I say this all the time because it is true. We carry on with our lives until one day, one second, everything changes. Just.Like.That. One second and life will never be the same again. It can come with warning (“I’m unhappy, I want a divorce, and I’m moving out.”) or without (“You have cancer.”). It can be an unexpected death, the discovery of an affair, a devastating diagnosis, making the decision to cheat on your husband, or getting in an accident.
Today, I got the very sad news that my friend Sheri died. She was just 50 years old. Some 15 months ago, Sheri was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. She had surgery, radiation and chemo. For a time, we thought she would beat it. And then she took a turn for the worse about a month ago. This time, hope was fading until there was none left.
Life for me, too, was chugging along at an expected pace. I was working, married with kids, and had all the entrapments consistent with that life—a mortgage, a long commute, 15 days of vacation… And then, “You have cancer.” Just like that, nothing was ever the same again.
So today, while I mourn the passing of my friend, and while I know I’ll be shedding loads of tears, I turn to the biggest advice I can give anyone: LIVE. Life is so short and precious. If you are in a bad marriage, leave it. If your boyfriend is an asshole, ditch him. If you have friendships that aren’t healthy, end them. If you hate your job, your city, your house, or your life, start changing it. It can be incredibly hard and overwhelming. Where to begin? Baby steps, one day at a time. Try this:
- Write out what changes you want to make in your life
- Prioritize which changes are most important to you. Pick the ones that will make the biggest impact (i.e. divorce, sell the house, stop eating sugar). In fact, you might just want to pick one.
- Make sure the changes you write out are specific (sell the house) and actionable. Goals that are too broad usually never happen. For example, if your goal is to “get healthier,” be more specific. Fill in this blank, “I want to get healthier by_______________.” It could be eating five servings or fresh organic fruits and veggies each day, eating out at restaurants less than once per week, exercising a minimum of 30-minutes per day six days per week, and getting at least eight hours of sleep per night. Now that is something you can write out on a checklist, post on your bathroom mirror, and do! (If you’re committed enough.)
- Make out a detailed list on how to accomplish your goals and start (literally) checking them off.
Since this is for divorced women (or those considering a divorce), I’ll pick “Ditch My Guy” as an example. This could be your husband or boyfriend. Here are some things that should make your list:
- Budget: If you are living with him, you must know how you will afford life solo. Be realistic with your expenses and cut where you can. You may need to move in with a roomie, your parents, or a friend until you get on your feet. This is far better than staying in an unhealthy relationship, I have to say. No shame here. If you are thinking you may get alimony, call an attorney and have her run some numbers so you have a somewhat accurate figure to go by. I have a friend, no joke, who decided she wanted a divorce after attending an “empowerment seminar” over a weekend. Within days, she walked out of their home and into a temporary apartment. She thought she could find a good job immediately and support herself. With no career skills (she was a stay at home mom for years), that job never appeared. Her alimony was dismal. She lost custody of all of her children because she had no place to put them or ability to care for them. Had she planned a little better, this could easily have gone far smoother for her. Don’t let this be you.
- Find a source of income beyond alimony/child support. If you aren’t doing so already, get a job. If you aren’t earning enough to support yourself, look for a better-paying job. Do this immediately because the job hunt can take time.
- Find a place to live. Start looking at ads for apartments or homes. Know where you would like to move should you be the one exiting a shared home.
- Interview attorneys and pick one. When it’s time to split, you will need a good attorney. It’s best to have one already selected beforehand. Ask around for referrals.
- Keep notes on your relationship. If you have threatening emails or texts between you and your partner, save them. Journal your relationship. Date and time stamp everything. You will need this information for the courts and it will make your case stronger.
- Save money. Start putting some money aside for your own emergency fund. Cash is best. I kept cash in an envelope under my panties. When it was time to split from my husband, I had a few thousand dollars in cash that I grabbed on my way out. It helped pay for my temporary relocation expenses. It wasn’t enough, but it was a lifesaver nonetheless.
- Keep track of important documents and information. Start saving bank statements, 401k statements, copies of life insurance policies, anything having to do with finances. Have a copy of your car title in a secret place. Keep copies of your credit cards and passports.
- Join a support group.
- Start purging. It’s a lot easier to move if you’ve already tossed out all the stuff you don’t like or need. Get organized, too. Get caught up on your filing system. Make copies of important documents you want to take with you so it’s easy to “grab and go.”
Whether you are preparing to exit a relationship, or just live a more meaningful life, NOW is the time to get started. Don’t wait another day. Life is too precious to be unhappy. There is joy and fun out there, but you just may need to find it. It’s not always easy but it’s so worth it.
Now start making your list! And when you’re done, work on your Bucket List (this is really fun) and enjoy your life, every day that you can. Because life is normal, until it’s not.