It all started two years ago on an October afternoon that I remember surprisingly little about. That was the day that I picked up my 5-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son and left the family home we had just purchased two months ago for the last time. We were setting out on a new adventure, just the three of us, and it involved a lot of work upfront. We had to find a place to live. I needed a full-time job. An attorney would need to be hired. Child care would need to be reconsidered.
You should start out by knowing that my separation and divorce were not pretty. There was none of this we-still-love-each-other-but-we-aren’t-in-love amicability. No one was taking divorce selfies. It was a twisted mess involving infidelity, lies, drug use, secret bank accounts, and a few broken hearts. I felt like I was living smack dab in the middle of a Lifetime movie or a bad country song. I could not believe that this was my life.
There were a lot of decisions and changes to be made, and I was in charge of it all, in addition to caring for an infant and a toddler. In between apartment hunting and job searching, there was potty training and breastfeeding. I was busy, and I welcomed the distractions. People commented on how well I was doing, how strong I was, how well adjusted my kids seemed. And I smiled and nodded and pretended that all of that was true.
Then a few months ago, something happened. Or more accurately, nothing happened. The divorce had been final over a year. I had survived a year at my new full-time job and was feeling more at ease there. I was pursuing my passion of writing and succeeding. My ex and I had figured out how to communicate effectively (via text, as little as possible) regarding the care of the kids. There were no more puzzles to solve, no fires to put out. And in this lull, everything seemed to hit at once. It came swiftly, out of nowhere, and it knocked my legs out from under me.
Two years post-separation, my mind finally had enough free space and time to process everything I had been through. And I was shocked. I had tricked myself into believing that preoccupying myself with to-do lists and everyday tasks during the most traumatic moments of the separation and divorce meant that I had successfully moved past them. In truth, I had just delayed my emotional response to all of these events. I knew this was certainly the case when I sat in a movie theater crying over a storyline involving a successful working mom who discovers her husband is having an affair.
So what’s a girl to do? Allow the feelings to consume her? Indulge in feelings of self-pity and “woe is me” mentality? Drive herself crazy with questions like: How will my children be affected by this? Will I spend the rest of my life alone? Is single parenting always going to be this hard?
Not this girl. Here’s what I’ve done instead:
Leaned on Friends and Family: I don’t like to ask for help; I like to believe I can do whatever I have to on my own. Lately, though, I have had to lower that wall of self-reliance (or stubbornness, if you life) and ask for help in a number of ways. I’ve had to ask people to watch my kids for a few hours just so I could have some downtime or run errands kid-free. My friends and family have also been there for me when I wanted to talk to them about how I was feeling and were silently supportive when I needed to pull back.
Invested in Myself: I decided to do all the things that I thought would help the healing process. I started exercising again. I got my hair done every 6 weeks. I saw movies that I wanted to see (even if I went alone). I started reading the Harry Potter series — I’m only 15 years behind everyone else, but better late than never. I took a break from the dating scene. I planned trips without the kids. I ate sushi. I pushed myself in my professional endeavors. And then I wrote about all of it.
Allowed Myself to Grieve: I could have easily fallen into the trap of scheduling myself every hour of every day until the end of the year. There are undoubtedly numerous projects at work and home that need my attention. But I’ve decided to let moments of quiet creep in. I’ve given myself permission to shed some tears and ask rhetorical questions and even indulge in some anger at the unfairness of the circumstances that my babies and I find ourselves in. I try to limit my time dwelling on the issue, but I figure if I don’t deal with it now, then I’ll be hitting a wall again in another two years. And I’m tired of hitting walls. It hurts.
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