When constants change

by Lorien E. Menhennett

There are few things in life that are constants. Except, perhaps as they say, death and taxes (and in today’s world, I would argue, Internet spam). That said, as humans, I think we expect certain things to remain in our lives for the long haul, especially relationships. I know that is true of me, at least.

But I have been jolted into the awareness that this expectation is not necessarily true: The relationship I expected to be most constant – my marriage – is ending. Because my husband wants a divorce. (I still cringe when I hear that word …)

As it is in all such situations, this one is complicated. Parts of it I understand, parts of it I don’t. What I do understand is that in a short time, I will be living on my own again – something I haven’t done in seven years, since we bought the house where we currently live. Not only that, I will not have the emotional support of this relationship, this person, who has been by my side for the last decade. Both of those thoughts are terrifying.

Several of my friends have asked how I am making it through this difficult situation, which is made all the  more awkward by virtue of the fact that my soon-to-be-ex-husband and I are still living in the same house due to financial constraints. I am not a religious person, but I very much believe in the sentiment of the Serenity Prayer, in a secular sense:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I think about this both in terms of change, and in terms of control. There are many things I cannot change/control right now: I cannot change the fact that I am about to get a divorce. Trying would be fruitless, and would waste time and effort that would be better spent on other things. I can, however, change/control other things: I can change my own attitude. I can control my school situation, how much I study, whether I continue to do well or whether I let this derail me. The key is the “wisdom to know the difference.” And then once discernment has been made, taking effective action. Which both yields progress, and also actually helps me feel better emotionally as well, because I am taking my situation into my own hands.

I recently wrote a post about coping with stress; I am putting into action many of the strategies I outlined there, because this is indeed a very stressful situation.

I am also trying to look toward the future instead of ruminating on the past: what I will do with my new apartment, which courses I want to take next year, which medical schools I want to apply to, which medical fields interest me, and so on. I do this not to negate the past, but to give myself hope that I do have a future, that this is not in any way the end of my life. Things change. This is one of those changes. And I must cope with it the best I can.

Another strategy is doing my best to do things that make me feel happy. That doesn’t mean dropping $1,000 on Michigan Avenue (not that I have $1,000 anyway!). For me, it’s more about the little things: taking time out for phone calls to friends and family, for example. Making sure I keep the frig stocked with my favorite kind of hummus (jalapeno and cilantro). Wearing clothes that make me feel good about myself – quite often something fun, colorful, and vintage.

I would not wish this situation on my worst enemy. But I will make it through. Because the one thing that truly is constant in life is yourself: “Wherever you go, there you are,” as the saying goes. I am strong. And I will take that strength with me, wherever I go.