(This is a tough category, Gwen Bell! Since I'm a doctoral student I read a way too many articles and several of them were influential for me this year, at least in a scholastic sense. But no, the article that floated to the top of my mind wasn't a research article or a study. It was this interesting personal essay from the New York Times about a woman's remarkable and radically different response to her husband's news that he wanted a divorce.)
When we were driving from Boston to NYC, my mom and I had a nice stretch of time to chat. In keeping with every other road trip in our lives, my mom brought a folder of clippings from articles and essays she's cut out and kept over the previous months. (I have many memories of falling asleep in the way back of the station wagon, listening to my mom reading a short story or article passage to my dad. Back in the days when you could put down the seat, lie down with a pillow and sleeping bag, sans seatbelt.) Anyway, she got this one out and started to read.
It fueled discussions, on and off, for the rest of the trip. Here's an excerpt:
This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result...He was in the grip of something else — a profound and far more troubling meltdown that comes not in childhood but in midlife, when we perceive that our personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did. But I decided to respond the same way I’d responded to my children’s tantrums. And I kept responding to it that way. For four months.
Instead, she said "I don't buy it," gave him space, and got on with her life. Here's the part that really hit me:
You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.
I'd love to hear what you think if you read the article. It's thought provoking and (I think) the "end of suffering" and "I don't buy it" approaches could be applicable in lots of areas of life, not just marriage.
. . .
Day Three of Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 challenge. And, yes, all three "best of" answers so far have included my mom in some way. Interesting. (I must be missing you, Mom.)
Image by Christopher Silas Neal, via NY Times