I had been married for 13 years when I made the decision to end my marriage.
I read all I could during my divorce, searching for advice from the experts to help me rebuild my life.
The typical advice I read was to wait for one month per year of your relationship before committing to a new partner.
13 months seemed like an eternity. I was starving for connection, for intimacy and touch. I thought certainly, if I was honest about where I was at in life, it would be fine to seek such things. I decided to translate this general rule literally. I would not commit to a new partner for the recommended 13 months—but everything excluding a commitment would be fair game.
I went out into the world in search of casual connections.
What happened next was basically a one train wreck after another. I got hurt. I hurt people. I felt used. I used people. It wasn’t long until the fun, casual encounters I thought I wanted weren’t fun anymore. Eventually, I decided to just give myself a break. I needed to step away from the distraction of dating, and spend some time really getting to know myself again.
I put a ring on my own finger for my 37th birthday and committed to dating myself for a whole year. At that point, it had been almost three years since I had ended my marriage. By the experts’ standards, I should have been ready for a serious relationship. I can honestly say now that my healing hadn’t even begun—and wouldn’t until I did the work required to cut the cords to my past, and step fully and completely into my new life as a single woman.
In the beginning, just the thought of being home alone for the weekend gave me anxiety. I didn’t know how to be alone, so I filled up the time with distractions. As much as I wanted to believe that I was that busy, or that I was out having a good time, what I was actually doing was avoiding my shit. That’s when I decided to take my meditation practice to the next level.
I took my anxiety, my pain, my loneliness, and fear to the mat with me. I sat with one hand on my heart and the other on my belly. I closed my eyes and began to breathe. For the first time maybe in my whole life, I let myself feel everything I had been running from. I let the tears I had been holding back fall. I returned to this practice whenever I felt restless or out of sorts. Learning to sit with my discomfort helped me identify the source of it, which ultimately helped me change my life.
I made a commitment to love myself, with all my mistakes, flaws, and past regrets. I was going to learn how to enjoy my own company again, before bringing a new partner into my life or my bed.
I spent the next several months evaluating my life. I let go of things that no longer served me. Anything that didn’t feel authentic, right, and true—I let it go. This created space for new things to come that felt better. I made new friends. I started a new job. My writing career began to grow. I tried new things.
I traveled back to a time when I knew exactly who I was. I reconnected with people who knew me then, and talked about what made me tick before the world told me who I should be. I got reacquainted with the young woman who had goals, dreams, and opinions of her own before her identity was lost to motherhood and family life.
I started volunteering in my community, searching for meaningful ways to feed my soul through serving others. I had a hot date every Friday night with my hospice patients at the nursing home down the street. Listening to their life reviews gave me incredible perspective on my own life, priorities, and relationships.
I gave myself permission to follow a dream that felt impossible, and scary, and way too big for me. I immersed myself in writing a book about my life. Me. The girl who didn’t know who she was. Suddenly, I could see how all the different chapters of my life fit together to make the woman I had become. I started to see the value in my story, and how it could help others.
Soon, there was no room in my heart for sadness or regret. I was bursting with gratitude and joy. I no longer dreaded my alone time—I began looking forward to it. It became as necessary to me as water or air. I found solace in the silence of my sacred space.
Solitude gave me space to connect, to create, to recharge.
Today, I know that my year of celibacy was absolutely necessary for me to heal—not just from my divorce, but from previous trauma as well. I needed time and space to be free from pressures and influences from others. I needed room to grow, to figure out who I am at my core, and what I really want to accomplish with this lifetime.
My year of celibacy was the greatest gift I have ever given myself. It took a whole year for my heart to remember how to sing her perfect song—the song of my soul.
Because I chose to invest a year in my healing, I know who I am now. I know what I need in future relationships. I know that I don’t have to settle for less than I deserve. I know that I will never be lonely another day of my life, because I am always surrounded with love and laughter. I know that I am enough, just the way I am—I always was, and always will be.
The experts said 13 months would change my life. They didn’t tell me that the clock couldn’t start until I was present, engaged, and focused on my healing. They didn’t tell me that wrapping myself in a cocoon of self-love would be the only way for me to become the woman I was born to be. The experts didn’t tell me that my year of celibacy would give me my beautiful, brave wings and teach me to fly again.
Author: Renée Dubeau
Image: lingorach at Flickr
Editor: Renée Picard