Getting to the life we envision for ourselves often takes a leap of faith.
Once the decision to make a change is made, everything that comes next can make it easy to forget why you made the decision in the first place. Stress can play tricks on your mind and make you wonder if you were thinking right when you made your decision. Sometimes, you just have to trust yourself and try to remember how it felt to be sure.
This happened to me when I was getting divorced. When I saw the sadness my decision was causing my kids, I even asked my soon-to-be ex-husband if we could just live together like roommates for the sake of the kids. I insanely thought for a moment that we could go from fighting like cats and dogs to buddies. Yes, I was insane. In the panic of seeing what my decision would mean for my kids, I was willing to try any alternative to divorce. I temporarily lost my mind and forgot about all the reasons that made it impossible for me to share a life with my husband. I forgot how it would be better for my kids to see a strong woman alone, than to absorb and normalize the unhealthy relationship between two parents. I was losing track of the new husband-free life I had envisioned for myself. Instead, I was thick into the mess of change and doubting my decision.
Getting through the whole process was hard. It took almost a full year to feel better again and to get my hopefulness back. I can now see that I was just plodding along on faith that our life would be better than it was when I was married. Along the way my mind played tricks on me and made me fear things that I didn’t need to, but periodically along the way, I regained my focus and remembered some things that made it easier.
I was afraid of being a single parent, because I had forgotten that, parenting with someone you can’t connect with is so hard. As a single parent, I get to make the rules in my house. It is up to me to decide how much teasing is too much. I can require everyone to eat dinner together. And bathe. I can create customs like lighting a candle at dinner. When we were always waiting on my ex to get home for dinner or weigh in on a decision, many of the things that I wanted to do as a family went by the wayside. For years. Now I can make them happen. (Mostly. I do have ornery teenagers, you know.) I remembered that it is good to be Queen.
I was afraid of being alone because I had forgotten how much worse it was to feel lonely in a marriage. At first, I thought I would miss having someone at the bottom of the stairs to talk to after putting the kids to bed – then I remembered that my husband was hardly ever home in the evenings. I was always waiting for him to be there. And he wasn’t, so I never could feel settled. I felt sorry for him that he was still at work that late at night. And I hoped he really was at work that late at night. Which didn’t feel good. Now, I really value having a quiet house to myself when the kids have gone to bed. I remembered that I like to have peace at home in the evenings.
I was afraid of shouldering all of the responsibility of taking care of a house, because I had forgotten that doing everything by yourself when you have a partner, feels worse than relying on yourself. Shoveling snow, dealing with horrendous basement floods, and emergency room visits still feels hard and lonely. Then I remember that I did these things by myself, even when I had a husband, and it feels more manageable.
I was afraid to not have a man in my life, because I had forgotten how sad it feels to be with someone who doesn’t cherish you. I had forgotten that, much to my disappointment, I had attended social events alone, slept alone, gone on vacation with the kids alone, and generally gone about my life alone for many years. I had forgotten that I was well-trained for a life alone.
Then somehow I remembered how it felt when I decided that I would rather have the freedom of being truly alone than live a life with someone who made me feel alone. And sometimes remembering that feeling has been the only thing that has kept me going through the difficult, lonely, scary times.
Getting through hard things makes me feel like I can get through more hard things if I need to. Divorce is not good, it is hard on kids, and should be avoided if at all possible. In the end, it turned out to be the right thing for my family. It has made our world bigger, emotionally safer, and more open to possibility. I am still in the process of creating the home I envisioned for my family. We still have meals where there is too much teasing. My son still insists he is an iguana. There are umbrellas in the shower and pizza boxes on the counter and dishes in the sink more nights than I would like, but my life is much closer to plenty perfect now and it feels good to know that how it goes from here is all up to me.