Days into my new status as a soon-to-be-ex-wife of a perpetually cheating husband, sitting entirely alone in the last home we had shared, I would love to say I felt liberated or vindicated. No longer would I have to contend with the stickiness in the bathroom from his excessive hairspray use, carefully plastering strands of hair over his balding head; no more scolding me for putting his expensive chef knives in the dishwasher, and especially, no longer would I have to pretend that he had ever said a truthful word. I made a good decision, but it felt like jumping out of a plane at 30,000 feet, without a parachute. Not only was I alone, but extremely alone. The kids had left to live their lives and now my 26 year marriage was over. Empty-nest doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The quiet was deafening; I even missed his snoring on our couch where, for the last few months of our marriage, my ex passed out drunk each night after sexting his oldish girlfriend, the one he’d cremated both his professional and personal life with. (That couch is history, as is his hairspray. Oh yes, the expensive chef knives he obsessed about? Guess where they go after meals?) Seemingly in a day, no one cared what time I came home or where I was. No one asked me to pick up dinner or said they missed me and hurry home. My sons were off living their lives as they should be; I have always believed you raise your children to leave you. I’m proud that they are considerate, respectful individuals who have integrity and values, living healthy, constructive lives. I wouldn’t want it any other way, but I had thought I would be spending this next phrase of my life with my husband. My heart was in shock.
My children going off to live their lives, around the same time I ended the marriage to their father, was unfortunate timing, but possibly not the coincidence it seemed at the time. Without the distractions of raising a family, there’s often time to see what is really going on in your marriage. I found that being with someone you no longer respect or see a happy future with, is a million times more lonely than actually being alone. For a long time, there was no room for new happiness in my life, because my life was filled with nothing but unhappiness. If I had not kicked my ex out and filed for divorce, he’d probably still be making a dent in the couch, waffling between having his cake and eating it too and lying through his teeth. I’d finally emerged from a dark den of denial, had enough and did something about it, but it was excruciatingly painful. Those first nights alone, all I did was stand in my garden, cry buckets of tears, literally lose handfuls of hair, and smoke way too much. To the extent that my neighbors, who speak not a word of English, put flowers on my porch one day with a note that said So Sorry. They probably thought all the loud sobbing meant someone had died. Something did, my old life.
They say you have to turn chicken crap into chicken salad. I couldn’t eat from grief, fine, I went down 10 sizes and went from stretch pants to actual trousers with zippers. I lost half my hair from stress and nutritional deficiency. Oh well, I got a cute, shorter hair-style and thanked the heavens that I had a lot of hair to begin with. Lighter, I threw away all of my ugly sensible shoes and bought a dozen pairs of sexy heels so high I could put out small rodent’s eyes, four inches away. I started riding horses again, no longer fearing a revolt from the equine community because of the size of my butt. (I also did ballroom dancing for a while, fun, but I prefer hiking, rain or shine every morning at 5 am, alone. It clears the mind.)
When I filed for divorce, I had been working a few months, after years of being a stay-at-home-mom. I was selling home decor, a commission only job that made me sad on a daily basis. At the same time that my own family had seemed to vanish, seeing families at all of the stages that reminded me of my long-gone life, from young couples excitedly starting out to happy families moving into their dream homes, and even retirees downsizing and enthusiastically entering a new stage of their lives, personally, could not have been worse timing for my state of mind. (My ex and I had talked about our retirement plans many times, always saying we’d run a small inn near the water, I’d manage it while he fished. The only thing he’s fishing for now is a Viagra prescription.)
I needed to a new plan and made some steps in the right direction. Sometimes the new road was pretty slick from tears of frustration, but I kept at it daily, moving forward. I had spent years helping my ex, always doing things for his career, now I was expending all that energy and effort on me and it paid off. I got a new job, better than the last. Realizing I was the oldest person in the new office, and the only divorcee in a sea of happy young woman just starting out in their lives with engagements, weddings, marriage, and new babies, did make me a little melancholy, but I kept reminding myself there’s both happiness and hardship in every stage of one’s life. The reality is, all those homes I went into at my old job? Not every family seemed blissfully happy, not every couple acted lovingly towards each other. I witnessed some downright misery and nastiness. Perfect lives, perfect families, or perfect timing don’t exist, nor can you make life stand still. Being alone is something I actually enjoy, I savor the lack of turmoil in my life now.
Life keeps happening all around us; life is change and moving forward is the direction I focus on. My sons now are exploring the world as adults, working, planning, living and it dawns on me, I get to do the same thing.
Recently digging out some dead plants in my garden, (probably drowned by all of those salty tears), I found two bird’s nest on the ground. Their occupants had taken that big, scary step into the world and had flown away. I could not help but notice that my hair, that had fallen out in copious amounts last spring, had been used to make these intricate nests intertwined with golden strands. It made me chuckle that something that represented such sadness at the time, an ending, had been used for new life; a new start. Next year, the birds will have to do without my hair though, I plan to keep it on my happy head. I know now, after going through so much painful adjustment, empty nests or divorce, it all means more room for more of my life and what I want it to be. It’s a transition, just like birth.
How can you make a fresh start after divorce?