Things I Did Right
It went down something like this…
“The guy you married never really existed.” Very long far-more-complicated story short, those words from my
now ex-husband hung in the air for as long as it took for me to hear them, then fell on me like concrete.
And that was pretty much that.
In the aftermath of putting my life back together, caring for my two children, and learning how to put one foot in front of the other on a singular path, I did a few things right. And, boy, am I grateful. Here they are:
Ask the Wise
I reached out to people who had navigated their own divorce, raised kids, recovered, and remarried. These were people I’d known for some time and respected how they had managed their lives over the long haul. I asked them to meet me for coffee or lunch where I asked the same three questions:
What did you do right?
What do you wish you’d done differently?
If you were me, what would you do next?
This resulted in a goldmine of wisdom, lessons learned the easy way, and some life-long critical friendships. I still catch up with these folks from time to time. The conversation is about completely different things these days, but every once in a while one of them will chime in with a, “Look at how happy you are!” or “Can you believe how different things are in 7 years?” Bonus.
Take the High Road. Always.
When my marriage ended, I grieved the death of a spouse I still loved who was no longer taking up residence in his body. Then I put on my big girl pants and made the decision to move forward with only the things I could actually control as assets–my attitude and my actions.
My attitude stemmed from the clear and immediate facts that were ages 7 and 5 at the time. I faced a long parenting road ahead with this person, and I could take the highway or let the wheels fly off and land in the ditch. I figured I’d been through enough, parenting is tough anyway, and I owed myself as much peace as possible. High Road it was. It wasn’t easy, but I’m convinced it’s easier.
I also realized that his life, his spare time, where, how, and with whom he spent it was none of my business. (Ouch.) Like my Papaw used to say, “If you go looking for a snake, don’t complain when you get bit.” So I didn’t go digging for social media gossip, and I shut down well-intentioned people when they tried to fill me in with the low-down of what he was up to. They quit reporting rather quickly. I dug really deep (prayed a whole lot) and tried to keep my end of the deal–model kindness and grace, speak with love and patience, enter conversation with the goal of understanding rather than winning. The resolve to keep my actions in check saved me from taking up residence in dark places.
Besides. I had little people watching and learning how I handled adult conflict…
Date Myself & Stay Out of the Weeds
The temptation to fill the empty spot came at me from all directions. Over a cup of coffee, one friend advised me to try two things: date only myself and make a list.
Sounds weird, yes, but after 11 years of a pretty unhealthy marriage, I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing, what my favorite restaurant was, or how to rent a car on my own. My heart lay in an impossible jigsaw puzzle, and I wasn’t in a spot where trusting someone to start fitting the pieces was an option. So I made a list of things I’d never done, places I’d never been, hobbies I’d never investigated, and I dated myself. Getting to know what I liked and what I didn’t allowed me to reinvent myself on my own terms. Turns out I’m a fun gal. Who knew?
My wise friend also encouraged me to make a list of the qualities I was looking for in a partner. I responded with an areyoufreakingseriousI’msodoneforever look. After a chuckle, he promised me I wouldn’t feel that way for actual ever and that while I had some clarity, it might behoove Future Me to have a list of attributes I wanted and needed in a partner in crime, as well as those I did not want or need. (AKA The Not Settling Factors and No Way I’m Putting Up With This List)
With a large disparaging sigh and a larger glass of wine, I started The List.
Four (!) single-spaced pages later, I’d gained serious introspective insight on the qualities that were important for me. Not every key opens every lock, and that’s OK. Getting real with myself about my own needs and wants has most definitely saved me time, potentially hurt feelings, and helped me make decisions about how and with whom I invest my time. And I still have the list by the way. Wink, wink.
Make no mistake, I felt like an elephant on roller skates making a less than grand entrance into this new chapter of life, but I have lots to show for it. My co-parenting experience is enviable. He and I sit together at kid events, take them out together on their birthdays (WITH his new Barbie dollish wife that I sincerely like), and we might disagree something crazy like once a year. I still have a small yet ferocious fan club to meet for lunch or coffee when time permits because there’s no better healer than laughter with great friends who will tell me what I may not want to hear because it’s good for me. I’m still single, but like I told my neighbor not long ago, “I’m pretty happy with my life the way it is.” Because ohmygod dating–banging head on keyboard–well, that’s another post for another day.
Hang in there!
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