Why I Stopped Asking 'Why Me?'

by Shannon Lell
Originally Published: 

Sometimes I get really bogged down in the why-me’s.

Why did my marriage fail? Statistically speaking, it shouldn’t have happened. We dated for three years before getting engaged. I didn’t get married until I was 27. I waited to have my first child at 31. We were college-educated with successful careers. All these things statistically point to marriages which have a low probability of divorce. We should have beaten the odds. But we didn’t. We didn’t. I didn’t.

They say the divorce rate hovers around 50 percent. Well, not in my socio-economic world. I have one divorced acquaintance, and we became acquaintances because we’re divorced. It’s lonely, this upper-middle class divorce thing.

OK, so my marriage failed. Shit happens. Fine. But then I start in with the why-me’s of having an angry, vindictive ex. I hear stories about ex-husbands who would do anything to make sure their kids were well cared for, either by them or their mothers. They willingly help with fixing cars and extra-curricular activities, they talk civilly and kindly to their ex-wives, they attend birthday parties and holidays because they understand that the kids come first. Why does my ex not even look at me? Why will he do anything in his power to hurt me? Why did he take me to court and make me spend my savings just to get a basic level of support?

Yes. Why me?

That leads to a lot of self-blame. Because being a victim is not in my DNA.

What fatal mistake did I make? What road sign did I take a left at, when I should have turned right? What is wrong with me?

Truth is, there’s a lot wrong with me. There’s a lot wrong with all of us because we’re human beings and we make a million mistakes a day. There isn’t some pill you can take to stop being human. You can’t medicate or even meditate the condition away. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I’ve come to the realization that what I need is radical self-love. Radical self-forgiveness. Radical self-acceptance. And they say, if you want something, you should give that thing away often, and generously. And so when I get bogged down with the why-me’s, I try to focus on forgiving my ex-husband. Sounds strange, right? But I need forgiveness, and therefore I shall give forgiveness.

But it’s not only him. I think of all the people I’ve lost during this divorce—because you lose a lot of people—the people who know a tiny fraction of the truth, but blame me anyway; long-time friends who are religious, and who alienated me because of my decision; neighbors who take sides. I try to forgive them, too. They know not what they do. Just like me.

You see, the lessons I’ve learned in divorce are nothing short of life-changing, mostly in a wonderful way.

I am a better person today than I was any day inside my marriage. I am more patient, more kind, more calm, more peaceful, more empathetic, stronger, wiser and sturdier than I’ve ever been in years past. And when I focus on these things, it makes me think, why not me? I deserve this. I earned this strength, this softness of being which I developed when I took off the armor I needed to survive in my marriage. I deserve to live this full life surrounded by my truest champions. And if my ex could never be my champion, then I’m lucky to have him so far removed from my day-to-day.

It’s all a radical shift in perspective. One that takes practice. Every single day when the why-me’s crop up in my thoughts, I have to consciously replace them with why NOT me? And then remember all the ways in which I am the luckiest woman alive. Really alive—for once.

Because I deserve to be happy. I deserve a life filled with love. I have walked through fire and now I get to emerge with all the old, dead parts burnt to crisps, but only if I choose a radical shift in perspective.

And so does he. And so do we all.

Related post: An Open Apology To My Kids On The Subject Of My Divorce

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