Contemplating The U.S. Navel

Me, Chicago, Hollywood and The Federal Government

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthday
December 31
Title
Communications Manager
Company
Insurance Brokerage
Bio
I am about as liberal as they come, and please don't expect to change me, though I do sometimes sneak up on you with a surprise (pro-death penalty, for instance). Although gainfully employed as a full-time Marketing Manager, I keep my toes in the freelance pool as a journalist, theater critic, blogger and proud President of the Illinois Woman's Press Association. To read my work on this page is to find vignettes about Chicago, Hollywood, my own turbulent life, and of course, my number one passion: local and national politics.

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Salon.com
APRIL 6, 2011 4:58PM

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Rate: 13 Flag

The thing about divorce is, it's good for the waistline. On the whole, given that I am a week away from embarking on a life of complete solitude, I have been coping well. I show up to work everyday and give it my full effort, despite a disorienting case of physical and emotional exhaustion. I stay engaged with friends and colleagues. I bathe. I sleep. I breathe. For those of you who have gone through a marital dissolution, just accomplishing everyday taks is a triumph.

The one thing that has completely fallen by the wayside is the ability to eat and drink. The glass of wine I wolf down to calm my nerves before Eddie and I confront each other for the first time every evening doesn't count. We have nothing left to say, but the sight of his person walking through the door each night, casually humming as if the world isn't ending, gives me the vapors. But the concept of actual nourishment is beyond me. I experience fleeting pangs that tell me it's time to fuel up, but more often than not, I end up staring blankly at my plate and glass of water, like I do most other stimuli.

So the result is that I weigh 12 pounds less today than I did at my senior prom, and I was not heavy in high school by any means. Under different circumstances, the vain parts of my character (which are embarassingly abundant) would be turning cartwheels. But I can't experience pride in results that stem from being hollowed.

The unintentional weight loss is a fairly apt metaphor for the shrinkage I feel as an individual. In very quick succession I find myself without husband, family, but even more than that, I have lost my guiding purpose. For five straight years, Eddie was my drug of choice, the center of my chaotic universe, the hard emotional rock against which I continually broke my body and spirit. I realize this isn't the most positive of images but a purpose of any kind can be more comforting than gazing out into the unknown abyss. At least I knew the rules. Now, I am going through the motions but hardly know what to do with myself at a station that has stopped playing “all Eddie, all the time.”

Intuitively, I understand that I will figure it out. Somehow. One of the reasons I ended up in this predicament is a lifelong failure to learn how to live for myself. Now there's nowhere to hide. I have always had someone to take care of. It's kind of what I do. Growing up, I was the adult in my home, the one trusted with secrets, sought out for counsel, the cleaner of messes my parents couldn't or wouldn't address. This precocious level of responsibility didn't leave a lot of time for figuring out what it is I wanted and needed, and if I'm being completely honest, I was fine with that.

As a young adult, I punted and focused on my my sister and her first daughter until I saw her safely married to a wonderful, responsible man. From there I jumped into a “starter marriage” that encompassed all the drama you would expect from two people barely old enough to drink, trying to play at adulthood. Not long after the ink dried on those 2006 divorce papers, I threw myself headlong into an all-consuming fascination with Eddie, the handsome, exotic, powerful man I was certain I needed. It made perfect sense. By aligning myself with people who had definitive ideas and opinions of the way things should work, I could defer having to draw a map for myself.

I can't say I ever felt fulfilled but for a grown woman in complete denial, pretending at a self-assuredness she never actually possessed, the arrangement suited its purpose. Until I began to chafe. Until little voices I never knew existed started to scream that I had it all wrong: a career in corporate operations that asked nothing of my creative capacity, a union in which my voice was the fourth most important (after that of Eddie and his folks), an upper-middle class lifestyle as foreign as walking into the men's room by accident.

A part of me would love another human project to throw myself into. I am a creature of habit, of schedule, and am not really sure how to pencil “find myself” into the weekly calendar. But I am nothing if not stubborn, and I admantly refuse to let myself duck a responsibility that has led to so much poor decision making.

So I go through my day making swift calculations, taking actions to establish the next phase of my life with a certainty that I don't yet feel. It's all about forming new pathways to replace the destructive ones.

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Indeed, lay some new tracks and you'll eventually find yourself in a better place. When you start staring blankly at that plate of food, just remember that starvation weight loss always leads to rebound weight gain. You might even go beyond the 12 pounds. In other words, eat. A package of protien enriched oatmeal in the morning, a handful of nuts for a snack, peanut butter and jelly for dinner if you must...just get it done.
Congratulations on starting your new life. It may not feel good right now, but you've got a great opportunity. Be patient with yourself. It will be tough for a while, but eventually it will get better.

Let yourself be your priority for a while and allow your psyche time to heal. Spend time on the healthy relationships (friends and family) in your life and resist that temptation to jump into a rebound relationship. It's tough as hell, but it can help you in the long run.

I can relate to much of what you're saying. I met someone in college who I thought was "THE ONE." We got married soon after college, after going out for a few years. As soon as we started hitting major crises (my mother's cancer and death, cross country move, job change, etc.), the rifts started forming in our relationship.

When we started our divorce (my choice), we'd been together for 12 years. I was happy to be rid of the daily conflicts and stress of being with him. It also felt like I'd dropped myself into outer space, even though I knew that divorce was the right direction.

I had no interest in food - same as what you're describing. I lost 50 lbs in 2 months. At the start of those 2 months, I had a few extra pounds but wasn't fat. (BTW, I'm 6'1," so losing that much weight did not make me skeletal.)

Once life started to normalize again, I ate a little more and exercised a lot more. I gained 5 lbs back and stayed more or less at that weight for several years, until injury and illness forced some unwanted weight gain.

I made the mistake of getting into a few unhealthy relationships, which made things worse. Then I took a break for a while and just focused on friendships. I made a lot of REALLY good friends, who helped me build more stability in my life.

At a time when I had no expectations, I met someone who I thought might really be the one. We took our time. We went through several crises together (the slow death of my father by Parkinson's disease and his mother by diabetes and Alzheimer's, job loss, injuries and life-threatening illness) and supported each other, growing stronger. We got married last year, 8 years after we met, and 17 years after I divorced my ex.

If I'd met my husband back when I was in college, I probably wouldn't have appreciated how terrific a guy he is. Every day I'm grateful to have him in my life, even when he does little things that make me cranky.

Be good to yourself and take however much time you need to heal. Everyone's life and scars are different. You're the only one who will really know when you're whole again - whole whether you're single or in a relationship.
There is a poem by perhaps the greatest American poet Jim Carroll. I have quoted it before on OS but I think quoting it again here for you is a categorical imperative:

Its to late

It's too late
To fall in love with Sharon Tate
But it's too soon
To ask me for the words I want carved on my tomb
I think it's time that you all start
To think about gettin' by
But I have that need to go out and find somebody to love
It's too late
There's no one left that I even wanna imitate
You see, you just don't know
I'm here to give you my heart
And you want some fashion show
But it ain't no contribution
To rely on an institution
To validate your chosen art
And to sanction your boredom
And let you play out your part
It's too late
You know when they got nothin' to give
They only part their legs for what's negative
They're so decadent . . .
Until their daddy's money from home's all spent
So I think it's time, because it's too easy
To rely on worshipping devils and strangers in bed,
Though they do get good drugs, and they do give good head
It's too late
You shoulda realized I was worth the wait
Ah, but you didn't hesitate
When he took you off, you let him seal our fate
So I think it's time
that you all start
To think about gettin' by
Without that need to go out and find
Somebody to love
I know that this is the difficult time, the time when the big decisions have been made and now you have to live them out. The thing is, and you must believe me, there is a new you around the corner. Older, wiser and more in tune with yourself. Stay the course for yourself. Forget about the pacifiers, the new love interests to line up. Fall in love with you, appreciate you, find your satisfaction in who you are. Then when you least expect, there is something else for you, it just presents itself.
Rated, with lots and lots of hugs from someone who has learned the hard way that yes, breaking up is hard to do, but it's better than living with the skeletal remains of a relationship that's either past its expiration date or a worse fit than a suit that's 5 sizes too large.

I hear you about losing your appetite. I'd second bluestocking babe's advice. If you don't feel like cooking, avoid fast food. If the thought of eating out alone in a good restaurant bums you out, there are probably restaurants and supermarkets near you which offer nutritionally-sound take-out food. Don't be afraid to occasionally indulge in a little comfort food (that's what it's there for) but I'd strongly counsel against bringing home pints of Ben & Jerry's.

...an upper-middle class lifestyle as foreign as walking into the men's room by accident.

Now, there's a line for the quotation books!

And yes, Jim Carroll absolutely rocks. I had the privilege of meeting him once.
"Eddie was my drug of choice"

boy, can I relate... that's how i felt about my ex... which is why, 4 1/2 years later, my singlehood is my sobriety...but...advice... don't make that choice... find a way to rehab your heart.
Heartbreakingly real and so well written, your word choices and phrases are so orginal.The content,well, that's a had one, I also lost weight going through a tough time, only to hear how great I looked (skeletal). Take care, you are doing a great job. One foot in front of the other.
One door closes, another opens. You could look that up. There's no law that says you have to be married. When the time is right you will know. Best wishes to you during the time of grief and joy.
After reading Blue's post, and seeing how she bragged about you and your writing I had to come by. I'm sorry I haven't before. You are everything she said you were. My first marriage was a wreck from beginning to end. My next was the one. Only time will take the pain away.
Did not realize this is your second divorce, I guess that's why this is all the more painful, but, people around here think you are bright, so, by now you must have learned not to make humans into projects. Since you never felt fulfilled, as you say, and found their upper middle class lifestyle alien to what you are used to, it is ok to walk away. A marriage is not just one person's responsibility. You gave it what you could, so, walk away with head held high and a clear conscience. Know that your pain is seasonal.
Did not realize this is your second divorce, I guess that's why this is all the more painful, but, people around here think you are bright, so, by now you must have learned not to make humans into projects. Since you never felt fulfilled, as you say, and found their upper middle class lifestyle alien to what you are used to, it is ok to walk away. A marriage is not just one person's responsibility. You gave it what you could, so, walk away with head held high and a clear conscience. Know that pain is seasonal.