When the Dust Settles

The days leading up to a divorce and the days and months after a divorce can feel like a bomb has gone off in your life. There is dust and debris everywhere. You feel anxious, hurt, confused and unsettled. You’re not sure what your next steps are. You feel as if you’re the only one who has ever gone through this.

It wasn’t until I moved into an apartment with my dogs that I finally felt settled after my divorce – and that was four years later! I eventually got rid of a great deal of stuff that was mine and his together. I remember getting rid of the gargantuan sofa bed that we had gotten together. I swore I was not going to move with that two-ton thing again! Cycle Dude came over with his reciprocating saw and cut the thing apart. Tossing the last piece of that sofa bed into the dumpster was so freeing! I finally got household furnishings that I liked and that I picked out. My home was now my own.

I realized the dust had finally settled when I could sit alone in the quite of my own home, enjoy the peace, and not feel anxious. I enjoyed sitting in my napping chair with my dogs and not making a sound. Sometimes the quiet wraps around you like a warm blanket. I would talk quietly to my dogs as we snuggled in the napping chair.

My life is so much different now. I have been living with Cycle Dude since March. I enjoy spending each day with him, walking my dogs, and being at peace. Healing from a divorce, or other traumatic time in your life, is a process. I didn’t get here overnight, but steadily moved forward.

I have a wonderful friend whom I met through this blog. We spoke recently and I was excited that she is moving forward and beginning to see healing in her life. No matter what, we must move forward. The dust will settle, dear one, and then you will be able to clearly see the way ahead. Keep moving! Stay tuned. . . .

 

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Being Resourceful

Eighteen months after I got divorced, ex stopped paying court-ordered spousal support. He felt he was above the law and able to make that decision. I tried legal means to get him to pay the remainder of the money, but he just ignored my attorney and his attorney when they tried to contact him. I didn’t have the money to pursue him any further. He said it was his job to “make (me) stand on (my) own two feet”. We weren’t even married anymore! How could he think he still had power over my life?!

I guess I could be grateful for that time in my life because it taught me how to be resourceful. I had a lot of debt and not a lot of money. I had to get creative with meals, bill paying, Christmas and birthday gifts, etc.

1. Keep a change jar: My change jar was often my lifesaver, even it was just $5 in my gas tank. Change adds up quickly.

2. Grocery shop for items that will last a while: Frozen fruits and veggies instead of fresh, rice and pasta, tea bags to make your own iced tea, etc. I remember making a rice dish with whatever was in my refrigerator. I had that for lunch and dinner for one week. Yes, it got boring, but it filled my tummy. Eat oatmeal and eggs – not just for breakfast but for other meals as well. Both will fill you up.

3. Make gifts with what you have on hand: My siblings and I exchange Christmas ornaments every year. One year, My Christmas ornament was a laminated maple leaf from the tree beside my house. The leaves were a deep shade of crimson.

4. Be creative – use your talents: Another year for a Christmas ornament, I knitted Christmas trees and attached small buttons as ornaments. If you sew, use your material scraps to make “hodge-podge” ornaments. If you like to take pictures, frame your favorites and give them as gifts.

5. Turn down the heat, turn up the air conditioning: Turn the heat down a few degrees in winter (68) and turn the air up a few degrees in the summer (75). Invest in a fan and open your windows. Conserve water by running your dishwasher only when it’s full. Shower and do laundry at night when the energy demand is less.

6. Use public transportation (if possible): I would often park my car and take the bus from my apartment to work. Granted, I had to walk a mile and a half, but I didn’t have to worry about gas or wear and tear on my car.

7. Exercise self-control: There were so many times I had to tell myself ‘no’ – and I hated it! No to ice cream bars, no to new clothes and shoes, no to eating out. Once you learn how to have self-control, saying ‘no’ to yourself is not so bad.

I learned a great deal during those lean years – about me, about my ability to be resourceful and about others who love me. I knew I’d never go homeless or without food, but it was up to me to do whatever I could to take care of myself and be responsible for my financial obligations. I know now that I am a better person for enduring those lean years, even though they were so hard at the time.

If you are in the midst of some lean years, be encouraged, dear one. You will make it through this. Keep your chin up! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Organizing My Thoughts

It’s usually around this time of the year that I start to write my annual Christmas letter. I keep it to one page. I remember getting Christmas letters from distant cousins that were pages long of bragging. Ick! I dedicate a paragraph to each of my children, one to me and Cycle Dude and one to my dogs. Five paragraphs are plenty long enough for a Christmas letter! I stopped writing the paragraphs a couple of years ago about my children and let them write their own to include in my Christmas letter. Not only does that make their news more personal, but it helps me to organize my thoughts.

I remember the days immediately before, during and after my divorce. I was so scatter-brained, I was surprised I could think at all! I was still in school at the time, and was preparing to graduate five months later. I couldn’t afford to be scatter-brained! By the grace of God, I was able to hold it all together enough to graduate with a 3.3 GPA.

I employed several different tools during that time that helped me a great deal!

1. I used a paper calendar: I kept the calendar with me so I remember appointments, when papers were due, when I had exams, etc. I filled the calendar in every two weeks and let it do my thinking for me!

2. I made dozens of lists: From what I had to accomplish that day, to my grocery list, and my housecleaning list, etc. Even if the task was trivial, I put it on the list. I didn’t want to forget anything, especially since I was in school.

3. I’d prepare for tomorrow the night before: I’d make sure I had all the schoolbooks I needed, the papers that were due, my lunch, and anything else I needed for the day. I would also lay out my clothes the night before. If I took time the night before to prepare for the next day, then the next day wasn’t as crazy!

4. I’d take some time to seriously veg: Sometimes, you just need to have an afternoon of not doing much of anything. Those were the days I’d clear the cobwebs from my brain and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

5. I’d map out my route: The year I was divorced was my daughter’s first year of college – four hours away I another state. I attended all of her volleyball tournaments. I always made sure I knew in advance how to get to where her game was. Of course, my laptop and schoolbooks came along as well.

It’s easy to become scatter-brained when you’re going through a hard time. Take the time to make sure you have the tools to help you not be so scatter-brained. And above all, give yourself grace. Stay tuned. . . .

Not Alone

I was sexually assaulted. I remember that day so clearly. My family was visiting relatives in Chicago and we had gone to the Museum of Science and Energy. I think I was about 8 years old. There was one display that I was particularly interested in, but did not get to see when my family was around because there were so many people. After my family started to wander off, I stuck around to look at the display. I was surrounded by a group of older children. I thought nothing of it until someone slipped their hand up under my skirt and started to fondle my private area. I was shocked! I didn’t know who the person was, I didn’t look up and I didn’t look back. I broke away from the group and ran to find my parents.

I didn’t tell my parents about the incident because I thought they would make it my fault. I carried that memory with me for a long time before I told anyone. I thought it was my fault – if I had gone with my parents instead of staying back, it wouldn’t have happened. Forty years later, during a counseling session, I mentioned the incident in passing. My counselor said, “What? Go back to what you just said.” I did and we talked about it. It was good to finally get it out in the open.

I told my ex and my children about it once it came out in counseling. I didn’t tell my mom until several years later. I was angry with her and my dad for not protecting me. After I told my mom, she told me that she, too, had been sexually assaulted by a family friend as a young teen. We cried together.

I am glad that the sexual assault that has been so hidden but pervasive in Hollywood is finally coming out. I glad that more and more groups are tackling sex trafficking and bringing that horrendous practice out into the open. Women and girls, even men and boys, need to know they are not alone as victims of sexual assault.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please call your local law enforcement agency. A victim of sexual assault feels shame and guilt. They need to know that whatever happened was not their fault, no matter what anyone says. Please seek help and support to get beyond this horrendous experience. Please commit to walk with your friend as she heals and recovers from this trauma. God Bless you.

Going Through Hell? Keep Moving!

I just read about a gentleman who received the Medal of Honor today from President Trump. Army Captain (Ret.), Gary “Mike” Rose was a medic on a covert operation during the Vietnam War. Even though he himself was injured, he kept tending to his wounded comrades. Reporter Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox News, writes: “In spite of his own injuries, he didn’t sleep for days to make sure all 16 American soldiers deployed with him made it home. They did.” Captain Rose was going through hell, pinned down by enemy gunfire, but he kept on going.

When I was in the midst of the divorce, my sister reminded me of what Winston Churchill once said: “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” When you go through a rough time in your life, keep moving forward, because eventually, there is a way out. Don’t turn around and go back, even though what’s behind you may be familiar. Don’t dwell in or on your past. Move forward – put your head down, grit your teeth and move!

I know it’s hard to move forward. At times, you may feel paralyzed, abandoned, unable to think through the ‘brain fog’ or numbness that has set in. Just put one foot in front of the other, even if all you can manage today is one step forward. Did you get out of bed today? Good! Did you have breakfast or fix breakfast for your children? Even better! Did you change out of your pajamas (don’t worry about taking a shower!)? Many kudos! Life will get better.

Things will never be ‘normal’ again and you will have to find your ‘new normal’. Sometimes, that takes a while. It’s okay. And it’s okay to move at your own pace while you move forward. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We all heal at different times and in different ways. Word of warning: Don’t be destructive. If you think you are facing depression, go get help. It’s okay to be on medication until you get back on your feet.

Find a support group – one that encourages its members to move forward at their own pace. Ask a good friend or two to walk with you while you go through this time. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself abundant grace. Look at that lady in the mirror and smile at her because, even though she is going through hell, she is moving forward. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

Lessons from a Dog

I have written before on this blog about my two canine children – Jack and Shirley. Jack is my 10-year old boxer/terrier mix. He is highly intelligent and very vocal – both traits from his boxer parent. Shirley is my 9-year old Dalmatian/hound mix. She is very energetic and a tad ditzy – both traits from her Dalmatian parent. However, her sense of smell is through the roof. She gets that from her hound parent.

Shirley loves to lay by the back door and watch things – she’s my watchdog. Jack is very protective and barks when the ice maker in the fridge makes noise because he thinks it’s someone at the front door – he’s my guard dog.

I’ve had both dogs since they were puppies, so we’re a pack now. When they sleep in the bed with me, we all have to snuggle up close and be touching. They know where I am 100% of the time I am home. They love to do things together – go on walks, chill on the couch, go ‘bye-bye’ in the car. I am a dog person and have had dogs most of my adult life. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my canine children:

1. Love with all you have: My pups let me know I am their ‘hooman’. They wag their tails and bark with joy when they see me. They hold nothing back in showing me they love me. They bark with delight, make happy noises when I pet them, and freely snore when we hunker down for the night. We are delighted with one another’s company.

2. Don’t be afraid to show compassion and sympathy: Whenever I cry, Jack is right there to comfort me. He looks at me with a furrowed brow as if to say, “Are you okay? What can I do to make you feel better?” When I am sick, my pups snuggle up to me, keeping me warm and making me feel better.

3. Be boundless in your happiness: Jack does the full body wag and Shirley barks and wags her tail when they are happy. A head tilt and an excited, “Woof!” often accompany unbridled happiness. When my pups are happy, they show it to the extreme – from running like a crazy dog around the backyard to 100 mph tail wags!

4. Take pleasure in the small things: A warm blanket, a good snuggle, a tasty treat – all are small things that bring my pups great pleasure. One does not need a great deal of money to experience small pleasures. Some simple pleasures for me – beautiful clouds, a young buck in Cycle Dude’s yard, and Dove chocolate.

5. Forgive others and experience the joy of the moment: Sometimes my pups do things that are naughty. I tell them, “I am not happy with you!” They will still follow me around, not at all concerned that I am angry with them at that moment. One of them ends up doing something funny and I laugh, my anger melting away. I cannot be angry with my pups for long. Life is too short and they are too funny.

I know that divorce is painful. I would not have made it through that time if I did not have good friends and wonderful pups. In the middle of a bad night, when sleep would not come, I’d roll over to a cold nose and a warm pup. They helped to keep me on an even keel. God has blessed us with His creation – both for pleasure and for learning. I am grateful for my pups. Stay tuned . . .

What is My Purpose?

My mom had such high hopes for my five siblings and I when we were younger – she thought at least one of us would be rich, or perhaps another would be famous. None of us are neither rich nor famous. But we have touched others’ lives for the better. Both of my sisters are educators – one teaches English for the military and another teaches fifth graders. One of my brothers has been a leader in his church and another brother owned his own coffee shop. My mom is currently pursuing her two passions – writing and educating. She has her own website and writes an education column for several local newspapers. Perhaps she is the one who will be rich and famous!

Often, when we come out the other side of a rough time in our lives, we begin to question our existence. If you are a mom, you may feel your children are your identity – until they grow up and begin families of their own. They are no longer your responsibility. Or you may feel your identity was in your marriage. Your purpose as a mom and a wife are gone. So what do you do now?

A sweet friend called me this past weekend. She had been reading my blog. I remember when she first contacted me to comment on something I had written. She was very wounded and didn’t think she could endure the hard time she was going through. I encouraged her and stayed in contact with her. Now, a year or so later, she is, in turn, encouraging other women. I told her she has come so far! She has a purpose – to walk beside other women as they go through a divorce or other hard times in their lives. I am humbled by her strength.

I have found that part of my purpose in life is to write this blog, to encourage other women. I have also found that part of my purpose is to love my adult children through the different phases of their lives. My purpose is also to love my mom and encourage her as she pursues her passion this late in her life. My purpose is to love and encourage those people God has put in my life. In doing so, I will make a difference in my small corner of the world. It has taken me a while to realize my purpose.

For some, their purpose is larger than life. For others, their purpose is small and quiet – making a difference and blooming where they are planted. Do not feel insignificant if your face is not splashed across the latest cover of Vanity Fair. Know that God sees you, hears you and loves you. You are right where He wants you to me. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .