Before my marriage ended, I moved through the world with the assumption that I’d always be with my husband. I didn’t really entertain the thought of being single again; it wasn’t part of my reality. Now, my marriage is unexpectedly over and my newly single life has begun. I’ve had to regroup, rethink, and revise what my daily life looks like, not to mention my future plans. But, there are a few things that have helped me remain grateful for the life I have, despite the recent turmoil I’ve experienced.
When I look around, I still believe there is more good than bad, more right than wrong, and more positive than negative. I’m trying like mad to maintain an attitude of gratitude regardless of the harsh reality of unanticipated change. Here are a few things that have helped me keep my head on straight and be thankful for all that I have.
1. Find the Beauty
Nearly every week since my separation and subsequent divorce, I have placed a vase of fresh flowers on my kitchen island. It’s not something I routinely did before, but for some reason this small gesture helped me appreciate the beauty in my surroundings. The hardest days of my separation began in the spring. And somehow or another, even on my darkest days, I awakened to beautiful sunrise after beautiful sunrise. It became nearly comical after a while, and I joked to friends, “Oh look….yet another beautiful day!” It’s really hard (though not impossible) to be sad when the sun is shining. Go outside and breathe in the fresh air, soak up the sunshine, and remember what a very small part of the universe we are. The earth doesn’t stop spinning on its axis because we are going through bad times (thank goodness).
2. Preserve Your Health
Overall, I’ve been fortunate to have had a very healthy adult life. I’ve been a runner for the past seven years and have typically maintained a healthy weight. During my separation/divorce, I lost nearly 25 pounds – a loss that dropped my weight significantly below where it should be for my tall frame. This was a byproduct of the proverbial “divorce diet.” Food was the furthest thing from my mind, and when I tried to eat, everything – even my favorite dishes – tasted so bland. The heartache seemed to impact my appetite and my taste buds.
Shortly after the divorce was final, I had two serious health scares within a three-month period – one of which resulted in a brief hospital stay. This was scary – especially knowing I no longer had a husband to care for me if I needed serious help… What a reality check that was. I’d never so much as had a cold without knowing I had someone to buy me tissues, bring me soup, or make sure the kids were taken care of. Luckily, my health issues came out okay and my weight is back on track, but I gained a renewed appreciation for my good health and will not take it for granted again.
3. Hug Your Children
My daughters are fabulous (and I’ll bet your kids are, too). The divorce has been hard for them and has created a new and different existence. They have trudged forward despite the confusion and uncertainly, and I’m proud to say my relationship with them is stronger than ever. We’ve learned things about each other and helped each other through difficult times. We channel our inner girl power and do our best to remain above the fray.
A few months ago, my youngest texted me a link to the YouTube video for “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten with a note that said, “This reminds me of you.” Needless to say, I cried buckets. If you haven’t heard the song or seen the video, check it out. It’s an inspiring, uplifting song that reminds you to keep pushing on because better days are ahead. I’m so thankful for my daughters. Hug your kids and reassure them as best you can that you will all get through this and, though things may never be the same as they once were, you will all survive whatever the future holds.
4. Work Toward Your Goals
There is no time like the present to set some goals for yourself and take steps toward accomplishing them. No goal is too small. During the first months of my separation, I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night because it would mean I had somehow survived another day. My goals at that time were just to stay up a little bit longer each night and get through a whole day without crying. Some days I made it; other days I fell short. I’m thankful for the ability to set goals and the effort to aspire to reach (or revise) them. Choose goals that work for you and be open to making adjustments as needed.
5. Play that funky music
Make a “girl power” playlist and include all the songs that make you feel powerful. A few of my favorites are “Stand” by Rascal Flatts and “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce. There were some songs I just couldn’t listen to for many, many months because they reminded me of my husband, my marriage, my former life. I switched radio stations when they came on or skipped right past them on my iPod until they became less heart-wrenching to hear. A few songs still remain off-limits for me; that may never change.
6. Remember the good stuff
Things did not begin the way they ended for me, and I am thankful for the many years of good memories of a happy family. Don’t throw out the good with the bad.
7. Be yourself
I pride myself on being a nice person – a pretty kind, generally good-hearted person. As I begin to emerge from the despair I’ve felt over the last many months, I am reminded that among my best qualities are being nice to people and helping others. Though I never totally stopped those things, I lost track of them a bit. It’s hard to smile when your heart is broken, and it’s hard to help someone else when you need so much help yourself. But, if you’re at all like me, it’s an essential part of who you are and you’re a little bit lost without it. If you’ve lost track of your favorite personality traits, take some time to reclaim them a little at a time. Be yourself; no one can take that from you regardless of what you’ve been through.