One of the concepts in Liz Gilbert's book Big Magic that changed my grumpasaurus attitudes forever was the s**t sandwich.
During my entire adult, and, before that, my weird childhood and adolescence, I kept wondering, "When does this get easier? When do all these roadblocks and potholes go away?"
It took me this long to read a book that told me the truth: They don't go away.
But, you do get to choose what flavor of annoying, exhausting problems you like best -- or, perhaps better said, you get to choose what all the exhaustion, setbacks, and monkey wrenches will be in the service of.
How to choose the flavor of awful that you like best
Here's an excerpt from Big Magic:
“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich? . . . Every single pursuit—no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem—comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects. As [self-help author Mark] Manson writes with profound wisdom: 'Everything sucks, some of the time.' You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much 'What are you passionate about?' The question is 'What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?' Manson explains it this way: 'If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.' Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”
Wow. So I can stop waiting for the gold at the end of the rainbow. There won't be a magical reward at the end of all these decades of dreaming, and endless endless hard work.
All I have to do is look at some of my heroes in order to know this is true. Think of any woman you truly admire. Look at her life story. There was no "happily ever after." In fact, there's probably no "happily ever after" in any truly interesting life. The melodramatic plot is what keeps the heroine moving, creating, and having a fascinating life.
But what about all those lucky chicks with the awesome husbands?
It's the "lucky" minority of women that keeps us jealous. But, how many of these deliriously happy cases are there, really, and is there really no downside?
There seem to be a few special women who were lucky enough to marry a may who is easily able to provide for her every material need and wish. And, because of this, these fairy tale princesses never had to worry about their financial well-being after they sealed the deal.
But, we'll never know the rest of the story. Maybe, they'll never know if they could have made it on their own. Perhaps, behind closed doors, they aren't treated with the love and respect they may have wished for. Or, other aspects of their lives are not as they portray it on facebook. Who knows what other dreams may have been given up in order to live on easy street.
What about the truly great husbands (who may or may not be financially successful)? The ones who compliment and appreciate their wives. The ones who are there to listen and there to support their wives' dreams. The ones who know how to put down the remote or electronic devices and pay attention when it counts?
Like anything, wonderful relationships usually require compromise and trade-offs. And usually, even with these wonderful guys, in our society, women tend to do quite a bit more of the work, and more of the compromising than the guys do. Is it worth it? Only each woman can say.
Let the s**t sandwich concept help you navigate your post-divorce life
If we now realize that practically no decision will be s**t-free, we can start making every choice by looking at what flavor of s**t sandwich it will bring.
How does this differ from the good, old-fashioned pro/con list that lots of coaches/therapists may suggest that you make?
What I like about the s**t sandwich concept is that it goes much deeper. Everyone gets it: Everyone has had multiple experiences of choking down these less-than-tasty meals. They're not just "cons" on a list; you can deeply feel them. You know what you're in for. You've been there.
You can ask yourself, "Given this likely s**t sandwich, is this (divorce fight, career change, destructive personal habit, method of therapy, relationship, or whatever) still the best choice for me?" Or, "Am I willing and even happy to eat this because I care so much about what I'll gain if I persist?"
Because we now know that there will almost always be sacrifice, with almost every important choice in life -- and the sacrifices that may be worth it for someone else, may not be right for you. The s**t sandwich that someone else may find completely unedible, may be pretty easy for you to choke down (along with a little cheese and hot sauce) because you love your dream and believe in yourself so much.