Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Oh wise ones, how do I stop feeling that I’m living a second-rate life?

on August 17, 2012

So. Here’s my question.

It’s ten months since Ex-Husband left. I’m kind of happy. But how do I stop feeling like I’m living a second-best life?

I didn’t expect him to leave.  I didn’t want him to leave.  I didn’t choose this.  I wanted us to be married, bring up our children together, and be old together.  I was happy.

Of course, looking back, I can see faults, things I didn’t like, things which could have been better. Of course I can.  But at the time, I was happy enough.  And I don’t want him back now, as he is, with everything he’s done. But if I could go back to before he left, and make things ok, I would.  In a heartbeat.

So I’m happy because I’m choosing to be.  I’m choosing to be happy without Ex-Husband because the alternative is being unhappy without Ex-Husband. It just feels fake, a little forced.  I have enough times where I’m really happy.  Days with friends.  Crossing the road in the sunshine and realising I just feel happy.  Doing something really well at work.  Laughing at my own jokes.  But in the long term, as far as I can tell, the best thing would always have been to stay with Ex-Husband and be a family together.

So how do I get to a point where I don’t feel I’m living a second-rate life? I don’t want to have to find someone else for it to be ok. I don’t want my future happiness to depend on finding another relationship.  I might not.  It’s true that I’m funny and intelligent and anyone would be lucky to call me their girlfriend.  But still…

Share your wisdom with me.  What do I need to do, inside my head, to believe that this life, the one I didn’t want and haven’t chosen, is actually the best life I could have?

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16 responses to “Oh wise ones, how do I stop feeling that I’m living a second-rate life?

  1. Hannah says:

    If you find the answer let me know. I don’t have the life I expected I would and things are far from perfect but I want to find a way to feel content with what I have and to be happy. I often wonder if I’m not programmed for happiness. As you say it’s not about relationships. So if you find the answer maybe you can share it with me. X

    • I thought I didn’t have the temperament to be happy, but now I wonder if it’s more about choosing to be happy and working at being happy. That’s not to say you’re unhappy because you’re not as determined as me, just my observation about myself. I think I thought it was a little bit cool to be miserable, in a Dorothy Parker-esque kind of way, and then I discovered what it was like to really have something to be miserable about, and actually it seemed a bit less cool. I wonder how things might have been if I’d decided to be happier a little earlier.

  2. seaswift says:

    I don’t know.

    Perhaps it’s better to find out early on that a relationship is not going to last than discover after nearly 30 years of marriage, when the children are more independent and you both finally have time to yourselves, that your husband doesn’t want to do anything with you but gets moody when you go out alone and denies that there’s anything wrong and won’t talk to you about it saying you’re just trying to cause an argument. Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest and I’m certainly not suggesting that your situation is better than mine – my comment shouldn’t be taken in that way as our circumstances are completely different but similar in that both are neither what we wanted nor anticipated.

    It’s not long since your world was turned on its head and you’re still feeling raw and hurt, whilst no doubt extremely tired from looking after two small children and juggling home and work. The fact that you can find moments of happiness is a real achievement and I’m sure these moments will increase as time progresses. Richard Wiseman in his book ‘Rip it Up’ cites numerous psychological research that demonstrates that if we fake an emotion, ie act ‘as if’ we are experiencing it, it becomes real and we really do experience it. So there’s nothing wrong with faking it. Choosing to be happy is the right attitude. Good luck!

    • I’m not sure if you don’t really refer to this on your blog, or if I’m just oblivious to anyone else’s problems, but I hadn’t registered that you were in this situation. I’m really sorry. That you can be so positive in such difficult circumstances makes me admire you more than I already did.

      Do you think that the effects of constantly faking happiness are long-lasting? Do you think you would eventually become happy with your life? Or would you just have lots of happy moments? Would you become a happier person?

      • seaswift says:

        I try not to dwell on problems but remain cheerful and optimistic that things will improve so I choose not to write about them. However, things have been worse lately so I had to let off steam! Every so often, I sink. I liken it to diving into a swimming pool. You hit the bottom and the only way is back up to the surface, only this time it seems to be taking a little longer.

        Wiseman gives endless psychological evidence that faking it works. Try this: pull a miserable face, frown, turn down the corners of your mouth. How do you feel? Now do the opposite: pull a happy face, smile. Now how do you feel? Wiseman suggests it’s to do with the way our brain interprets evidence, ie I’m smiling so I must be happy.

        Thank you for your kind comments. I find your blog honest and inspirational!

  3. Amy says:

    Sorry not an answer, just an observation – you’re not happy with how life turned out, Hannah & Seaswift aren’t happy with how life turned out, I’m not happy with how life turned out, is anyone? I’m sure we can all find bits of our life that we appreciate but did anyone’s life turn out 100% as expected? Maybe our expectations are too high – no dout fuelled by Hollywood movies. Good luck in finding peace xxx

    • I think you win the title of ‘Oh Wise One’. You’re right – actually, reading these comments and being reminded of the things other people have had go wrong in their lives has given me some much-needed perspective (feel free to slap me if you like). One of my friends suggested trying CBT, which I think might be useful for me. I have two lovely, healthy, pretty well-behaved children who love me. I have a house, which it looks like I might well get to keep. I have a job which I quite like and which is fairly secure and well-paid. I have lots of friends and family who are incredibly supportive and helpful. And I have an ex-husband who does actually care for his children, contributes financially and tries to be reasonable. I have a lot to be grateful for, I just need to work out how to get my head into the right place.

      I think, in the same way that we all look with envy at the people who have more money than us and compare ourselves to them, rather than the people who are worse off than us, maybe we compare our lives, with all the crappy bits, with what we see of other people’s lives, usually excluding the crappy bits. And with what we see in films and read in books. I remember at one point after Ex-Husband left, realising that maybe I wasn’t going to get any sort of closure, any sort of justice, and sort of decent and satisfying narrative – that maybe it was just going to be a shitty thing which happened to me, with no explanation or reason. Hollywood (and Friends, in my opinion) has a lot to answer for.

      I’d be really interested to know how you look at your life now, how you feel about it, what has helped you to be more positive about it, if you feel like sharing? Do you think that thinking about it being a different, rather than better, life would be helpful?

  4. grum says:

    Life can be a pig sometimes, if we knew the pain we would go through at the time we were born , I think we’d never say hello to the world.
    Most people go through some kind of hardship, how do some people get through it? Focus on the future, concentrate on the little steps forward or on the good times- tell friends about them.

    • Thanks. I do wonder, if I’d known what was going to happen, would I have chosen to marry Ex-Husband? Would I give up ten years of happy memories and my two children to avoid the pain of the last ten months? And if I had, would my life be any better?

      I think you’re right about telling people about the good times – it is better to focus on the positives. And maybe, rather than looking for some sort of road map to happiness, some sort of grand plan, I should just look for the next little step.

  5. Matt says:

    I know perception isn’t everything, but it’s part of the puzzle. You’ve had some good comments from others that shed light on other areas. So here’s one of my thoughts on how to make a good life.

    Bad things happen to us & we can’t control that. What we can control is our response to it. How we perceive our lives during these times is (I think) influenced by how we feel we are responding to the situation. If you know you’re not handling something well you’ll probably feel crap, but if you think you’re doing alright, then that’s a good thing. Whether you have a best life or a second-rate life can be determined by you. Not the media, or your neighbours or friends – one person’s second-rate life is another’s brilliant life & vice versa.

    I have been severely beaten up twice in my life, but I have determined not to let the wankers that do things like that dictate the way I live. So I am not a recluse, scared to go out of my house. If I’m walking in the city at night those memories are likely to rise to the surface, but I will not let them stop me walking. Surely the best life for me would be one where I am not put in hospital by yobs, but my life didn’t end up like that. That doesn’t mean my life is doomed to be second-rate. I have responded to those situations the best way I can & they do not stop me having a good life.

    You have taken bold steps to respond to your situation, to change your life and make it work in its new form. You actively look for positive moments and create new moments like that. These are awesome things and far from second-rate.

  6. zpembers says:

    Belatedly,but i’ve been thinking for a while about this…
    I choose to think of it as an alternative world/path rather than second choice. If i hadn’t got pregnant i could have gone to swansea uni, lived in halls, had a fabulous audiogy career. So my life feels a bit second choice sometimes. However, maybe i would actually have struggled being in halls. Being so far away from family, getting ill would prob have had worse mconsequences. Its an ideal because i haven’t mhad a chance to experience the bad bits. And mthen i look at the positives of this second

  7. zpembers says:

    Rate life, there are awesome things that wouldn’t have happened without it eg strong friendships, becoming a Christian,Jake, discovering how much i equally love social policy. But if i keep longing after swansea then I’m never going to enjoy Preston. And at the end of the day, no amount of wishing will change my circumstances.
    So yes staying with ex husband would have been great, but maybe it wouldn’t have. And this

    y you get to experience how awesome you are

  8. zpembers says:

    And have experiences etc that wouldn’t have happened had ex husband not been a total tit

    • I’m starting to think that maybe I need to think about my life being the best life I can have given the circumstance I’m in. There’s only so much I can do about those circumstances, and I make the best of it. Since writing this post and reading and thinking about all the replies, I’ve been feeling more positive. Someone commented on facebook recently that she felt like she was living my life, and my response was ‘there are many worse lives you could be living’. And the thing is, quite often I actually believe that.

  9. Laura says:

    My sister in law has a thing where she has to think of one thing every day she is grateful for. Not always easy, in fact far from it, but it’s helped her.

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