I have been inspired by some recent conversations to reflect upon my first year of separation and new normal. A beautiful and wise colleague of mine told me she heard it takes three years to get over a divorce. That sounded so long to me when she first said it. Now at the beginning of my second year I realize it is because my first year was very traumatic and very primitive.
On this day last year, my father was driving my car with my family of three from Memphis, Tennessee to Delaware to take my children and me “home” and take care of us. I had taken the kids to New Orleans to try to reconcile with their father and my he basically decided he couldn’t and more or less said “you know this life and house and world we have built here? I am leaving it and I am also no longer paying for it. You can take our two-year-old and a five week old to your parents and they can take care of you.” I didn’t eat for two months. The only thing I was capable of doing was making sure my children were healthy and happy and safe. We were totally without my spouse. He chose to live in Louisiana and then in North Carolina for work and for 10 months my children saw him once every six weeks.
It was August before I felt like myself again. Although I wasn’t myself – I was a totally new self. I had to learn primal activity all over again. It began with breathing. I saw therapist and told her that my mind was no longer processing things that I needed it to process. My mom directed me in life and I would have to write everything she said down just to remember to take care of the littlest things. The therapist explained that this is a fight or flight mode that your body experiences when you go through trauma. I realize now that I had to completely re-learn how to live and it took a while because I naturally put my children’s needs and wants before my own. It started with breathing. My therapist taught me how to breathe again. Yoga helped me a lot with this process because I was able to spend an hour only focusing on my breath. I began doing hot yoga because the temperature was so intense I had no room for thoughts outside of my breath. The sweat that I felt in those classes taught me the feeling of sweat again. I promise, I forgot what it felt like, not because I hadn’t sweat, but because when I did-I wasn’t even there. I was a shell.
I spent through June 10th rotating through these emotions. On that day, my mother was diagnosed with Lymphoma. This was an awakening to pull my head out of my ass because my problems were so minuet compared to the journey she was about to begin. I fell apart all over again. How was I going to survive when the person who was helping me raise my children was now going to be in so much pain? I wouldn’t have even moved my things out of my house if it weren’t for her telling me I had to do so. I was letting life pass me by because I was only capable of taking care of my children and couldn’t deal with the idea of a divorce. She kept me going and now she was falling apart. In a way, it gave me the push I needed. I no longer could feel sorry for myself because I had to get my shit together and be there for her in the way she was there for me.
By the end of June I got my job back from where I was working before I left town with my ex. That was the first light I saw at the end of my tunnel. Getting my job back gave me strength and liberation and a sense of security I never imagined needing. I was penniless when my ex left and I had taken a year leave of absence from my job to stay with the baby. We didn’t even have health insurance and I had two babies. Thankfully, I was able to get on Medicaid until I could go back to work, but I will never, ever, forget being so “hungry” for job security. I am now a better teacher because of this experience.
In August we all went to Rehoboth for two weeks. I feel like that vacation finally brought back all of my senses. I felt so blessed to feel the sun and the heat of the late summer, and share that with my children. It was such an amazing time with my family and my poor mother couldn’t even go outside while we were there. We were lucky enough to have planned that vacation in between her treatments. Since she is superwoman, she was was also running her office and team from the condo we rented. Pretty insane and all so beautiful at the same time.
The month of September was perfect. I had it all together. I had my job back, my kids were perfect and healthy and I wanted to date again. I met a guy who wanted to be far more serious than I did and I ended up breaking his heart. My ex also “did the right thing by his children” and moved close to us. I was not prepared by any means to deal with this. I barely spent a minute away from my children for 10 months and then all the sudden I had to share them with this person whom I loathed. My brief relationship ended and I felt like I was back at square one with my rebuilding.
I was totally heartbroken over sharing my children and there was no custody order in place so I had no idea how to handle the legalities of my new situation. I just kept plugging away at life and holding my babies close. Work kept me sane.
November and Thanksgiving made it a year since my finding my ex in his affair. This was my turning point. I decided to be more present as I went through the motions, expected the worse, and really was handed the best. My holiday was wonderful and I was living again. Not only was I living again but I was enjoying every moment of it. My ex didn’t request to see the children much either so that was a relief.
Once I started putting the work into myself again, I got through the grief very quickly. I realized that I spent a year hiding from the pain and that was the only year of my life I will ever spend not-living. I have a strong, wholesome, new life and I wouldn’t change one thing that happened to me. I don’t regret one action I took, one reaction I made, one choice word I said about my ex or whomever was entertaining him at the time, one tear I cried, one meltdown I had, one dollar I spent or one over-sharing conversation I had that year. It was the most transforming year of my life and I am so in love with the person I am because of it.
This next year will be more about person growth, healthy decisions, and protection my children so they never know all the pain that I know. I don’t know where he’ll be or for how long, but my sons will always have one strong-as-shit Momma Bear to back them up, support them financially, and work her ass off to afford them all the luxuries she was blessed to grow up with. I will continue to save for college, I will make sacrifices, I will work overtime, I will do whatever those two need, so they never spend a minute of their life feeling like there is a void because their father is a defective person. And lastly, I will share my story because it is a beautiful one and if it weren’t for those who shared their stories with me and kept me believing that there is light at the end, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I am forever indebted to those who helped me.