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Dating in New York City: The Rat Race Redefined.

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Months before I moved to New York City I made the mistake of watching a documentary about rats in the city.  I learned rats could chew right through cement and squeeze their entire bodies through holes no bigger than the size of their skulls. Rats must constantly gnaw on anything in order to keep their always-growing teeth a manageable size.  Their jaw muscles exert a shocking 12 tons of pressure per square inch.  Rats spread disease, fleas and cause fires from chewing through electrical wiring.  In moments of extreme stress they attack each other and will even resort to cannibalism.   After that film, the mere sight of a battle-scarred super-sized rodent with a flesh tail would cause my heartbeat to quicken and stomach to churn.  I found myself in fits of panic if they got more than a few feet from me.

When my ex and I moved from Brooklyn to Washington Heights we discovered a fairly developed rat nest in the roots of a tree in the sidewalk.   In the rats would scurry from their nest across the sidewalk and into the alley of a building two doors down from our own.  We’d hear screams of people who had made the mistake of walking on our side of the street night after night.  My ex-husband counted as many as 20 rats at a time in the courtyard of our neighboring building.  We’d watch in despair as they would chew perfect tunnels through solid concrete the city poured over their nest..  Animal control repeatedly set poison traps, and laid wife mesh over the concrete and nothing seemed to stop them.

Then one night, out of nowhere my reaction towards the monstrous creatures changed.  I was coming home late at night after a comedy gig and saw one, all by himself sniffing around the subway platform searching for food.  He had half of a tail and large patches of baldness along with matted fur.  This rat wasn’t doing so well, and for the first time I saw desperation in his movements.  He just didn’t run around like every other rat I’d ever seen before, he seemed panicked and fearful.

I couldn’t help but see a part of myself in this poor dying creature.  When I first moved here, I was one half of a couple.  I had dreams and ambitions that always included the man I thought was the love of my life.  Fourteen years later after the terrorist attack on 9-11, a city-wide blackout, Hurricane Sandy, a devastating divorce, the premature death of too many friends, suicidal thoughts and crippling depression I found myself alone.  I’m not as young as I once was, my reproductive capacity shrinks by the minute and I’m deeply damaged.   In order to pay my bills I work constantly.  Some weeks I might get one day off, or work nonstop without a break for days on end.

There are those who criticize me for choices I’ve made, things I’ve written or said, and my “bad” attitude.  Of course they have no idea what goes on in my head, or how difficult it might be to come back after such a devastating loss.  Things haven’t completely healed and in the past six years I’ve rarely felt strong emotion towards a man for any extended period of time.  I don’t know if I’ll live the rest of my days alone.  In many ways surviving after the breakup has been harder than the split itself.  One day turns into another and nothing changes.

I get harassed on a daily basis with men leering at me, shouting out filth, blocking my path or even grabbing me on the street.   Most of the guys who express interest in me only want sex, and will literally not even touch me after the fact.  It’s as if I’ve left the room and might as well leave, which is usually what I do anyway.  I’ve numbed myself enough to stand it, and swallowed pride and emotions with the increasing dexterity.  If that’s what I need to do to survive then so be it., I survive, but only barely.

So when I looked at that rat, desperately hunting for food, doing nothing more but trying to make it to the next day I felt empathy for his plight.  I didn’t want to go near the poor animal, and I’m not kidding myself about wild urban rats. They’re a dangerous scourge, the city is right to try to eradicate them and control their numbers.  Regardless he was still a little life who never did anything but try to make it to the next day.  For reasons beyond his control he was born into a crowded metropolis and will probably die of starvation, poison, or at the teeth of another rat soon enough.  For the first time in my life, I had compassion for something I had once reviled.  Chances are he never ate another rat, or attacked a human, he was probably just an average rat living off a garbage and dodging subway cars.   I sat down on a bench a safe distance away from him and watched his darting and scheming until the next train came.

As much as I’ve been through, and as hard as things get, my struggles and pain have been a gift.  Had I stayed married and enjoyed the success of my ex-husband’s thriving career I might have never found empathy and compassion for that sad little animal.  I would take what I had for granted, and failed to see that every new day is truly a blessing.  I had to lose everything to become more human.  My life might not get easier for many years to come, or it could change in an instant. I’m just happy I’m still here and I don’t fear the rats anymore.

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To This Day Project – Shane Koyczan

I am just re-posting this because I think the video is amazing and everyone should watch it!  A lot of us were bullied in school, or at least meant to feel like a freak.  If you were bullied, you will love this video.

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How to survive the Holiday Season – For the Newly Divorced

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This is a topic I have written about extensively in the past, but since I consider myself a divorce advocate I wanted to re-visit it.  The holidays are rough…hang in there guys! 🙂 

I wanted to write this piece because I really think a lot of the “Advice for Divorced People” websites, books and other resources might be written by people who have never actually been divorced.  Some of the post-divorce holiday advice is extremely helpful, and some comes across as overly chipper, insensitive and a bit clueless.

My first Christmas without my husband I felt completely numb.  I had made the mistake of having an intense rebound relationship before I was ready.   That brief affair ended dramatically less than a month before Christmas.   On the big day itself, I sat in my aunt’s house surrounded by my family and felt nothing.  Everyone looked at me as if I was a ghost.  It had only been six months since I found out the truth about my marriage.  Nine years of my life that I thought was the strongest relationship I had ever had, was now a fraud.   I found it especially painful that I was sharing the holiday with relatives who were in my wedding party.  It meant so much for me to have them a part of that day.  I wanted to go up to each one of them and apologize for letting them down.  We were all actors in a play that had gotten re-written midway.  Instead of a happy ending, it closed with a surprise twist and tragic finale. My loss overwhelmed me with a deep sense of shame.  None of my relatives blamed me, but I couldn’t escape the guilt.  Ultimately, I had picked the wrong partner. Little did I know things for me were going to have to get much worse for me before they got better.  I was about to spiral out of control into an episode of life-threatening depression.

That was three years ago, and much has happened in my life since then.  I haven’t really had much romance, but I have healed and moved forward.  My marriage had been the center of my happiness.  I had made myself co-dependent on one person and I paid dearly for that mistake.  Now I have this crazy network of unique, creative and astonishingly wonderful friends to whom I am eternally grateful.  I never want to go back to isolating myself emotionally to one person.  The trauma of my divorce also helped heal wounds I had with my family.  I feel healthier and happier than I have in years.  But there is always the holiday season, when the gray clouds loom and I find myself fighting back the demons in my head.

If you are newly divorced and reading this, I am not going to sugarcoat your obstacles. Divorce is hell.  It can cause a slew of emotional problems and even trigger mental illness.  The catastrophe of divorce can also fuel substance abuse and any number of self-destructive behaviors.   Anyone who has gone through a divorce understands the added loss of friendships and family members.  Some friends you thought were lifelong will drift away post-split. You might also be worried about your children, or blame yourself for failing them.  For many divorced people the biggest hurdle is overcoming the feeling of shame.

Don’t listen to those negative voices.  Marriages fall apart for all sorts of reasons.  Many couples just fall out of love, or learn they can’t live with each other in a healthy environment.  Other marriages are frauds from day one with partners victimized in green card scams, serial cheaters, or deceitful spouses.  You have every right to feel angry and to express pain, but at the end of the day, it is better to focus on repairing the damage and moving forward.  Regardless of who ended the marriage, both partners experience damage.  You can succumb and spiral downward or you can fight back.   Get help if you need it, either through therapy, counseling or medication.  Don’t let depression or substance abuse take over your life.  It will get better. Your fairy tale may have fallen apart, but you will have another chapter.  Even though it might feel like it, your life is not over.

There is no substitute for time.  However bad you feel now, know that it won’t always be like this. The holiday season is just hyped up to make a lot of people a lot of money.  In the long run it is just a short time out of the year and it will be over before you know it.  A better day to celebrate might be seeing a movie with your kids, or a football game with your dad, or just having drinks with your best friend.  Don’t let the build up of holiday parties and family obligations get to you.  As I have said many times on this blog, no one is fortunate all of the time.  We all have our ups and downs, and if you are recently divorced, you are going through a lot.  Just remember, things will get better, and you are not alone.  Much Love.

 

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