How do you fill the void in your life that is left by separation or divorce? What do you do with the time you would have spent with your spouse and/or children? How do you avoid counting the minutes until it’s “your turn” to see the kids? There are no easy answers, and what works for me may not work for you. But here are some of things that have helped me fill my down time. These things have all been helpful to me in one way or another at different times during my separation and subsequent divorce.
Fair warning: social media is a total time suck. Start scrolling and before you know it, an hour has flown by. But, it can also be entertaining and informative. My social media of choice is Facebook. It has allowed me to stay in touch with friends from childhood, high school, college and graduate school, as well as former co-workers and other acquaintances. It’s interesting to see what people are up to, watch their kids grow up, and see their job and life changes. I’ve learned things about Facebook friends’ political views, parenting, and personal lives that I never would have guessed. Additionally, I follow numerous insightful and encouraging Facebook pages that have been especially relevant to me at this time in my life.
Pages like “Becoming Minimalist” and “Minimalism Is Simple” offer tips on purging and organizing, which have been useful since my divorce resulted in downsizing my home. I follow “Elephant Journal”, “Elephant Meditation”, and, of course, “Divorce Magazine” for tips on coping with divorce and other life changes. I joined a Facebook group of local runners and I follow the page for my local running club and running store. I follow pages that provide motivational quotes and stories that make me think critically as well as those that just make me laugh. If you choose to spend some of your free time on social media, you should be prepared for some surprises.
Some people post deeply personal information (don’t do that…) and others are prone to rant and rave about whatever current issue they find irksome (try not to do that all the time…). Some people like to post what they are having for dinner (with pictures), current sporting events and activities their kids are part of, photos of their pets, and sometimes even graphic shots of their injuries (yuck...). Facebook is what you make of it. Enjoy what resonates with you and scroll past the rest.
I love Netflix. Where else can you immerse yourself in old episodes of Murder, She Wrote, and Friends or catch up on recent episodes of Scandal? It’s particularly great for a binge-watching session if you’re into that sort of thing. Like social media, Netflix is also a time suck. You might have to monitor how much time you truly want to spend in couch-potato mode to make sure you don’t miss any appointments or eat too many potato chips. But, in moderation, it’s a good way to kill some time.
Running is my primary exercise of choice, but there are so many more options. Try yoga, biking, swimming, walking, or whatever feels good to you. Take a group exercise class if you’d like to meet some other like-minded people. In my community, there are a lot of “regulars” that attend group exercise classes at the YMCA. You can look forward to seeing some of the same friendly faces on a weekly basis and maybe even consider branching out into something that you didn’t expect to enjoy (think hip-hop, Zumba, etc.). Remember, you don’t necessarily have to be good at it to enjoy it or reap health benefits from it.
When I was newly separated, a teacher at my daughter’s school (who is also a divorced mom) sent me a thank you note for a small gift we had given her during teacher appreciation week. In the card, she expressed her condolences (briefly & kindly) regarding my break-up and acknowledged how hard it is. She closed with the words “stay strong.” Those words resonated a bit hollowly with me then as I thought, how can I stay strong? I don’t feel strong at all. How can I stay something I can’t even get to? But, she was right. I was strong then (even when I didn’t feel like it) and I am strong now. I have endured the heartache and I am still moving forward. My daughters and I had professional photos taken a few weeks ago. The photographer told each of the girls to tell me something they like about me while she snapped away. Each girl, independently, started with “you’re strong.” Believe that.