A friend said to me that I made getting divorced look easy. I suppose when you're ready, it can be! I was so ready that in fact it only took three months from start to finish. It could have been less, but I opted for a later court date because I hadn't expected it to go so smoothly. Another factor is when you don't have a lot of "stuff," meaning money and material possessions, there's not much to argue over. Keeping the focus on the children and not your ego is the best path to freedom. Here's how I did it:
1. I quit my job and started working from home.
I actually did this over four years ago, but it was the most liberating, challenging thing I'd done in my marriage. Granted I have an entrepreneurial streak, or in the latest vernacular "solopreneurial," but it still takes a great deal of courage to risk financial hardship and incredible strength to carry through with a vision and make money. With these skills, I had the confidence to do anything.
2. I went to a divorce lawyer, twice, two years apart.
The first visit was shortly after I quit my job. I had zero support from my co-parent. He had no idea what it was I had set out to accomplish, and felt terribly burdened with having to support the family 100%. I can't blame him for that, but I had a plan, he just didn't understand it. For all he knew I had turned into an Internet junkie and was surfing porn sites. A little support would have gone a long way... I learned from my first visit that I had a tough road ahead of me if I were to leave the marriage. There just wasn't enough money and the children would suffer. So I waited. Last year, I went again, and the numbers came out much better. And on the plus side, because in reality there still wasn't any money to fight over, both visits were pro bono. I never got a bill.
3. I started working out regularly, including taking up running.
It was not my first intent to look better. I was more concerned about feeling better. I was sitting all day and not moving around as much, so my lower back hurt, my hips cracked all the time, and my legs were cramping. As I started to feel better, I noticed my mood improved immensely too. I had more energy, I slept better, and I looked better. And going to the gym is social, which I needed just as much. And for whatever reason, I decided to start running. I don't know why I had waited so long. I loved it immediately (well, after the third time.) It was the biggest physical challenge I had taken on yet. Running has changed my life. I know that I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, which gives me confidence in everything I do.
4. I saw more of my friends.
Girls night took on new importance. As did traveling to meet up with my far away friends. I have a fantastic core group of friends in my area and we meet at least twice a month and I know I can count on them for anything. I know a lot of people in my town, but I am blessed to have my small group. And then there are the friends I've collected over time and know we can continue the conversation whenever we want. Doubly blessed. These are the people who you contact first with the good news and who get you through the heartache. They're also the people that, say for example you find out Pearl Jam is playing in San Diego and want to go, you text them with your request and the next thing you know you're flying to San Diego from the east coast to see Pearl Jam. Pretty amazing.
5. I kept up with my journal.
Writing in my journal has saved my life. Who else would want to hear my rambles every day? I've been keeping a journal on and off since college. I've found that I used to only write during the bad times. I have a lot of journals under my bed! Now I write habitually everyday. On my laptop, password protected. There are so many benefits I can't possibly begin to list. But one that comes to mind, now that I'm on my laptop, is when I start to question something, after I focus on my feelings I can then google it and find out more. The answers are readily available, if I ask the right questions of course. Otherwise I could keep on writing in circles...
6. I read everything I could get my hands on about relationships from start to end.
This carries over from keeping a journal, but everything you need to know is right at your fingertips. The internet is amazing. There's a lot of advice out there, good and bad. I fished through and found all sorts of great resources to help me grow, understand, connect with myself, and find the tools to start again. Ask the right question and you will see for yourself!
7. I forgave my parents.
Not as easy as it sounds. But it was the one big thing holding me back. I admit, I'm not 100%, but I'm much better than I was before. I'm just happy to be free of holding that grudge and they are, after all, just people. No one is perfect. Their lives weren't really that great and now in their old age they're suffering enough. It's liberating to just let it go.
8. I forgave my co-parent.
I can't blame him. I didn't ask the right questions when I met him and I assumed way too much. He was just along for the ride. Had I been wiser, I would have seen that. I've now learned that relationships are a learning process and they take more work than I would have ever known. Had I been smarter I would have known that he wasn't the one to go on the journey with me. And having realized that, I was able to sincerely apologize to him for whatever it was he was feeling and to ask forgiveness. He's not quite there yet but one day he will be.
9. I forgave myself.
Oh the mistakes I've made! So many! But I can't beat myself up. I didn't have the tools. I didn't have the foundation. I didn't have any role models. I just didn't know. At every turn I truly believe I did the best with what I had at the time. It's as simple as that. I'm blessed in that I'm able to make the most of a situation and learn from it. And at the very least I know that no matter how bad it seems, it always gets better. It does. A friend said to me ages ago, "Crisis is opportunity." I've had plenty of that!
10. I made it all about my two boys.
My problems are not theirs. Their world is their challenge. It's enough for them to prioritize brushing their teeth before bed and getting dressed in the morning. The greatest benefit of being self employed and knowing how to live on virtually nothing is that I have the time to process my problems when alone and then focus on them when we're together. Our stress is, most of the time anyway, about what raising two boys brings - meal times, homework, after school activities, girls, friends, screen time. And please put your dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher. These are good problems. My co-parent is their other parent and it is my duty to be respectful of that. I do whatever it takes to keep the spin positive. Because it's not always easy. Would I like to make more money and enjoy more luxuries? Yes! But right now that's not a priority. They're still young and I'm not comfortable creating any more change in their life. When the time comes, I'll know. We've made it this far.