Post-divorce is a turbulent time in your life. Settling into a new home, perhaps a new school for the kids, and simply figuring out how to get everything done in the day now that you’re the only adult in the home can be exhausting. There are too many tasks and too little time to get everything done. It may seem easier to watch life from the sidelines rather than being an active participant in life; it certainly takes less energy to plop down on the couch and view endless movies than to arrange get-togethers with friends.
You may even trick yourself into feeling that you’re inviting people into your home while binge-watching a favorite series on Netflix: you’re getting to see people have conversations and adventures without the bother of getting dressed and having to engage in making conversation yourself.
After your divorce, you may feel angry, grief-stricken, or perhaps just numb. You may feel you lack the physical and emotional energy needed to actively engage in life and push both people and new experiences away. One woman told her friends that she was not up to seeing them after her divorce. She shut herself away. She eventually emerged from her self-imposed isolation as a shell of her former self. She was more like a zombie walking mindlessly through life than a woman capable of experiencing a full range of emotions – including joy and wonder.
Become an Active Participant in Life!
Experiences are the zest of life. After divorce, make the effort to connect with others and be fully present Tom is an amateur astronomer and enjoys going to conferences and meeting like-minded people. He is full of excitement and sets up his small eleven-inch telescope at these celestial events.
He was quite surprised when professional astronomers were lining up to see the night sky through his small telescope. Why were these individuals so ecstatic? They told Tom that with their large telescopes on the job, they do not get to look at stars and planets through their own eyes. Instead, a computer looks at the heavens and generates the images via a computer screen.
These astronomers were thrilled to experience seeing the constellations directly themselves. The live experience beat the computer for these guys.
Parents may think they are experiencing life when in reality are living it vicariously through their children.
A “stage mother” is a good example of this. Post-divorce, rather than starting new pursuits themselves, they push their children into piano/ballet/drawing and painting/horseback riding/baseball lessons. The kids are taking up a new sport, art, or other activities that the parent would like to be doing themselves. If you want to play baseball, then do it. I have been to school matches when it was clear that the parent was the one who yearned to be on the basketball court, not the child.
A variation on this theme is the single parent living through their children. When you ask them “How’s life?” their answer is all about what the kids are doing. Their only real activity is to drive their children to and from the children’s activities. Getting out and have fun experiences themselves isn’t even on the single parent’s radar.
Some as if they are drifting or floating through their divorce proceedings.
I felt like I was out of my body for part of it and mainly going through the motions. Embarking on a cruise with my sons was the catalyst to jerk me back into my body. Exploring ruins in Albania and traipsing around Tunisia got me experiencing life to the fullest again.
A few divorced friends traveled to remote destinations, for volunteering or to do physical challenges, such as mountain climbing. Consider getting out of your comfort zone and exploring somewhere new.
To have experiences vs. being in the audience of life, engage your five senses.
Smell the sea air.
Feel the ocean spray on your face or the gritty sand between your toes.
Hear the cries of the seagulls.
Gaze at the lovely shades of water.
Enjoy the taste of coconut ice cream.
When I was stressed with post-divorce court cases, I used the above exercise wherever I found myself, such as when strolling through a park or farmers’ market. I recently started doing karaoke on stage, was a speaker at a conference in London, and took a river cruise through the Netherlands at the peak of tulip season. Look locally to discover opportunities for having new experiences. It is loads more fun to be an active participant than an onlooker in life.