Category Archives: lessons learned

Settling In

It didn’t really hit me that I was on my own again and starting over until I moved from a 4 bd, 2 ba home into a 2 bd, 1 ba apartment. The dogs had to get used to being in a smaller place. I had to somehow cram all my junk into a much smaller space. But once I sorted through my stuff, got rid of what I didn’t want (mostly stuff I had with ex), and got used to the idea of being in a smaller space, I was fine.

I enjoyed being on my own – having the things I wanted to have (like dishes and furniture), being able to stay up late, have dinner with friends, and entertain people in my humble abode. Yes, my apartment was small compared to the homes I had lived in, but it was my apartment. It was a new beginning for me.

The first time I really felt settled in was when the dogs and I sat in my big “napping chair” (an estate sale bargain!) and just listened to the peace and quiet. When I first moved into the apartment, I had the furniture from my home with ex – it had become ratty due to dogs chewing on it. I got rid of that and finally got something I wanted. Granted, it was smaller and not brand new, but it was something that did not remind me of ex. My loveseat, napping chair and two (not matching) wingback chairs were estate sale finds. They were cheap enough that I could decorate my home the way I wanted to and not go into debt to do so. Somehow, all the pieces complemented one another.

Once I got beyond the anger and bitterness and began to heal, I began to settle in to my new life. It was scary at times and I would get irritated that I did not have enough money for what I wanted –  travel, new clothes, etc. – but I learned to be content with what I had. I was happy to finally be getting on with my life.

I have lived with Cycle Dude now for almost a year. When I moved in with him last March, I had to get rid of a lot more stuff. I still have the napping chair and the loveseat – they are now his living room furniture – and I also have my bedroom suite (it was my mom and dad’s and is over 50 years old). Cycle Dude has allowed me to settle into his home and make parts of it my own (like my bedroom). We are settled in together now.

Life does move on after a divorce – it has to. One cannot stay in that place of anger, bitterness, depression and sadness for very long. Once the dust has settled, one needs to take a deep breath, assess one’s assets and surroundings and move forward. You will eventually come to a place that feels better and you will discover the new normal for your life. You will come to that place of being comfortable and settled in. Life will once again make sense. Just don’t expect your life to be as it was. Expect it to be better! Stay tuned. . . .

 

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Things That Matter

Last January, I bought a new car – a Nissan Versa in gun-metal gray that I named Jet. Jet does not have many bells or whistles – he does not have power windows or locks, heated seats or back seats that fold down or  lot of other things. That’s fine with me. He has what matters – the ability to get me dependably from point A to point B. He does that quite well and doesn’t use a whole lot of gas in the process. In fact, I discovered this morning that he also does quite well on snow and ice.

For me, getting divorced took me from a house full of stuff to an apartment full of half that stuff. The longer I lived in the apartment, the more stuff I got rid of. When I moved in with Cycle Dude, I got rid of tons more stuff. Truth be told, I could probably get rid of even more stuff.

Stuff wasn’t the only thing I got rid of. Friends who knew ex and I together seemed to evaporate. I also got rid of a great deal of anxiety, suspicion, and (eventually) anger. I felt like my life was like an onion, peeling away layer after layer. I finally got down to the things that matter.

I don’t have the latest, greatest and most updatest of everything – I don’t need it. Jet doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I don’t have a walk-in closet full of clothes or shoes – I don’t need it. I don’t have a house full of knick-knacks – I don’t need it.

What do I need and what are the things that matter in my life? My faith, my children, my grandbaby, my sweetheart (Cycle Dude), my pups, my family, a roof over my head, food in the fridge and a job that meets my financial needs. My perspective has changed a great deal over the past seven years. My needs are met with simplicity and my wants are few. I find happiness in relationships, not things. I get to come home each day to three of my favorite people – Cycle Dude, Jack and Shirley. And for that, I am grateful! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Ghosts of the Past

I recently watched a movie entitled, “The Awakening’. Released in 2011, it is a period piece (1921) set in England and billed as a horror movie. I found it be the furthest thing from horror. Movie summary: ‘In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves.’ What Florence eventually sees are the ghosts of her past.

 It is my experience that many women, and men as well, tend to dwell on the past when they experience a divorce. I did that, too. It is easy to second guess ourselves and the decisions we made surrounding the divorce. It is easy to give in to the ‘horror’ of the past, to spend our time chasing the ghosts of choice, ignorance, and fear. In the middle of the night, we may be visited upon by the dark specter of regret who leaves us wailing in the terror of disappointment and disgust. We may tremble as we explore the dark recesses of our own motives and shriek when we discover our own hard hearts.

 We cannot dwell in that creaking house of horrors of our past and expect to heal and move forward after a divorce or other traumatic incident in our lives. We must face that which we fear the most – loneliness, guilt, bitterness, victimization – and resolve to break the chains of our fears. There is no monster in the closet or under the bed. There is no evil lurking in the shadows. The monster and the evil is our own fears, our own unwillingness to resolve the past and move forward.

 A counselor I once saw had this statement written on the whiteboard in her office; “The past is the present until it’s resolved.” We will always be haunted by the ghosts of the past unless we determine to resolve that past. It may be painful, terrifying, and heart-stopping – but the past must be resolved in order to move forward.

 At the end of the movie, Florence seems lighter and happier. She has resolved her fears and conquered her ghosts. She is free to move forward and live her life unafraid. It can be difficult to conquer those ghosts of the past. But once we are free of them, we are free indeed. Stay tuned. . . .

 

 

 

I’m Still Standing

My oldest sister just celebrated 37 years of wedded bliss. When I called to wish her a Happy Anniversary, part of me was jealous. When I married, I thought I’d be married for a long time. I could never have anticipated the issues that led to my divorce. As far as I know, only one other of my five siblings has experienced the same issues I did in my marriage. Instead of allowing those issues to destroy his marriage and family, he sought help. Now, he helps other men who are dealing with the same issues.

When I heard my brother’s story, I was so grateful to God for working in his life. I was grateful that my brother recognized the value of his marriage and family before it was too late. I was grateful that even though he could have succumbed to a horrible issue and destroy his family, he did not. He ‘hung on by a thread’ and trusted God to rescue him.

My story is different and did not turn out as well as my brother’s. However, what ex meant for harm and destruction, God turned into blessing. I want ex to know that in spite of his actions, in spite of his refusal to abide by court mandated restitution, in spite of his wife’s scathing words to me, I am still standing! I don’t need him to validate my life and my relationships with my children. He no longer has any kind of power in my life.

In the 1990 epic, “Dances with Wolves”, there is a scene where Lt. Dunbar (Kevin Coster) meets Stands with a Fist, a white woman who was adopted as a child into the native tribe. Lt. Dunbar asks her, “Why is that your name?” She replies that when the natives killed her family, she defiantly stood her ground with her fist in the air – a symbol of ferocity and survival.

I stand with my fist in the air, showing ex my defiance, ferocity and survival. I am still standing and I want other women to know it is possible to do the same after a divorce. Don’t allow ex to have power in your life. You may be barely able to stand, but you are standing. That’s the best thing that can happen – to be able to stand in victory after enduring a particularly difficult incident in one’s life. Though I am not able to celebrate ongoing years of marriage, I am able to celebrate survival – and that’s the best thing to celebrate! Stay tuned. . .

Blessed

Christmas is only a few days away. I am keenly aware that this time of year can be incredibly stressful on its own without adding the additional stress of going through a divorce. I also know that the holidays can be a painful part of the year, too – especially if one has experienced a loss during the year. I remember the first holiday season after my dad died – we felt empty, like something was missing. The holidays are still a rough time for my mom because she misses my dad so much.

I divorced right before Christmas seven years ago. As a result, I didn’t have much money, but I did have a great deal of anger. I was angry that my finances were shot. I was angry that my children did not have good holiday memories like I did. I was angry that ex had more money and was able to give my children more for Christmas than I was. That first Christmas after my divorce was not a very good one.

I was so angry for so long that I lost sight of one thing – how blessed I was. I had a roof over my head, a job, food in my cupboards, a car that ran and people who loved me. God had provided the things I needed. There is a big difference between needs and wants. Our needs are those basics we need for survival, food, shelter and clothing. The wants are everything else – a car, a cell phone, new shoes. Even with as little as I had, I was still richer than many people in other parts of the world.

I am blessed. I do not have the latest and greatest of everything – I don’t need it. I don’t have a car with all the bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I content with what I have, where I am, and with whom I am sharing my life. I have man who loves me. I have a new grand baby. I have six amazing children. My mom is in good health. My siblings are all doing well. I have a good job and a good boss. I have two hilarious pups who think I am everything. I have wonderful friends. What else is there?

The floor beneath my Christmas tree is not stacked high with gifts. I didn’t go into debt to buy gifts this year. My bills are paid. I am content. I am blessed. I thank God for keeping me in His care. As this year comes to a close, I do not wish for next year to bring financial prosperity or more stuff, I wish for more opportunities to serve – my coworkers, my family, Cycle Dude, my church and my community. I am blessed and I wish to bless others.

Keep a quiet heart this holiday season as you meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by expectations, relationships and unfulfilled promises. Know that you are loved. Stay tuned. . . .

What is There to Celebrate?

The first holiday season after a loss can be especially difficult – whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my dad died. My mom and I were celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister in another state. After Thanksgiving Mass, we all three just stood there and cried because we missed my dad so much.

It’s so easy to fall into a funk during the holidays – sadness, anger, depression, and bitterness. Cycle Dude said his deceased wife is the one who made the holidays joyful for him and his children. There just doesn’t seem to be any spark in his holidays. I am determined to change that this year (since I am living in his house, too).

I decorated his house for fall because it’s my favorite time of the year and I always decorated my home for fall. I have tons of Christmas decorations that I will set out as well. I have discovered that there is something to celebrate after my divorce – peace, stability and joy. Those things were dreadfully lacking in my marriage. I celebrate a life of gratitude – for Cycle Dude, my children and soon-to-arrive granddaughter, my pups, my friends, etc.

My life is not perfect – whose is? Yet, there is so much in my life to celebrate. There is so much to be grateful for. If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, it doesn’t have to be depressing. Take time for yourself – what do you like to do? Go out for ice skating and hot chocolate with a friend. Volunteer at your local homeless mission. Bake cookies with your adult children, or for your neighbors or the children at church.

But most of all, have a grateful heart. There is always something to be thankful for. What is there to celebrate? Life! Take the time this holiday season to enjoy life. Stay tuned. . . .

Holiday Grace

The holidays were always a crazy, chaotic time for me growing up. I am one of six children, so we always had a crowd at the dinner table. I remember going to visit my grandparents in Chicago. My mom’s parents and my dad’s parents didn’t live that far away from one another, so we had to visit both sets of grandparents.

My mom’s parents had this wonderful, magic expanding kitchen table. It was a little round thing that somehow expanded to ten times its size in order to accommodate all the relatives that were there for the holiday. My grandma, mom and aunt would be in the kitchen the day before the holiday and all day the day of the holiday, baking, cooking, tasting, basting, etc. Grandma’s house smelled sooo good! I have wonderful memories of the holidays from when I was a child (except the Christmas when I learned there was no Santa – but that’s another topic for another time).

I often tried to duplicate the same holiday traditions, smells, etc. so my children could experience the wonderful holidays I experienced. Sometimes that didn’t quite work out like I wanted it to. Ex would throw tantrums and stomp off into the bedroom. I was glad for some holiday peace and quiet after I divorced.

If this is your first holiday after a separation or divorce, take it easy on yourself. This year, my local adult children and I are combining Thanksgiving and Christmas into one holiday gathering in early December. This is the first time we’ve done this and we may be creating a new tradition. Since the divorce, my holidays have been different. For one thing, they have been more peaceful! I am not caught in the throes of burdensome holiday traditions and schedules, I am not at the mercy of someone else’s family, and I am not having to make excuses for anyone’s behavior.

My first post-divorce holiday season was a mere eight days after my divorce. I had not lived with ex for a year, so the holiday without him wasn’t much of a shock. However, I learned a few things: make time for yourself; it’s okay to decline holiday parties you don’t want to go to; if an activity is a stressor, either do less of it or don’t do it at all (example, curb your holiday baking by a good 90%); relax your holiday expectations. Give yourself grace this holiday season. Jesus wasn’t born in the midst of all the holiday hubbub. He was born on a quiet night, in a barn with the animals as His only attendants. Be at peace this holiday season. Stay tuned . . . .