Category Archives: lessons learned

Wordsmith

I enjoy writing this blog. My main purpose is to encourage other women who are in my same age and stage of life, to let them know there is life after divorce, to let them know that even if ex is a _________ (fill in the blank), they don’t need to sink to his level, but can hold their heads high and continue on with life.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you’ll notice a couple of things about my style of writing: 1) I usually start with a story from my own life, 2) I try to apply the principle of that story to something about divorce or being divorced, 3) I like lists and 4) I try to leave my reader with encouragement and the invitation to ‘Stay tuned . . . .”.

I enjoy writing. Sometimes it’s a challenge. I try to craft what I write, like a painter or a sculptor or a composer. There are times when the words and ideas flow. There are other times when nary a word comes to mind! How many blog posts have I started, only to reread them, deem them rubbish and delete them? I reread my posts after writing because I find that I often include too much detail or too little. I want to capture my readers’ attention and keep it, not have them give me a thumbs down for a particular post!

I’ve often heard, “Write what you know”. I know children, divorce, learning to love again, loss, siblings, and a host of other subjects. I tell people that what I don’t know, I make up. (Kidding!!)

I hope you enjoy what I write, dear reader. I hope I am an encouragement to you as you work your way through your divorce. I hope I am a kindred spirit, a sister on the same road as you – walking through life as a divorced person. Seven years on this side of a divorce, I can tell you that the first four years were pretty rough. Ex has remarried and lives in a different state and that has helped a great deal – to know I won’t be running into him and his latest love at the Farmer’s Marking downtown on Saturday morning (I did that for a couple of years).

I have found a man I dearly love and who loves me. My first grandchild is on her way. I have a job I enjoy.  Seven years this side of a divorce, my life is better. My hope is to continue to encourage you, to know that your life will get better, too. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

 

The Tempest

In Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest” caused a shipwreck that killed the main character’s enemies. One may feel that a divorce is like the tempest. Divorce is painful because it is the rending of two souls intimately joined by promise or covenant – that’s what the rings represent. Divorce can feel like a shipwreck, and all you are left with are splintered boards, broken glass and an oil slick on the water.

I have never endured a hurricane or a storm on the open sea. However, I have endured frightening thunderstorms in the Midwest and dust storms in Arizona. The tempest can take many forms – from thunderstorms whipping the atmosphere into a circular frenzy to mighty winds carrying dust into every nook and cranny and powerful storms over the ocean pushing the sea several miles inland. The tempest can also be the emotional storm that accompanies the ripping apart of a divorce.

I thought about this post this morning. I try to encourage others to walk through their divorce with courage, knowing there is light when you come out of the darkness. I know going through a divorce is not all butterflies and unicorns. I know it can be one of the darkest, ugliest and most frightening places you can be. I think only abuse and death are worse than divorce – at least for me.

Shakespeare’s character conjured up the storm for nefarious purposes. I know of One who calms the storm – for His glory. I can honestly say that if it had not been for my faith and the faith of two close friends, I would not have made it through the tempest. I also humbly admit that I did not ride out the storm as a saint. I rode out the storm screaming and shouting all the way – not out of fear, but out of anger and vengeance. I am not the ideal person to emulate during a divorce. However, I can proudly say that I am still standing, I have withstood the tempest because of the love of Christ.

The storm may be buffeting you all around. You may feel as if you do not have the strength to stand. Pray the prayer, “Help!” You will feel the hand of God calm the tempest and steady you. Have faith. Stay tuned. . . .

Life is Not Pinterest Perfect

Every now and then, I run across articles on the internet about ‘Pinterest fails’. You know the kind. Pinterest makes everything look so nice and easy, all wrapped up in the perfect little bow. However, life is far from Pinterest perfect, as the Pinterest fail photos will attest to. Some folks, try as they might to follow directions and attempt that perfect little clown’s head cupcake, just aren’t fated to be Pinterest success stories.

And that’s okay. Life is not Pinterest Perfect. What you don’t see on Pinterest is the many times Suzy tried that certain thing and failed, until the planets aligned just right and the 103rd time was the charm for that little clown head cupcake. How many times do we hear of success, but not the failure that led to that success?

We ought not be fooled that every success is achieved on the very first try. I would have liked to have met Thomas Edison. His attempt at the incandescent light bulb failed nearly 1,000 times. When asked about his ‘failures’, he stated that they were not failures, but ideas that didn’t work. He had the right attitude. He kept going until he got it right. I’m sure there were times when Thomas Edison was frustrated, but he didn’t let that frustration define him, or thwart his efforts. He had a vision and he kept the goal in sight.

As women who have been divorced mid-life, we may hear of other women’s successes – in marriage, in business, in romance, in life. We may look at their lives as ‘Pinterest perfect’. But they aren’t. No one’s life is perfect. You are on the path you are on for a reason. When I was going through a divorce, I heard of women who had amicable divorces, whose husbands paid alimony on time and who were “still friends” with their ex. I thought, “No way! That’s impossible!!” But did I know all the details? Did I know what their marriage had been like? No. Like Shakespeare said, “Appearances can be deceiving.”

Go ahead and set goals, and put your energy toward achieving them. Don’t put your energy toward the Pinterest Perfect Life – it’s a myth. BTW? The ‘Pinterest Fails’ serve one purpose – to show us that no one is perfect! Stay tuned. . . .

 

To Thine Own Self Be True

Back in October of 1966, Gilligan’s Island had an episode entitled, “The Producer”. Harold Hecuba, a Hollywood producer, crash lands on the island while on a trip to find new talent. The castaways stage a musical production of Hamlet in order to showcase Ginger’s talent to Mr. Hecuba. At the end of the play, the entire cast sings a chorus that ends with the words; “And there’s another thing you ought to do, to thine own self be true.” The Shakespeare character Polonius utters these words in the original play Hamlet. He means, “Do not deceive yourself.”

I spent the first few years of my adult life totally oblivious to myself. By that, I mean, I really didn’t know who I was, what I was capable of, what I thought about things and believed in and where I stood in the grand scheme of life. I think now, at the ripe old age of 50something, I understand myself.

When I was younger, I was easily influenced by others, even as a young wife and mother. I remember when Y2K rolled around. I eagerly jumped on the bandwagon of doomsday preparation because the group of women I hung around with told me to. I would not let my children read the Harry Potter books because the group of women I hung around with told me the books were evil. I did not hold ex accountable as leader our family because I was told to “just let him lead (in whatever way he deems appropriate)”. Wow. I’ve come a long way.

The one good thing about my divorce is that it forced me to get to know myself – apart from husband, children, influential friends, finances. I was stripped of everything I thought I needed to live a good life. The only constant in my life was my faith. I knew that I had to cling to Christ in order to “make it out alive”.

Now I am on the other side – of the divorce, of the second half of my life and of the process of getting to know who I am. I know what I believe in. I know what I am capable of. I know how I react to situations – physically, emotionally, financially. I will not allow myself to be influenced by others to think, do, and behave in ways I don’t believe in or that I question. I won’t blindly follow others like I did when I was younger. I guess it’s all part of growing up, maturing and understanding who I am – being true to myself. Stay tuned . . . .

I Was the Victim of Bullying

The year was 1972 and my parents had just moved our family back to Arizona from Ohio. My school-aged siblings and I were enrolled in a religious school – grades K-8. I remember that every morning, all the children in the school would file out of our classrooms, stand in two lines, face the flagpole and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Hail Mary. I was in 5th grade.

Fifth grade wasn’t too bad for me. The trouble started in 6th grade. Joey Polanski and his cohorts decided it was a good idea to relentlessly harass me. They would call me names, steal a basketball I had brought to school for recess, and in general, make life miserable for me. I told my parents, but was told, “Just tell them, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.'” Really??!! That was the solution? The teasing continued in 7th grade with Mike Hayes and his buddies joining in on ‘the fun’. Eighth grade was a blur because my mom had my little sister halfway through the school year.

I homeschooled my children for seven years. When they finally went to public school, I told them that if they were ever bullied, to let me know and I would be down at the school office in a heartbeat. I wanted to let my children know I would defend them because my parents never defended me.

My parents knew about the bullying, my teachers knew about the bullying, the school principal knew about the bullying, and yet, nothing was ever done. I was deemed “too sensitive” and it was thought that I should grow a backbone, or a pair of balls, or learn character from the relentless bullying. Instead, it brought thoughts of suicide, running away and abandonment. I guess in a way, the years of shame at the hands of those boys did make me a little stronger. In those days, nearly 45 years ago, bullying was seen as something that built character in the bullied. I disagree. It builds fear, anxiety and low self esteem.

Nothing was done to Joey and his Band of Brothers because he was from one of the most prominent families in the church community. At that time, I was sacrificed on the altar of  “Don’t make waves”. To this day, nothing makes me more angry than to hear about bullying, or to hear my mom talk about the friendship she has with Joey’s mom (I believe his dad has since passed on). Yes, I guess I need to “get over it” and yes, that experience did shape who I am today. However, I will never just stand by and let someone be bullied. Stay tuned. . . .

Don’t Despair

My choice of radio program for news and current events is NPR. Recently, they did a piece on life expectancy and how that has changed in the US over the past 20 years. The research quoted in the piece concurs that the life expectancy for whites is decreasing, especially among poorer whites. That information can be discouraging. While reading that piece, I also read a companion piece entitled, “Explaining the Forces Driving the Middle Aged White People’s ‘Deaths of Despair’. The information and research presented is quite sobering.

Granted, the study dealt with white people, but other races may also feel the same way – that a lack of steady, well-paying jobs for those people without college degrees can cause distress and depression in their lives. I can see how this – the lack of meaningful employment – could cause such despair. I saw that in my ex when he lost job after job after job – and he had a college degree!

What is one to do in a situation like this? You’re middle-aged, don’t have a college degree, but need to be able to support yourself. Many divorced or divorcing women find themselves in this situation. Along with the divorce comes lack of self-confidence and depression. May I suggest the following?

1. Consider community resources: Look into the community resources where you live. Changes are there are low-cost or free (re)training classes in several skills – clerical, retail, etc. Take advantage of what is available to you in your community. Your local YWCA may also have resources available for women returning to the work force.

2. Consider a temporary job: Placement services are always looking for temporary workers to fill in where needed. Your local university and civil service (city and county government) also have temporary job pools available. Temporary opportunities are a way to get your foot in the door for a permanent job.

3. Consider online or evening classes: Many community colleges have evening classes that cater to the working adult. Speak to the financial aid department and find out what kind of aid is available to you in order to assist you going back to school to hone current skills or learn new skills.

4. Consider a support group: We were not meant to walk through life alone. Find a support group of either divorced women or women (re) entering the workforce. By being a group of similar-experienced people, you will find out that you are not alone in your pursuits.

Start out slowly, setting and accomplishing small goals. One example is to improve your keyboarding skills or note-taking skills. Celebrate the small victories you have. Those small victories will go a long way in building self-confidence. Don’t despair. There is hope, there are resources, and there is a way to be able to stand confident again. Stay tuned . . . .

Missing x

When I started dating Cycle Dude, I soon realized our backgrounds were very different. For example, my family always celebrated the holidays and made a big deal out of family gatherings. Cycle Dude doesn’t. His holiday celebrations are minimal. I know that if I want to really celebrate the holidays, I have to bring my experience into them – whatever holiday it is. It’s getting better, but I miss the familiarity of how I celebrated holidays with my family – both immediate and extended.

Getting and being divorced is venturing into the unfamiliar. Sometimes, we may feel like we wish we would have stayed with ex because at least we knew what to expect. Our lives may not have been perfect, but they were familiar. For me, I do not miss ex. What had become familiar to me was doing things on my own. A friend pointed out to me that for some time prior to my divorce, I had been making all the financial decisions, familial decisions, etc. anyway.

You may feel like you miss the familiarity of your ex even though your marriage was bad. Would you prefer to stay in that toxic relationship? Heavens, no! Neither did I! It was scary to venture forth on my own. I learned a great deal about myself in the days following my divorce. I learned I could make good decisions. I learned what a peaceful existence felt like. I learned that I didn’t have to walk around angry or suspicious all the time. I learned that I could live on my own.

I learned to use resources at my disposal – a counselor, a financial class, my friends and my church, my bank. I developed a new routine in my life and embraced a new normal. Seven years later, I see that I have changed for the better. I do not miss the chaos and darkness my life had become in my marriage. Now I know order and peace. Give yourself grace as you develop confidence and find your new normal. Stay tuned . . . .