I recently came across a powerful quote from Maya Angelou that resonated profoundly with me: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
I am very much a woman who follows her gut instincts and goes by the belief that first impressions are lasting impressions. So, when I form a positive opinion about somebody that proves to be wrong, I actually disbelieve myself – until I am ready to accept that my original perception was skewed and incorrect.
That is a humbling moment indeed, but only once the punch in the stomach has been administered can I start to move on.
It was clearly never my destiny to have a “normal” long, loving marriage with one man, with children, with school meetings, with family holidays, and I take full responsibility for that. I extricated myself from an engagement at the age of 19 to a lovely young man who would have made a wonderful, devoted husband, I’m pretty sure for the rest of my life.
I couldn’t bear the thought of a life that would have been so mundane, in my opinion, and instead I happily pursued a path devoted to a career, world travel, and no children: by choice. This is me, this is who I am, this is how I function best. I am a self-confessed misfit.
I’ve been in and out of more short-term relationships than I can remember, but those long-term ones that involved two ex-husbands (I am so grateful to maintain good friendships with both of them), and a few deep and meaningful ones along the way, were rich and rewarding in many ways.
For those of you who have read my previous blogs, you will know that I wear my heart on my sleeve when I write, as I do in life. That makes me vulnerable, but again, it is who I am, and I choose not to play games, but rather to always lay my cards on the table.
So, when I analyze myself (as I often do), it is very clear that whilst I have much strength and fortitude in almost any other challenges that come my way, the major disappointments in my life have centered around the end of my relationships with men. The irony is that I have usually been the one to instigate that end.
The difference is that in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I suffered huge inner turmoil and pain; always for months, sometimes for years, and this was self-imposed because I could not – and cannot – ever be ok with “settling.”
I simply must move on when things have run their course, whereas many will battle on, live separate lives, or simply compromise to the point of remaining in an utterly unhappy marriage because they are too scared emotionally or financially to pull out.
However, the good news (for me) is, now that I have arrived in my 60s I am so much more philosophical about life, and so the recent ending of a friendship took me two weeks to come to terms with instead of two years.
The man that I had perceived in my mind turned out not to be the person who was a reality: I had created a myth, an illusion of who I thought he was. Thus, I created my own disappointment, and that is on me, not him.
Something I pull on when my mind is in turmoil is the Serenity Prayer, and it helps me enormously: hopefully it may help you if and when needed:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I will pay heed to Ms. Angelou’s quote when I embark on my inevitable next relationship, and take comfort in knowing that I am better mentally equipped in my 60s to go with the flow, bend like a reed in the wind and bounce back up again; ever resilient.
How do you process disappointment differently in your 60s? Do you think you are better equipped to deal with relationship disappointments at your current age? How do you protect yourself against feeling vulnerable? What was a recent relationship disappointment that was unexpected for you?