My marriage of nearly 25 years was over. I was devastated and wanted to stay in bed with pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, hiding and binge-watching television for days. I first allowed myself to grieve and to be gentle with myself. I rediscovered the soothing wonders of bubble baths and healthy escapism via good books.
My breakup was indeed a huge loss. The loss needed to be processed in stages. But I needed to start moving forward and to figure out what I wanted for the next chapter in my life. As Marjorie DiLima, an attorney specialising in Family Law says: “Once I could work through the betrayal, hurt, anger and pain, I realized that I was given an opportunity to start afresh with no unwanted influence from a spouse and that I could do whatever I wanted to do. It has been freeing and quite the journey.”
Esteemable acts to build esteem
Helping another person is a sure way to make you feel better about yourself and a chance to get out of your own post-divorce mind, which can be a perilous place. Everyone has something they can offer to make this world a better place. Opportunities for service abound. Check online. Help someone learn to read or how to speak English or another language. Help out at a soup kitchen. Hold doors open for people behind you. Pick up garbage to honour Mother Earth. Or simply smile more. Yours may be the only smile another person encounters that day.
One small way I give back is that I keep protein bars in my car and purse. Instead of giving money to those who ask on the street, I give them food. It is not always welcome, but sometimes it is the only thing that person has to eat that day.
Meditation can also improve our centeredness and sense of calm, as well as our overall health. It has been proven to lower blood pressure. And it need not be time-consuming. Taking deep breaths and focusing on our breath is a form of meditation. Focusing on our breathing can allow us to be fully present. And when we are fully present, we cannot simultaneously worry about the future or fret about the past.
All our relationships improve when we feel good about ourselves. We attract the type of energy we put out into the world. Take this time to work on yourself. You are worth it.
Assembling my tribe
Sometimes, when we are in the throes of partner love, we fail to nurture our friendships with others. I needed to reconnect deeply with my friends. At the same time, I was careful to avoid negative energy and “energy vampires.” I surrounded myself with people who brought out the best in me. There are many kinds of friendship. When reeling from the pain of a breakup, I knew which of my friends would be encouraging and which may not be.
Retreats and yoga studios are fertile places for meeting people who are on journeys to become their best selves. I went on a few retreats and discovered amazing new friends who I wanted in my life. They shared different perspectives and helped me find new sources of light. We continue to support each other.
I also married myself. Yup. I invited three of my closest friends to witness my vows to myself. I would no longer use other people’s views of me as barometers for my self-worth. I would be responsible for my own happiness. The exercise was so affirming, and a good way for me to close a chapter and mark a new one in my life.
Adorning my nest
After I found a place to live, I made it my own. I filled it with things that brought me joy. I pulled out my paintbrush and unleashed my creativity. It was therapeutic. Most art can be elevated simply with good framing or another display method. It need not be expensive to be beautiful. I collected gorgeous shells and feathers on a nearby beach and placed them in a pretty shadowbox, for instance. I painted affirmations onto driftwood. My new abode had a beachy theme because the ocean has always brought me waves of serenity.
Pinning pages of a Buddhist prayer book into shadow boxes or mounting them in painted frames were another inexpensive way to adorn my walls with things that elevated my mood. I also collected affordable things and throw pillows (which I upholstered with fun fabrics) at consignment shops and yard sales from Etsy. Craigslist and Facebook. I learnt ways to bring as much light into my new home as possible. I used sheer curtains on low windows and none where no cover was needed. I lit candles at night to increase cosy, warm feelings in the evening.
I sold or gave away anything that had not been used in more than a year or was not serving me in some way. My own brand of minimalism freed up time. I continue to get rid of two things whenever I bring something new into my home. There is less to clean, keep track of or worry about. Decluttering helped me with greater mental focus, too.
As New York-based Yvette Bodden, the author of the book ‘A Journey to Becoming the Best-Self’, says: “The human spirit is unrelenting when it taps into the innate need to thrive. This power is one of the many wonderful gifts we have outside our capacity to love. People have survived great tragedies due to their will. Turn the magic inward.” I started my new journey by practising gratitude.
There are so many things most of us take for granted, like access to heat and clean water, or the ability to walk. If we focus on what we have, instead of what we have lost, our blessings will be magnified in our consciousness. If we think we do not have enough, we never will. We are all enough, just as we are. We are perfectly imperfect. We are alive.
I also explored new interests. Perhaps you had less time when you were in a relationship with another: let yourself use this time to grow. Check out offerings at your local college or online. Listen to TedTalks or a good podcast for new ideas and support or search for helpful resources online. Even taking walks can reveal things around you that you have never before noticed.
Then I adopted a dog. My pup made me feel useful and adored, and gave me a bit more security while living alone for the first time. He also taught me a few things. If you observe dogs, notice how they always stretch after resting. They instinctively know about the importance of stretching. They also know about the need for exercise. I have a friend who lost 20 pounds simply by adding brisk daily dog walks to his repertoire. Dogs also are intuitive. My dog seemed to know when I needed him to nudge me to get up and get moving some days. Who rescued whom?
I believe our setbacks can be turned into forces for good. We have the ability to learn from every situation if we take the time to look for the lesson. Sadness and trauma need not define us. And I finally learned that there is a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. It is your life. It’s up to you what you do with it! As Bodden says, “Divorce is devastating but not fatal.”