Divorce: One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of my official divorce. My separation actually happened way before that– in June 2009. Yes, we were separated almost two years before we officially got divorced. So by the time it was legally declared and done with it was more like a celebration and wave of relief thing than anything traumatizing.

The hard part was the separation. That initial shock to the system.

I was the one who wanted the separation and the divorce so a lot of people take the point of view that I should have been off the hook for any sort of negative reaction to it. That’s a load of bull crap. I’m sure there are lots of people who want divorces and don’t experience a confusing tornado of emotions but there are way more than do and I was one of those.

In my case, by the time I asked for the separation and divorce I was done, beyond done. And even though I knew the marriage was past the point CPR would’ve helped, it didn’t mean I wasn’t without doubt. Was I seriously doing the right thing?

The answer was always yes. But there was always so many things to question myself on. And doubt is not the same thing as regret.

I have never regretted my decision to end my marriage. I regret my decision to get married and even that one is hard to do with 100% conviction because my marriage brought along two more children. Can’t have one without the other.

The biggest difference between now and then is probably the level of anger. I just don’t have it much anymore. Yes my Ex confuses the crap out of me. And sometimes he frustrates me. But for the most part, my Ex and I don’t really talk or anything so there’ snot many triggers to get the anger going.

Yes, you read that right. We have children together and they regularly go with him, but we have a system set up where communication and interaction with each other isn’t really required. It happens, mostly via e-mail, sometimes by text, and rarely by phone as his girlfriend doesn’t allow him to talk with me. But we have a system and we have a flow and thankfully there aren’t many hiccups. We rarely mess with the schedule. Child support is handled by the government. And I pretty much take on 90% of everything related to the kids so I don’t have to count on him. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part  I just get it all done so I don’t have to deal with empty promises.

Honestly, the thing I keep thinking about today isn’t me or my former marriage or anything like that. It’s about all of you who are just starting this whole process now. Whether you’ve just thrown your husband out of your house or he’s left you for someone else. Whether you’ve left him for someone else or he’s thrown you out. Whatever your personal situation is. I’m thinking of those of you who are at the very beginning and everything is raw.

You probably feel like you’re on this psychotic roller coaster ready to just fall out at any moment. You probably have no idea how on Earth you’re going to make it through. You may feel like you may never heal from this, you may never trust again, much less love again. So many things hurt. So many things confuse. So many things doubt.

The questions are in the millions and the answers are in the single digits.

All I can tell you is I was there too not so long ago and I’m here now and I’m not perfect now and there are still more questions than answers but the questions are different now. The feelings are different now. I’m happier now. I’m calmer now. I’ve learned so much. So. Freaking. Much.

It’s almost been three years since I separated from my Ex. And you know what? Everything is better.

My job is better. My financial situation is better. My love life is better. My relationship with my children is better. My future is better.

I remember that vividly– the fact I couldn’t envision a better future when I was in my marriage or even when I was fresh out of it. But I was freaking determined to make it better even if that meant some major hard work.

So I guess what I want to say is please do not give up, cave in, or fall apart. Ok yes you can have meltdowns and breakdowns and tantrums. But do not let yourself fall past recovery. Do not dismiss your own power, your own strength, your own intelligence, your own creativity, your own bravery. Maybe you’re in the most brutal of situations and people are belittling you left and right. Please understand other people’s anger towards you has absolutely nothing to do with you. You are not responsible for their anger, their hate, their confusion. That’s all their stuff. They choose you to throw it at because you’re vulnerable and they know it. You scare them because here you are on your own and you are alive.

People are scared of women on their own. People are scared of you. And the better you get at being by yourself, the more people are going to be scared of you and resent you and hate you and call you all kinds of really ugly stuff. Let them work through their own demons– you have enough work cut out for yourself and your children.

So there you go. That’s my anniversary wish if you will. I’m thinking of all of you who are starting to navigate this difficult road. You aren’t alone. I wish you all the patience and the strength and the endurance and the courage I can possibly muster and then some.  I can do it. You can do it. We can do it.

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Life’s a beach

Welcome back from the weekend everyone! Here’s hoping you had a nice one.

Saturday was a very strange day for me. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I know this is every day for most people, but this Saturday was something different. My cell phone fell and the battery came out so I didn’t have any calls coming in. My grandmother came knocking on my door because my dad had been trying to contact me and I could barely speak to her.

After she left, insulted I was so “serious,” I just went and climbed back to bed, broken cell phone be damned. I did take enough time to make sure the kids had food and entertainment. But mostly, I just lay in bed.

It wasn’t nice. Honestly, it was a very dark feeling. I cried more than once and was thinking some pretty crazy stuff. I remember thinking, “This is depression.” I don’t know why it attacked me like that, I really don’t. But it did.

At some point, Baby came to me and he was just having a rough morning too. He climbed into bed and slept for hours with me. A really nice thunderstorm was our lullaby. When I woke up, it was 5:30 in the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling awesome but I wasn’t feeling badly either. I was ok. I got out of bed and started getting around the house fixing things up, teasing the kids, and playing with Mutant Kitty.

I found my phone, pieced it back together, and found a slew of messages. Figures that when you’re feeling depressed and unloved and you turn from the world because you think no one would notice, you get slammed with people reaching out to you. One of them was my Dad who’s the best Dad in the whole wide world. How awesome is he?

On Friday, he watched my kids for me so that I could go to the Parent’s Orientation at the school. My mom is a teacher there so she had to be there as well. When I came home, my Dad emptied out the dishwasher, reloaded it and set it running, and cleaned the kids’ bathroom. All three kids were happy and fed. And then on Saturday, he came after I emerged from my coma and took all three kids to his house to enjoy the pool for a little while.

As completely shocked as I was by what happened on Saturday, I can’t help but wonder if in some way, I just needed it. I slept horribly the night before and Baby ran in and woke up the whole world at 8:30 AM. I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it. When I woke up, it was just a matter of time before I was quickly back to normal and Saturday was nothing but a strange memory that almost seemed like a too-vivid dream and not actual reality.

I did some straightening up and cleaning. I did some reading and finished the Poisonwood Bible. I listened to some music and danced while I worked around the house. I was me again. For the record, this was a No-Spend day but this is not the way I like getting them thank you very much.

The next day, I made the kids chocolate chip banana pancakes and made a double batch so I could freeze some for breakfast this week. My parents came and picked up Eldest to accompany them to Church. This will become pretty standard this year. Eldest has his First Communion this year and from this point on, attendance at Church takes on a role of relative significance at the school and also socially.

But, I’m not into it. My parents are. So we think it’ll be good if he goes with them. We explained to the little ones they can go when they get to Second Grade too. And we’ll manage it that way. Unless of course I find God or something and start going to church every Sunday…

I read the newspaper, especially this article on taking back your weekends at my mom’s urging. I picked 24 more avocados from my tree including one giant one that is just gorgeous. I did some more laundry and more straightening up. I made a friendship bracelet with Daughter. I put everyone down for a nap and even I settled for a cat nap. After, I woke everyone up and we went to the beach for a couple of hours. We were so excited until we got to the beach and found these everywhere.

BAD Jellies!!!

So we took advantage of the marine biology lesson, I taught the kids how to find them in the low tide and keep an eye out for them in the water, and we played in the shore when the high tide washed away almost all of them. They dug holes, chased seagulls, ran down the shore, and enjoyed the breaking waves.

At home, after they washed up, I put on the DVD of old Speed Racer episodes I’d gotten from the library and made dinner. They ate up and I got them in bed and did some crocheting while I waited for the silence of sleeping children to fall into place.

Thinking back on the weekend and what was essentially a tale of two days, I have to wonder at what’s going on here.

The article I read wasn’t exactly targeted at me, yet it spoke to me. Maybe I’m not doing a really great job of disconnecting and really relaxing and enjoying things. At first, I’d always talk myself out of things because they “cost too much money.” But then it got to them being “too much of a hassle”.

I went through this after having each of my babies. I just never wanted to leave my house and would tell myself how hard it was to go anywhere with a newborn and would just stay shuttered inside.

Not healthy.

And I’m doing it again. Nine times out of ten, I get irritated when my kids and I are invited to go somewhere, anywhere for absolutely no reason at all. When doing their birthday parties I was equal parts excited and anxious.

I always feel badly asking someone if they want to do something because I feel like I’m butting into their lives and if they wanted to do something, they’d just reach out to me. But that’s not true. And there’s no excuse for me being a shut-in on the weekends I don’t have the kids. I should at least get out and do something one of the days.

Needless to say, this will definitely be something I’ll be thinking about as August ends and it becomes time to think about September. One of my favorite tips on the article was about planning mid-week. This weekend, I saw evidence of that fact.

I’d mentioned to the kids that I’d wanted to take them to the beach days ago. Well, they remembered and kept at me. On Saturday, I was off the hook because of the thunderstorms but there was no excuse on Sunday and they knew it. Lots to think about the next few days, that’s for sure.

Three Simple Ways to Feel Better During Divorce & Separation

So you wake up one morning and the person you had kids with is gone. Maybe they vanished into thin air, or maybe they’ve found themselves a quaint place on the other side of town, or maybe they’ve made themselves comfy at their new partner’s  house, or maybe you’ve just put the last of their things on the front yard (with or without the gasoline and match) and have just turned your brand new lock. The family life you were living has changed.

And so begins the Emotional Onslaught. It doesn’t matter who left who. It doesn’t matter why someone left. The torrent of emotions happens to everyone. Oh, they’re all over the place aren’t they? Anger. Freedom. Guilt. Joy. Terror. Confidence. Doubt. Love. Hate. Contentment. Sadness. Clarity. Confusion. Pride. Insecurity.

Yup, they all slam into you. There’s no order, no sense. There’s no predicting what comes next. There’s no knowing you’ve definitely moved past one to another. You’re up, you’re down, and you’re turned around and around.

What the hell do you do?

Here are three very simple, very immediate things you can do to feel even the tiniest bit better one way or another.

Pull ups
“Pull Ups” by Mechtrose on Flickr

1. Pick a small physical goal and work at achieving it.

First of all, forget Couch to 5K. Forget half marathons. Forget losing a gazillion pounds. Forget dropping ten sizes. Forget some sort of crazy deadline.

Simplify: Think about something you can’t do right now and work at doing it.

For instance, during my separation, P90X was all the rage. Relax, I’m not suggesting you do P90X. The only reason P90X is relevant is because it involves a lot of pull-ups. I couldn’t do ONE pull-up. I tried. I couldn’t. So that was my goal: Mutant does a pull-up. I didn’t say by when or aim for ten. I just wanted to do ONE pull-up.

Oh it took me forever (no, seriously, like a few months) and one day, I did a pull up.

So, try to do a pull-up. Or a push-up. Or a sit-up. Or walk one mile. Or jog one mile. Or bike one mile. Do a freaking handstand. Just pick something physical you can’t do right this very minute but you KNOW you’ll be able to do at some point if you just keep trying and then do it.

And then when you do it, double it and make that your next goal.

This is a really great way to get a boost. There’s something about making yourself physically strong in some tiny way that brings reassurance. Forget the way you look, just prove to yourself you’re not a weakling. And trust me, you’re not.

Restricted
“Restricted” by Dim.Gkatz on Flickr

2. Create the “List of Past Compromises”

“A compromise is an agreement whereby both parties get what neither of them wanted.” – Anonymous Genius

In a relationship there is a lot of compromise. You’re not in an active relationship anymore so you don’t have to compromise. Do yourself a favor and write down all of the things you compromised when you were with your partner.

How easy this task is depends a lot on your current emotional state which we know is insanely unpredictable. If you’re in that place where you’re grateful for your Ex because they’re a good parent and love your kids and wasn’t really too horrible with you, you might struggle at first. If you’re really bitter, your list will probably be never-ending so please don’t let me stop you.

For the strugglers, yes you could wait until that happy feeling passes in a few minutes OR you can start with something totally stupid and “irrelevant”. Think of the “easy” compromises and don’t be surprised when you start realizing just how many of those you made and how many really shouldn’t have been so “easy”.

Did your partner insist meat be served at every meal? Was there a food they couldn’t tolerate that you salivated for? Was there a color you liked but your partner hated? Do you have a love for throw pillows your partner barely tolerated? Did your partner hate the way you looked in jeans? Was there a smell that made them sneeze? Was there a place that intrigued you but never could get them to go? Did you buy that underwear because they swooned? How many movies haven’t you watched you really wanted to? What’s the one song you had to play when they weren’t around?

Got your list? Good. Now, pick one thing and let go of the compromise.

Make a vegetarian meal. Treat yourself to a favorite dish or full meal. Buy something, or paint something, in that color. Throw pillows everywhere. Wear your jeans every day for a week. Hell, buy new jeans if you can afford it (or even new to you jeans) and ditch whatever it was you wore “as a compromise.” Get that smell everywhere and in every form—candles, air freshener, shower gel, detergent, perfume, plug-ins, etc. Go to the places—the garden, the museum, the country store, the ballet, the opera, the friend’s house (you know, the one they hardly stomached), the restaurant where people dance on tables, the park, the marina, the wherever. Wear the panties that make you swoon (with comfort or sexiness or freaking polka dots). Use and abuse Netflix. Make a No More Compromise Playlist and blast it.

In other words, be naughty. Seek and destroy. You will find this to be very silly and therefore very fun. It’s also the type of thing that easily breeds. You do one thing and then you remember another. Believe it or not, people change during a relationship—substantially. Oh we say we won’t, but we do. And you’re going to love remembering Old You. No more we, no more us. It could be sad, but in this case, you’re going to make it fun.

Journal
“Journal” by MemoryofDon on Flickr

3. Keep a journal.

Get a notebook and write in it. If you can, write in it every day even If all you can muster is one three word sentence (there are lots of those to choose from).

Single parents can feel very neglected and alone. Sometimes, you really feel like no one cares, or everyone’s scared to death of you (because divorce is contagious, didn’t you know?), or everyone might mean well but you just can’t explain or relate right now.

Thankfully, journals aren’t full of human ears, they’re full of pieces of paper. And, there isn’t a set of eyes other than your own who will be perusing.

In a journal, you can get as ugly, whiny, pathetic, resentful, bitter, happy, joyful, jealous, panicked, crazy as you want to get. No one’s judging, because no one’s reading.

If you go back and read what you wrote and find yourself filled to the brim with nausea? Guess what? It’s paper. Shred it. Burn it. Soak it. Ruin it however you see fit.

You know how you keep bursting into tears at your desk?  Or how you keep hauling ass as away from the kids so you can sob? You’re corked. You need to let something out. It’s better to let it out in little daily ways like writing in your journal than letting it just explode out of your poor abused heart.

I’m not saying the outbursts are going to magically disappear, but I think you’ll find they slow down, are shorter and easier to manage. Now when it starts you can tell yourself, “Not now. This is for the journal.”

Grief isn’t simple and it isn’t brief. When a family changes dramatically, grief is inevitable. These three small things aren’t the absolute ticket to happiness.

I encourage you to seek therapy (no, seriously, you need it). Get a lawyer to handle the yucky stuff (try and get a flat fee one and hope you don’t need to go to trial). I am telling you to give yourself a lot of time—at least two years. Read about it. Find others. Talk about it.

But, becoming a single parent doesn’t have to be a total nightmare either. We’re always reading about how horrible it is aren’t we? The thing about these three things is they all have an immediate effect and they all bring you in touch with YOU. Some will feel better than others. Some will feel awesome one day and only ok on another day. Some will have a lasting positive impression, and others will be just the briefest sense of positivity. But that’s their beauty.

Simple and effective—unlike pretty much everything else in your life right now.

Many Different Thoughts & 18/52: Wet

It’s been raining pretty aggressively here all night and all day. I think it’s beautiful when it’s so gray, misty, and muted outside. I’d rather be in bed but then again, I don’t have a window with this view in bed so you win some you lose some.

Did you notice the figurines? My daughter was here with me last Thursday and apparently she thought the little guys would much rather look out the window and enjoy that view than stare at my back all day. Smart girl.

Do you know what this is?

Pardon my French but there’s just no other way to describe that. She’s standing still in this shot because it’s the only way I could get any sort of clear shot. The rest of time I saw her she was out there pounding away at the pavement.

She’s not even tuned into a music player and I know there was not a single break in the rain this morning so this girl laced up and went out there in the pouring rain because she can and because she wanted to and because I needed to see something awesome like that this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, part of me wanted to hate her with her perfect body and blonde hair and youthful carefree life that allows for running in the rain but that was such a tiny part and it stood no chance against just how awesome I think she is really.

You know how the phrase, “You go, girl” got way overdone? Well this is the kind of situation that no other phrase more adequately describes. Girl power, indeed.

I’m trying a couple of things this month. I’m not necessarily challenging myself because I feel sort of beat up and need a break but my brain doesn’t do well when it has nothing to toy with.

I’m talking to my kids in Spanish all month. I didn’t make an announcement to them, I just stopped talking in English on Monday. I’m trying to make it exclusively in Spanish but it is really hard to do and sometimes completely ineffective.

Eldest has turned into a surprisingly accurate translator for Daughter who’s decided she doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish and believes the best approach to my current language of choice is a completely blank dumbfounded stare more suited to a thirteen year old who’s just heard you admit you have no clue who this Justin Bieber person is they keep going on about.

It seems Baby understands as much Spanish as English so that’s working ok. I figured I won’t press them to speak back to me in Spanish. What I’m hoping is that I can keep this going and that at the very least they absorb Spanish vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.

The next step would be that they sometimes respond to my Spanish with their own Spanish as an experiment (Do I have this right?) and then after that they respond to my Spanish with Spanish naturally.

Besides, I need to keep practicing my Spanish. My job requires a pretty high level of fluency and I don’t feel as comfortable as I’d like with my conversational Spanish.

Financially, I’m trying something else too. I’m sort of toying with a weekly budget but this is already turning into a challenge and I don’t know that I have the mental energy to stick to it.

I thought I had it pretty figured out this week until my son came home last night and informed me he needs a mouth guard and cup for his Karate tournament Saturday. The same tournament that had a $50 registration fee I just paid because it was budgeted for.

So, I’m not really sure it’s worth it to me to make the switch from what I had going and really the problem with the budget system I have in place isn’t my budget skills it’s the unpredictable income stream.

This month with the tax refund, it should be a bit more stable. Besides, that court-ordered income deduction will go into effect this month. It will, I know it. I believe in the system.

Oh, I had my annual check-up with my doctor yesterday. She’s changed my birth control to a more inexpensive option. I’m happy to be paying $45 less a month but not thrilled I’ll be back on daily pills. She’s urging me to explore the possibility of an IUD. She thinks I’m an excellent candidate for it if the insurance covers it at a reasonable rate.

Other than that, the doctor thinks everything’s good. She says, even though I disagree, my weight is perfectly fine where it is. She does want me to drink more water and milk. She let me know women store calcium until the age of 35 so I’ve got a few years left and she wants me to make the most of them. She’s asked me to aim for about 1500mg of calcium a day.

I took a deep breath with the craft projects I’m working on and decided to stop stressing the stupid deadline and just enjoy working on them. I haven’t picked up the knitting one since I started the crochet one, but I’ll be getting back to it soon enough.

Tomorrow I’ll have to take a break to go and do a merchandising job. I signed up with a company to do merchandising and mystery shops. I like it because the jobs are quick and relatively easy. They get me out of the house and out of my routines. I try and do them when I don’t have the kids but this one was way too good to pass up and gives me the opportunity to earn up to $30 every two weeks to the end of June. They cut my first check for last month for $40 and they’re still pending a couple of assignments.

It might sound really small and meaningless to you but it’s $40 I didn’t have before. The more work I take on for them, the more often they call me for assignments with bonuses on them and such things. If I averaged $40 a month from them, that’s almost $500 at the end of the year which would be a nice thing to throw at debt, don’t you think?

Oh, there’s one more financial change I’m making this month but this one has to wait until the very end to happen. On payday, I’m going to open one more account with ING. This will be my Wants fund and 5% of any money I’ve managed to save up will go into that account. The rest will be used as a debt snowball as I am confident the child support issue will at least stabilize this month, one way or another.

Ideally, the court-ordered income deduction goes into effect but at the very least, he’ll pay what he paid last month. Although it’s not the full amount, it’s more than I’ve gotten for many months now and it helps cover the essentials.

I figure if I reward myself with 5% of my savings, it could motivate me to keep expenses low and put off the little things for something larger. Plus it gives me an outlet to enjoy the money. I can use that Wants fund for anything from haircuts to a family trip to books to new clothes to a really nice birthday dinner. Last month, it would’ve only been $4.55 but I’ve had some months with great success, especially when I was receiving child support and not having the burden of kiddie expenses on me and me alone. It would’ve been nice to have a piece of my hard work for something “indulgent”. And budgeting, saving money, and tracking expenses is hard work.

By the way, here’s some cute Budgeting humor from last Sunday’s paper. I love the comics section and always want to share at least one piece with everyone I know.

One more thing I’m doing this month is taking on household projects in very small bites. I’m telling you, I feel sort of bowled over with a bit of depression and you can tell when you walk into my house. This is always a problem for me because the worse it gets, the less happy I get and the less happy I get, the less I want to do anything which leads to a further decay of things. So last night I told myself I’d clear the dining table and nothing else but the dining table. It took me a while and I had to sit every now and then or take a drink break or something but I did it. And I made sure everything I cleared was put away, not just moved to another place.

This approach works very well for me when I’m in this state. It gives me small rewards and small challenges. It forces my focus on one thing and stops my mind from going everywhere else. Plus the actual task of sorting, trashing, filing, etc keeps my mind preoccupied and that means it doesn’t sit there and talk trash at me.

If you’re having problems like this, I strongly suggest you try this approach. For more benefit, choose a pretty small thing in an area you see a lot through the course of your day. Say, the end table in the living room or a particular chair or one side counter or something like that. I think this is why FlyLady loves the kitchen sink so much.

My problem is the kitchen sink gets disgusting fast and that’s really hard for me to overcome so I have to work my way over to it before I’m ready. Not sure I’m ready but my kitchen is starting to smell yucky and that turns my smile upside down.

When my Mother’s Day presents are all done, do you know what I’m going to do?

This.

And not necessarily in that order.

Poetic

For the first time in I honestly can’t tell you how long, I wrote down some poems last night. This used to be my favorite medium once upon a time. I don’t know when it was I abandoned it and I don’t know why either. I really feel as if the clouds are lifting in a very real way. It being over a year since we separated, I’d say it’s about time. So many books and articles I read about grieving divorce said it’d be at least a year, more likely two, and I never believed them– it felt indefinite. But here we are, and it feels so good. It’s this type of experience that makes me understand, really, why people are fascinated with the butterfly imagery. When you get down to it, it really feels just like you’d imagine the metamorphisis to be. You wrap yourself up in this darkness and stay there for some time. Then, you start pushing against it, breaking it open until you’re out. And then, you’re stretching and testing your wings, your limbs and adjusting your eyes to the brightness you’d forgotten.

The most intriguing symptom has been the re-awakening of my creative spirit. I keep seeing things in magazines and online that I want to make or re-interpret (I can’t find the deer art project I have in mind here, rgh). Even this blog is a manifestation that I’m coming around. I am three-quarters through this little dress and am determined to keep the knitting going, contemplating my next project and keeping the quickly approaching holidays (trust me, they’re coming fast) in mind. Plus, there are visions of paper, glue, and scissors prancing in my head. I have a fantasy of filling my house with art– mine and my children’s plus photographs. I wouldn’t mind if there wasn’t a bare wall in the house to be honest. Maybe then the beige walls won’t seem so boring. If you’d like to get me a gift, make it a frame of any size.

And just because it’s a fantastic Friday, here’s one of the poems I wrote last night. Don’t worry, it’s short and light.

Laundry

She flicked the

freshly laundered sheet

sharply

And a sock sprang

from a pocket

and snatched

 in the blinds

of the nearest window

while a pair

of pink panties

fluttered to her feet