Lately I’ve been on verge of an existential crisis. Does that ever happen to you? I feel like what I’m doing with my life doesn’t matter to the world. I’d say I have a crisis like this every couple of years or so and I usually end up quitting my job. Sometimes that helps for a while. But only for a while. And I can’t afford to keep quitting my job.
But you know what? In the past month or so I’ve started to think that the work I do may never really make a difference—that it’s more likely to be simply the way I live my life that matters. I suppose this isn’t a profound thought, others have thought and said as much before. But maybe I have my own little twist on the notion.
When I say the way I live my life, I’m really talking about how I didn’t accept that good enough was good enough in my marriage; how I’m managing an amicable split with my ex; how we’re living together with our kids and creating our own version of family; how I’m welcoming my ex’s girlfriend into the mix; and lots of other ways in which how I’m living is maybe not the typical way of going about things.
How do I know that what I’m doing makes a difference? Mostly because people tell me so.
Like the other night one of my dearest friends said that witnessing how I’m navigating my separation and living situation gave her the courage to leave her own unfulfilling marriage and to try bird-nesting herself. Instead of staying in a marriage that wasn’t making either of them happy, she and her ex have amicably split. They’re now looking for an apartment so their small children can stay in their home, while she and the ex revolve in and out of the house and the apartment.
Or like my recent reconnection with an old friend after many years apart. She sent me an email after our time together in which she said my way of being in the world opened her eyes to her own inertia and inspired her to again become an “object in motion.”
And then there’s my last boyfriend, who actually encouraged me to write this post. When we first met he was recently separated, quite angry at his (ex)wife, and still living with her and their three kids. He looked at me like I was insane when I talked about my plan to keep living with my own ex and kids indefinitely. But I saw him a few weeks ago, more than a year after that first conversation, and he’s still living with his ex and kids. He told me that staying in the house together is really working for them, and that they’d just refinanced their mortgage instead of putting the house up for sale. He said he never would have considered this as an option if he hadn’t met me. And just the other day he added that if it weren’t for me, he might have gone back to his ex, just because it was easier on the kids than him moving out would have been. Instead, they’re progressing through a friendly divorce rather than staying in a marriage that didn’t work, but keeping their kids in a stable home. And he thinks that’s the right choice for them.
So if I start counting… that’s 7 kids (including my own) who get to stay in their homes despite their parents breaking up. And at least 6 adults who’ve been positively impacted too. If each of them serves as a good example to someone else, and those people for yet someone else, then that effect– helping others see they have options for making changes and moving forward in a positive way– will quickly multiply.
Some people still look at me like I’m crazy when I start talking about my life. Others tell me it sounds like a bad sitcom. But maybe I’m finally doing something that makes the kind of difference I’ve always wanted to make, by living my life in my own wacky way– it just took me 40 years to get there. Reminds me of one of my favorite Dixie Chicks songs:
Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else ~ Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down ~ If you ever want to find me I can still be found ~ Taking the long way ~ Taking the long way around