One of my readers wrote to me recently saying that she appreciated how happy I was with my divorce and was inspired by it, but that she needed more. Her husband had just decided to end their marriage and was looking for an apartment, and she felt like her life was spinning out of control and wanted some concrete steps on how to get from where she was to where I am at.
I am such a positive, forward-looking thinker right now that I almost didn’t want to go back in my mind to those early days. But as synchronicity would have it, reading Harry Potter with Jonah forced me there. We are reading book three, The Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry is being tormented by these entities called dementors, who, as their name implies, drive one crazy by bringing up each person’s worst memory, in Harry’s case the memory of his parents being killed. Professor Lupin helps Harry learn a spell that can potentially defeat the dementors, if done correctly. He needs to summon up a Patronus, a protective spirit that brings happiness to all around it, thereby banishing the dark thoughts of the dementors. The spell for the Patronus is simple, but not easy. Harry has to concentrate unwaveringly on a really happy memory, his innermost feelings of joy. Well, the lesson of this spell was not lost on me. Focusing on happiness always trumps darkness and depression, but in the face of such devastating and debilitating emotions, it takes a lot of concentration to get to a peaceful and loving place in your mind.
So I decided to sum up the strategies that I used in those early days to overcome the pain and find my way back to the light.
1. Turn to your support system. In my case, I turned to my family in California. Even though they were far away, they immediately jumped in and came up with solutions for me. It was simple. The kids and I would move to San Jose. My dad said that I could work for his company and drive the company van. My sister said that she would help us get our kids into her children’s school. Oh and they even had a man lined up for me. Of course, this was all a bit unrealistic. I mean c’mon the van was a huge passenger van with company logos on the side that blocked your view from the back seat. And the man? Well, he thought I was cute but hadn’t really been consulted about the marriage and two kids part. It didn’t really matter though. All that counted was that I had people who loved me, cared about me, and rallied around me to get me through my crisis. And they made me laugh.
2. Find ways to have fun and forget what you are going through. During the time that we were living together but were separated, I took every opportunity I could to get out of the house and have some fun. The woman who wrote me told me that she went to an amusement park this weekend. I thought that was brilliant. The adrenaline rush and exhilaration that you get from the rides are like the Patronus, they physically banish the heavy sadness from your body. She said that her week started on an emotional roller coaster and ended on a literal one. She was smart to choose the latter because it’s much more fun!
3. Pamper yourself. I have always been frugal and not the type of woman to spend money on luxuries for herself. However, a friend of mine encouraged me to throw a bit of caution to the wind and take care of myself in any way possible. She suggested regular massages, which I did. I’ve also learned from my mother that sometimes a good lipstick can really brighten your mood. So I paid special attention to my clothes and my makeup because it was important to me to feel attractive. We have some great used clothing stores in my town so I didn’t have to spend very much money to get myself some new things. We gals know the power of retail therapy.
4. Fake it ‘til you make it. I know that this is controversial advice, and I don’t advocate putting a smiley face on your problems while stuffing your emotions. However, wallowing in them doesn’t make you feel better either. Find time to grieve and then pick yourself up and find a way to overcome. I feel like this is especially important if you have kids because they are taking their cues from you. Show them that it is okay to be sad. There is no need to hide your feelings from them. But also let them know that you are going to be okay and that while this is a confusing time for you all, things will become clearer with time. In the meanwhile, you are still going to love them…and yourself. I kept the vision clear in my mind that my ex and I would find a way through the crisis and would still be friends and loving co-parents. I had no proof that would happen, but I just kept telling myself it would. And eventually it did.
5. Laugh. Those of you who read my blog regularly know how I tend to deal with trouble. I laugh in the face of it. To me, laughter is the most powerful medicine I know. So call people who will make you laugh. Rent funny movies. Read David Sedaris who finds a way to laugh at his very dysfunctional family. If you can, laugh at yourself because that will give you some needed distance between you and your problems. Maybe I won’t go so far as to say that divorce is funny. But it kinda is…