Last Friday night found me at one of my favorite places: the ballpark. I wasn't watching the major leaguers, though; I was watching the cutest group of preschoolers chase a little white ball while they rolled around in the dirt and incessantly asked when it was their turn to bat. While I sat on the sidelines talking to my sister and brother-in-law trying to keep the two-year-old princess from storming the mound, I observed my son practicing fielding grounders with his dad on the field. It was a beautiful sight.
I began to reflect. If you had asked me a year ago when my divorce was being finalized if I would be able to fondly watch on as my son and ex-husband made memories on the baseball diamond, I would have looked at you bewildered as if you were speaking a foreign language. But a year can change a lot, and I can happily tell you that it can change a lot for the better. Don't get me wrong, divorce is not the path that I would have chosen, and it is difficult for everyone involved, but I've learned that, once it becomes your reality, you might as well find the good in it.
And here is all the good that I've found in this year:
A Civil Relationship With My Ex
Honestly, a year ago, I couldn't stand the sight of my ex. I dreaded the weekly pickup and drop-off of our small children, and those usually lasted less than two minutes without words being exchanged. Now, we are at the ballpark twice a week together. For some reason, going to the dentist has become a joint venture, too (maybe because we know how traumatic it can be). Not only can we be in the same room without wanting to harm each other, we can even talk and laugh about the latest antics of the kids. We will also send the occasional text message or picture to each other detailing a noteworthy event in the kids' lives. While I never expect (or desire) to be best friends with my ex, I think we're doing right by our kids and one another by getting along. He may not have been a good husband to me, as he will readily admit, but he can still be a good father to our children.
Success in My Career
I've known I wanted to teach since I was in high school. I loved to read and write and help others, so it just made sense. Over a decade has passed, and it still makes sense. There was a time in my life, though, that I thought stepping away from teaching (at least temporarily) was the right choice. Not long after our first anniversary, my son made his debut into the world changing our lives with his redheaded mohawk and mischievous grin. Twenty-two months later, we welcomed a redheaded, strong-willed princess into the brood. I wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom, so my ex and I decided we would start working toward that goal. I was an adjunct then, so I only accepted as many classes as I wanted. I started out teaching four a semester (pretty much a full-time load), but I steadily decreased my load until I was only teaching two classes a semester by the time we separated. Since being a stay-at-home mom was clearly out of the question at that point, I figured I would continue on my path as an adjunct and just pick up as many classes as possible, but that would have left me without health insurance or benefits of any kind. Fortunately for me, a full-time position opened up at my alma mater. Had it not been for the divorce, I would have never pursued this opportunity. I am happy to say that I love my full-time job that allows me to do what I love three days a week and be with those I love the other four.
A Rekindled Passion
Writing has always been an enjoyable activity for me. When I was a kid, I stapled pages of construction paper together, drew some stick figures, and scribbled some words underneath. Then I hit those awkward preteen years, and I tried my hand at poetry (let's all be thankful I gave that up). The college years arrived, and I started throwing myself into researched arguments and literary analyses, locking myself in a room with a pen and paper and pages of notes and not coming out until I had produced something I deemed worthy enough to hand in. After grad school, though, I married, and the babies started coming. And when I wasn't at home with them, I was trying to teach others how to write. There simply wasn't a free space on the agenda for my own hobbies. The divorce changed that in a couple ways. First, it created a need -- I needed a way to process everything that I was going through. Second, it bestowed on me the gift of time -- when the kids would go to their dad's and I had caught up on the laundry and the house was (too) quiet, I could finally sit down long enough to jot down a few thoughts. And you know what? I found that I actually have something worthwhile to say and that I feel better after I've said it.
I realize that no divorce is equal, but if you're in the midst of a divorce and can't see a silver lining, be encouraged. I've been there, and I'm happy to report that that phase does not last forever. You will come through it. And you won't just survive--you'll thrive!