are entitled to a good cry; just don’t let it turn into a wallow.
5. It is better to cry if you are sad, than to cry if you are being treated poorly by someone else. YES, YES, YES. Sadness is a very honest emotion. Let it out; it is far better than feeling that you are the target for an unkind person. You must love yourself more than to allow that to be OK.
6. Opinions are like a–holes; everyone has them. Nothing more needs to be said here. In my experience, some of the people who are the most opinionated are also the most unhappy people. Choose carefully when you listen to someone.
7. People who are not there to hold your hair when you vomit, or pay the bills when you are broke are not entitled to judge the decisions you make. This was life changing for me. I used to be a lot freer with my respect, and I expected better stuff to come out of the mouths of people I knew. Now, not so much…
8. Forgive yourself. It is OK. You are human, with all the frailties and failures that come with the role. Move On.
9. Allow yourself to “feel” again. It is essential to find what made you happy before you were Mrs Wonderful, and then the Ex spouse of Mr. Wonderful.
10. Tomorrow is another day, so if this one sucks, it only has 24 hours in it. There is no way to stretch the day into more than that. Ok, it’s a cliche, but it’s true. But tomorrow if we are all lucky, we get another 24 hours to make better than the ones we lived through today.