I’ve always been a goal setter and love having something out there to walk toward. Setting goals came easy to me, sort of like being good at math. It was hard for me to understand people who didn’t do the same. So I marched along in life going after one goal, then another, mostly modest and attainable: nurse, wife, mother, traveler, writer. I’ve found it motivating and satisfying. But using goals as a measure of self-worth goes all to hell when something goes wrong and you question your whole identity.
Take divorce. I never saw myself getting divorced. Definitely not in the plan. Screwed up the whole goal thing. Definitely had a goal of NOT being divorced. I had to do a quick shift there and set other goals. Let’s see…hold on to my children’s home. There was one. Stop crying, there was another. Let go of all the hurt, anger, resentment and mistrust of every male on the planet. That was a biggie. Get my kids through college, alone. Stuff like that. So I did all that, with a lot of help from my friends and family, many of whom just let me cry for hours on end without running away. I’m very grateful to them. You know who you are.
My husband’s affair wasn’t conventional as affairs go. I could have forgiven a plain old affair. But it was way worse than that and I knew the marriage was over. It was incredibly painful to be betrayed by the person you trusted most in the world. The humiliation, I thought, was too much to bear. But I had five kids who were not enjoying watching me cry, and as my daughter pointed out, I wasn’t the only one suffering. He left everyone, not just me, though at the time I felt I deserved more sympathy than anyone else. And it is a small town here. People knew what he was doing, who he was with, and didn’t tell me. I felt the humiliation was public.
Once the emotional devastation subsided, I set another goal. I was going to be happy again. I would not be a bitter middle-aged woman who couldn’t get over it. I’d let go of the money (my money) he took. He could eat the money, talk to the money, make love to the money for all I cared. All yours, asshole. Friends told me to get a private investigator to see where it went. Family would speculate about what he did with it. But I had all I could do to get through my days, and decided to let it go. I actually felt sorry for him as the secrets consumed him. (There was progress!) I had a whole life ahead of me, a clear conscience, dear true friends, and I was going to make the most of it. I decided to give all the energy I’d put into the marriage into people who needed my skills. And it was incredibly healing. And I love the life I created from that mess.
When I watched Hillary Clinton walk from the White House aside her daughter and husband after a public humiliation that made mine look like child’s play, my heart broke for her. The whole world was judging her, not just a small town. I watched her bear it, get over it, and go on to use her gifts for the good of women everywhere, and thought, you go girl. I listen to people, who have had their own marital infidelities, judge that woman and I think what goddamn hypocrites. And these are not people voting for Trump. These are educated Democrats judging a woman for her husband’s actions. They also judge her for having a goal of being president like it’s a bad thing. When I heard a Bernie supporter say with contempt, “Come on. She has always wanted this.” as if being the most qualified candidate ever shouldn’t be a reason to run for president. I asked, “Why is that a bad thing? ” To have a goal? A historical, attainable, realistic goal? Why? Because she is a woman? Was my lifelong goal to be a nurse judged the same way? No? Why? Because it was conventional and non-threatening?
She’s flip flopped, he said. She’s inconsistent.
I’d always said I would never, NEVER, stay with someone who cheated on me. But when faced with that reality, I reconsidered. The first time he cheated, I stayed. I shocked myself with how I was willing to abandon a stand I had taken so vehemently. But that is life. We don’t know how we’ll react until we are faced with situations. Hypothetical is easy. To experience, educate, process, reconsider, and make an evolved choice is not flip flopping. It’s being educated. It’s weighing all the options and making an educated choice. That is not a bad thing.
When I have gone to lobby my congress people about women’s issues, I sincerely hoped they would listen to me, become educated and maybe change their stance based on new information. God, maybe even vote in an evolved way. Is this flip flopping? I don’t believe so.
I’ve seen comments this week by a teacher criticizing Hillary for benefitting from a system that is flawed. Question. Is taking a paycheck benefitting? Because this (very good) teacher takes a paycheck from a very flawed education system. She works within that system and I am grateful to her, because she’s a great teacher. And I wonder what would happen to our (yes, flawed) public education system if all the good teachers decided they would no longer work in a flawed system and went out and taught in some hypothetical utopia. Who would pay for that? The poor kids? The elite? Really. I’m confused by this reasoning.
Bernie Sanders is a good man. He’s smart and compassionate and honorable. I love Vermont. It’s a nice place to live and I’m grateful to him for representing the good people there. I love that he speaks his mind and has energized young voters. Yay. Keep it up. And if he is the nominee, I will vote for him.
But I want the candidate whose goal is going to change the lives of women forever. She has the intelligence and strength to do it.
I love that she has goals that don’t sell herself short.
I think, maybe, we all should consider doing the same.