Just. Write.

1 Sep

Andrew Sullivan is my go-to guy for news and politics. Each summer he takes a break and has guest bloggers write. As I was browsing his site over lunch a few weeks ago, I came across a piece written by one of his guests, a Dish intern named Phoebe Maltz Bovy. I was immediately drawn to her writing style and was soon Google stalking researching for more information about her. She has written tons of stuff for very smart sites and has a Ph.D in French Studies from NYU. Swoon, right? Once I read her own blog, my latest girl crush was set. I may not agree with all of her views, but I love her passion and wit. 

Even though it’s not nice to be envious of my crush, I was. I wondered how awesome it would be write a dissertation about 19th century anything at an Ivy league school and have coherent thoughts published on places like The Atlantic. How did you do it, Phoebe? Tell me all of your secrets.

A few days later, the answer came to me. You simply write. If you want to write, then you just do it. You don’t have to write for a fancy-pants site or go to a fancy-pants school. You practice and you write. We can’t all be Junot Diaz, but we can certainly keep writing.

Switching Focus

31 Aug

It has been cathartic writing about my divorce and recovery. But I’m in a completely different place now. Even though I still think about my ex-husband and our marriage fairly often, it isn’t the same. The feelings – not the sadness or anger or any of that – aren’t as sharp. It’s fantastic.

So I’ve decided to start writing about other stuff now. Part of me wants to delete all of the divorce posts, but I’m still hopeful that they’ll be helpful to someone in the same situation. Proof that things absolutely get better.

Goodness after a Divorce

12 Dec

A few years ago I became obsessed with a quote from a Diane von Furstenberg American Express commercial: I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become. Most of my adult life, I’ve wanted to be creative, happy, giving, confident, kind, funny, outgoing, smart at my job. Ever since my divorce, I feel like I am actually becoming that person. It’s been so interesting to look back and realize how stifled I felt in my relationship. I was not a nice person. I did not like myself. I don’t blame my marriage, of course. It wasn’t my ex-husband’s fault that I had so much inner hatred.

My lovely former sister-in-law sent me the following blog post yesterday, and I felt like it was written exactly for the person I was during my marriage (except trade the daughter for ex-husband): http://www.handsfreemama.com/2013/12/10/the-bully-too-close-to-home/

Money quote:

“I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy and then I treat others badly—especially you.”

I’ve been working with my therapist on this exact thing – bullying myself and in turn bullying others. I’m learning to be kind to myself. It has made such a giant difference in my life and in my treatment of others. It feels mad cheesy, but when you try it you’ll wonder why you were so mean to yourself for so long. That blog post brought home just how important it is to treat yourself nicely. By working on not being an asshole to myself, I’m turning into that woman I wanted to become all those years: kind, happy, confident.

This whole working on myself thing made me even more excited when my SIL sent me this quote by Eckhart Tolle today:

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”

For me the new thing to emerge is ME. A kinder, more awesome me. The me I’ve wanted to become for so long. This is good. There are so many good things that have come out of what I thought was the end of my world. I’m so grateful.

How To Get Through The First Year of Your Divorce

22 Nov

Ema at Meiji Shrine

WHEW!!! I made it! I made it past the first year. How awesome do I feel? Pretty dang awesome. When the separation first happened, I googled extensively for how to get through it. I found a ton of great ideas, and now I’m adding my own.

  1. Don’t date. Seriously. I am not kidding about this. You might be on an airplane on New Years Day when a stunningly handsome guy sits next to you and you have a great conversation and exchange numbers with him. Don’t date him. Especially if he tells you that you’re important within 4 days of meeting him and he won’t leave you alone about wanting to come with you when you tell him you’re going apartment hunting and you’ve very sweetly said no. This guy is bad news. Not only that, but your first priority is to heal. Worrying about another romantic relationship will not help you heal. Don’t post your profile on dating sites. Just don’t do it.
    Maybe you’re stronger than I am and can handle dating someone, but I think it’s best to put dating on the way back, back, backburner until you are ready to not freak out or cry when someone doesn’t call you back. Or if you aren’t strong enough to listen to your instincts because you’d rather have any warm body around than be alone and wait for a healthy person to come into your life.
  2. Find a support system. Your family and friends are most likely going to be there for you 100% of the time. Spread the calls and texts throughout your support system so you don’t exhaust just one person. I had different people I contacted depending on whether I needed to laugh or if I needed to feel warmth and sympathy. Talk to them! The people who love you want to help you and help you move forward. If your family makes you feel shitty, find someone else to talk to.
  3. Get professional help. There is no shame in seeing a therapist. Find one you’re comfortable with. If you’re afraid you can’t afford one, research. Most cities have a 211 number you can call for resources. In addition, lots of therapists do sliding scale services, and some nonprofits have therapists who are available for much lower rates than you think. Don’t let finances keep you from getting the help you need. And certainly don’t let preconceived notions about mental health keep you from visiting with someone. Seeing a therapist does not mean you are crazy.
    Seek out medication if you need it. Again, no shame in using science to help. Your medical doctor will be able to prescribe something if necessary.  There’s no magic bullet, unfortunately, but there are lots of things available to help take the edge off the unbearable pain.
  4. Read. I read tons of blogs and some books to learn how people survived a divorce. Here are some of my favorites:
    How to Survive the Loss of a Love – There are a bunch of god-awful poems in this book, so I would recommend ignoring those and reading only the meat of the book. It’s good. I re-read part of it over the last week and it made me realize how far I really have come.
    http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/11/30-things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself/
    http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/2011/03/19/how-to-survive-when-everything-sucks/ (this list is kind of simplistic, but sometimes simplicity is what you need)
    http://www.awesomeyourlife.com/2012/12/what-to-do-when-life-sucks/
    http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/moving-on-from-disappointment-are-you-focused-on-the-person-or-on-the-bigger-picture-of-your-life/
  5. Pray, meditate, do yoga, or do whatever it is that you do to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. I haven’t been very good at this, but lately I’ve tried harder to look past myself. It’s been helpful.
  6. Keep a healthy perspective. This is really hard. This doesn’t mean you can’t be sad about your issues. But remember to breathe once in awhile and look past what’s happening in your own bubble and see how others are overcoming their demons and challenges.
  7. Take it slowly. I was so fortunate at my job to be able to share that I was getting divorced with my manager. He was so very patient with me. I’m used to being involved in lots of different things at work, but I took a step back and concentrated only on my primary functions. I have to admit that I was not on my A game, but I really needed to heal. I feel like I am just now getting the use of more than 90% of my brain. It’s nice to be back.
    I read this article awhile a few months ago about survival: http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/09/08/fighting-back-against-the-memory-disease-the-believer-sept-2013/
    “Every night, I just wrote a list of things that are good to do, and the next day I read the list and did them—did them until I didn’t have to read the list anymore. Brush my teeth. Eat a banana. Work on my dissertation for three hours. Take a walk. Go to an NA meeting. Repeat.”
    If that’s what it takes, do it. If daily success is measured by you brushing your teeth twice a day, then use that as a measure. This is not a time to be angry with yourself for not being a superstar.
  8. Be sad. If you are sad, cry. Let yourself feel. One of the books I read told me to lean into my sadness, that it wouldn’t kill me. As much as it felt like I was close to death, I made it. I was a mess, y’all. I couldn’t sleep. I lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks. I could barely breathe. And I am alive now. And I feel happy.
  9. Put in work. There’s that saying, time heals all wounds or something. Well, it does, but you can’t just sit there and expect time to do everything. I think a better phrase is this: “Healing requires taking action – it is not a passive event.” Identify what you did to contribute to the demise of your marriage. Decide if you want to live with those parts of yourself or if you want to improve. This is not about berating yourself about every single thing you did wrong. But don’t stay there. Send your apology into the universe and then move into action. If you don’t like something about yourself, baby step your way out of it. Remember that no one can fix you or help you more than yourself. You have to want to move on.
  10. Take a When Your Relationship Ends class. This is the 10-week seminar that I joined and got so much out of. Not only did I get valuable tools for coping with my divorce and learn that I’m not crazy, I also found some amazing friends.
  11. Do new things. I think I have tried more things that are outside of my comfort zone this past year than I did while I was married. And you know what? It feels good.
  12. Be grateful. When it feels like everything is absolute shit, take time to reflect on at least one good thing in your life. Maybe it’s your shoes. Maybe it’s your short commute time. Realize how blessed you are.

Getting divorced isn’t fun and it isn’t easy. But you can get through it. You really can. Trust me on that.

 

One Year Later

7 Oct

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day my ex-husband asked me for a divorce. Guess what? I haven’t cried a single tear today. In fact, it’s been a fairly regular day. My sister-in-law and I had a massage and a facial this afternoon, just to treat ourselves to something nice. I had that to look forward to throughout the day, plus work kept me busy, so there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on the significance of today. Or the fact that it’s my ex’s birthday.

I don’t think I would have imagined how OK I would be by this point. I don’t feel broken or incomplete. I don’t feel lonely most days.  I don’t feel hollow or empty. Some days I feel downright giddy about the sheer number of choices and options I have for my life. I can say with complete honesty that I am happier without my ex-husband and without my marriage. Do I still hate my ex? Yeah, I have to admit that I do still hate him and feel a good bit of anger toward him and the woman he left me for. I’m hoping that will dissipate as the months continue to separate me from that ugly end.

Over the past year, through countless hours of therapy, divorce support groups, 12-step meetings, and even a shaman cleansing; by talking with friends and family and strangers and reading self-help books and blogs, I’ve come to understand the huge role I played in the marriage falling apart. I learned that I wasn’t happy in the marriage. Things would have fallen apart eventually. He and I were no longer meant to be married. We wanted different things, and we had stopped loving and respecting each other. It’s a very painful lesson to have gone through, but can I say I feel some gratefulness that I have another chance to be the person I want to be? As absolutely shitty as this has been, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever knew and I know the things I want to work on to be a better person and someday–god willing–a good partner.

Appreciation

7 Oct

SA – For letting me stay at their house the second I heard the news. For walking my dog for me. For getting license plate lights. For letting me borrow his wife for hours on end.

SFA – For nearly canceling her vacation with her husband to stay with me. Letting me vent at all hours. Texting me. Hugging me. Feeding me.

EC and RV – For letting me stay at their house and letting me bring my dog. Giving me the best hugs in the world. Talking me through what I should ask for. EC – fixing my computer.

MF – For being my mom. For sticking around, even through my ugliest.

CN – For coming and staying with me and making my house immaculate.

JF – For being my dad and for his email. For the beautiful words he said to me.

MF – For being my amazing baby brother and always making me laugh.

GV – For lending me her professional counseling ear.

ABG – For being there from the absolute beginning. Letting me hug her baby. Letting me stay at her house. Talking on the phone with me for hours on end.

WB – For not hesitating for a second when I asked her if she could stay the night with me the first night I got back from my sister’s.

CV – For driving a bazillion hours to spend a long weekend with me.

JP and DP – For having me over to their house every week to watch one of my favorite shows. For feeding me. For diagnosing my car problems.

RP – For telling me that it didn’t matter what she was doing at the moment, she’d drop it because I was more important. Bringing me chocolate. Getting my girlfriends to sign a sweet card of encouragement.

TC – For taking me to lunch, for giving me hugs.

LA – For being my divorce-partner-in-crime, for letting me vent, for being an unbelievable sister-in-law, both before and after the divorce.

BP – For letting me store my memories at her house.

AR – For talking on the phone with me for hours at nights when I couldn’t sleep, despite the fact that we hadn’t talked in about 14 years.

I Think I Figured It Out

23 Sep

Being single doesn’t suck. What sucks is dating men who can’t/don’t use their words to say thanks but no thanks. Limbo sucks. So people: seriously. If you don’t want to see someone anymore, be sure to tell him/her in a nice way. Don’t just stop communication. That’s just mean.