I’ve been reading “Sex and the Seasoned Women” by Gail Sheehy. Remember “Passages”? That was her famous book about the defined stages we need to pass through in our lives. At the time she wrote that book, it was cutting edge thinking. Now? We’ve learned and accepted what she said as truth.
She has a more recent book called “Sex and the Seasoned Woman” that’s been around for a while, but I haven’t read it until lately.
What’s so significant for me is that she has a paragraph that has solved one of the most overwhelming questions of my life right now. Here’s the paragraph that made my mind go ‘ping’…
“Having survived tragedy, Carole is able to distinguish between heart-break and mere heartache. “I never do romantic drama,” she says. “I don’t get into ‘Oh, he doesn’t like me, I’m devastated.'” Here is the distinction she makes, a distinction worth remembering: “9/11 was devastating. Losing your child is devastating. Losing a man is NOT devastating. You save devastated for cancer.”
We all have issues, baggage, whether or not we’re willing to admit ownership. Many years ago, I was in therapy for 3 years in an attempt to peel the onion down to discover my own core issue.
It turns out that I have a lot of trouble with rejection (as many of us do I believe). For me, it’s because I was the illegitimate child of a widowed woman who lived in a small northern Ontario town. She was a widow because her husband and the father of her two children had died in World War II. She was a teacher in the only elementary school there and she was living with her dead husband’s parents. It was certainly not the right set of circumstances for an affair with a married man, but that’s what she did. And that’s what got her pregnant. I didn’t learn any of this information until I was in my early 50s.
In the early 1940s, the only choice was keeping your illegitimate child or giving her up for adoption. I was given up for adoption and I was adopted when I was just a little baby; I had a wonderful life, full of love from my parents and my sibs.
There was no shocking “we have to talk” to tell me about my adoption. My mother always referred to the day “we went to pick you out” as in pick me out from a group of available babies. I have always known that I was a chosen child and it’s always added to my subconscious value.
But there’s a flip side. Although I was a chosen child, I was also a given away child. In my mind my birth mother valued me so little that she gave me away. The original rejection, kept stuffed down deep inside me, often said “If she had REALLY loved me…” meaning that she would have found a way to keep me. It was inconceivable to me that she couldn’t have managed some way to keep her baby in her life. This thinking was, of course, before I learned of her circumstances.
Skip ahead to about 15 years ago when I first tried online dating. I was concerned that even the smallest rejection from a guy on a dating website would send me into a downward spiral of rejection.
But it didn’t happen. Guys left, right and centre rejected me after reading my emails. It bothered me so little that I just kept on sending out more emails to more guys. How strange is that? How come this kind of rejection wasn’t bothering me?
I was fortunate to have a very close friend who gave me a wonderful line to deal with these online rejections. She said “It just means that he wasn’t the guy for you!”
And yet, I continued to have more questions about why I was unaffected by this.
So when I read that paragraph in Sheehy’s book, it clicked. And that was it. I had found my answer.
Now, at the age of 68, I have enough experience and wisdom to realize what’s important in my life and what isn’t. I’ve weathered so many other much worse rejections in my life that were way more important, that I now know how to prioritize rejection. And a no-reply from a guy on a dating website just doesn’t cut it because my life has included so many other worse things that happened. I’m clear now about my life priorities and I’m clear now in retrospect about my birth mother’s decisions.
I’m a woman of a certain age and I’m certain of what’s devastating and what’s not.
©Marcia Barhydt 2012