Accept that it’s a new life. It’s different than what you had before. It’s different from what you thought it would be. It’s up to you to make it a better one. First and foremost, learn to embrace this time alone. Do things that you weren’t able to do before.
In thinking about how much my life has changed since my divorce, I decided to list all the things I’d done in these last 4 years. I was startled at all I had attempted or accomplished. Plus, I’ve had two jobs I never would have even thought to inter- view for. My ex would have made fun of them, being the over-achiever type he is.
Here are just a few examples from that list of things that I’ve done that helped me transition and appreciate my new life. Some silly, some serious:
Seafood – My wasband was allergic. Now I eat it often and relish every bite. (Smile.)
Housekeeping – Now I can leave out projects that I’m working on. Craft projects, sewing projects, art projects. Yep, it’s my place and I get to decide when to put things away and when to vacuum.
Learn new things – I’ve taken all kinds of classes, including Thai and Bengali cooking classes. (I now throw cardamom pods around the kitchen with panache!) I’ve taken enameling classes. I’ve learned Contra dancing and English Country dancing. I’ve changed my own windshield wipers!
Join – Those clubs you’ve always meant to join? Become an active member. You will be so appreciated and you will make new, fun, interesting friends!
Friends – One of the best things I did during the transition that’s been an ongoing blessing – Nearly every weekend, I call a girlfriend (or long lost relative) from my past, and reconnect with them. (Note: Laughing ‘til you cry is good.)
Exercise – I am one of those people who always avoided exercise, but during the transition and particularly during a crying jag, I learned that if I started exercising vigorously I’d have to stop crying. Hard to cry when you’re gasping for breath stepping up and down on one of those stair climber thingies. Just walking will help. Walking in the sunshine is even better.
If you haven’t found an exercise you like, now is the time to experiment. (No one around to make fun of you when you’re practicing tap dancing steps!) Try all kinds of classes. I did, and I found ZUMBA! I’ve even agreed to lead a group of folks through a version of it at Kansas Dialogue this summer. Me? Lead an exercise class? The universe is tilting. Maybe the Mayans are right.
Gratitude Journal – (I’ve even had burly men in a divorce support group thank me for this one. They obviously hadn’t watched enough Oprah.) Every day write down 5 things you’re grateful for. Having one of those absolutely horrible days? On those I try to write 100 things, and I’ve done it! (Nutella always makes the mega list, and often the short one.)
Explore new authors – Home alone and can’t stand another minute of television? Try out a new author. One of my rekindled friends loaned me the first Kris Radish novel, “The Elegant Gathering of White Snows” and I was hooked. Her books celebrate the power and strength of the friendship of women.
Fix things – When you have to call to have something fixed, watch them. Ask questions. Next time, you’ll know how and when to oil the pump on the base- board radiator heating system. And you will feel proud to be able to do it your- self! Really!
Here’s a surprising thing that happened last spring. I was getting dressed to head to Zumba class one morning and caught the middle of an interesting commentary on the local public radio station. It wasn’t until the end, when the announcer gave the name of the commentator, that I shockingly realized I’d been listening to my ex, the man I had been married to for 33 years. At Zumba, I declared it, “The day I no longer recognized his voice.” Sounds like the title of a good book. Maybe I should send it to Kris Radish.
Susan Schuette Buchanan began college in Environmental Studies, but the pull to create proved undeniable. She ended up with a BA in art and no portfolio. Two years later, after completing a vocational degree in commercial art, she landed her first magazine job. Poof! It’s thirty years later…with several magazines and one lifetime behind her, she’s creating whatever she feels like. These days it’s primarily polymer clay mixed media, but the growing pile of junk collected from the Habitat Restore suggests there are shrine assemblages on the way. All she needs is welding lessons. O.K. That’s not all she needs, but welding lessons would be a good start!
Susan is a former President of the Board of Directors of the Lawrence Art Guild of Lawrence, Kansas.