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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.

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COMMENTS (5) | divorce, separated
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Comments

5 Responses to “I’m Separate/Divorced: Now What?”

  1. Wendy
    December 30th, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    I like your list. YOU are doing great and a good inspiration for women who have gone through this.

  2. Daisy's Mom
    January 14th, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

    I loved your article. Amen to the rediscovering your palate, controlling the remote, and going on a trip. I saved up (and had a couple of miracles fall into my lap) and took my dream trip to Ireland on my own this year. I frequently go out to my backyard at night and talk to the moon and sigh at the starts. I absolutely love my solitary life – well, not entirely solitary, though my “kids” have four paws and fur – and I think it’s great that you shared some of your metamorphosis here.

    A few suggestions: explore some roads you never had time to drive down when someone was “expecting you” at home. Move the furniture! If it was “always there” because “he” liked it there, put it where YOU want it. Re-purpose every room in the house, if you want to. Make the office a bedroom or vice versa. Light your prettiest or best-smelling candles just because you want to, not because someone’s coming over. Put a used mini-fridge in your home office. Do a couple of mundane things every year that you’d be scared to do on your own (cutting the grass was a terrific example! One of mine was pruning trees with a pole saw.) This year, I’m going to peel back the carpet on the stairs and see if they would look better as bare wood with treads on them.

    I am so blessed – I usually have two or three invitations to spend every holiday with people I love.. even my ex’s mom, whom I love to bits. That said, I never seem to feel lonely on my own; my little house and my little dogs are enough to make me happy every single day. Now, I have to try sleeping diagonally tonight!

    Thanks again for sharing.

  3. Georbe
    January 17th, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

    Great comments.

    I totally hog the bed now! I love it.

    Thanks fo taking time to write this up.

  4. Livvy
    February 3rd, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

    Love it!! So true, the little pleasures we get from owning our our lives once again.I guess like me, congratulations were in order, a 3 year separation and officially divorced yesterday! Yay!!
    Rediscovering ones self is the key, especially true for women who generally put their hubby’s interests and hobbies first.There is so much wowness post divorce. I used my separation to do the things I love, but took a long time to discover what that is and now I can truly say that after 22 years of being married and at age 40, I know who I am, what I like, what I fear, what makes me laugh/smile/sad/cry, what my creative side is, what my weaknesses are. In my marriage, I’d lost myself completely.
    Now, I’m confident enough to embrace being single for as long as I choose or to invite a special someone in my life who will love me for me because I finally AM, me :)
    Thanks for a lovely post

  5. Jon
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

    While I love the article, I caution those reading the post by “finally AM, me.” I was in a relationship for 12 years to a woman who complained that I was the reason she lost herself completely.

    Turns out, according to everyone in BOTH our center’s of influence, it had nothing to do with me. She’s done some downright insane things since she left (and this isn’t spite, regret or guilt talking). She was this other person the whole time, telling me she’s who I thought she was.

    Don’t throw caution to the wind, and be HONEST with YOURSELF: Deal with your issues. From a man with a strong personality married at one point to a woman with more passive approaches, DON’T SPEND YOUR LIFE BEING A VICTIM.

    You either stay that way (or become that way in my ex-wife “K’s” case) every time you tell others you ‘were not to blame’ and ‘did all you could’. No you didn’t, and neither did he, or else it would have worked!

    To those who AMs message hits close to home: Her story isn’t yours. You know what you did, and you know what “she” did. Admit it now, and deal with it.

    To those who she encourages, take heart but beware: Girl Power doesn’t mean you’re blameless. (Those with a cheat and beat, ignore this message – NO TOLERANCE for that.)
    Don’t be like my ex and flush your entire single life down the toilet by doing what you want, when you want, without consequences.

    I’ll leave you with this: Figure out what was good about you together, and what is better with you single, and take that to your next relationship.

    May you all be happy and Blessed.

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