ACODs are Adults: What's Your Point?

In the acronym ACOD, the keyword is “adult.”  You’re a grownup.  You can handle it.  Really.
I try to snap out of self-pity constantly because letting myself get emotional is an act of narcissism.  Divorce is about your parents, not you.  Right?


Maybe I am an adult in other ways than you and it so happens that the divorce of my parents was the trigger that shattered my world. Maybe I am not ready to deal with the inner workings of my parents’ divorce, something that a child is shielded from.  Maybe I need time to accept the fact that I have no control over the situation, I can only live with it.  Maybe I need a profound emotional journey to overcome this life event.

I know my parents did not do this to “break up my family,” destroy my perfect world or throw a wrench into Thanksgiving plans.  I don’t think it was “my fault,” and I don’t expect them to stay together on my account.  I try to forget and go on with life, believe me, I desire it more than you and I have no doubt that I will get there.

Divorce is an ugly miserable thing that upends your life, eradicates your daily routine and erases your plans for the future. 

Maybe I’m tired of constantly trying to explain to you why this is a big deal for me.  I don’t mean to come off as a passive-aggressive drama queen and I can’t just snap out of it. 

Maybe you should mind your own business.  I feel guilty enough as is.

Pain is Relative

People feel pain differently.  Over the past three days, I thought about this as I sat in a chair in Mt. Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side.  My mother underwent a two-hour surgery and recovered from the eighth floor overlooking 5th Ave.  I am thankful she got the window bed,  I had a great view to think.

With all the advanced technology that a hospital uses, when it comes to a patient’s pain, they stick to basics.  I learned that every patient feels pain differently, even after the same surgical procedure.  They believe that a patient’s threshold for pain varies based on culture, sex, history and other various reasons.

Each morning, the nurse came in gauge how much pain my mother felt.  The method followed a “pain rating scale,” a universal chart with six faces less detailed than Gchat emoticons.  The chart made me laugh; it seemed ridiculous.  Based on my mother’s facial expression, the nurses managed the dose of her meds.  A chart with six faces, which a kindergartner could draw, determined the dosage of her morphine drip, whether she would get one or two Percocet and if she needed a Valium that day.

Pain is hard to see from the outside.  Hospitals believe that facial expressions are able to portray the level of pain a person feels, but even they are using an archaic method.  I guess it’s the best they can do.  What this method does show, is that there isn’t a way to know how much pain a person is expected to feel after a specific operation.  The hospital is aware that pain is relative to each patient.  All they can do is track the patient’s facial expressions a few times a day to get a feel for how much pain is really there.

Emotional pain is dealt with differently.  It is not as simple as a chart with six faces ranging from “no hurt” to “hurts worst.”  Still, both types of pain are connected in a sense that both are relative to the patient.  The same cause will affect each patient differently.

I wish I realized this a year ago.

Blind Faith

My head was spinning in search of a solution.  The number one rule for any AKOD is to take a step back.  I was supposed to let my parents work out their own issues but I couldn’t control the urge to somehow find a way to take control of the situation and mend my broken family back together.  Alternatively, my brother seemed to accept the situation.  Not to say that he wasn’t devastated by the news, but his approach at first was more “go with the flow.”

We reacted differently, perhaps because I was the older sibling.  Maybe girls think differently or because my brother and I had different personalities.  Growing up, I always pushed for my way without even knowing what my way was.  I always attributed the quality to the normal behavior of a spoiled teenage girl.  I am the more dominant child.  My brother is docile, more laid back by nature.

I asked him how he remained so calm during a time of such chaos.  He seemed to accept the situation without knowing all the pieces to the puzzle or answers to the countless questions that the divorce raised.  By nature, I needed answers: Why?  Was your life that bad?  Is this devastation necessary?

There are many things our parents won’t discuss with us.  Maybe those things are inappropriate; maybe our parents are ashamed of what we will think.  Knowing that I was mature enough to hear the entire situation between my parents (so that I could try to solve something or just simply understand) was driving me crazy.  There were so many unknowns about what really happened, where their marriage really went wrong.  Were there more secrets?

I have been in relationships myself.  I have experienced rejection.  I have replayed every moment of that relationship in my head, looking in retrospect for signs of where it really went wrong.  I have pictured whether a relationship could have been saved if I had just done one thing differently before the connection went cold; before we hit a point of no return.

Imagine the difficulty in replaying an entire relationship that you don’t know the intimacies of.  All I had to work with was my perception of parts of the relationship that I was allowed to see, and I wasn’t even paying all that much attention.  My head was spinning because the relationship I analyzed (and re-analyzed) was not my own, it was that of my parents.

I started to reevaluate each parent through the eyes of a spouse and not just their child.

My brother looked at me and said that he didn’t feel the same as I did, in his heart he trusted that my parents would work the situation out and everything would be okay.  We were their children.  My brother called it blind faith.

Why My Parents' Divorce Broke My Heart

In the past, my mother, father and brother, were always the three people who had seen me through tough times.  Without feeling that my pride was compromised, I could always count on family support.  After our family meeting, which revealed the biggest change in my life, our lives, they were the three people who shared that exact experience with me.  I have friends who tried to relate their own stories to mine, and friends of friends who hoped to do the same, but a divorce is such a complicated and emotional situation that their stories did not impact me.  I felt alone.  Looking back, feeling alone after learning about the divorce makes sense because the three people who had seen me through tough times in the past, the ones who might possibly understand, were now all involved parties.  The family dynamics were jolted by new conflicts of interest.  Each member of my family went through the same event, the same divorce, but felt different emotions and saw the event through a unique perspective.  We were all fragile for the same reason and still we were not on the same page, at all.  My mother was pained in a different way than my brother. 

My brother and I tried to make sense of what was going on and grew aggravated with each other when we disagreed about aspects of the situation.  I never felt so distanced from my own brother before and, at the same time, I never needed him like I did during that time.  I am four years older than my brother, who was a sophomore in college and living in the frat at the time, it makes sense that brother saw the situation differently than me. 

I grew up with a family who usually saw eye-to-eye on things. Suddenly, the assurance of family support was compromised by thoughts of mistrust and disagreements over matters that were close to each of our hearts.  I felt obligated to hold my true feelings back but my heart was screaming constantly.

It was if there was a pink elephant in the house and we were all walking on eggshells.

There is a reason that, gut feeling, my parents’ separation felt like a much bigger deal than just a change of where each parent would eventually sleep.  It changed each relationship in my family.  My relationship with each individual, brother, father and mother, felt broken and new.  I lost the free and open conversation that I always had at home and that, in fact, is a very big deal.