“What are you reading?”
The question elicited a smile from me. “A smut magazine,” I replied to my friend. “I usually don’t buy this stuff.”
“I know that.” That’s why I’m surprised,” my vacation buddy said.
“I know, but it had Sandra Bullock and Elizabeth Edwards on the cover. I had to purchase it.”
I had been compelled, as I stood in the checkout line, waiting with my basket full of items we’d be taking on our beach vacation, to read what Sandra had to say. How is she doing? How is that baby? What is she doing after her recent divorce? How is she coping? How does she remain elegant in the face of such hardship? Maybe she has some secret remedy for overcoming such heartache, quickly.
And Elizabeth Edwards. I’d watched her Today interview, the day or two prior. Promoting the paperback release of her memoir, Resilience, on the heels of her recent separation from John Edwards. A registered Republican, I’d planned to cast my vote for the working man’s candidate. I’m a free spirit, really, an Independent, a Conservative who declared herself one of the Bulls simply because I wanted to be able to support my husband’s run for public office. Truth be told, I don’t believe in party lines. I believe in people.
That’s why I’d have voted for John Edwards. I wouldn’t have been a closet voter, either. I declared, on several occasions, my allegiance to the humble man with the big smile, bigger ideas, and the adoring family. As American as apple pie. As honest as the day is long. I don’t follow politics, as a rule, but I often took notice when I stumbled across an interview or commentary about the man I believed would change the things I didn’t like about our Democracy.
“I’ll never vote, again.” I made that decision the day John announced he had, indeed, been unfaithful to his wife. He had, most definitely, lied to his family, and his dedicated disciples. If you can’t trust John Edwards, then who can you trust? Millions of others thought the same. That may well have been part of the problem. The pressures of living up to impossible expectations, combined with the fear of failure. An oft, lethal combination.
“Our marriage is like a business,” my husband said to his therapist. And to me. You know the adage? “All work and no play…”
During his race to become the youngest Councilman our town had seen, I was his greatest devotee —umbilical cord and chromosomes aside. Together, we were raising respectful and likeable children, as confirmed by the restaurant goers who frequently approached our table and told us how delightful and well-behaved our children were. A lady once gave each of our little cherubs a dollar, and an Applebee’s patron asked permission to purchase our children dessert.
Together, we had been rising from beneath a familial shadow that threatened to snuff out the light of our independence. Our business was burgeoning under our combined talents, efforts, and countless hours. Together, we created seven embryos. Together, we birthed four, and buried one. Together, we lived the daily tribulations and triumphs of raising three. I found joy and pride in our many successes, despite the adversities that repeatedly tested our resolve.
Our efforts were apparently torturous to him. “Love should not have to be work,” my spouse said to me, more than once, before and during his affairs. “Sometimes love is not enough,” I yelled at him. More than once. In the midst of the madness that is starting out, defining and creating autonomy in life, in marriage, and in parenthood, we sometimes forget we are walking a tightrope between the old and the new. An act that necessitates balance. Clearly, when he repudiated love’s effort, he wasn’t thinking about life’s equilibrium.
Here’s the thing about balance, though: The slightest shift can distort it, cause it to wobble. Sometimes that movement is enough to shake loose the traverser. Sometimes it takes a violent tremor to derail the journeyer.
Here’s one of the many beautiful aspects of life: Regardless of how or when we are unseated, there are infinite possibilities and paths. We simply need to find our way to them through our conflicts. That, my friend, is the difficulty.
I have spent the past twenty years seeking to understand loss and healing. I thought I had it all figured out. Until another tragedy lunged at me from the curtain that was my blossoming paradise. And now I realize that no matter the loss, we must grieve, we must grow, if we are to heal our hurts and create a new harmony for ourselves.
I have achieved my success, in large part, by paying attention to other’s stories, in print and conversation, by recognizing and appreciating the value of our ability to restructure, to redefine ourselves. As such, I will remain curious as to how others handle conflict.
I am also inspired by the grace with which Sandra and Elizabeth have handled their recent ordeals. Grace. I have often thought about that trait, hoping for its presence within me. Maybe it is already present. Maybe others see me as I do not see myself. So often that is the case with humans, especially us females… Suffering is not selective. It knows not celebrity from obscurity, rich from poor, nor is it biased to gender, race, or religious creed. Despite their public stature, Sandra and Elizabeth are no different than the rest of us. I would surmise they have spent much time pondering the same questions you and I have, that they, too, have and will continue to share other’s stories as they traverse from hurt to healing.
Wherever you are in this journey of life, may you, too, benefit from a similar solidarity.