After leaving my husband and moving across the country with our daughter when she was just 6 weeks old, friends and family suggested I “talk to someone” about the sudden transition into single parenthood.
I remember the days leading up to our departure. I sat on the floor of the room I had dreamed up for months, wrapping ceramic teddy bears in newspaper and filling boxes with pastel decorations. Instead of facing my marriage woes, I instead took on the challenge of toning down the drab walls of our rented rustic cabin in Lake Tahoe, where my husband was stationed in the military. Moving furniture, then moving it again. Rearranging shelves so every tiny piece had a home. In hindsight, I wanted to make sure she felt at home, ignoring the fact that I hadn’t felt at home in a long time. It certainly became my oasis in an otherwise empty house. Not a house devoid of furnishings and possessions, but of feeling. A few weeks prior, I’d been putting the final touches on her nursery, and now, everything had to go. We had to go.
I wasn’t against counseling. In fact, during pregnancy my husband and I went together a few times until he decided he didn’t want to go anymore. Even though a therapist didn’t save our new marriage, it felt nice to open up to an unbiased third party. Loved ones kept hinting at the idea once I moved back to Maine and I assured them I would call around and check rates and insurance compatibility. Inside, I knew a therapist could help scratch the surface, but honestly, my intuition insisted I walk this path on my own. At least to start. To me, the best use of my time was to really get to know myself. To dig deep. I was willing to take this unconventional journey into the world of self-care.
I knew I could return to a therapist and receive the tools to build confidence, but what he or she wouldn’t be able to do is bring the joy back into my life. Only I could do that.
For some reason, I couldn’t conjure up the strength to make the several prior “breakups” permanent. But after I had Lexi, I found studying spirituality, which ultimately helped me follow through with divorce.
A friend recommended Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. This book prompted me to make meditation a daily practice. I also went to church more and even enrolled my daughter in a Catholic preschool (where she still attends school today).
During the process, I had to figure out what about divorce or parenting or life in general wreaked havoc on my soul. For the longest time, I hated that I “failed” at love. That I was a single parent. That my daughter was being raised without a dad. That her dad didn’t make her a priority. But I also knew that raising my daughter in Maine close to relatives was the best thing for her. What I had to figure out was how to be happy with this decision despite my situation being outside of society’s “norm.”
From there, I read Tolle’s other books as well as other authors who wrote about mindset, spirituality, etc. The words continued to resonate with me. I started to understand where the pain was coming from. I implemented yoga. I didn’t do all of these things at once. In fact, the changes came over time, after learning there wasn’t just one anecdote to the sadness I was feeling. Eventually, I knew when something in me felt “off.” It was time to analyze how I was treating myself.
Turns out, a lot of times, social interaction is what was missing was. Being around people aside from my daughter. I had a tendency to get tunnel vision when it came to motherhood. I assumed I had to play the role of two parents so I set aside everything that once made me who I am. I barely wrote for the first three years of my daughter’s life. I declined friends’ invitations to meet them for dinner. Not only is seclusion unhealthy, but it takes you off the path that makes you who you are. We aren’t great parents because we give all of our time and energy to our children. What makes us great is that we are able to continue to pursue all of the passions that ignite us. Not just parenting.
English novelist and poet A.S. Byatt said: ”I think of writing simply in terms of pleasure. It’s the most important thing in my life, making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes these things. I, who I am, is the person that has the project of making a thing … And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all these people.”
Self-healing isn’t for everyone but at the time of my separation, I wasn’t sure I knew myself well enough for a therapist to really instill long-term solutions. Certainly I could tell her X, Y, Z happened and she could prompt me with questions, but when I took the time to make my well-being a priority, I felt more comfortable opening up to others about my past. The process seemed natural.
My biggest revelation came by recognizing how healing works. You may have to revisit the pain again and again. There isn’t a magic formula that makes it disappear or a barrier that keeps it away. In fact, the more you push it away, the more you feel it. The less you feel ashamed or embarrassed about whatever you have been through, the easier the process of “moving on” can be.
It’s been over six years since the split from my ex-husband and there are days when I forget I was ever married, but there are also still days when fear creeps in to ask me if I am sure I feel lovable. The difference now is, no matter what feelings present themselves, I possess the joy to heal from it.