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Tammy Swift, Published September 14 2013

Swift: Dating and divorce are two d-words that don’t mix

After my last two columns, it didn’t take long for readers to start reaching out.

The messages were numerous. They were also kind, encouraging and empathetic. “Hang in there. It gets better,” one fellow denizen of divorce said. Some assured me that I was brave to be so open and honest (which, of course, made me worry I had been too open and honest). And many offered advice.

A few of their recommendations were unconventional. One person suggested that I skip the middle man and have a baby. (Obviously, this guy didn’t know my biological clock was an analog variety purchased during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.) Another suggested that I simply “get back in the game and start dating,” which is kind of like telling someone with sun stroke to “walk it off” in Death Valley.

I’ve heard several variations on this theme, including “You should meet my neighbor, Art. He’s divorced too.” It doesn’t really matter if the only thing we have in common is the homo sapiens’ propensity for walking upright and breathing air. The assumption is that any two single people can be thrown together – simply because it makes the couples around them uncomfortable to find mismatched friends at the bottom of the social hamper.

But most of the recommendations and insights have been excellent. “Even an easy divorce is hard,” one empathetic soul observed. “It’s easier to be single and lonely than married and lonely,” another wise person offered.

Several readers were especially adamant about avoiding one particular pitfall: dating. One woman, a counselor, wrote a letter so insightful and nurturing that I wanted to sit at her kitchen table and drink hot cocoa. “Do NOT get involved in a relationship for at least one year,” she wrote. “Give yourself time to rediscover who you are now. You’ve never been this Tammy before.”

Of course, these concerned readers needn’t worry. “This Tammy” has given herself an extremely liberal timeline (sometime between January of 2017 and May of 2034) until she climbs aboard Love’s Tender Treadmill of Terror again. For now, she will focus on more enjoyable pursuits, such as undergoing FBI interrogations or receiving periodontal surgery.

But besides the emotional hangover, I also don’t believe I’m mentally prepared yet. In the last four months, I moved out of my home of 12 years, moved three times, lived briefly in a hotel, broke the news to all of my friends and family, slogged through the divorce process, legally changed my name, gave up two of my pets and reconciled myself to the fact that I would probably never have Easter dinner at my favorite sister-in-law’s house again.

All of this chaos and transition is bound to have some effect on our gray matter. I call it Divorce Brain. Concentration eludes me. I feel mentally blunted. Sometimes, I feel like I’m going through the right motions, but I’m not really plugged into reality. I’m a passive observer, watching “this Tammy” – this strange new creature – try to play-act her way through the day.

Divorce Brain causes you to lock your keys into your car with the engine still running. It makes you announce to everyone – from bank tellers to the Brownie Scout who is trying to sell you cookies – that you are going through the Big D. It makes you wander around, zombie-like, chanting “Must. Get. Decent. Settlement. And. The. Gas. Grill.” (Who cares if I never grill? The important thing is that he doesn’t get it!)

So, no, my new and old friends, there’s no reason to fear. I won’t be dating anytime soon. I realize that my heart and mind need the healing balm of time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading to my deck to stare at my new grill.