The Scary Truth

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

I thought it was just me. Instead, I find it’s every divorced woman I know between 30 and 55, and a few men as well. We’re all clueless about what to do next, and none of us like it.

Working Through Grief

We’ve lost control over our lives. We all had a plan. We all know exactly how life would be for us if we just worked hard and stuck to the plan. And yet we ended up at a place of free-fall. We don’t know where to go next. Nothing fits right or like it used to. It’s all different now and so unfair that it changed when we were working so hard according to the plan.

We know we don’t have control. We don’t like it, so we work to regain control. Too many people remarry someone as close to their ex-spouse as possible. It’s comfortable. It’s what they know. It may not be perfect, but it’s a way of getting back into the “plan” and feeling some control and structure in their lives again.

Others bury themselves in their work. It’s comfortable. It’s a known. And they don’t have to address their bruises or figure out their patterns because they’re too busy getting through the day.

Still others try to control certain areas of their own lives as well as the lives of others. They become tyrants at work or rigid parents or lousy dates.

None of it works. It’s like trying to free yourself from a tourniquet around the neck by pulling harder on one end of the rope.

After I filed for divorce, I pointed out to my ex that he was unbearably controlling. The same information had been pointed out to me before, but I never saw it until the end.

“Your husband is a very, very, manipulative man,” an acquaintance told me with a scowl at least three years ago.

“No, he’s not,” I protested. “Really. He’s not manipulative. I’ll go ask him.”

But the first time I leveled that charge at my ex, he railed against me. I will never forget the look in his eyes at the accusation.

“I’m not controlling,” he argued. “I don’t feel like I have control over anything!”

The more he felt out of control—over approaching middle age, over his health, over his job, over the kids growing up and my interests being so vastly different from his own—the more effort he put into controlling everything around him, including his family. He couldn’t see it in himself but the rest of us felt the oppression.

With just a look of disgust or a single word of displeasure, he controlled what we ate, what we wore, where we went, who we saw, what we talked about, who came to the house to visit, how the house was decorated, how long we talked on the phone, which movies we saw or TV shows we watched. Over a short time and harsh sense of losing control of everything in his life, the list of controlling measures became endless. Stifling.

I had wanted my freedom. Well, this is freedom. Not having control. Not knowing what comes next. Not being sure if I’m flying or falling while I’m hurtling through time and space.

But the scariest truth of all is that all those years I had a plan, all those years I thought I had had control over my life, I didn’t. Ever. It was all an illusion that I had control and knew where I was going. No matter how well I made choices in whom to marry and how to live our lives together, none of it mattered in the end. I had no control over my life or how our relationship would end. I had only the choice to stay in the illusion or to free myself.

To jump. To take a leap of faith in myself and see what happened.

There is no net to catch me. But then, there never was.