After the slaves were freed many chose to stay on with their “masters” because they didn’t know any other way of being in the world. Dependent for so long, they were afraid of starving if left to their own devices; but, the majority bravely went forth, conquering their fears and forging new lives.
Divorce has some similar aspects. When married, you allowed yourself to count on someone else. Even if your mate was undependable, there was the illusion of support. Now that you’re separated or divorced, you are totally responsible for yourself. Luckily, all that responsibility is balanced with a heady dose of freedom. Develop a trusting relationship with yourself and you’ll handle the demands of life with grace; not every minute, but most of the time, which will leave you feeling emotionally centered and capable.
Learning to trust yourself is a tall order, but it can be done. The first step is proving you can take the very best care of yourself possible. Whether it’s eating healthily, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, getting outside every day, or making time for exercise, everything you do contributes to how you see yourself. Are you worth the time and the trouble? Yes! If you don’t think so, pretend you do. Act as if you were the kind of person who tended their own garden. Just as they say on the airplanes: “Put your own oxygen mask on first before you put one on your child.” Once you have covered the basics, it’s time to look inward. Start keeping a journal (see the categories section here for a post on dream journaling), and allow all your feelings to be expressed on its pages. Letting yourself feel your feelings doesn’t mean you act on them; you use them to better understand your true self. Once you’re physically better, and emotionally more in touch, you can delve into the spiritual. Anything can be a spiritual catalyst: nature, music, art, yoga, meditation, friends, or religious services. It doesn’t matter. Experiment. This is a time of discovery.
So many choices can be dizzying. But things do settle down, routine stabilizes everything in its path, and you find a comfortable, safe place within yourself to live. It’s not quick or simple, but after a while, you develop an easy rapport with freedom. You understand its gifts and its costs; you learn new dances to new tunes.
Restructuring your life after divorce can feel overwhelming. Let the process to unfold in its own good time. Focus on one area (this is not a time for multi-tasking) and you will adjust more easily. As Robyn Posin, PhD, likes to say: “The you that you are today can’t imagine the you that you will be.” Your world will morph into something different from what you envision now. Allow the mystery, and practice patience.
This transformative period is a radical shift. You were part of a couple, now you’re single. Coupledom isn’t necessarily better, but it does typically provide you with instant company (it may not have been the company you wanted, but there was a warm body with whom to do things). Now, you have to make an effort if you want companionship. See friends, go to cultural events, many of which, like gallery openings, are free, take a walk in the park, and expand your repertoire of activities. Hibernating at home is a sure-fire way to get depressed. I don’t mean taking some time to burrow under the covers and grieve, that’s healing. I’m referring to a pattern that shrinks your circle until it only includes you. When the solitude or loneliness gets to you go out and meet new people. With over seven billion on the face of the earth there are plenty whose company you will enjoy.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang