I received this notice today that seven years ago I registered this blog on WordPress. SEVEN years. Wow. How much have I learned since that day? How much more do I still have to learn, might be the better question, lol! Seven years ago, January 2010. Wow, what a mess. I was the epitome of the southern mantra: ‘fake it till you make it.’ I was sleep-walking through life with an often-sick baby and an 8 year old solo. My husband and I separated October of 2009, but honestly, he had been flying back and forth to Europe since our baby was 5 months old and gone 2 weeks a month anyway. He had been gone long before his physical, permanent presence. I was just catching up to that fact. And, I was trying as hard as I could to not fall apart or fall into despair and bitterness. I found out in October of 2009 he had a double life and a girlfriend in Europe who had been traveling with him to exotic locales across the globe while I was at home with a colicky baby and another son to raise. Enter months of therapy and going back and forth between trying to stay married and rediscovering he still had this girlfriend when he was away—I landed smack into the realization that I was a door mat and just kept clicking a rewind button that propelled me into yet another betrayal heartbreak moment. After three of those events that landed me at 90 pounds and barely functional, our therapist demanded that my ex finally stop swinging between two women and ‘killing’ me. So he left Dec. 26, 2009, after a pretend family Christmas with a lot of phone calls from the girlfriend. Because I’ve been a journalist since I was 18, and writing has always helped me find clarity, I started this blog. But I didn’t actually post a public post until much later. My first post was when my youngest was 2, so I had been a FT single mom for over a year with maybe three weeks off. The post wasn’t very personal, as perhaps I was afraid to BE personal during the middle of a divorce, but it was accurate. It was about mental fatigue and inspired by a New York Times article. I re-read it today and it’s still very current for me. Here it is: BrainDrain.
Seven years later, I still have many moments of brain drain. I needed to re-read the advice list in this old post, as I still do not follow all of it. Brain drain is very real for single parents, as it stems from making too many decisions. Do any of you feel it? I notice that being the sole care-taker and the sole-decision maker for two humans without a break, is exhausting. EVEN when I teach yoga and do yoga. EVEN when I get a good night’s sleep. Things slip. EVEN when I input as many items into my calendar as possible, emergencies pop up and I’m the only one to handle them. (sickness, someone forgetting their lunch, a game getting cancelled, so I have to leave work early to pick up…)
And don’t get me started on dating. The woman who has her kids full time is treated very differently by men. EVEN by the men who fall in love. Yes, even them. They run away or try to completely control me and change me or my parenting style. (Example of disrespecting family time with the boys, by calling during dinner, or before bedtime and trying to get me to leave them home alone, yet again, to come over at the last minute.) Some are just not for me, they party too much, drink too much and are not good for my boys, so I don’t go out with them. And some don’t want the ‘responsibility’ that dating someone like me seems to imply, so they try to get me open to booty calls, friends with benefits kind of deal so there’s no obligation or need to truly try to connect. I walk away. Or they don’t want to compete for my limited amount of time, as the ones I’ve known want me, and only me, and nothing to do with the children. It’s exhausting. I’ve finally stopped trying. I’ve stopped dating altogether. I’m focussed on my yoga, writing my next book and my boys. My boys have only met one man in seven years and that was after we were very serious. My boys come first. They are not a liability. They are the best people I know and I adore them. They have probably saved me from disastrous men. Anyone who would be a bad influence on them, is a no bueno for me. So, dating is easier and harder post divorce. It’s easier because the boys come first and I can quickly see who isn’t a good fit. It gets harder because I just don’t have the time or resources to hire sitters and go out on many blind dates. I’m opting out for now. And that’s okay.
So when a friend, who has only been separated one year, asked me this question a few weeks ago: “When does it get easier?” I didn’t know how to respond. Here’s my attempt:
It gets easier and it gets harder.
It gets easier when the love you had for your ex mutates into a distant brotherly kind of love created out of forgiveness and a willingness to move forward with friendship and gratitude for what is working in whatever type of co-parenting role that evolves.
It gets easier when you start to get to know yourself better and start to explore exactly what interests you. (This is especially true for those givers who try and try to be what their partner wants for years.) So now I unapologetically follow my heart: my yoga, meditation classes, my writing, my photography, my love for music and traveling the way I want to with no need to justify why I’m just not the party girl who loves Vegas, you know? I’m the gal who went to Peru & Spain & Italy & Prague solo. I hiked. I went to ballets, I went to museums, I toured, I lived on a rooftop for a week. I camped. I wrote. I did yoga. That’s more my speed.
It gets easier when you learn to respect yourself and your needs. But this is where it can get harder for the full-time, sole custody parents too. Once you realize your needs, your wants, trying to find acceptance in not getting them met on a weekly basis, is a challenge. With only 4 weeks off a year, every weekend I can fall into a pity-party if I don’t do something for myself. So, I find strategies to give back to me, like hiring a sitter so I can veg and write or go for a run, or get a drink with a friend…I also plan vacations for the few weeks off I get each year. Even if I decide to take them solo, I always meet amazing people on tours and I’m blessed to do exactly what it is I want to do and explore on holiday.
It gets easier when you begin to trust your inner voice, your inner guide, your abilities. I now know that I can juggle parenting, finances, dinners & my work & vacation planning & all that life throws at me while raising two kiddos solo. It’s not easy, but when married, I doubted just about all of my abilities. Now I have more confidence.
It’s gets easier because I’m too busy to engage in drama. I just don’t have time or interest in anything that doesn’t lift another person up. It’s that simple. Anyone who is rude to a waiter, yells at or about another human being, lies, cheats, constantly points out the negative in others, gets hysterical and rants, abuses substances, etc. is just not what I want to engage into my life. Of course, drama happens, even within our closest circles, so I try to be kind to myself when it happens, detach, pause, reflect first before responding and then connect to Source for guidance in what I need.
It gets easier because I now value my time more and have learned to set boundaries. Givers attract takers. It’s a universal law. So all the requests of my time, when I’m already drained, are no longer a struggle for me. I only have so much to give. If I don’t give to myself, I’m not valuing myself. I no longer feel the need to give or be there for everyone who calls hysterically or ‘needs’ me instantly. I have to take care of myself, and I still don’t always do it. I’m a work in progress. I work too hard. I do too much. I don’t always remember to eat or take my vitamins, for instance. I have no business trying to help everyone else if the oxygen mask isn’t on me first. So, I’ve learned a lot about how I used to be too giving. Too forgiving. Too easily swayed to volunteer or give more of my time than was good for my health. I’m trying to strike a balance now.
So I’ll end with this final thought for my friend venturing into divorce. Having the rug pulled out from under you with a sudden separation or betrayal may land you on your ass, that’s for sure, but it’s a position with nothing left to lose. You can only look up from there, right? Why not write that novel? Why bother with someone negative or controlling? Why not hike Machu Picchu? It’s also a spot where it becomes easier to let go of expectations and to challenge yourself to become a better you: more mindful, more present, more patient, more joyful, more playful, ever-evolving. And that’s something to celebrate.
As always, thanks for reading my meandering prose.