I know of someone going through a divorce right now, and it’s got me reflecting on that whole roller coaster. In trying to assure this person that things DO get better – and even unimaginably good! – after such an upheaval, I’m reminded how much my life has changed in the last five years.
I could get all deep and talk about “meaning making” and the potential of humankind to overcome difficulty, but I’m going to keep it simple. Forgiveness and hamburgers.
I have no idea why, but the traditional “Texas Cheeseburger” is a bun with beef patty, cheese, pickles, and mustard. No veggies, no frills, just 100% greasy, meaty goodness. Why is this relevant? My ex husband was/is a big fan. Once I let go of my girlie need to be seen eating healthy things like tomato, I became a fan, too. A Texas cheeseburger is unpretentious and straight-talking. And it has lots of mustard. Win-win!
So, I have good cheeseburger memories that span many years: driving to Sonic in his primer gray oilfield services sedan for some mustardy happiness on a bun, cruising around backroads with the windows down, and sharing our dismay at having to pick lettuce off burgers made in foreign states.
I bit into a really good Texas cheeseburger this afternoon, and something exploded in my brain. No, there wasn’t mustard up my nose. I felt spontaneous, effortless forgiveness toward my ex. I’ve been praying for help to forgive him for five years now – working pretty hard at it. With that first bite, all the good memories flooded back. For the space of two or three heartbeats, I considered actually emailing him to say “Hey, I ate a burger today that made me think of you and remember that we shared some good stuff. I hope you can still get good burgers where you live.” I didn’t think about the betrayal or the hurt or the spiraling near-breakdown. I just thought about summer days when I loved a guy who inspired admiration in me. I smiled. I actually smiled. My friends will ask: “Do you mean that grumpy/sarcastic half smile with the growl behind it?” Then they'll laugh and punch me in the arm. But...nope. It was a “happy-burger-letting-go-of-the-need-to-control-the-situation” smile. It was a "forgetting-myself" smile. It was "I don't need to be seen eating tomatoes and I don't need to spend any more time hating him for the sake of some vague idea of justice."
It was very weird. Do I feel all warm and fuzzy toward my ex now? No. Would I be able to hold a conversation with him about our breakup without wanting to scratch his eyes out? Quite possibly, and that’s a first for me. Would I go get tested if he needed a kidney transplant? Maybe. Will I keep praying for him? More than ever before, and with less growling!
For all of psychology’s search for “agents of therapeutic change”, I have to say I think change occurs organically a good deal of the time. It’s probably different for every person. I think I’ve found my recipe:
GOD + TIME + CHEESEBURGER = FORGIVENESS