This is the story of how my divorce helped prepare me for the pandemic.
A few weeks before launching my first book, a hit and run driver nearly killed me. Surgery followed, along with multiple rounds of physical therapy. Eight months after my accident, I returned home from a week-long road trip of book signings, thinking my life and career were finally back on track. Then COVID-19 struck. Life came to a screeching halt again. Book engagements, plans to visit my daughters, a family wedding, meetings – everything got canceled. No doubt life changed drastically overnight for all of us, all at the same time.
Initially, I was upbeat. Tired from a long trip, I needed to catch up on my sleep. Cancellation of a few social outings wasn’t all that unwelcome. I even happily celebrated my birthday alone. A friend had canceled our dinner plans – understandable of course – and I’d gone to sleep the night before wondering how I’d commemorate my birthday the following day. I woke up and decided to take it one moment at a time and see what happened. It turned out to be a fuller day than I’d imagined it could be, especially at a time like this.
That was before the fog set in. One day bled into the next with no end in sight, little grounding, with no ability to plan for the future, let alone place something on the calendar to look forward to. Life felt like Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. And the movie was real.
Some days I couldn’t write fast enough; at other times I succumbed to a brand new routine – bingeing on Netflix and polishing off the day with my new favorite dessert: vanilla ice cream with a dollop of Skippy on top. I could have been working on that new book I’d started or getting in shape or organizing my new home office. Instead, I surveyed the tasks at hand then headed to the kitchen for more ice cream.
How My Divorce Helped Me Prepare for The Pandemic
Eerily, the pandemic called up trauma from my divorce. In November of 2002, I found out my husband was having an affair; by December he’d left forever. He immediately retained a cutthroat lawyer to come after me, sued me for divorce and custody of our children, made noise about my non-existent drinking problem, and cut-off access to our joint credit cards. When I managed to sleep, I dreamed of jumping off the roof of our house. Awake, I drifted in a fog, convinced none of it could be real while knowing full well that it was. My times alone without a hug while my children were with dad and his girlfriend were the worst.
Each day then and now has brought a cascade of emotions – fear, disbelief, anger, hope, compassion, jealousy, despair, gratitude. I’ve fallen asleep some days during the pandemic having written less than a sentence, but nonetheless, spent.
Throughout, though, I’ve heard my own voice in the back of my head. Lately, it’s become louder. You’ve been here before, Beverly. Times when life has flattened you with the unexpected, when fear ruled your life. You found your rudders. Go back to them. Go back to what you know works for you.
Practicing Lessons Learned During My Divorce
So, slowly, that’s what I’ve been doing. Prayer. Meditation. Laughter. Talking with friends on the phone and by Zoom. A lot of forgiveness for my own imperfections and those of others. Reminding myself of the challenges I’ve faced before and have overcome. Re-reading the parts of my book where I came to realize that the basic, unalterable rule of life is uncertainty. Harkening back to the silence where I’ve always found inspiration for my writing and every trouble that’s occurred in my life.
It’s not a done deal of course. Some days I turn to chocolate chip cookies instead of ice cream. After all, there’s no end in sight. And who knows what’s next around the corner. But that’s how it’s always been. Maybe I’ll be calendaring book engagements and a visit to my children – and a wedding. Maybe it’ll even be mine. That’s a wild thought at my age having been alone for so long. But is it any more far-fetched than an unknown virus locking down the globe in an instant?
For now, I’m just taking it one moment at a time.