(Picture c/o Death to the Stock Photo)
My marriage fell apart toward the end of 2015. 2016 was spent picking up the pieces of my life and putting myself back together. Like many people in my generation, the first thing I googled in the first months of the marriage-ending chaos was “surviving divorce.” I couldn’t find anything helpful. Then I googled “Surviving divorce at 30,” and again found nothing helpful. Very encouraging.
Instead, I spent over $100 on an assortment of self-help books (some divorce-themed and some life-themed) and I’m still not honestly sure I learned anything from them. I hope this post may help anyone who feels stuck in those first desperate months that seem to crawl by.
Please note: Luckily, we didn’t have any children (non-furry) so this divorce was less complicated and I don’t have to note anything child-related and I was able to focus on myself entirely.
Things That Helped
- I stopped comparing myself to others. This is key. For me, I was the first of the worst which was not a great feeling and made me feel like a giant failure. It was really tough on so many levels to be going through a divorce and also see my friends hit so many major milestones. I had to accept that this year was going to be a year of personal growth and self-improvement and I learned to be at peace with my perceived lack of forward momentum. Once I had accepted that, it was much easier to be genuinely happy for my friends and family celebrating their milestones.
- I went to therapy. I’ve never been big on the therapy but I put out my feelers for a therapist the moment I knew things were irreversible. When you deal with a difficult situation, it’s nice to have a neutral party to help you talk through your decision-making. Friends and family are often incapable of providing unbiased input and I really credit my therapy sessions for getting me through those first few terrible months.
- I kept working and I did not miss a day. Through it all, I managed to get to work on time and meet all of my critical deadlines. To be clear, I had notified my boss that I’d be going to therapy once a week (an extra long lunch) to cover my ass and he also knew basics about my situation. I consider myself lucky to have a boss who I felt comfortable discussing this with but I also wanted him to know in case I slipped.
- I stopped caring about what others think. Amen – am I right? It only took 31 years to stop caring about what others think of me and I only wish I could have learned this earlier. The stigma of being divorced? It sucks but I quickly realized that I have to own it and use it as an opportunity to figure out how to come back from this better than ever. Under this category I’ll also include that I stopped worrying about pleasing people who were and are, frankly, shit friends. I just don’t have time for this anymore and I was able to critically re-evaluate some long-term friendships that weren’t working out for me. This is the year that I’ve learned that just because we’ve known each other for a substantial period of time, I can embrace the memories we’ve made while still making room for less toxic friendships.
- I focused on figuring out what makes me happy. Many of the things in my life I was doing to make others happy and I realized that I needed to start from scratch to figure out what I like. Do I even like this restaurant or was I going there to make my significant other happy? What are MY favorite foods? Do I ever want to spend time making someone’s lunches ever again in my life? You get the idea. I spend more time now reflecting on whether I actually enjoy something before I agree whether to do it again and that’s been a major positive change for me.
- I cut myself a break. Since college I had worked out 5-6 days a week, sometimes striving for seven. That may seem like overkill now but for the better part of 2016, waking up at 5:30 AM for my 6:00 AM class was not a priority. Instead I prioritized long walks with my dog and picking up a coffee. For the first time, I was listening to my body. Sure, I probably gained about five pounds this year and ditched some of the jeans that may never fit again but I accepted that this may be the new normal. Slowly, after trying new classes, I’ve incorporated a few early morning classes into my routine while still emphasizing long walks with my pup. Also, I ate plenty of candy and cake. Whoops.
- I leaned on my friends. It was critical for me to discuss the things I was going through with a few close friends. Honestly, sometimes I felt like a broken record and I was really self-conscious about the amount of time I spent talking about myself. I hope I can repay each of these friends some day by being a patient and generous listener.
Things That Didn’t Help
- I gave myself permission to have a fun spending year. Once I had my financial freedom back, I gave myself one year to buy things that I wanted and promised myself I’d start saving again after one year. I did manage to save some money this year so it wasn’t a total bust but I also bought a lot of stuff that didn’t make me any happier. Shopping at Whole Foods for groceries doesn’t make you any happier either… it only makes you poor.
- I stopped cooking and ordered mostly takeout. Prior to my divorce, I made dinner 6 nights a week generally and prepared most breakfasts and lunches. Part of my promise to myself was figuring out what I liked which meant figuring out which restaurants, foods, recipes etc. that I liked and wasn’t making just to please my former partner. For some reason this involved a ton of takeout. I bought lunch at work at least 3 days a week. Many nights I met friends for dinner so we could discuss the current status of my life. On the other nights, I’m pretty sure I ordered my favorite pasta carbonara from the restaurant across the street from my apartment approximately 60 times during the winter. People. This is a way to gain weight and it’s also a way to spend a lot more money. I can make a damn good carbonara and it is way cheaper when I make it (and likely better for my waist).
- I bought property. Since all my friends are getting married and having babies, I’m going to buy some property to fill the void! Just kidding, it was a much more practical decision than that but I’m still not sure it was smart to do this during such a stressful time in my life. It’s a lot of life lessons in one year. A divorce and then a broken AC unit that needs to be entirely replaced? Not fun. I must say, it was a nice distraction and I LOVE my home, so there’s that.
I have to be honest. I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2017. I usually have better even numbered years but 2016 was mostly a bust. Part of this fresh start is deleting previous content and starting fresh with this blog.
Any additional tips or comments on this topic? I’d love to hear. Thanks for reading!
This post is dedicated to Buffy, the biggest loss in 2016. We will always miss you, my good friend.