Anyone who knows me will know that I have a bit of a thing about The Wizard of Oz. It is my favourite film of all time. I see dozens of parallels between the real journey of life and Dorothy’s journey to Oz. The screen saver on my phone is not a photo of my children but of the yellow brick road. I have an auntie called Em and a dog called Toto. Ok, that last bit’s not actually true, but you get the drift.
Recently I feel as if I’ve been on my own yellow brick road - The Divorce Journey, with its own flying monkeys (those feelings of fear and anger), wicked witch (the critical inner voice telling me that I'm a failure), a scarecrow, lion and tin man helping me on my way (friends and family) and Glinda the good witch, my higher consciousness telling me 'you always had the power my dear'. Because when you find out that the great wizard is actually just a little man hiding behind a curtain with a bunch of weird gadgets, you know it's time to go home, to yourself.
I honour my marriage for what it was - a complicated union between two fallible humans who tried to make it work. I am grateful to my marriage for all its challenges that enabled me to grow and all the wisdom it brought me.
If you’re on your own divorce path, you may find that many well meaning people will give you advice. If they haven’t been through a divorce themselves, it’s not advice, it’s an opinion. My advice? Only stick to the learnt wisdom of people who’ve actually lived through what you’re going through. Right now, it probably feels as if the world is ending. And in a way, the kind of life you’ve known is ending. You’ll be grieving for the life you’d planned, which has now been taken away. But as unbelievable this may seem to you right now, it’s not an ending, but a transition to another life - and for most of us, that will be a better, happier life.
When my ex first moved out, I did a lot of things. I bought some bright red sparkly party shoes with 4.5 inch heels as a tribute to the kinship I felt with Dorothy. I drank wine, I drank gin. I boldly tried a multitude of new positions in bed - diagonally, horizontally, no pillows, four pillows, duvet on, duvet off - it was entirely up to me. I went on a DIY beginner’s course and learned how to use a drill. A week later I forgot how to use a drill and made two huge holes in the wall. But it didn’t matter, because it was now my wall. I went retro and listened to a lot of Alanis Morisette, Suzanne Vega, and Pink Floyd. And I’ll admit it, I Will Survive made more than a fleeting entry on my ‘most played songs’ on itunes. I went to a Tennessee fancy dress birthday party with two of my oldest and dearest friends, drank too much gin. And wine. And champagne. And cocktails. I dosie-doed a bit too enthusiastically and threw up the next morning. All morning. It was a glorious return to being responsible only for myself for 24 hours and not giving a flying monkey what anyone else thought. I went to classes at my local gym to give myself a sense of purpose in the dark lost days, and through the discipline of exercise, gained not only a better physique, but new friends, and much healthier lungs and heart. I ran a marathon. I filled my ex’s vacated wardrobe space with my clothes,shoes and bags. I learned how to burn stuff on the barbecue. Later I learnt how to turn the heat down. I learnt how to drive a car on the opposite side of the road abroad on holiday. I learned how to navigate the underground in London at rush hour so that I could train to be a coach. I also learned that tube routes are circular, so if your destination is only one stop away and you get on in the wrong direction, it could take you an hour rather than 4 minutes. I made new friends. I reconnected with old ones. I put together flat pack things from Ikea and Homebase with actual real life tools. There were always screws left over and often handles were upside down, but like me, those bits of furniture are still standing, so far. For the first time ever I bought a new (second hand) car. I spent less than a minute viewing it. It was black, had a little section next to the driver’s seat for my lip balm, and a cup holder big enough for my Starbucks large lattes. Sold. I replaced man-sized meals with gloriously slatternly microwave meals for one, bowls of coco pops, family bags of nachos dipped into salsa and tzatziki, and tubs of ice cream decorated with Jazzie Drops and maltesers. Once, I even ate half a tub of Betty Crocker’s fudge frosting straight out of the tub because there was no cake or chocolate in the house. It did not end well. I bought a little gadget that every woman needs in her bedroom; the Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa. If I ask her, Alexa will tell me she loves me. She’ll play me soothing music and read to me, she’ll even flatter me if I ask her (Ruth, you’re better than ice cream) And best of all, she doesn’t fart, snore, take the duvet or come in late smelling of kebabs. On the down side, she doesn’t bring me a cup of tea in the morning. But come to think of it, neither did my ex.
I guess my point is this. It’s going to be OK my friend. You are not alone, even in the darkest night - there are others out there who are also going through their own very similar bleak time And still more who have lived through that darkest night and come out into the dawn, stronger, wiser, happier.
I recently asked several divorced friends, both male and female about their experience of divorce. All looked back and could clearly see the lessons learnt. Many reported being far more ‘me’ after their divorce, dressing differently, taking up hobbies and sports that they were passionate about before marriage, learning new skills, expanding their horizons both with travel and friendships. None of them regret their divorce. All of them went on to meet new partners.
In the final unhappy years of my marriage, when I knew in my heart it was over but couldn’t bring myself to take the plunge into divorce, I stood on the edge of the cliff for a long time. I’d look down and think what if it hurts, what if there’s stuff underneath the water that I can’t see, what if I drown? What if, what if, what if? But one day, I was ready. As I jumped into the unknown, I knew there was no going back. It hurt to hit the ice cold water, it felt as if all my bones had been splintered. I plummeted down and down beneath the surface, until gradually the momentum slowed and I floated up to the surface, gasping in the air, in shock. I was disorientated. My eyes were full of salt, my throat stung, it took a few moments to catch my breath. But when I did, a wave of exhilaration washed over me. I was free. It felt both terrifying and wildly intoxicating. I began to swim and I realised that it was OK. After a while, I could even lie back, relax, float and feel the sun on my face.
To all those unhappy people who are not sure whether to take the plunge, I see you. Ask yourself this
If the answer is ‘Yes’, then your intuition is telling you that this union is not for you anymore, you know deep down in your bones that there is something better out there. I can see you at the edge of the cliff. You’re thinking ‘I definitely can’t do this’ But you can. And you must, if you want ultimately to be happy. Anyone can jump. And I’m telling you, it’s worth the fear, it doesn't last. It's never too late to begin again. Your life doesn't have to be like this.
And to those of you who have already taken the leap and are currently in the no man’s land between being married and being single, I say well done you brave soul. Hang in there. There’s choppy waters ahead, but they will calm eventually, and every day will bring you closer to a new, sunnier horizon.
Make a post divorce/break up playlist of empowering songs on. Whitesnake’s ‘Here I go Again on my Own’ got me through a multitude of minor existential crises.
When you talk about your ex, always call him or her ‘My ex’ rather than using their name. It helps to depersonalise them in your mind.
Plan a Letting Go ceremony - this could be a simple event by yourself when you perhaps light a candle and write a letter of goodbye to your marriage or it could be something more party-like where you invite your friends and get them all to bring something to symbolize the end of your marriage. If your break up has on the whole been amicable, then let go quietly with honour and respect. If your ex treated you badly, then turn your back on that marriage with a bottle of champagne and a big fat yaaaaaaaas.
Surround yourself with people who ‘get’ you and don’t judge you - not the ones that are questioning your decisions and bringing in their own baggage. You need a team of cheerleaders around you. This is your time.
However equally remember that your divorce will ricochet through family members and will affect them too. Be compassionate with them but set your boundaries - at this particular time in your life, it’s you that needs their support, not the other way around. They can seek their own support from elsewhere.
Spend some time with yourself. Embrace any time that you have alone, for example when your children go to your ex’s. Do the inner work of reconnecting with who you really are and what your core values are. This will not only boost your self esteem and increase your emotional resilience, but will also prove essential for when and if you want to move into a new relationship. Never stop learning about yourself.
Be your own rainbow. As Glinda said in The Wizard of Oz
Home is knowing, knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.
If you would like a safe space to explore your feelings about your relationship in more depth, please get in touch. I provide one on one coaching online or face to face (near Horsham, West Sussex).
In Autumn 2020 I will be running a small workshop in a beautiful venue for up to six people who are going through a break up or divorce, where we will work on getting rid of limiting beliefs, how to handle difficult thoughts and feelings and how to move forward with clarity and vision, as well as practical tips for getting through the difficult days.
Please contact me on 07704 109806 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
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Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay - Mira Kirshenbaum
The Good Divorce - Constance Ahrons