Setting Out on a New Course
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
THE STORY OF THE BEACH – A Journey from the cliff of divorce down to the beach of decision
I can tell you the exact moment my divorce became final. Not because champagne or balloons fell from the sky but because the pain of the finality that cut so deep. I hate losing. In my marriage it felt like I had failed, and I was a failure.
I had just returned from a business trip and the first message I received as I exited the plane was from my lawyer. He had just left court and all the papers were signed and I was officially divorced. You would think from the year of hell I had just been through I would have been happy. But instead, I started to cry. On the drive home I had to pull over, sobbing with a strange sense of loss, not victory or freedom. I just remember the finality of it all. The End. It took me some time to realize that was not the end but the beginning of something new.
Heading down from the cliff and my past, the path to the beach was steep and strewn with heavy boulders. I head down in an almost zombie state, feeling half alive and numb at how my life had so quickly changed. As I picked my way down, I stepped further away from what I thought was to be. Away from family vacations, Christmases that I had known for 17 years, away from a future I had taken for granted. Each step seemed heavier than the last, the weight coming from the fear of something new–of being alone.
The beach was flat and wide. White sand for as far as I could see in either direction. The waves gently stroked the shore, and it was a place of peace that I felt I could stay a while, with its peace for a long time. And I did stay for a while and contemplated the past that was lost. Walking up and down. But for all its peace, it was too quiet, too still, and there was nothing there to build on or grow from. Standing at the ocean edge, I could glimpse distant storms, islands, other places. And I started to wonder what these places looked like. What NEW thing might be there. And I stared to think about a new journey. I could not go back. That was gone. The only way was forward, out, and beyond. And then I came upon it on the beach. A boat–something new and a way to expand my journey.
What’s Your Heading?
A Time to Start and Choose
Like it or not, you have started a new journey, one where there is no going back (even if you’re Elizabeth Taylor.) So glass half full, it’s time to plan forward.
Looking at shells
I wondered back and forth on that beach for what seemed like and may have been months. The only footprints were my own. I was scared of leaving “the known” so I continued to pace, looking for ways back to the safety of my marriage. As I think about those footprints, I’m reminded of how many times I looked for other footprints to follow but I only found mine which returned to the same questions – Was it a mistake? Should I wait longer? Will she come back? Have I wasted 17 years? As I walked the beach I found no answers no matter how many steps I took and shells and memories I collected.
I can build all the sandcastles I want, but in the end they all wash away and I have to move on with my own life. The beach is beautiful, but I can’t stay there.
I’m no sailor. This is crazy.
I like the analogy of a boat heading out to the deep open seas as we know what happens when a boat lacks a captain, map, rudder, or sails. The boat is tossed to and fro and carried at whim by the uncontrollable currents. It can end up floating aimlessly in the middle of nowhere, wrecked on rocks or left stranded on a deserted island. Unless the goal is to spend the rest of your life with a spherical lover called “Wilson,” you need a plan for where you want to go and what your new life goals are.
This is where, for me, the positive part of my life change/divorce became apparent. As a couple, we made decisions as a couple. We did things as a couple and out of necessity of time and our joint goals, we probably gave up on or had less time for some of our individual passions or hobbies. All this is as it should be in a long-term relationship. But now, I’m solo, the boss of my time and paycheck, the captain of my ship, the master of my plan… (OK I’m over selling it… But glass half full dictates.) You can decide what you want to do or accomplish.
Keep it Simple. I spent the first year during and following my divorce just doing things I thought were fun. Not solving world hunger (which I probably should have) but instead my own. Eating out, enjoying solo my love of movies, joining stuff from indoor soccer (included hanging out with my friends, and beer, meeting new people, and laughing a lot) to Fantasy Football (included hanging out with my friends, beer, meeting new people, and laughing a lot…. and losing a lot…). I took writing classes, spent a ton of time hanging with my kids, and creating a list of 10 life goals which I wrote down on a giant pad. I can’t stress enough how important it is to write them down and revisit them often. Remind yourself where, what, and why you want to do them. It is OK to be selfish and have fun! The key is the action. It helped to focus on something positive and away from the present pain and difficulties of paying for and living with my divorce.
Heading Out in the Right Direction
Now you have your plan. It’s time to set sail.
Leaving the Stuff Behind
Your goals are not set in stone, nor should they be be changed with your socks and undies (which should be often post-divorce). You may change your course, heading, and goals with new your new life experiences and continuing to throw negative baggage overboard. What are the things you are holding on to? What emotional cargo is slowing your journey? A slash and burn strategy of the past may not be healthy in the long run, so take time, quit cutting up pictures, and stay the course. Move forward with things that make you happy and take you towards your journey’s goal.
Look to the horizon. It is not the end of the world. You won’t fall off, but instead find something new.
With Love, a compass, and a few diversions,
“Each journey is different, but many have traveled the paths.”
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