You can be shattered and then you can put yourself back together piece by piece. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore.” Glennon Doyle Melton
So I’m lying in my 375 sq. foot basement thinking about where I was a year ago. It horrifies me to realize that my life is not that different, and a year ago wasn’t a high point by any stretch… and disturbingly similar to where I was in my 20’s.
Wait, is that right? What was I doing in my 20’s? I was in L.A., I had just sold everything I owned to move to Spain…no income, no money, and a handful of very concerned friends. And then a bunch of drama happened and I couldn’t move to Spain, so I packed up the few things I had left, drove cross country and started over…with no income, no money, and a handful of very concerned friends.
Twenty years later? Just got rid of almost everything I have to move to Paris. And then a bunch of drama happened and I couldn’t move to Paris, so I packed up the few things I have left, drove cross country and am starting over… with no income, no money, and a handful of very concerned friends.
I clearly did not bring the whole adulting thing along for the ride. I think we can safely say that I’m pretty much failing at it.
My friends, however, are doing it in full force. Adulting, that is. They have children who are now approaching adult status themselves. They have ‘real’ jobs, or even just a job period, and they actually own their homes. They are married, or they survived the seemingly inevitable divorce and successfully negotiated who got what- the house, time with the kids, the Cuisinart, the crazy expensive ceramic dog bowl, the dog.
So I’m not going to torture you with the extent of how badly I’m adulting. But it’s pretty bad. I think my situation has to be akin to where people end up right before they take their last blanket and stake out a storefront with a covered entry way. This is not to make light of their situation at all. I legitimately understand what the trajectory might look like for someone who finds themselves standing in the street with only a tattered blanket left to hold on to. I kind of feel like the only thing that is separating me from that covered entry way is the door leading into my 375 sq foot basement.
I know, it sounds terrible. This simply has to make you feel better about where you are in your life right now. And I assure you, I am not aiming for sympathy here. I can actually see the humor in it all. Well, some days I can, for Iike a second. But those seconds are made up of 100% confidence that I will look back on this and laugh. And it will make a great story, and it will inspire some struggling soul to pick themselves up, forge on, and not settle for deciding which street corner will be the most lucrative.
So, application to my daily life. There is this fancy ice cream parlor that just opened up literally one block away from me. It is the new gathering spot for pretty much everyone in the neighborhood- ‘everyone’ meaning perfectly-matched, successful 30-something couples and their cute, reletively well-behaved children.
And they all seem to be adulting very well.
It is excruciating to walk by but there is absolutely no avoiding it. Children running around laughing and screaming, ice cream dripping down their chins, dad waiting patiently while holding his wife’s vanilla ice cream cone as she chases after them.
It would seem that this sweet, familial scene might lift my spirits a bit, offer some sense of hope that there is an alternative to scoping out street corners. But it usually just makes me regret every major life decision I have made. I don’t have a little one to chase after or my sweet husband to hold my ice cream cone (which I assure you would not be vanilla). This is how I feel most days.
There is the rare occasion that I make it to the coffee shop, which just happens to be on the other side of the new fancy ice cream parlor, grab a table as far away from the madness as possible, quickly locate my headphones, and successfully drown out the noise of the meltdowns going on outside. I am anything but envious of those couples on these days. But that is rare.
This is my every day. Every day I have to walk through hell to get to my haven. And each time, I feel like everything switches into slow motion. It takes me at least 10 minutes to walk 5 steps, trying like mad to dodge the sticky little children and avoid any eye contact with their doting parents. And every time, this is what I hear…
They wait unit I am at a safe distance and then whisper, (at least I have convinced myself this is what is happening) “That poor girl. She is always alone. I’m sure she is divorced. She’s got to be at least 40, right? I don’t even think she has a boyfriend. It’s just so sad…”
I somehow make it safely inside, beads of sweat on my forehead, and quickly settle in to the place I stay for the next 5 hours, or 8, depending on how longs the couples and their children stay lurking about. When I feel like it is safe to finally look up, I can’t help but just stare at them. I want to go back out there and sit down with them. I want to ask them some questions.
“Hi, I’m the pathetic 40-something single girl you were feeling sorry for a minute ago, the one who lives in the basement next to your beautiful house that you own with a yard, 2 kids, and a dog. I just have a couple of quick questions to ask you two if you don’t mind.
Are you both happy? If you are, can you tell me what you are doing exactly? Do you still make each other laugh? Do you still kiss each other, like with the tongue kiss? Do you still have sex, like more than once a month? Do you spend time together doing things you both love to do? Do you stay up late listening to your new favorite song, reading your favorite line from the best book you’ve ever read, or deciding where exactly you will buy your chateau in France? Do you still dream about your future and plan out your next adventure together? Or did you settle for the safe bet? Would you have done something differently? Chosen someone different? Did you let someone go who is the one your thoughts always drift back to? Would you end it if you could- if it wasn’t for the kids, the mortgage, the mutual friends, the fear of failure or of being alone? Would you go find the one who got away?
What I’m asking is, do you feel like you are successfully adulting? Cause I don’t think I’m doing it right. Or do you secretly want to be kind of failing at it too, at least for long enough to remember why you wanted to do it in the first place?
I keep hearing so many of my friends say, ‘no, actually, not successful at this at all”. They are kind of miserable and kind of feel trapped. Of course they love their children. That, they would not change for the world. And, yes, they love their partner, but it is not the love that it was and not the love they would still fight for if it weren’t for the kids.
I sound like I’m trying to make myself feel better here. I guess I am on some level. But, god, it just makes me so sad. I makes me sad for them, for my ex-husband, for me, for the partner who wants out and for the one who doesn’t, for the kids who think that a healthy relationship, or any relationship, is one that is based on a facade, void of passion and affection, one that consists of constant bickering- a resignation or forced truce of sorts that is constantly questioned, doubted, and endured- one that has to make these kids kind of dread becoming an adult.
They also might be equally as terrified of ending up like their parent’s recently divorced ‘older’ friend who is now obsessively checking her match.com page, exhausting everyone who is still listening with how many winks and likes she got that day and how horrible the prospects are out of the small pool of recently divorced men who are pretty much everything she does not want to go spend an hour of her life with… but what the hell else is she going to do to not have to hang out with her married couple friends all the time and listen to them bitch about how selfish or lazy or unfaithful their partner is and how they kind of wish they were sifting through the terrible prospects on match.com…to which I respond, “No, god, please don’t wish that for yourself or anyone else. Ever.”
This treacherous form of dating just feels so unjust. We just went through hell, we just want to find our person, someone who has the same values, who fits, who is super attractive, healthy, kind, funny, smart, wants to travel the world. But to even have the slightest chance to find this person, we have to willingly subject ourselves to endless photos of half-naked men posing in front of their bathroom mirror. Or, for the unfortunate souls in my age-bracket, pictures of dudes in baseball caps attempting to hide their receding hairline, definitely not half-naked, thank god, and standing next to their brand new convertible or obnoxious truck that will necessitate a ladder to get into.
It’s enough to make you opt to stay in your relationship that is so obviously not working anymore.
(ok , guys, all previous cliches were for dramatic effect…and mean. Who doesn’t have a receding hairline? Hell, I probably do. And there is nothing wrong with you naked. However, the car, don’t give a shit. Didn’t in high school and definitely don’t now).
So here we are. We both desperately want to be where the other is, which is the last thing we would wish for the other… because we love them and we want them to be a happy, fulfilled adult in a beautiful, healthy relationship. But instead, we are both kind of jaded, kind of calloused and truly wondering what the hell to do to get out of our failed attempt at this whole life thing.
All this said, I trust, I hope, that this is not 100% accurate. I know, I hope, that there are couples out there that are happy and fulfilled, and there are single people who love being single. I know you exist. I know some of you out there have figured out how to successfully adult.
So please, I have some questions. I’m seriously sizing up street corners here, and this certainly doesn’t fit any better than it did in my 20’s. I just do so much better when I have someone to love. I do brilliantly when that someone loves me back. I think I could be really good at this….I just have a few questions.
To read more about Glennon Doyle Melton, bestselling author of Love Warrior, go to: