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Two Words For The Single Mom: Handle It!

The difference between happy, healthy people and those who fall apart is the way they choose to handle it.

My late father was one of the wisest people I have ever known. Among his countless displays of knowledge and perception was his ability to counsel this single mom.

When I would call him and tell him about a problem I was having, he would offer advice with specific suggestions, but one thing he would always include in his stern, get-tough tone was, “Handle it.”

Sometimes he’d say things like, “Handle it like an executive would,” or “You can handle it, I believe in you,” or “The answer of how to handle it will come to you, just use common sense.”

So, when I saw this quote, which was Tweeted out by ESME (no one was credited with writing it), I thought of my dear, sweet, SMART father, and then I just started crying:

“The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.”

I cried because I missed my father so much, but I also cried because the timing could not have been better.

I had just come home from a day that left me feeling horrible, and the entire car ride home I engaged in self-pity and negative self-talk about how I never asked for this life and how I made all these mistakes in the past, and how I am tired. Just tired.

Tired of being a single mom. Tired of being tough. Tired of relentless time-management challenges, and tired of working every minute and waiting for a payoff that just doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough. I felt exhausted, actually.

This kind of self-pity and temporary depression doesn’t happen to me often. Maybe it’s hormonal. Or maybe I just needed to cry that my dad wasn’t here to reassure me that everything would be fine.

I recently read this post on Facebook from a recently divorced single mom and I have to say, although it has been almost a decade since my divorce, I can still remember feeling like this quite often in those early days.

Sometimes life throws you lemons and all you want to do is throw them back. Fuck making lemonade. That’s how I feel. Just so damn tired. Tired of my ex, tired of being strong, tired of shitty dates, TIRED…”

But when I read the Tweet from ESME, something snapped in me. I felt exuberant, like I could fly, like I had no problems that can’t be solved. Let’s take out for a minute the text I received the same night from a friend of mine who has breast cancer and who is undergoing chemo and radiation after having surgery. If that right there isn’t “handling it” I don’t know what is.

In addition to her story, I started to think about the countless moms I know (married, widowed, divorced, single). They handle shit! Every single day. Like this quote states, each woman has strength and grace and nothing came easy for them.

Last weekend, my mom and I were at an art fair and we ran into three or four women I know. My mom commented on how beautiful and smart and sweet each girl was, and I would answer her the same way about each one. I’d say, “Mom, if you knew her story, you wouldn’t believe it. What she went through…”

I would tell my mom (not in detail) each woman’s story and my mom’s jaw was on the ground every time. I get that, because if you looked at these women–well dressed, well-groomed, smiles on their faces, seemingly carefree, just enjoying a beautiful summer day in Chicago, it appeared that they didn’t have a care in the world, and that everything had always gone their way. Not the case at all for any of them.

Each of these women suffered. Each had problems galore. But like my dad said, and like this quote said, they handled it. They got tough, they wiped their tears, they persevered, they were patient, they kept their dignity, they worked hard, they prayed, they hoped, they figured out what would make them happy and they went for it. They had guts. And like the quote states, they truly are superheroes.

So then I thought, maybe I’m a superhero, too. I handle shit. That’s what I do. Every single day of my life. That’s what everybody does.

The difference between happy, healthy people and those who fall apart is the way they choose to handle it. Trust me, the other night I’d have loved to have gone out to a bar, have a few drinks, continue to feel sorry for myself and crawl into bed for a few days. But instead, I made dinner for my kids, acted happy, went to my son’s basketball games, and found gratitude in happy, healthy children. That is an example of a superhero.

So, if you are feeling tired and sad, and things seem hopeless, like they are never going to change, ask yourself if you want to be a superhero. If the answer is yes, then the solution is simple: handle shit.

Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.