October 20, 2014

Aftermath of the D Word

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” -Seneca

Tonight is a hard night. Actually, it’s been a hard two months. I feel completely selfish about feeling down because I know with certainty that my life is great overall. I am so fortunate I have my health and a large group of amazing people I can share my joys and sorrows with. I have a career that I love which affords me the opportunity to fulfill my desire to travel. I’ve reached an age where I realize these things matter more than anything else in the world, and I try every day not to take them for granted. I remind myself I have so much more than so many which makes me feel nothing but guilt for having bad nights like tonight. What could I possibly have to complain about? Still, like every human being, your own problems – even if they’re small – feel the heaviest because they impact your life so directly and immediately.

Earlier this year I went through a divorce (I still struggle saying that word) with a man I spent 11 consecutive years with. It’s difficult to articulate how much my world has been flipped upside down in the past seven months and it’s really sunk in the last two. The first few months post the “D word” were just chaos with selling our home, completing legal work and running errands, moving into a new place and getting settled, plus everything else that comes with summers in Iowa where so much is going on. On top of that I took the whole month of July off work to backpack through parts of Europe. It was an amazing experience and took my mind off of everything back home… I was so lucky to be able to do that.

Since returning from my trip at the start of August, normal life has sort of kicked back in… except it’s different from what “normal” used to be. I usually welcome and handle change well, but I’ll admit this has not been an easy adjustment for me.

While I have no doubts or regrets in my decision to end my marriage for reasons I won’t go into, I do miss aspects of my old life. I love so many things about living downtown Des Moines and there are certainly benefits to downsizing and living alone, but I’d be lying if I said the single life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (even though I anticipated that). I’ve heard lots of comments from people about how much fun I’m going to have and how I should just live it up and enjoy my freedom, etc. “You’re young and single, live it up!” has become an annoying phrase to me because it’s coupled with a false assumption that you can’t live it up when you’re in a relationship. To the contrary, in many ways I feel like I got to do more when I was with someone, not less.

I’ve also heard other single people say, “I don’t need someone, I’m too independent.” Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great attitude to have and more power to those people, but it implies those who do need or want a significant other are not independent. I am very much an independent person. I stand my own ground and defend what I believe in, I never let going by myself stop me from doing something, and I make my own decisions for the kind of person I want to be and life I want to live. I don’t feel any less independent for missing all the things that come with having a partner in life. Perhaps I haven’t given the single life a fair shot or maybe I’m just not used to it yet. I’ve been told for every year you’re with someone it takes a month to move on, so I’m hoping I just need more time.

My favorite memories and things I continue to look forward to most are traveling, camping, hiking, dinner and movie nights, late night walks, Mario Kart battles, ordering pizza and getting into intense games of Monopoly, finding new random things to do in the city, just being goofy with someone in the comfort of my own home – the list is long. For the past few years, I’ve really come to enjoy those things as much as I enjoy crazy nights at the bars with friends. I guess for me, being single hasn’t really added anything to my life, but it has taken away some of the things I cherished most, and that’s where I’m struggling adjusting. I know I made the right decision for the long term, but this short term part is hard.

I think the slump I’m going through now partly has to do with the stage of life everyone around me is in. Even just in the last year, the availability of people to get up and go do things with has dwindled. Nearly every person I used to plan my weekends with is now having a family. I can’t believe the difference a few years makes in your twenties, especially as a female. A year ago I could hardly keep up with all the things going on between family and my different circles of friends. Some of that busyness though came with accommodating to another person and all the people in his life which are no longer a part of mine. In addition, it doesn’t help that I caught the travel bug… I say this hesitantly because I don’t want to leave the impression that my friends, my job, this city, etc. aren’t good enough, but my life here just doesn’t excite me for lack of a better way to articulate it. However, while I’d love to spend every day of my life traveling, the reality is I just can’t. That means I have to find ways to keep busy and find people to do regular nights and weekends stuff with. That’s becoming increasingly challenging for the reasons I just mentioned, so the days when I’m alone or bored and don’t want to be are the hardest. I guess I haven’t learned how to deal with being alone yet in the emotional sense. I could be home alone all weekend no problem when I was married, and even enjoyed that sometimes, but the mentality is different now.

Then there’s the feeling of loss I have for the person I used to know so well. Sometimes I try really hard to focus on his laugh and remember what he sounded like. You wouldn’t think it’s possible to forget such things after you’ve spent that much time with a person, but they are fading with every day that passes. It’s so strange. It makes me really sad. There are days it feels more like a death than a divorce… like a person that was such a HUGE part of my life for literally all my adulthood just vanished. I feel awful saying that because I know it doesn’t and can’t compare to the grief people go through when they have a death in their family. It’s the only way I can describe it though. I feel like I’m living the same life I have for the past seven years I’ve been in Des Moines, except now I’m doing it alone. It’s a difficult comparison to make. Perhaps I just need a move and a fresh start somewhere else, or maybe I should take some serious time off work and go travel the world for a while. I just know I need to do something to shake my world up a bit. The thought of a new adventure with new people and places to explore lights a fire in me. Europe was incredible for that reason. Despite going there alone, I never once felt lonely… just alive. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’ll figure it out. All I know is life’s too short to wait around for happiness, you got to go after it.

I have complete confidence that I will eventually adjust to my new “normal” life. I am not unhappy and I realize life will forever be filled with ups and downs, good days and bad days. In the grand scheme of things, this a very, very small problem to have. I know things can ALWAYS be worse as there’s always someone who’s having a harder time. I get through the rough days knowing I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to experience the whirlwind of emotions that comes with divorce. And the love and support of friends and family doesn’t hurt either!

For the time being, I take comfort knowing there are definitely some amazing adventures and people awaiting and that, like all things in life, this too, shall pass.