I Can Handle More Than I Think (But A Little Denial Helps)

During the year that my marriage was ending—and the year after it had ended before I got back on my feet—I had a lot on my plate: a year-old son, a falling-down house, a big new job, lots of business travel and public appearances, a full-on renovation of my basement, a leaking roof, two childcare crises, my son, Zack’s, split lip and two emergency room visits. And then there was the time Zack and I woke up in the middle of the night and the house we were staying in was on fire. And on and on and on.

And as each new crisis appeared, I’d think: “That’s it. I’m reaching the breaking point. Now I sail around the corner and become completely insane.”

And yet, I didn’t. Yes, I had bad days. And sad days. And I really-can’t-get-out-of-bed days. But after a few weeks and months I realized that life doesn’t actually come to a halt when a crisis on top of a crisis on top of a crisis is making me feel like everything in my life—including myself—was coming apart. Every day, there was still a sunrise and a sunset. Lunch to be eaten. Emails from friends. Some laughs at the office, even when we were on deadline and pushing really hard to get the magazine out. Mail-order catalogs (my favorite veg-out pastime) waiting for me when I got home.

So I eventually learned to stop saying to myself, when some new terrible thing appeared in my life, “This is it. Now I’m going to break in two.” And instead started saying, “Okay, this is awful. Really awful. But it won’t last forever. Just keep going.”

And then I would escape into the velvety soft goodness of denial for an hour or two, and pretend I was just a regular mom escaping into reality TV after Zack had gone to bed; or I would go out to a work event and meet new people and not talk about my divorce and my agonies and pretend I was just a normal person with a normal life; or I would take my Saturday that I had to myself because my son was with his father and put on walking shoes and tour the city and window shop, just like la-la-la-la! Look at me! Nothing wrong here!

And it felt great. I highly recommend the escape. Because by taking a break from all the hard once in awhile, you really truly can handle more than you think.

Agree? Disagree? Does this resonate with your experience, or no way, José?
Share your reactions and story in the comment box below, and let’s start a conversation.

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