I’m Separate/Divorced: Now What?
By Bev Jaundrew
Recently separated? Divorced? Unsure what to do?
Here’s a To Do list. Think of it as a “bucket list” with a twist. I’ve already put each into action and will continue to implement the items on the list. I’m not going to check them off one by one until I’m dead. I’ve waited long enough already.
September 3, 2010, 23 years to the day I was married, I was granted a divorce. I’ve existed as a married person much longer than I did as a single person. I lived only one year in adult singlehood, and I was dating my husband-to-be at that time.
I still refer to “our” house, “our” van, although for the first time in my life there’s only one name on the ownership papers: mine. I still buy groceries for 4 people, although there are only my 2 kids and me, and sometimes only me when the kids are with their dad. I still notice football knick-knacks and find myself about to purchase them for my ex-husband. The other day the optometrist asked me about my contact wear when my “husband” and I are in for the evening, and I didn’t correct him. I didn’t know how. There are areas I still need to work on, but I’m reaching the realization I’m no longer married, and this To Do list has helped the process.
1) Open up your world to others.
There’s no need to hide the pain any longer, not from the people in your life who truly love you non-judgmentally. There are people in your world who do not know what you’re going through, and they need to. Not the people that will rejoice in your failure or in gossip fodder. I mean people who care about you but may not realize what you’re really going through. I mean people like those who opened their house to me when I had no where to go, people who went from place to place as I tried to figure out where my kids and I would live, and people who painted and cleaned and moved boxes when we moved. You need them, and they need to know how they can help you.
2) Sleep in your whole bed.
Other than a large dog or a kid or two or three joining you every so often, that bed is yours now. Claim it. There’s no need to sleep on only one side. Try sleeping sideways, or with your feet facing the head of the bed. My son gave me the idea of sleeping across the bed diagonally, with my head hanging off the side and then with my head at the foot end. He’s notorious for sleeping every-which-way, and for being capable of taking up the entire queen-size bed by the time he was 5. Now I know why he does it: it’s liberating.
3) Figure out what food you like.
It’s time to re-acquaint yourself with your own palate. Thanks to my year-long separation, I found myself in many a fast food restaurant gulping substances down quickly between activities. It wasn’t healthy, but what a way to figure out what made me feel energetic and what didn’t! Hamburgers and fries turned my energy into slug speed, and even a Coke eventually didn’t help. Now I dare to make waffles and strawberries for one, and to make pasta, thick with tomato chunks and heavy on the garlic, for one, too.
4) Get to know your friends again.
Often friends get lost in the shuffle of romance, relationships, and daily routine. This is the time to dust off the phone numbers, check out the email list, and contact those people there hasn’t been time for. It’s not easy telling them what you’ve been up to, and there will be people that can’t accept where you are in your life journey. But for every person that you realize isn’t healthy, there will be someone you already know or meet that is accepting, understanding and exactly the person you need in that moment.
5) Watch what you want.
You are the master of the tv remote. There are more channel choices than hours in the day, and they are there for your perusal. Never seen a horror? Try it. As I sat in the movie theatre watching Drag Me To Hell, I realized I’d never gone to a horror movie in my life. And maybe I’m odder than many of the viewing population, but I found it quite funny. It certainly was a change from the kid-friendly America’s Got Talent and Funniest Home Videos that I’d watched. Get the tv series you never got to see all of: I’m now the proud owner of the Friends episodes, and thanks to the local library, I’ve now watched most of Northern Exposure episodes. Before, the only time I had to watch Northern Exposure was when it was on late and I was calming colicky babies.
6) Take one step at a time.
There’s no point looking at the entire map and deciding the terrain is too difficult. It’s like Bill Murray’s character says in What About Bob: take “baby steps”. When I first looked out onto the vast expanse of divorce, I was terrified. I had no idea how to cut grass, let alone find a place to live. I didn’t even know how to say “me” instead of “we”. It has taken day after separated day to realize that I can not only survive, but thrive.
7) Enjoy the stars on your own.
The night is there for you to enjoy. When it’s a clear night, look up and see the specks of light overhead. Take a deep breath, feel your feet in your shoes. Wiggle your toes. Breathe in the night air. Don’t feel there needs to be someone by your side. The night is there for you; alone you.
8) Walk naked in your home.
Do something you couldn’t do before, whatever that may be. For me, it was walking naked in my home. I never felt the freedom to walk, unencumbered, until I was separated. I tried, like Rachel in Friends, and was nervous the first time. I thought the dog was looking at me strangely, although he’s always naked. It felt so free, almost too free. For the record, it’s not something I do regularly, but now it feels completely acceptable.
9) Go on a trip.
I don’t mean an expensive, budget-breaking trip to the far-reaches of the planet, although that would be nice. I mean pack a bag and head for anywhere that is affordable. The kids and I traveled to Saltspring, BC, for 5 days in the summer, and did essentially nothing. At first it was challenging switching from overdrive to coast, but ultimately it was empowering and refreshing.
10) Let go of the guilt.
Guilt is paralyzing. It keeps you from reaching where you’re headed. It’s the muck that keeps feet from moving. If you didn’t do all you could, figure out what you need to do so you can say you’ve done all you could. Although it took me a long time to accept, I tried my hardest in my marriage and that and even prayer was not enough to keep the marriage moving forward. Ultimately, I had to let the marriage end. Let it go and move on. Don’t stay frozen in the past, in the transition, or in the guilt. Give yourself permission to move forward.
A friend of mine sent me an email saying, “Congratulations on your divorce” and then commented that was a strange statement. I agree: on how many greeting cards do you see that sentiment? However, I also wholeheartedly believe that there are positive elements about separation and divorce or, I argue, we wouldn’t get through the pain. It’s vital to acknowledge and feel the pain. It’s also important to accept there is much to be gained.
A note from the author:
This To Do list is not exhaustive, and I welcome more suggestions. It’s working for me. Let me know what’s working for you.
Bev Jaundrew’s October article continues her series, Journey To Personal Freedom.