• Bethany

Tough Cookie

Sometimes it feels like writing a blog is the most narcissistic thing on the planet. And maybe it is! Is that so wrong? Anyway, lately a few people have told me how much my blog has helped them, or how much they love it, and that has brought me the warm feelies and also a bit of courage to continue writing.

Today I listened to Glennon Doyle's Podcast "We Can Do Hard Things", which had a new episode with Jen Hatmaker. I feel an affinity for Jen, in some ways my story is a Lite version of hers. In this podcast, Jen says something about having "the audacity to rebuild" and they talk about her recovery and rebuilding after her divorce.

And it got me thinking about my own divorce, which was only two and half years ago although it feels like a lifetime now. About sleeping alone that first night, about journalling and trying so hard to sit with my feelings, and making big decisions to move and basically start a new life, about all the decisions and adventures I've had since then. And honestly, sometimes I just feel like a big mess. Especially in the last year. I've been in a deep depression since Sept of 2021, and it worsened in January of this year. That is a long time to be forcing yourself to function. It's a long time to not enjoy any of the things that used to make you happy. It's a long time to be scared that you can't do your job because your brain just won't work.

I tried SO HARD to be ✨The Best Depressed Person You Know✨. The job I loved and hated ended, I found a place to live after three months of homelessness (I lived in my sister's spare room, bless her), I started exercising, eating better, journalling, reaching out to friends, and trying to do the things I loved (or used to love). I took my medication. I willed things to get better. When the medication didn't seem to be working I went to a clinic and got it increased. I started going to therapy every week. I was doing all the things you're supposed to do to get out of depression. But nothing worked. It was exhausting.

Luckily, we seem to be coming out of the woods, although I live in actual terror of it happening again. Thanks to new medication, an emergency room visit for suicidal thoughts, and lots and lots of therapy, I am coming through it. I can function without Herculean effort just to get into the shower. I feel a little dazed at having energy, at not feeling a constant sense of deep apathy and exhaustion. Is this how people normally feel? They can just... shower? Read for fun? Go to work?

And all this has sort of left me feeling a bit like a failure. I'm struggling to make ends meet right now, hoping for better in the future, occasionally being extremely bitter about wasting six years of my life on a DMA (it wasn't entirely useless, but it doesn't always feel that way), and feeling bitter about spending ten years of my life just following my husband around instead of getting some hopes and dreams and financial security and adult-level competencies for myself. Because now my ex-husband is going on trips to Europe and recently bought a very fancy car that tracks your eye movements and tells you if you seem tired. And he has worked so hard for those things. Unbelievably hard. I've seen it first-hand. He absolutely deserves everything he has, and more. It's not about whether or not he deserves those things (as if anyone has the right to assess that), it's that I cannot help but notice the stark contrast between our lives post-divorce. I walk or bike or borrow a car because I can't afford to buy a motorized vehicle, do my laundry at my parents' house, fight for EI, and worry that running the AC in 38C weather will put my power bill up too high. My electric keyboard, the one I teach music lessons with, recently started making a weird sound out of the speakers from time to time. I bought a new keyboard (the old one is 12 years old, it's had a good life). But I had to return it because I just can't afford that expense right now. This is where we're at. It's not great. It's not glamorous. It's hard. And sometimes I feel pretty bitter about that contrast (surprise). And if there's anything in this life that's a weight on one's soul, it's bitterness. And it's easy to play the poor (literally and figuratively) divorcee who is just so hard done by. It's easy to use that as an excuse for why I will never succeed in life. It's easy to feel like I've ruined my life irreparably and nothing I do will result in a life I can be proud of. I cried, CRIED after listening to a discussion of how important it is to start an RRSP young. I did not start one as young as I should have because my husband was going to be a doctor, and when he was a doctor then we would figure it all out. And I remember thinking "Wow, depending on someone else this much is a risk." and then "Oh, but I won't get divorced." I am laughing and crying at past me.

The part that is scariest is that it would have been easier to be married unhappily and financially secure and in a weird cocoon of infantilization than to get divorced and face all the things I'm facing now. But it would have been horrible, and a waste of my one life. I am so proud that we made the hard decision that was the best decision. And I never, never regret making the decision to get divorced. and

Hearing Jen Hatmaker talk about the audacity of rebuilding, and about dealing with her own bitterness, learned helplessness around adulting, and the death of everything she thought her life would be really comforted me. She talked about the person she's becoming (Glennon called it a "Jennaissance" and I thought that was hilarious). About all she's learning. About being smart and wise and investing in the stock market. And it all seems so beautiful and true and honest and amazing, even though I'm sure it is also very hard and unglamorous a lot of the time. Rebuilding is what I would like to do.

But, ugh, I have no patience for rebuilding. I have no patience for slow, steady progress. I hate that stuff. Which is pretty hilarious coming from someone who makes a living telling people "It takes time to get good, you have to be patient and keep going." I want to be good today. Scratch that, I want to be perfect today. I want to have it all figured out at the ripe old age of 33 and I am very upset that this hasn't happened for me yet. Rude.

But you know, "keep going" is what I've been telling myself for the better part of a year. When I was too depressed to function and everything just felt so heavy, I kept telling myself "Keep going. You don't have to do anything else, just keep going." Keep going is what I told myself when I was moving across the country in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic in the summer of 2020. Keep going is what I tell myself now when I'm not totally sure how I'm going to pay my bills.

Sometimes I think the slow steady life chose me, you know?

I'm learning, slowly, to put my bitterness aside. Because the only person it's affecting is me, and it is not helping. And I don't want to be a person who's always being a victim, the one who got the short end of the stick, the one who suffers. I want to be the one who rebuilds beautifully and on her own terms. The one who, slowly and steadily, works to build a life for herself that she loves. I am a tough cookie and I do what it takes. Mostly. With some tears. But I have help! Every morning I wake to the furry face of Penny and we spend a little while snuggling and I talk to her and my heart explodes with love. Isn't that beautiful? Today I got to encourage a 9-year-old's budding interest and talent in playing the piano. I also got to scrub toilets at a janitorial job this evening because I would like to make a little extra money and this is one way I can do it. Because I'm responsible or something. It's not all pretty. But it's worth it. And it's part of a long journey to something better. Cheers to all my tough cookies 💖

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