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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.

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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.

Taking a Chill Pill

30 Jul

Talking to the people in my divorce group has been eye-opening. The stuff we struggle with and things that have changed within us is so similar. I like knowing that I’m not abnormal.

Tonight I was talking to one of my classmates about things that have changed since our divorces. I’m finding that there are things I do like more about myself and my life. One of the biggest things is not freaking out about every little thing. I’m so much more relaxed now. It used to be that I would obsess over everything.

– For example, for every 5K I ran, I would memorize the logistics info, where did I have to be, where did I need to park, what time did I need to be there, what was the course like. Now, I look up directions to the course on my way out the door.

– Travel. Oh man. This was a big one. I had spreadsheets and documents and bookmarks and books detailing my research. I knew my flight number and what time each leg of my flight departed and arrived and in what city my layovers were. I would look at maps of the layover airport, figure out any transportation needed to get between gates. Now, I am lucky if I remember the date I’m flying.

– Driving. I had major road rage. And major anxiety about being late to wherever I was going. I would spend my entire drive looking at the clock and telling myself, if I can get to x road by x time, I should be there in time. The entire drive I would do this. Do you have any idea how nerve-wracking that is??? Because I was such a basketcase about being late, I berated every driver on the road. It is so different now. In fact, a coworker was asking me what names I call people when I’m driving. I had to stop and think about it. I don’t get angry, I said to him. I don’t call people anything. But letting go of the driving anxiety is so freeing. So wonderfully freeing. When I do get into the car late, I do think, dang, I’m going to be late. There’s no obsessing, though. I think about something else and by the time I arrive, I realize I have minutes to spare.

Is it because the worst has happened and we know that we are getting through it? Or was there really something in our marriages that was causing this uptightness? For me I think it’s a combination of those two things along with the help I’m getting now.

Success

13 Jul

Each week in my divorce recovery class, we have to do address 1 of 5 domains. Here’s what I decided to do a few weeks ago:

  • I would spend the 4th of July alone and be OK
  • For my family trip to Las Vegas, I would not dwell on the fact that he wasn’t there and that the last 4th of July trip was the last one he was there for

Holy crap. I completed my tasks with flying colors. The 4th was just another day. My dog and I went hiking and then I took a long nap, ran some errands, and just hung around my house. I wasn’t sad in the least that entire day. I surprised myself by how OK I was.

Then our family trip to Vegas was super fun. Again, there wasn’t any dwelling on him at all. I got to Las Vegas before the rest of my family and had a few hours by myself; same thing with the day we all flew out. I was fine.

I’m so proud of myself.

Crazy, Made-Up Stuff in Your Head

2 Jul

When I first started running, one of my friends mentioned that I should try a running class. I told her that she was insane, that there was no way I could keep up with real runners. In response, she said (and I’m paraphrasing because this was several years ago): If you would go to a class, you would see that there are people of every level and you wouldn’t be comparing yourself to the freaking crazy, made-up shit in your head.

Though I didn’t take a class at that point in time, I kept thinking back to what she said about all of the things I concoct for myself in my brain. It’s hard to stay out of one’s own head. It’s been doubly hard since the divorce. I need to let go of the things I’m worried about that most likely will not be an issue. When this first happened, I was deathly terrified of being a pauper. Reason would have told me that it was going to be extremely difficult for me to be homeless and penniless, but reason wasn’t prevailing at that point. He had handled all of the finances, and I was so afraid that I would not be able to. Fast forward 8 months: money and bills have been a non-issue. Paying bills is easy. I’m still saving the same amount that I used to save. I even refinanced my house by myself.

My biggest fear is never finding anyone. Or that I end up with some giant loser because all of the men who have a stable income and good job and all of their teeth are taken. I have no idea how to let that fear go. When I was married, I would think, if only I could go back to my teenage self and tell her how happy she was going to be and how amazing her husband would be. I want to believe that in a few years I can look back and say, that was difficult, but look at who you are now and look at this amazing partner and family you have. It all led to this. (I’m also deathly afraid of losing my income, so I’m not completely shallow.)

I’m trying to think about it with my friend’s words in mind.

Here’s some more inspiration I’m using to try to not focus on the worst:

  • “I’ve got 99 problems and 86 of them are completely made up scenarios in my head that I’m stressing about for absolutely no logical reason.” (https://twitter.com/ZachGalifinak/status/340545817612021760)
  • “To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.”- The Map of Life, William Edward Hartpole Lecky