After Divorce—What comes next?
Endings have always been hard for me. Being a Virgo, and a possessed planner, I need to know what comes next. I want the long-term plan—that takes years and years to complete.
This may be why I committed to marriage—the ultimate long (con) plan. When we get married and have children, we’re in it for decades. First our toddlers go to pre-school (for two years), then to elementary school (six more years), middle school (two-three years) and then high school (four years). And then off to college (four-five years).
And that’s when it gets scary.
Do we really want to be with the person we married? Are we at all alike anymore? Do I like who I am with them? And where did this extra 20 pounds come from?
It was at that point that my marriage fell apart, leaving me on a cliff with no visibility beyond my un-ringed finger. Where was I going to live? What if I couldn’t make enough money? What if I went through my savings and became homeless?
It felt as if making the wrong decision could mean falling to my death. What comes next?
The song lyrics from the Hamilton song “What Comes Next?” capture this well:
“What comes next?
You’ve been freed.
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Do you have a clue what happens now?
It’s much harder when it’s all your call.
Ain’t that the truth? It’s almost like my ex is singing it to me.
I am still trying to figure that out.
And while doing that, I made some rookie mistakes. I dated too quickly and fell hard for a man just like my ex. I became paralyzed by money fears and sold possessions I could use now. And I was so focused on my own pain that I forgot (briefly) to notice my children were falling apart too.
What have I learned from this?
In perilous positions, it is best to stop moving and:
>> Get still. One day in my early divorce days, a video of Oprah Winfrey came through my Facebook feed. It was closed captioned, and this quote came across the screen, “When you don’t know what to do, get still. The answer will come.”
Those two words settled me instantly. Get still. We cannot figure out what to do if our inner voice is drowned out by our monkey mind. So I turned to any quiet activity. Restorative yoga, meditation, and sleep were my favorites—usually in that order.
>>Apply self-care. While separated, yet living with my former spouse for months, I spent a lot of time walking in my neighborhood. It allowed me to work off my anxiety, switch out my stressful surroundings, and lose a few pounds. All of that helped me feel more confident when I started dating after 24 years. Not that I didn’t pursue some unhealthy self-care routines like late night cheese curl and Cabernet feasts. But having “go to” healthy self-care tasks helped me make better choices.
>> Re-think things. I find researching other people’s journeys and views to be very helpful.
I recently came across a story that turned my outlook upside-down:
“A pilgrim is on an important journey. He travels only at night and carries a lantern, but the lantern only illuminates the path just a few feet ahead of him. He knows that this slim illumination is all he needs. He does not need to see the whole path ahead. He trusts that he can make the entire journey seeing only the immediate next steps.” ~ Stephen Cope from The Great Work of your Life
He has an imperative mission to accomplish—one that typically would have a definitive path. Yet he is confident that viewing a little of his path is enough. He has faith in himself and his higher power that everything will play out as needed.
We don’t need to have a long plan.
On the cliff of life, only the moment matters. And what is in front of us is all we need to handle. Longer term views and worries are a futile waste of energy.
Eventually, time will transport us from the precipice, and, if we are patient, the view will illuminate a clear trail.
Until then, get still, take a walk—and have a smidgeon of faith.
“You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.” ~ Anne Lamott