It has been five years since my divorce. Being a divorcee was absent from my list of lifelong goals, well, at least until my honeymoon. Divorce was a necessity in my case. I knew this, and rather than spending money on lawyers, I told my lawyer it would be a typical, vanilla divorce. Seriously. I said that. Out loud.
What I did not know was that abuse does not end with the marriage, people whom you consider friends take sides, agreements aren’t binding, and so on. What resulted was a slow slide into economic disaster, a simultaneous need to defend myself while being reluctant to, and years of sleeping with the lights on. I thought the pain would be over, and the shock and constant barrage of daily horrors that ensued made it difficult to “Keep calm and carry on.” I slowly got through it. Though not out of the woods, I have learned from the ordeal of divorce. I have come through devastation, survived, and even learned a thing or two, which I will now share.
- I was not the “only one.” Half of marriages end in divorce. People lose property in settlements, are alone on New Year’s Eve, and attend parties solo. Many do not have what I have to be thankful for. Many have it worse.
- People are meant to be seen. Staying at home and hiding got me nowhere. Get out of the house at each available opportunity. Work, volunteer, walk, even if you are by yourself. Forget what people will say, do or think. I realized that I neither liked, nor respected those that I feared bumping into, yet I had let them keep me in the shadows.
- I do not have to think about “bad things” like memories if I do not want to. Martyrdom is for saints, which I am clearly not. While I would like a permanent delete button for these thoughts, I will settle for the choice to think about something else- until that is invented.
- I was not truly present when I was in pain. It was all about me. Lip service and time were given to others, when they needed me, but only because I felt I had to. The world went on and needed me, and I was just coasting, not really being. The world needs you too.
- Feeling sorry for oneself makes one self-indulgent. This leads to doing, what I call “loser things,” like not returning phone calls, procrastinating, and giving up too soon. It is really hard to open mail full of bills and legal correspondence, but take care of business and get it done. And for the love of God, touch up your roots and drop the chips.
- Hope is not foolish. But, there is a difference between hope and desperation. Over-exuberance can make one vulnerable, and, sorry Oprah, but vulnerability is the very last thing a divorced, middle-aged woman should try on for size. I was going through a rough patch. I wanted relief “Now, dammit!” While it is good to try, and to say “Why not?,” emotion can trigger an abandoning of caution. Guards get let down. Unsavory characters become not just tolerated, but acceptable. Recognize that you are in a bad spot. Believe in “some day.” There is no rush, and healing is a process. There is no instant fix.
- People say that things happen for a reason. The ones who have said this to me will very likely find another way to comfort me next time. I have found myself on my knees giving a cosmic “WTF?!!!” to the great beyond. Clearly, if my recent past happened for a reason, it was punishment. There was no blessing in the burst pipe in my kitchen ceiling, simply a fresh hell. Sometimes s$%t happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. Period.
- My voice counts. I learned to question, to get written estimates, to challenge bills, to ask for supervisors, to complain and to bitch. When you are married, or things are going well, you can afford to be the “nice girl” and not make waves. However, when every penny counts, and many are out there in a similar financial situation, you must channel your inner bitch, no matter how psychotic, if you want to survive. Speak up. If you have an opinion, there are people in the world who do care what you think.
- I may not be exactly where I thought I would end up, or being who I want to be, but I really enjoy my potential. I have goals, and when I look ahead, they are often murky generalizations. It is such a joy to see goals materialize, and be able to say ‘Yes! I like that, or want that!” Sometimes having the choices is more fun than doing the choosing.
- History is not destined to repeat. Bad things have happened, but that doesn’t mean the same things will occur if you try new things or try again. Bad things still may happen to me, but when they do, I will not be the lesser version of myself when similar experiences happened the first time. I am wiser.
Many clichés are true, such as time does heal, well… kind of. In the meantime, live day to day. Redefine what scares you. Being alone was my number one fear, until I began seeing the peace in the quiet, as opposed to being an addition to it. See the humor in the misery. If your ex tells the world that you suffer from paranoid schizophrenia (as of course you would have to be delusional to divorce such a catch like him…), and if you happen to be in a check out line with his next door neighbor staring at you, it is possible to start feeling badly. However, you may also decide that you have another option. Maybe you could start talking to yourself. Heck, you may even decide to speak in tongues. That way, someday, the worst of your experiences may even be funny. You could write about it, maybe an article, or simply a list.