I recently celebrated (yes, celebrated!) the five-year anniversary of my divorce. (Read some reflections on that milestone here. With both a milestone anniversary and Thanksgiving this month, it’s a perfect time to reflect on why I’m thankful for my divorce.
Here are my top 10 lists – what I let go of and what I gained from divorce, followed by a few additional thoughts on how the two lists relate.
In deciding to divorce, I let go of:
- The agony of indecision.
- Sickness, health issues and regular doctor visits for the kids.
- Being stunted and depressed, conforming to societal and self-imposed expectations.
- Feeling miserable and uncomfortable in my home.
- Opting out of family gatherings and not being invited out with friends.
- Listening to 24/7 talk radio and TV news.
- Ongoing disagreements about parenting, money, priorities, etc.
- Active alcoholism.
By letting go of these things, I found:
- Trust in my internal guidance.
- Health and well-being for myself and improvements in my kids.
- Courage when it counted.
- An open door to growth and discovery.
- A home that embraced our family in comfort, peace and safety.
- Inclusion and connection – being invited to family gatherings and participating without worry or fear of what might happen.
- Silence and peace of mind.
- Clarity, focus, and congruence in thought and action.
- Recovery, spiritual connection, gratitude and a foundation for joyful living.
There’s a correlation between what I let go of and what I gained for every one of the 10 items on the list. To make way for a life I love, I had to find enough willingness and courage to let go of the life I had.
I’m thankful I did. I couldn’t have imagined life would be anywhere near as good as I have it today when I was agonizing over whether or not to divorce. Here’s more about the transition and those lists.
- From indecision to decision: They say the pain is not in the decision, it’s in the resistance. Sitting on the fence, as I did for many years during the long and winding road to my divorce, is agonizing. Taking steps to gain clarity and then following through with divorce, while not a lot of fun, was a huge relief that led to even greater rewards.
- From sickness to health and well-being: Almost everyone was sick frequently in the years before divorce, and I spent thousands of dollars on doctor visits, medical tests, counselors, etc. trying to find the right treatments or cures. Things didn’t miraculously transform overnight, but over time everyone’s health has improved. I can’t speak for my kids, but from a personal standpoint I have a strong sense of well-being today as well.
- From fear to courage: We all have to start somewhere, and for me it started with my decision to divorce. Although I’d let fear rule for most of our 20-year marriage, I discovered just enough courage to follow through when it was time to deliver the divorce decision. And I’ve built on that courage and gotten stronger as I’ve met the challenges of life after divorce.
- From closed to open doors: I was stuck and stunted, especially in the last years of my marriage. Yet I thought I needed to stay for the kids and to avoid failure. I was waiting for someone else to unlock the door and give me permission to explore, but all the while I held the key.
- From discomfort to comfort in my home: Same address today as I had for the last 8 years of marriage, but now I feel comfortable being in my home. The kids can have friends over without worry, and I don’t have to wonder what I’ll find each time I return. It feels like home today.
- From exclusion to inclusion: Whether we weren’t invited, declined to attend, or went and worried, I used to feel like I wasn’t a part of. Mostly because I was trying to manage how our family looked rather than enjoying myself in the moment. Today I enjoy my time with family and friends. In fact, I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner with my kids, my parents and some of my siblings and their children.
- From 24/7 noise to peaceful silence: My former husband used to have every radio in the house on one of the talk stations, so no matter where you were you couldn’t get away from the ranting and raving of the talking heads. I’d feel tense just walking in the door. While it’s not always quiet at home today, I can choose silence, music, or a funny show one of the kids is watching. The environment is much more conducive to peace without the uninvited guests.
- From disagreements to congruence: In the last few years of my marriage especially, there were many disagreements, especially about how to parent the kids. I’m sure we sent mixed messages even when one of us “gave in” on an issue. Although I’m not always certain about the best way to parent the kids on my own, I do appreciate the congruence in my life between my beliefs and decisions, and I really appreciate not having to argue and defend my position on the day-to-day parenting decisions that arise.
- From active alcoholism to recovery and a strong spiritual foundation: One of the biggest factors in my decision to divorce was the choice that I would no longer live with active alcoholism. His drinking was progressing, and it was impacting me and the kids in ways that I could no longer ignore. Finding help and support from other moms in similar situations helped me find the power to make changes, including the decision to divorce. (For others who might be struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction in a family member or friend, programs such as Al-Anon for families and friends of alcoholics can help.)
- From prison to freedom: The prison was a trap I made for myself, but in deciding to divorce I broke free. Today I’m grateful for my freedom, not just from a marriage that was no longer working, but for the freedom to create a life I love, to discover what I enjoy, and to find the beauty and gifts in each day. Divorce was just the beginning, but I’m thankful for its role in opening the door to a new and rewarding way of life today.