Article #2 (see explanation) written in 2006, just after my divorce was final. 2013 perspective added.
2006 article: The planning that goes into a wedding is infamous and growing these days. The average time from engagement to wedding is about 18 months, and the event dominates the bride’s life, as well as the lives of those who love her. The day arrives, the honeymoon passes. What has she done to prepare for the name changing, life altering new family that is the result of the ceremony? Oftentimes, not enough. I know it seems weird, but divorce could be compared to a wedding, the birth of a baby, or numerous other significant life events to which we give intense attention, but arrive on the other side utterly unprepared for the new reality.
2006 article: I spent months preparing for what seemed to be an inevitable trial. I was hands on in my divorce. It was my only focus outside of necessary chores and my children. Unexpectedly, we settled three days early. I spent a few days in a surreal fog. Many friends took me out to celebrate (not the end of our marriage, but closure in the legal process and a new beginning). I was busy with the details of wrapping things up, then as quickly as a return flight’s landing ends your vacation, the “honeymoon” was over. For so long I had worked toward the details of our legal settlement. Suddenly, a new reality of my singleness and permanent change gripped me. I know it sounds naive, but I felt blindsided by my new status.
Life as I knew it ceased to exist, yet the world continued around me unaffected. Not only was I no longer married, but the divorce ended my “job.” The family dynamic in my home was entirely different, and I was transformed personally. What next? I had no idea, yet I felt the need to DO something (still do at times). My ex husband and I still own our home together. I decided I could not live there any longer! Buying a new house for my children and me became my new focus and passion. I found THE house, “placed” furniture on graph paper, and planned a garage sale for the rest. I came so close to financial stupidity, I still shudder.
2013 perspective: At a more stable and appropriate time, we did make a great decision to move to a new home. It wasn’t a move per se that was bad, but my urgency to act, to DO in an effort at resolving the pain, uncomfortableness, and chaos of life. We needed to be together without distractions. I needed to rest and let God heal me.
2006 article: Ambivalence saved me. I am very passionate about many things — including the near purchase of that new house. But in the aftermath of divorce, my passion is almost always mixed with ambivalence. I swung to a dogged financial prudence. As rapidly as I fell in love with the house, I dropped it. I realized I must slow down and test to see if my passion finds a steady mark. I decided to stay where I am and enjoy living there until it sells – – a much wiser choice. There is already an abundance of change and chaotic nature to my life. Why did I think adding even an exciting stressor would help?
At this point, most change I’m experiencing is unavoidable. I am newly divorced (a word it took a few months for me to say outloud). I dropped my oldest child off for college for the first time, three weeks later. He is ready and I am immensely proud. My job was to prepare him for the joyful day of launching. Of course, I cried my way home through Alabama and Georgia. He will thrive, but what of me? With his departure came a drain of vitality in our home. He leaves a huge void. The “we” of our home’s daily dynamic quickly went from 5, to 4, to 3… What is the new rhythm for us? Again, I feel the tug to DO something. Should we go on a trip? Plan the holidays? I catch myself and slow it down. The answer is that I don’t know how we will be or what it will look like, and that’s okay. We are making it one day at a time.
Life is not the same, and forcing this new reality into the old mold will not work. I was always big on family dinners. I still believe they are important, but I am realizing they can occur at breakfast or in a restaurant. Right now, the three of us seem to feel more at ease when we are in places other than supper around our table. More of our traditional family style dinners may occur in time, but for now, I am happy we are together and talking about our lives.
We can and must try new ways of being a family, but we don’t have to do anything to affect big changes — not yet. And I don’t have to have all the answers — for myself or my children. We will embrace the holiday season soon, retaining some elements from the past and creating new traditions to fit our new life. My future (now and when all my children leave home) is a huge question mark! There is no substitute for time and patiently living my way to the answers of whatever will be with a lot of grace, faith and trust.
2013 Perspective: Change for change’s sake is bad. It is only a bandaid or temporary anesthetic when used as a diversion or distraction. Slowing down, settling in and simplifying are good. Familiarity and continuity brought comfort to me and my children. After divorce, we needed time to process, to grieve, to heal, to accept a new reality. But almost 8 years out, I also caution you: don’t be afraid of change! Some change is good! I made a lot of changes! Some BIG changes. Some short-lived and some permanent. Some serious and some silly! Experiment within healthy boundaries.
Just to start your thinking… I started wearing high heels and became more fashion conscious — for a while. 😉 I tried new recipes! I let my hair grow out long. I thought seriously about piano lessons, getting my pilot’s license, and starting a business — they never happened. I worked in a new job that got me out in the community with people I never would have met otherwise. Old friendships are important and so is meeting new friends (especially some who were single or had schedules that better matched mine). I included several single “guy” friends. Their perspective and company was a great addition to my singleness. I started shooting skeet for the first time and playing tennis again. Biggies: a few months after divorce, I started a new job and started dating. I moved once in town then again to a new city to start grad school.
Your list will look totally different. The point is moving forward with hope. Ask for forgiveness where needed, forgive yourself, and LIVE your new life. One day a friend said something hard to me, but that was the catalyst for my moving forward with grace, joy and purpose. It was many months after my settlement. The injustices, pain, and circumstances of divorce still dominated my thoughts. Darcy said, “you are ALL about divorce.” She was right.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know I was all about it, I just didn’t know there was another way to live! I was so used to the problems of the last 20 years of my life, I continued to live in them. Like a wounded bird who is nurtured to health in a cage. One day he is moved outside, the cage door is opened, and he is free to fly away. What if he still lives in that “cage?” The door was open to life, but I refused to leave the cage of my past and fly! Until Darcy… what a gift she gave me.
I was unprepared for singleness, and possibly you are too. Perspective is everything. Have a blast searching, seeking and building a new version of life. Accept and enjoy the process as often as possible. Be creative, be patient, and be gentle with yourself. Hang tight to what’s important, especially those you love and your Heavenly Father. Trust Him and His Word.
Rob and I are still building the infrastructure of our new life at almost 50. I never thought it would be this way, and often I’m tempted down the path of self pity. I have to say, “don’t do it!” Perspective is everything! I’m discovering that my friends who have celebrated a silver anniversary are experiencing many of the same changes I am. Divorce does not define me. Opportunities await, the joy of the Lord is my strength, and I know that God has a plan. Love and gratitude are key… more to come as I journey.
Some familiar verses that brought me through the aftermath of divorce follow.
Psalm 73:23 (MSG)
21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter,
totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
and then you bless me.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Matthew 6:33 (New Living Translation)
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Ephesiand 3:20-21 (NIV)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen