Today. December 6, 2019.
For the last five years, I have been able to measure and identify a lot of the changes in my life, what I am appreciative of, what I have survived, and what I have discovered about myself.
Reading this stuff reminds me of a few things. Sometimes I am entirely too introspective. And when I wrote this, maybe at the time I thought that was the apex of my personality. That I had found myself and this was Me, moving forward.
Today, as much as I agree with a lot of what was said, can honestly say that living is a work in progress. There are no definitives, and sometimes things are pendular. My opinions on ice cream have changed, especially after meeting someone I genuinely enjoy ice cream with. So far, my favorite is Little Man’s gingersnap cookie dough ice cream. My opinions on the paranormal are less rigid now, with my former disbelief being a reaction to putting up with years of people pretending to be psychic. I’m skeptical, but no longer atheistic on the subject. Mountain-biking kinda sucks; unless you are going downhill.
Since I wrote what follows in December, 2017, I have finally gotten to travel, and if you follow my travelogue at gettingoutmore.org, you’ll see that I can’t shut up about it. It has become my favorite vice and is truly a rush to experience. Cigars might be up there now too. Along with good scotch and tacos.
I don’t go to church anymore. The pastor at the one where I was going quit to become a day trader. I really liked his sermons, but his absence created an identity crisis within the church, and sitting there, by myself, I felt like an outsider. I adhere once again to the feeling that I don’t need a building to have a relationship with God. I’ve seen people forget to be nice people and just cling to dogma. Being a good person and following the rules are two entirely different things. Something a lot of people should recognize if they read their Bibles.
I have gotten better at boundaries, both with others and myself. Along the way, I have lost some people or changed the nature of our relationship with better boundaries. It’s a good place to be. I no longer do things to impress someone else or to prove my value. I do things because I want to, or because I have to. I am a lot more honest with myself. I get bored of using “I” sentences, but in this case this is what has to be done.
I have also realized that I have outgrown my job, and am working on taking the next step, which will no doubt scare the hell out of me. In good ways. In some ways I am less cocky or sure of myself, but that has been replaced with confidence that I can get through just about anything if I put my heart into it.
I’ve also learned how to let go, and put things that hurt me behind me. To act with grace and compassion. Be careful, but not let sad choices cloud my trust. To recognize happy choices and celebrate those. To not see being an unrepentant, hopeless romantic as being a weakness, but as being a strength that does eventually allow you to accept good things.
Life continues to be stressful, there are wins and losses, things change but your attitude determines whether they are for the better or the worse. Learn to appreciate what is good and move away from what isn’t. I try to not beat myself up as much as I used to, and that feels good too.
Anyway, without any more jabber, here’s my post on Facebook from two years ago. A few of these have changed, except for my hope and my optimism. If you find some nuggets of wisdom in any of this…well, that’s good.
December 6, 2017
Over the last three years, I have been on a journey of self-discovery.
When you are divorced and free from an abusive relationship, everything you thought you once knew is demolished. You have a chance to actually know what is important to yourself, reject what is not, and embrace your new life. This takes a lot of navigation and personal reflection. Some things in your life should be consistent. Work being one of them. This is perhaps the easiest to keep consistent, since it is the independent variable of your life. The work continues, you are just the one who has been doing it.
So keep work. At least for a while. This is one of the things that I did. For the most part, the people I work with were very welcoming and forgiving.
Keep your family. They are probably your closest support system. Your kids might not be. They will be fighting their own battles for a while.
Your friends will change, this is okay. Keep the ones you can, welcome new ones, bid a fond farewell to those who will leave your life.
Your things. You might not value some of your possessions as much as you once did. Many of these things will be painful reminders of good times and bad. Other things, you might not view with the same importance. This can be a moment of catharsis when you realize, it’s just Stuff. However, some things might hold sentiment that is ingrained in your personality. You might need to hang on to these things, having a new understanding of exactly what they mean to you. Gone are the album books of wedding pictures, vacation snaps, souvenirs, expensive cookware and appliances, antiques you picked out together, birthday presents, CDs you might have listened to together on that roadtrip to Santa Fe, or even the couch you bought that wound up lasting much longer than your marriage.
Instead, you might have found the importance in an old blanket your great grandmother made, a bookcase full of books you have spent your adult life working through, an old chair a friend gave you because your new place lacked furniture, old love letters from someone you haven’t seen in twenty years, which had been gathering dust in your parent’s house–which on a day when you needed to be reminded of it, you were once, and one day will be worthy of someone being crazy about you again. An old pocket knife, a leather jacket, jumper cables, a collection of baby pictures your family gathered up and gave you to replace the ones you’ll never see again. These little things will get you through some of the rough spots. In time, you will gather more stuff, and even let some of these things go as well.
Little dreams. Big dreams.Sad dreams. Dreams to remember.
One of the first things I wanted to do when I was on my own was to make up for the experiences I was missing out on for years while I was married. Travel and new experiences being at the top of the list. Like anything, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and after surviving a divorce battleground, you won’t have money to do pretty much anything for a while. It all gets eaten up by attorneys, bill collectors, and responsibilities that you will have in reestablishing your life.
Let go of your anger. It’s a shadow that will follow you everywhere. It will eat anything good you can put in your heart before you even know it’s there, unless you get rid of it. I am not angry about much anymore. Traffic is about as irritated as I try to be. Sometimes something will jump up and get my goat. It’s usually something having to do with my old life. Irrational requests from the ex-wife, frustrations that crop up. I’ve found that you can handle just about anything if you are calm. You are allowed to be angry, just not ever to let it control you. Take some time to settle down when you get that tight feeling in your stomach. Because things can get much worse, you don’t need to help it get there.
Let go of bad habits. Fear, jealousy, panic, paranoia, etc. These were probably a culprit in the destruction of your marriage, so lose as many of them as you can before they get a chance to poison someone else. Kids. Future relationships. The First and foremost, before they have any further opportunity to poison you. It isn’t just about faking being “fine” so others want to be around you. You also need to feel comfortable being with you.
Take the advice of friends with a grain of salt. Some of them are probably living out their own divorce fantasies through you. Be cautious of this. Take things slow. Rushing out and partying, sleeping around, blowing lots of money, doing things that are out of character are not the best ways to explore what this new you is. Usually because there might be long-term consequences to this.
Find your faith.
Know what you don’t like. After three years of going to clubs, parties, social events, mountain biking, hiking, long drives, bars, sporting events, etc. I realized that there were things I was missing out on when I was under marital house arrest, and things I wasn’t. I realized that I enjoy writing much more than hanging out in a club, shouting back and forth into a friend’s ear while trying to have a conversation. I realize I love a good hockey game. Baseball, not so much. I can take or leave watching football on TV. It’s easier just to follow the scores on Facebook. I prefer a quiet hike in the woods to drinking with friends. I hate casinos. I don’t get the point of lifting weights. I love sea-kayaking. I don’t like running. I like mountainbiking. Working out helps clear my head. Cooking is a chore. I like binge-watching a good series on Netflix, but loathe watching network television. I like to read, but am often bored by it. I didn’t like graduate school, fishing, or court hearings. I have outgrown things like Renaissance Festival, Halloween, and tasting different kinds of whisky or wine. I’m fairly adventurous with foods I like still, as I always have been. I love spending time with my kids. Concerts just feel like a lot of standing in a crowd and going deaf. I no longer believe in the paranormal and haven’t been frightened by a spooky place in years.
Work is often boring and tedious, but it is consistent. I still don’t like ice cream or cake. I know now that I can refuse it if someone offers it to me. I know too that I need glasses all the time to see, not just for reading anymore. I know I will probably never run a 5K because my ankle joints just can’t take it. I’m fine with that too. I know you don’t have to reciprocate every time someone is interested in you. Sometimes you can just smile and say “have a nice day.” I’ve learned that you can come into contact with germs every day and not die of some illness. I’ve learned that usually when you get sick, you’ll get better. Often, you’ll be recovering alone and without sympathy. Sometimes people will come by and keep you company, lift heavy things for you, pick up the tab at dinners, text you in the middle of the night for advice.
I am an unrepentant hopeless romantic.
I like church and the gym for the same reasons. Both are new additions to my life. I don’t like going to either place, but I do like how I feel when I go home. I feel like both are making me a better person. I hate camping. I am over it. I did it every month when I was in Boy Scouts. I like a nice, warm, comfy bed much better. I actually do like walks in the moonlight, soft music playing in another room, but I don’t like movie dates. I enjoy dancing. Trading stories. Learning more about someone. There are moments when I am capable of just walking away. Standing up for myself. Being bored at home and being fine with that. I like how I look with a beard but I hate how scratchy it gets. I’m still not comfortable with compliments. But that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them. Because I like giving them.
In three years I have not found a reason to spank any of my kids. Much less many reasons to ever raise my voice at them.
I have to base what I like or don’t only on if I truly do, not by the context. Some context is good and some is bad. Prejudice is meaningless. You have to find your own beliefs, your own convictions, and sometimes rules are fine to break. Some aren’t. Some wound you further down the line.
I like coffee, but I don’t need it. It gives me bad breath. I liked the social aspect of it. People get together and drink coffee. Ordering coffee is a conversation with someone you might have missed out on otherwise. Alcohol just makes me want to sleep. And then I miss out on conversations. I don’t need pets. I don’t miss cleaning up after them, feeding them, or taking them to the vet. Kids require enough of that, and they are more interesting. It’s okay to have opinions and not waver from them. It’s also okay to change your mind on a subject. You won’t be judged as a liar for changing your mind if you keep the right kinds of company. You aren’t a loser if you aren’t going out with friends on a Friday. If you decide to do laundry for a lazy Sunday, it might just be enough. It’s okay to be alone. It’s fine to look back, look forward, living in the moment is fine too. Moderation is key. You’ll have regrets, you’ll have ambitions, you will continue to mess up, fall on your face, but just keep getting back up again.
Sometimes I talk too much. I overthink. Then I don’t say what really needed to be said, for fear of losing anything I have gained. I have been greedy with my emotions. Needy. Isolated. Reluctant and second-guessing myself. As we tend to be when we are brand new at life.
I like to write. It got me through a shitty marriage, and it’s going to be with me for a wonderful life. It supplied these words you have just read. I still haven’t traveled, other than some introspective journeying. But now, I have the patience to understand it is my life, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. I have time.