Finding My Upside Down Waterfall – A Journey Through Divorce
Before I begin, I feel like it’s necessary to share that I was raised by a rock solid mother who has worked for a divorce attorney my whole life and a strong willed father that is a recovering alcoholic. So, to say I was raised in a colorful household would be an understatement. They stuck with it and finally made it to the other side. They are still married now, probably more happily than ever (it’s weird to grow up like that and then see your dad pat your mom on the ass on his way to get some tea). My model for marriage was that it’s a marathon and when it gets tough, dig in and make it work. There will be a reward for that.
With that said, know that the purpose of this blog isn’t to sway you either way, it’s simply to share my evolution of thought on the topic and hear how it’s affected my life. This is MY experience and only mine. You do YOU.
For me, getting divorced has been he ultimate act of letting go of control. You can make decisions that will steer you in one direction or another, but ultimately, unexpected events are always going to happen in life. Going through a divorce has forced me to let go of control (my counselor calls it playing God). Trying to play chess with your life and everyone else’s around you is simply impossible and if you don’t come to terms with that, you are going to be tired, disappointed and resentful for the rest of your life. Initially, I had no control over what drove me to leave my marriage. And after filing, I had no control over the disgusting and painful process that is divorce. All I wanted to do was get it over with (because this uncomfortable shit is for the birds) and so I was going to be the squeakiest wheel my attorney had ever heard. I was going to annoy the shit out of my ex until I got what I wanted, and I was going to create an euphoric co-parenting relationship with him right off the bat. None of it happened quite that way. Nope.
I learned that what I can control is how much effort I put into healing and taking care of myself. I can control the negative self talk and the kindness I show to myself. I can control who I keep close and the ones who I confide in. I have learned to control the aspects of my life that will help me accept the ones that I can’t.
People are going to judge you. Judgy people are the worst. You have the ones who are absolutely anti-divorce, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, you make it work. Period. You have made a vow before God to be there for that person till death do you part and that’s it. Then there are the other people that see you unhappily married and assume you are some battered, cowardly person that isn’t strong enough to put your own happiness first. I’m not separating myself from these people, because I have been both of them. I was the first type of person when I couldn’t imagine breaking up my family and uprooting my children’s lives in search of my own happiness, so I used that as an excuse to stay stagnant (“I’m going to dig my toes into this and make it work”). I was the latter after I left the marriage and finally realized it was survivable and wondered why so many people were so scared once they knew there was no hope left. Both mindsets are based out of fear, and rightfully so because they’re both fucking hard to do. Once you realize (and truly believe) that if YOU are not happy, no one around you will be either, it’s easier to choose love over fear and get through the dark shit.
There requires a lot of reprogramming of your mind, body and soul after you detach from a marriage. There are many reasons for divorce, but often times one of them is because there is some sort of realization that you aren’t living the life you’re meant to. You feel like you are stuck because you’ve chosen this person and well, that’s that. Once you have made the decision to move on, you realize that YOU are much different than WE. Things you have compromised for so long in order to find peace in your marriage, have slowly morphed you into an unrecognizable version of yourself. You might have started to believe that the happiness you’ve always strived for is not really a reality, but instead an “Upside Down Waterfall”. That this broken down, caged person is really who you are at the core of your soul.
It takes a lot of work to break out of that mold and create new thought patterns. It means you have to get quiet, to observe, to purge, to feel and spend time alone so you can get to know yourself again. This part sucks, but you won’t ever find that upside down waterfall unless you do the dirty work. Every other relationship you begin will end up the same if you don’t find happiness within yourself first.
If you have kids, divorce really fucking sucks. It just does. No matter how adjusted your kids are before, or how “nice” you are with your ex, splitting the family up is going to impact your kids lives. Period. They are going to act out, they are going to play both sides, and they are going to quickly realize that rules that are sticking points with one parent aren’t necessarily that important to the other. They are going to be confused when one of you begins to date (especially if your kids are young) and you’ll have to talk to them about how you aren’t being replaced by your ex’s new partner. They are going to see that you are stressed, tired and irritable more than you used to be and it will take a toll on them. Do yourself a favor and put them in counseling. You are their parent, not their counselor and playing too many roles will make you crazy.
You will not be able to control what kind of parent your ex is to your kids (I could write a book on this topic alone). They will come back to you and talk to you about how they had a Yoo-Hoo for dinner (what the fuck?!) and they will have blow-pops stuck in their hair. BUT ARE THEY ALIVE? That is the first question you have to ask yourself. The second one is, what can I do to balance this out? You can’t change the kind of parent your ex is to your children, you can only be the kind of parent you want them to be yourself. And then pray to God that is enough (usually, it is).
Do things that make you happy, even if other people don’t approve. I have a deep love for travel and adventure. I also have a broken dishwasher and a little bit of credit card debt. I know that going on a surfing or snowboarding trip by myself is better for my soul than an operative dishwasher. So I will always choose travel when I have the extra time and money to do so. People might think it’s irresponsible and selfish of me, and I don’t really care. If I am going to be true to myself and really make an effort to create a life that makes me and my children happy, I have to choose myself occasionally.
I also like eating chips and drinking a glass of wine in bed at night while I binge watch Netfilx. In my previous life, when retreated to the bedroom to recharge like this, it was assumed I was masterminding some kind of torrid affair that I would pay for sometime in the future, so I began to feel guilty about it. I’ve learned since then that even though I am very comfortable in social situations, I am also very introverted and require a significant amount of alone time to recharge. Alone time makes me happy and I don’t feel guilty anymore about taking it.