Even positive changes are stressful. The dissolution of my 20-year marriage, therefore, by necessity was a difficult transition regardless of how unequivocal and mutual the decision.
As mentioned in a previous blog, this was an amicable separation, so really I was fortunately able to focus solely on transitioning to being alone in my new life. I wasn’t really completely alone. I had physical custody of both my teenage sons and all three pups. Yet there I was. The only adult with 5 dependent males, a big house in the suburbs, and feeling pretty vulnerable and by-myself.
Some changes, like the loss of both income and my main companion, I had anticipated. However, I was unprepared for some of the other adjustments in store for me. I now had to relate to others as a single, not married person, both at work and in my personal life. I had to tell friends and acquaintances that I was now separated and then endure the well-meaning looks of sympathy and the feeling of failure that accompanied them. I had to try to make new friends to do non-couple activities. I had to figure out how to process the events of my day without sharing with someone else (this is important for extroverts). I had to learn to live with feeling shaky, unsettled, and yet energized on a constant basis for about a year.
One of the things I do in my day job is student development. At a recent workshop, we were discussing the stereotype that extroverts need company 24/7. This is not precisely true, but true enough for me. Accordingly, for me the hardest part of being single was getting comfortable being alone and amusing myself, by myself, for days at a time. My curse is my fortune: just like nature abhors a vacuum, extroverts hate not having anyone to talk to. So venture forth into the world I did. I contacted my single friends and set up dates. I went online to meet other single people (I can only describe it as sheer and total terror). I joined meetup.com to pursue my latent hobbies with other like-minded people, including ballroom dancing, dining out, meeting singles, volunteering, spirituality. I hung out alone in coffee shops and ate dinner at restaurant bars when I just couldn’t stand to be completely alone anymore. I went to the gym and yoga studio regularly and had the guns to prove it (they’re long gone).
Lest you think I was completely needy and desperate, I want you to know I also sought, somewhat successfully, to keep myself company. I got to know myself in new ways. I started journaling again to be more in touch with my inner world and to process my day on my own. I started a meditation practice which opened a universe of insight into the body I had taken for granted for so long. I went on long walks with the doggies, and even learned to use the mp3 function of my phone (yes it also took me forever to get the blog started too). I resumed playing the piano and caught up on my reading. I tried new interests at work – like personal development – and worked really hard on my new passion. Proudly I can say that I did NOT resume my knitting or Sudoku habits, nor did I spend endless hours vegging out in front of the TV.
A year of being alone and unsteady on my feet required that I establish myself in my new life. The new me is more comfortable with solitude, more in touch with my body and emotions, more at ease mingling with and meeting strangers. Today I am more confident, calmer, focused on my passions, more creative and energetic, and feeling better and more productive than ever. I have taught myself, and modeled for my children, that you can thrive even under adversity, life change, or loneliness. Or maybe they modeled that for me: they somehow managed to thrive during the transition and gracefully emerged with more poise and maturity. It doesn’t get any better than that.