Someone I’d just met was talking about his divorce. Although it had been more than a year, it was obvious that he remained bitter. I tried my best to be patient and listen while he vented. Then he said something that struck a nerve. It was a generalization and rooted in his inability to come to terms with his own personal experience, but that didn’t matter, in the moment. I felt the need to set him straight. If nothing else, he should have been more sensitive to his audience.
The offensive statement was this: “Men always get screwed in divorce. Women make out like bandits.”
Yeah, he actually said that. Out loud. To me.
Before my divorce, I was retired. I owned my own home (and had for 27 years). I drove a brand new, fully loaded SUV. I vacationed often, and ‘roughing it’ meant a camper with heated mattresses and a full kitchen. My now ex husband, by contrast, was still working. He lived in my house and he did drive a nice truck. We shared the camper.
Fast forward nearly two years. I sold my house and am now renting. I have a full time job. I drive an eight-year old car with crank windows. I sleep in a tent on vacation. Him? He retired, bought a house, a brand new truck and a fifth wheel camper.
The disparity couldn’t be more stark. I share this not to garner sympathy because, frankly, I have an amazing life and abhor pity. My point is that one should consider his audience before spewing harsh statements that reflect only his own narrow viewpoint. Perhaps if he looked outside himself, his situation would not appear to be so miserable. You never have to go very far to find someone who is either better off or far worse off than you are. Comparisons do not always serve us well.
Perspective is a lovely gift. It may not negate your own loss, but it certainly shines a light on the shadows of it. I have friends who are fighting terminal illnesses or have children who are. I have friends who have suddenly and tragically lost a loving spouse. My change in lifestyle pales in comparison.
Instead of measuring material things, maybe we should look more closely at the things we cannot always see or touch. I’m pretty sure that I’d win in the happiness category. I don’t mean smiling and having a good time (although I have that, too). What I’m talking about is the satisfaction of living a deliberate life, despite what gets thrown at you. It’s a deeper, more meaningful sense of contentment that flies in the face of physical ‘stuff’ and outward appearances.
Truth be told, I have way more than I need. I couldn’t be happier tooling around town in my little five-speed, doing a job I love. And have you ever heard the sound of rain on a tent while you’re cozy inside, with only the soft glow of a lantern? It’s heavenly.
Not being bogged down with things and the associated responsibilities and obligations that they bring is liberating. There’s time for creative pursuits and learning to indulge in your own peaceful solitude. There is a clarity that shines that light on what’s important.
What I really wanted to say to my new friend was this: Let go of the anger. Have no regrets. Tear off that rear view mirror and live your life in a forward motion. If you want to vent your victimhood with no regard for your audience, get a therapist. Oh, and one more thing…. Good riddance!