I have never written an follow-up to a previous post.
I made a conscious decision when I started this blog that it would not be a diary or a serial of related episodes, but rather one stand-alone post after another. There have been many times when I have sat in front of my laptop and wanted to pour post after post out about my daily travails or thoughts or happenings, but I have actively resisted it. I fail to find my life fascinating enough to presume that anyone would actually want to read the mundane details of it, day-in and day-out. And so, my posts jump around from topic to topic and situation to situation. Some readers might find this frustrating, as they try to track the storyline of my life, but others seem to enjoy the discrete, digestible bites of musings that I serve up — just enough to provoke a little thought, not so much that it feels voyeuristic.
But my last post — which I had intended as nothing more than a joyful little ditty commenting on the passing of another of life’s chapters — has finally prompted me to write my first-ever follow-up post.
Because, wow, did I get some great offline feedback….
First — because I obviously didn’t say it clearly enough in my original post — let me state plainly: Recovering from divorce is not a competitive sport. Everyone does it in her own way and in her own time. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking two steps forward and one step back or three steps forward and two steps back. The point is that you’re moving forward. Period. Whether you get “there” before me or after me is immaterial (at least to me) because we’re all pretty much just doing the best we can. Every day.
Second, I’m definitely not any kind of expert on getting over divorce, and nor am I “healed” and it’s all over and done with. I am simply in a much, much, much better place than I was two years ago. My “new, new normal” is not the crossing of a finish line, but merely the segueway into a yet another, different chapter. Six months after my separation I realized that my girls and I (and my ex-husband, by extension) had finally settled into a new routine. Life developed a new rhythm as our broken family worked through the details of living and functioning in two separate households. Even at that time, I recognized that we’d pulled out of the confusion and chaos of the initial separation and moved onto the next chapter of a post-divorce life — a “new normal.” I was aware that I’d finally broken away from Separation Hell. The same is true now: By hitting my “new, new normal,” I haven’ t reached some magical Happily Ever After; I’ve simply pulled out of Post-Divorce Purgatory.
Third, my “new, new normal” is not necessarily going to be your “new, new normal.” I say this because I believe that, while our post-divorce stories are often alike in many regards, our dreams for our lives after divorce are often very, very different. My friend Annie asked me last night if I could imagine a happy new normal that didn’t include a romantic relationship. My response was that such a happy place would indeed be possible, and if I didn’t have James in my life right now I’d probably still be feeling optimistic and hopeful, but I wouldn’t have this sense of having crossed into another chapter of this journey. I wouldn’t feel happy and settled and content, and it’s those feelings that make it feel normal and right. Without James, there would still be a blank in my life. I would still feel like something was missing from the picture because, for me, part of that post-divorce dream of happiness does include a good, healthy, rich relationship with a guy who curls my toes and makes me laugh. It simply does. If a nice home, a fine parenting partner, a fulfilling career, and a couple of great kids was the sum of my dream, I would have been happily married. If my heart didn’t yearn for an intimate connection with a man on a truly soulful level, I would have been happily married. But that’s not me. It took me more than a dozen years to realize and accept that, but now that I have, I won’t apologize for it or try to deny it. Instead, I’m doing everything I can to make my life what I want and need it to be. For me, being truly happy includes being happy in a romantic relationship. That has been my goal, but it might not be yours. And that’s okay, too.
I’m not sure when it became unfashionable to admit that most of us are romantic creatures. When did we decide that personal emotional strength was best demonstrated by being alone? Perhaps it’s our fear of being needy? But neediness is about settling. It’s about having someone — anyone! — rather than being alone, and that is entirely different from acknowledging the importance of a romantic connection in your life and doing the things necessary to create a life that supports and nurtures that connection. I think that plenty of women create a whole lot of stress for themselves by feeling that they should be happy alone, and the fact that they want a heart and soul connection with a man somehow makes them weak. Here’s a newsflash: it doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. Stop feeling bad about it. I’m not saying that temporary solitude can’t be useful and productive; those periods have been enormously so for me. But long-term? I’m not convinced that for most people that’s a happy place.
But there are always exceptions. I do not doubt that there are some people who, post-divorce, seek nothing more than peace and solitude and the opportunity to focus on their children or work or friends or hobbies. I suspect that if the marriage was particularly grueling due to addiction or abuse or chronic infidelity or some such problem, the relief of simply making a life on your terms with your own company could be exactly and all that you need. And that’s okay with me, too.
The fact that our dreams may be different was illustrated for me yesterday by a high-school acquaintance with whom I occasionally correspond. He dropped me an email to check-in and we got to discussing (again!) the challenges of rebuilding a life after divorce. I mentioned that I really don’t see another marriage in my future; it’s simply not part of my dream at this point. He told me that he couldn’t imagine life without being married, that, for him, getting married again was always a pivotal part of his post-divorce life goals. He did remarry a few years ago, just a couple of years after his divorce. He is more content than I have ever known him and seems to be very in love with his wife and his life, and so I am very happy for him. It’s wonderful and affirming to see people move through places of such pain and despair and into openness and hopefulness and love again. I don’t feel that our separate dreams, however disparate, diminish the other’s in any way. They are simply different.
My rambling point is, I suppose, a simple one: decide what your personal dream for your life is and pursue it. Make it your next new normal. Don’t assume that anybody else’s is or should be yours. Fill in the blanks of your life with things you’ve always wanted to have or do. Take the time to figure out what’s important to you and what you need to do to invite that into your life. One of the few silver linings of being single at middle age is that you get a do-over — you’re not bound to the conventional ideas of what a relationship or a family or a woman has to be. You get to create it yourself, and it doesn’t matter if it suits anyone around you.
Okay, enough of my proselytizing. Time for me to go take my own advice. Life is waiting….