04/27/2014 03:16 pm ET Updated May 02, 2014

What I Learned From Going On Food Stamps After Divorce

If there's ever a time you need a little distraction in your life, it's during the divorce process. That's why we launched our Divorce Care Package series. With each post, we'll show you what things -- books, movies, recipes -- helped others relieve stress in the midst of divorce, in the hopes that a few of their picks will serve you well, too. Want to share what got you through your divorce? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com or tweet @HuffPost Divorce

In the midst of her separation, writer and script editor Susanne “Nan” Bayes says she found comfort in the little things: a Mozart song she'd put on every night to soothe her nerves, yogurt pretzels to snack on, and watching anything Bryan Cranston had ever starred in.

"Seriously, I'm grateful for what distraction his acting and producing efforts brought to me, my teenager daughter, and my mother, who we moved in with after my separation," she says.

Below, Bayes tells us more about that and shares how going on food stamps changed her perception of what it means to be totally independent.

  • The Splurge
    Betsie Van der Meer via Getty Images
    "After my separation, when I was at my mother’s, she gently rested her hand on my knee and explained that the next day I needed to go apply for food stamps. I sobbed for a half hour. Then I went to the store. Without my ex husband around, I could use the food stamps without any questions, without any prodding and without any dictations. I bought all the groceries my family needed in one fell swoop, and I still have that receipt. It’s not the splurge purchase you’d expect, right? But it was the best unfurling of freedom I had felt in years. That it was made possible by the grace of the state I live in is a debt I hope one day to repay. Wealth, I had said for years, was the ability to put anything in your cart and not have the check bounce. If the state made that possible even once, it was well worth the momentary loss of dignity."
  • The Song
    "No one -- especially me -- saw my divorce coming. It was, as Lisa Arend says in her excellent Huffpost piece -- a tsunami divorce, precipitated by the acts of a con man who had me conned, too. I went from a four bedroom lake house to my mother’s doorstep in four weeks flat, having discovered my ex had written bad checks to move his wife and children across the country for a job that wasn’t the financial miracle that he claimed it was. I was blindsided by grief. There were some days that I had trouble holding it together on any level, jobless and alone in a very remote part of the world with non-existent child care. When I’d go to bed at night, I’d put on Mozart’s 'Serenade No. 10 in B Flat Major' on my phone and listen to it over and over again. It is a masterpiece of harmony, slow moving and reticent to build. Since I had been lacking in harmony for quite some time, it gave me an enormous amount of comfort."
  • The Book
    "It wasn’t one book, nor any book I read: it was that books began arriving at my new remote home, sent to me by an old junior college boyfriend who was also a writer. I’d come home from work to find a book on beekeeping or a novel I’d mentioned on Facebook, a French dictionary in college (with 'meilleur ami' underlined), John Garner’s On Becoming a Novelist, a Lithuanian copy of Harry Potter (he knew I was drawing strength from the image of a penniless single parent Rowling), a worn copy of Shakespeare’s plays, Robert K. Massie’s Peter the Great, and many, many others. Just that he gave them to me with great care and thought buoyed my soul enormously. I never read a single one all the way through, but I still have them all in their own little stack, and they will come with me when we make a new home soon."
  • The Hobby
    Image Source via Getty Images
    "My new man and I sat and watched 'The Big Year,' a comedy about bird enthusiasts starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. My boyfriend is a life-long birder, so he made the suggestion. Then he asked if I wanted to have a 'big year' ourselves with his birding brother and my birding mom. I was aghast. For those unacquainted, a big year is a competition among bird enthusiasts to see who can identify the greatest number of species of birds in one calendar year. My boyfriend, his brother and my mom all had thirty years of birding on me. But since I am on a coastline and get about 100 species more a year than them, I signed on. And it was like I’d been missing a whole layer of the world until then. Birds have since given me a great deal of comfort and quite frankly, given my long-distance relationship with my man a center. We’re always spotting new birds, and discovering more beauty around us each and every day and take birding trips on our days together. Soon enough we’ll be together permanently, but we’ll always have birds, and that is a great reward within itself."
  • The Food
    Crystal Cartier via Getty Images
    "Two words: yogurt pretzels. I was so traumatized when I left, all I could stomach was yogurt pretzels and pop tarts. And I still dropped twenty pounds, like *that*."
  • The Shows
    "The fact that 'Breaking Bad' and 'Homeland' were both available during my divorce helped tremendously. 'Breaking Bad' gave me, my traumatized teenage daughter and my recently widowed mother something to watch as each one of us dealt with a hard new existence. We got all worked up over Hank. There were times I’d get really low and my daughter would say, 'Bryan Cranston' and I would just break into a grin. It was so sweet of her to make an effort to make me smile. It’d bring up the image of Cranston in that playground with the blue sequined suit roller skating to 'We Are the Champions' from that 'Malcom in the Middle' episode. Yeah, yeah, Walter White this, Walter White that -- but as Hal, Cranston is our generation’s Jack Benny, and I’m grateful for what distraction his acting and producing efforts brought us. Also, it is scientifically impossible to be depressed while watching 'The Price is Right.' If nothing else, you’ll learn how to treat people graciously through Drew Carey’s example."

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