If You Think Divorce Means Failure, You're Missing The F*cking Point

Photo: Serge Bielanko

I've failed at a bunch of stuff in my life. Who hasn't failed miserably at times, right?

The only problem, though, is that when I take a really close look at my life, when I try and find a bunch of things I've failed at, I draw a blank — no bullsh*t.

Look, I know about as well as anyone that we're in the midst of a very odd time in humanity. We're all a bit f*cked in the head scrolling down our Facebook feeds and wondering which of the ten trillion pseudo self-help articles a day we ought to be reading to make ourselves more self-aware — or, ahem "better."

On one hand, it might seem like some show of deep abiding inner-strength to be "man' enough to tip out my own jar of humble human admissions all over the table. Because we've all been told there's a divine strength and power in admitting to ourselves (and to the world) just how much we've screwed things up.

That's why we're all spinning around in our personal version of the blues, no? We're all a little sad, a little unhappy. We all want a little more. We all wish things had turned out at least a little bit differently.

But they didn't. They turned out the way they turned out. So, now what?

Well, there's no shortage of uplifting memes and soul-stirring quotes to push you back out into the game. And they all say more or less the same old sh*t.

We fail, we pick up the pieces, we move on having learned a lesson or two. Whatever.

I'm not buying it anymore. I tried to buy it for a while, especially in the wake of my divorce. I tried like hell to pep-talk myself into kissing failure on the lips.

"Dude," I'd say to me. "Just embrace the FAIL! You couldn't hold a marriage together! You weren't enough to keep her! You didn't do love right."

It worked for a while, mostly because admitting your faults — and especially telling yourself that you "failed" at something as monumental as a love affair or a marriage — allows you to get a little high on your own stash for awhile. 

The feeling is good, so why not take the whole thing a little further out and just tell yourself you failed? That'll feel even better, no? It has to; it's a superhuman advanced emotional power move, right?

The answer: No, you shouldn't admit you failed. Because guess what? You didn't fail.

I look back on my nine years married to my ex with a ton of mixed emotions, trust me. I definitely wish I'd done certain things differently. (But then again, if I'd really wanted to do them differently, I would've.)

So there was a bit of a stretch in my initial efforts to really hype up my failings during our time together as the leading cause of our ultimate demise. But now that time has passed, I see things differently.

Yes, I was a sh*t husband sometimes; Yes, I was an assh*le sometimes; Yes, I wasn't the most ambitious, money-making success story who made sure our family was always going to be safe/sound/secure/and satisfied at every turn. And yes, the marriage was more or less probably doomed from the start.

But so what? Does that mean I failed? Or that we failed? And more importantly, what the hell are we talking about failing at anyway? Loving the other person? I don't think there's much to be said for the notion that falling out of love with someone is a failure at all. To insist that it is, well, would make you look like an idiot.

I loved her; I loved the hell out of her. And she loved me, too. There's not much failure in that. We had three beautiful kids together. Those three gorgeous, brilliant souls we created are enough to cancel out any idea of us, or her, or me having failed at anything when you break it all down. Kids are the opposite of failure.

We fought a lot across our time together. Was that a failure? I don't think so. (Don't get me wrong; I learned a lot about myself in retrospect, about what triggers my inner d*ckhead — but to say I failed at anything in that department would be ridiculous since I was already a bit of a mixed-up d*ckhead when she met me.)

My point is this: To look at any divorce as a failure is a personal choice. If you want or need to see it that way for whatever reason, so be it. It's your deal. It's your life. Shove it in your eyeball however you deem fit.

But if you're like me, failure isn't an option. It's impossible to have failed because as a rule, we cannot fail at love or life. Think about it. If you need to see our flashing time on Earth as a pass/fail thing, then you probably spend a lot of time judging other people, too.

You look at a person, at a friend or a lover or a family member or even a stranger, and you give them a God-like pass/fail grade on their experiences, on their whole trip. 

F*ck that noise. There's no failing except on pop quizzes in third grade.

Life, you see, just like marriage and divorce and art and kids and jobs, it's all just this whole beautiful chaotic mess — and I'll be damned if I'm ever going to stand down and accept any part of my life as a failure, not even one tiny chapter of it. 

Instead, I'm seeing life for what it really is.

Our time on this Earth is a running ramble of a story happening in real time; a magnificent tale (possibly the best ever told!) in which hearts get broken and money disappears, and clothes get ripped off in heated passion, and bones get busted, and pipes burst at the worst times, and bills go unpaid, and pets change us forever.

And the same people who were laughing with you in the car one sunny afternoon never laugh with you or ride in your car at all anymore, and we long for what the stars will never grant us, and cars all suck, and the kids grow up so fast, and some people die and we miss them so bad, and other people die and we don't even give a damn.

And the trip to Italy and the trip to China we'll never take and kissing you so hard on your drunk face in the dark, so hard/so real/so good/so, so good that we could never have imagined that someday we'd go our separate ways.

But we did, and we're still alive.

We're still kicking, still haunted, still stupid and lovely and further away than yesterday, and still trying to figure everything out with peanut brittle brains that can barely get us out of bed in the godd*mn morning, let alone save us from our ridiculous selves.

And so you tell me: How could anyone ever say any of that was a failure? 

Because we both know it was anything but.