“Look around. Look around… at how lucky we are to be alive right now. Look around…” Eliza Schuyler in Hamilton: An American Musical
Watching Hamilton live from my own home made me think, in the middle of these chaotic pandemics, that we are so lucky to be alive right now. Those of us with immune systems strong enough to have escaped or survived COVID-19’s worst symptoms thus far, so lucky. Those of us privileged (and, for me, white) to be a part of the shifting paradigms and the evolution of what it means to be an anti-racist ally (and part of a Black Lives Matter protest), so lucky. Those of us muddling through working from home and living at work who also get to snag a snuggle with a kid in the middle of a week day or be “home” in time for bedtime (even if it is now 10 p.m.), so lucky. So lucky to be alive right now.
You don’t need me to tell you that the struggles in which we Americans find ourselves do not have simple resolutions– the race to save the world’s health; the painful confrontation of our country’s historical, systematic racism; remote teaching; our children’s loss of social contact and communities; the uprooting of work life; and a turbulent economy. The resolutions will be slow to come and require skills and values that we did not know we had in us.
Surviving a divorce can be a bit like today’s struggles. Unpredictable. Unprecedented. Scary. Energizing. Polarizing. Exciting. Traumatizing. Thought provoking.
To those going through a divorce right now, I intone: How lucky you are to be alive right now. I know that divorce is hard and painful, expensive, and the only way to get to the end is to persevere with the knowledge that this too will pass. The end will be worth it. A vaccine. A new concept of a police force. A new community. A new way to learn. A new office. A different life.
Emerging from the darkness of these times will take perspective, patience, anger, good judgment and humor – the same principles that will get someone through a divorce.
Here are five reasons why living through a divorce is a bit like living through our current climate:
1. Divorce requires perspective. While celebrities posted selfies and stories and TikToks when the metaphorical gates came closing down requiring us to shelter in place, the rest of the “regular” population did not relate to the messaging. Celebs failed to recognize that shelter-in-place does not mean the same to them as it does to us.
The same can be said for those who are navigating a divorce. Your divorce is not the most complicated or acrimonious. It’s probably not the least contested either. It is, however, exclusively yours. One person’s fight is another person’s compromise. One person’s most important issue is another person’s most insignificant. When you lose sight of the fact that everyone’s experience is uniquely theirs, it is easy to believe your experience is the “most” of anything and everything; causing a loss of perspective that narrows and impairs cognition.
2. Divorce requires patience. You have to learn to live in limbo. Remember when we could not fathom schools being closed for the rest of the year? Now, there’s a question about what school will look like in September. If we look too far ahead, we drive ourselves into a panic. If we look too far back, we might long for the days when we binged Tiger King episodes, drank daily, and thought we’d send the kids to daycare in June while we returned to the workplace. Before COVID-19, a divorce could take years. Now, after the courts came to a grinding halt in so many states, it will take even more years, especially if you end up requiring a Judge to make every decision for you. You will have to practice patience, be present and grow accustomed to living in limbo because we do not know how or when this ends.
3. Divorce will make you angry. This is a time of a great deal of righteous anger. Anger that black people are still murdered before our very eyes, with cameras rolling, and justice continues to be served late, if ever. Anger that the response to a global pandemic has been so haphazard, unsafe and has killed so many people in our educated and rich country.
It is natural to feel anger in a divorce. Be mad as hell with your spouse for dropping you in a crisis you didn’t ask for or see coming. Be angry with yourself for not taking steps earlier that might have protected you. Be angry at how long the process is taking. How messy it is. How expensive it is. Anger is permissible. It is human. It is real.
4. Divorce requires good judgment. Today, we wear masks, use sanitizer. Practice social distancing. We have learned what it means to not be a “a Karen.” Check your racial biases. Be a good citizen.
It’s the same in a divorce. Your anger may drive you to write emails that good judgment stops you from sending. Good judgment will help you know if you can trust your lawyer. Good judgment will tell you when the “right” settlement has been reached or if you should continue fighting. Good judgment is difficult to summon when you’re in the middle of a fight, but it’s when you need it most.
5. You must find humor where you can. Life can be funny, even when things seem to be going down the drain. From comedians Trevor Noah to Samantha Bee to people who make hilarious memes – those genius people make me think that the internet was created for this purpose alone – those laughs save us. They lift our spirits, they bring us together. A divorce can be funny too, even in the thick of it. Finding a good laugh in the middle of your divorce, even if (or, especially if) it’s at the expense of your soon to be ex (so long as it is not in front of the kids), can bring you much-needed relief to an otherwise unjoyful time.