When I was interviewing divorce attorneys, I actually had one say to me, “No matter who you hire, the divorce game is a tough one.” “Wow,” I thought. “Divorce GAME. That doesn’t sound too bad. Maybe this won’t be as horrible as I think.” Because, when I think of game, I think of Candy Crush and Scrabble on my iPad, both activities that I enjoy immensely and spend an inordinate amount of time on. So sure, BRING IT.
I hired an attorney and the “game” began. Looking back at it now, I don’t think I would call it a game exactly, more like a gut blowing, agonizing, pain filled torture that makes childbirth look like a 30 minute Zumba session. (Which btw I did once and nearly broke my ankle, but given the choice between the two I will take Zumba every time.) I would sometimes speak in tongues, or find myself on the floor of my closet giggling to myself while cutting old photos of us into little pieces. I cried in the grocery store, at my kid’s school conferences and once at the table at Esca, a fabulous restaurant in NYC, where the waiter insisted on getting me a new plate of linguini with clams as he thought THAT was the reason for my misery.
“Madam, your food is not as you like?”
SNIFF SNIFF “No it’s fine, really.”
“Chef has been adding way too much pepper, I will get you a new plate immediately!”
Happily, I was able to eat each delicious clam wrapped in a forkful of linguini with just the right amount of pepper, between sobs. In fact, that meal is the one bright spot I remember from that time.
So no, game is not really how I would describe it. There is one good thing about divorce however, and that is…it ends. Finally, mercifully, thankfully, it is over. And guess what—life goes on.
So, here we are five years later— it has been five years since my ex and I sat in the judges chambers and each answered “YES” when he asked “Have you done all you can to save your marriage?” before he signed the decree making us an ex-couple. Yes, we did all we could do, meaning I begged, I pleaded, I bought new underwear, I got a facelift. After all of that, my ex looked at me one day and said, “After what I did, how could I ever really come home?” And so he didn’t. I didn’t really go into all of that with the judge, who totally freaked me out because as you know I have a huge phobia about going to jail ever since I sawMidnight Express in college. I was just waiting for him to look at me and say, “Hmmm…maybe a little jail time will straighten you out.” So, I felt great relief but also unbearable sadness when he signed the decree, looked at us and said “Good luck to you both.”
Now, here’s what I need you to know: From that point on my life has been more than I ever thought it could be, because once you go through divorce and you are no longer one half of a couple, you become a WHOLE person. And that person will start to reveal to you who she is and what she wants, and it will come through loud and clear if you are ready to listen. And you can’t be ready if you are holding on to regrets, anger, what ifs, how could hes. So let it go…and listen.
For me, I listened and found myself taking college courses in creative writing. Was I the oldest one in the class? Sure. Did anyone want to be my partner for the group writing exercise? No. But I loved it and I poured my whole experience out in words. I took a memoir class. Most kids turned in a 5 page essay about their high school years, mine was more like a War and Peace size “THE STORY OF AMY KOKO.” I think the kids found it riveting.
The point is, I found writing and I truly believe it saved me from becoming one of those divorcees who five years later when you run into them in Publix and ask “How are you?” replies “My ex husband is a dick.” Uhm…DONT BE THAT PERSON! Dig deep and see what’s in there. You know what came out of me? A blog, a book and now another book on the way. I host retreats for women who want to write their way through divorce because I know there is light at the end of the tunnel! The words don’t stop! I highly recommend sitting down at your computer, at your desk with a paper and pen, or even with the notes section on your smart phone and putting down words. You will be amazed at what appears.
If it’s not words, perhaps it’s drawing. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s going back to school to follow the dream you put on hold when your first child was born. Remember? You meant to get back to it, now is your time. Maybe it’s painting, playing an instrument, becoming a nuclear physicist (that was my second choice.) Whatever it is, do it. Yes, divorce is sad, it’s heart breaking, it’s an ending. But, it is also a beginning. Dig deep. Listen. Get whole.