Tammy Swift, Published May 03 2014
Swift: Positive things have sprouted out of year since divorce
It has been 365 days (plus change) since I first learned my marriage was over. In some ways, I can’t believe this time has passed.
In other ways, I feel like I’ve crammed a decade of experiences into one slender fragment of time. In the past 12 months, I’ve experienced as much joy as I have pain, as much liberty as I have fear, as much growth as I have isolation.
In efforts to avoid becoming The Official Divorce Columnist of North Dakota and All Contiguous States, I have tried to avoid divorce topics of late.
Especially after receiving a letter that said I was a spineless and self-pitying whiner who was no longer funny. I get it. There are certainly those people out there who feel like they signed up for an episode of “Modern Family” and instead experienced a marathon of “Shameless.”
But don’t worry. This won’t be a sad monologue of woe. Instead, I’d like to talk about the good stuff that has sprouted out of the past year.
Prior to this, my whole life had been about avoiding pain. But lately, I’ve had no choice but to embrace it. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve grown so much more from the hurtful stuff than I did from maintenance mode.
One of the best byproducts of this divorce is the amount of positive support I’ve received. Strangers have approached me in grocery stores to tell me, “I’ve been through the same thing.”
Community members have sent me beautiful, thoughtful, empathetic emails or Facebook messages. A close circle of women friends have made me laugh harder than I thought was humanly possible. A family has stood by me and coached me through the late-night phone calls. Perhaps naively, perhaps foolishly, I showed these people my broken places, and they still liked, or even loved, me.
In many ways, I have been reborn. I had been a zombie – sleepwalking through life, filled with uncertainty and self-loathing. My life had become a living testimony to “good enough.” If I had to write a mission statement back then, it might have read: “To survive.”
Today, that has changed. I am rediscovering the girl who had many opinions, who liked to give dinner parties, who loved the Pixies and independent films. I became the person who again sang along to the radio, bought an impractical, bright-green couch and stopped apologizing for saying the wrong thing.
In many ways, the tough lessons of divorce forced me to grow up. I could no longer blame someone else for my unhappiness. I could no longer expect someone else to do things I didn’t want to do, like fill out the tax forms or balance the budget.
I had to do three things that seemed simple but were actually so difficult: act like an adult, accept the circumstances of my life and be responsible for my own happiness – even if the latter actually required reaching out to others.
And, as always, there was a payoff. I found out I was incredibly resilient and could endure much more than I ever thought possible. I realized I did not “have” to be a wife, a pillar of stoicism or a workaholic who was defined by labels.
This is not to say single life has been a cake walk. I have struggled with everything from how to fix a printer to the terror of navigating a first date. But many times – not every time – I have eventually felt the confidence boost of accomplishment.
Yes, I probably would have rather been someone whose marriage worked. But, in my case anyway, I needed to figure out how to make my own life work. I’m a long way from figuring out the perfect formula.
I still sometimes spend money irresponsibly, make questionable decisions and procrastinate. I could teach a master class on The Art of Fruitless Rumination. I waste too much time zoning out on the couch and tend to complain rather than take action.
But I am so much more present in my life than I have been in years. I am not constantly trapped in my brain, agonizing over yesterday or predicting disaster in tomorrow. I can sometimes look at the present moment, the life I’m living now, and appreciate it for what it is.
As Brene Brown, author of the inspiring “Daring Greatly,” a book on the importance of vulnerability, has said: “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Here’s hoping there’s much more light ahead for all of us.
Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org