Not a quote today, but a cartoon I saw on Sarah’s Scribbles Facebook page.
It captures so well the reality of taking this journey of healing and recovery one day at a time – but it can apply to any challenge facing you.
For further inspiration, please check out Sarah’s website. http://sarahcandersen.com/about
‘Why do you have a spark plug on your Xmas tree?’ my son-in-law asked last weekend.
A few years ago, a friend and I were in Guernsey during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the island’s liberation from the Nazis. The island held a parade where the islanders dressed up in uniforms and clothing of the time. A rather dashing ‘dispatch rider’ – doesn’t a uniform really make a man?? – on a vintage motorbike stopped beside us, switched out his spark plug and handed me his old one. That, I decided there and then, would be my Xmas memory of that trip.
One of the hardest things I had to do when sorting through the 37+ years of ’stuff’ that we had collected during our marriage, was figuring out which Xmas decorations to keep or discard. My ex’s sister had given us some gorgeous ones for our first Christmas together in 1977, including some silk horses I adored. I remember the excitement in my heart the first time I hung them. But I couldn’t take them with me. Those memories were too painful.
Culling each and every decoration was like culling each year of our marriage. In the end, I kept only the decorations from trips without my ex, plus one belonging to my mum and dad which they’d bought in Germany in 1948. I gave the handmade ones my kids had made when they were young back to them.
The rest, I left behind.
In 2015, I couldn’t contemplate putting up a tree. But I had a granddaughter for whom Xmas was magic, so I strung up a set of lights and hung some stars from it. Each star represented someone who had helped me through the nightmare.
That year, a friend, whom I’ve had since before I even met my ex, cross-stitched me a banner that read ‘Happy Christmas’. She wanted me to have something new, something I didn’t associate with my ‘married’ life, that first, hard, Christmas on my own. I cried my eyes out when she gave it to me. After months of feeling worthless, stupid, of wondering if life was even worth living, I looked at the love in every stitch of that decoration, and… well, she’ll never know what her gift meant to me.
In 2016 I moved into my new apartment and decided setting up a tree would be a declaration that I was moving on with my life.
For the past 30 odd years, my ex and I had set up two trees every Xmas. His was the ‘classic’ tree, decorated with only white lights and red glass balls.
Mine…? Although I called it the ‘Fairy Tree’, my daughter lovingly described it as the Xmas vomit tree. Loaded with coloured lights, and every branch happily festooned with a decoration, there was nothing classic or elegant about it.
The tree itself was huge, and with only the few decorations I’d brought from our house, it looked pretty sparse. So you know what? Another friend went to the thrift store, found some great bargains, and every single branch of my tree was covered. Xmas vomit to the ’n’th degree!
This year, there’s not a single ornament on that tree that doesn’t hold a deep and powerful meaning for me.
The Irish dancer? Who could ever forget the sun setting over the Cliffs of Moher in 2005…
The four black labradors and one golden retriever…. How can I ever forget the love and support those amazing dogs gave me…?
The heart-shaped Outlander tartan… an amazing visit to Scotland this year with my friend and her daughter…
The hand painted silver ball my parents brought in Dusseldorf in 1948…
The cut out paper snowflakes my granddaughter made for me a few weeks ago…
The spark plug from that handsome fake dispatch rider…
When you’re divorced against your will, Xmas is hard.
All that ‘Happy and bright’ can feel very shallow.
But it’s just one day in the year.
It gets easier.
You’ll get stronger.
You already are.
And the lights will sparkle.
Special dates hold power. Sometimes they’re one offs – graduation, moving into your first house, getting your first job, walking your child to school for the first time.
Sometimes they roll around every year – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day.
Following a major life event – like divorce – dates that once brought joy, now bring… what?
I was married on November 2nd, 1977. Today would have been my 40th wedding anniversary, so it’s been looming large in my consciousness the past few weeks. How will I feel? How will I deal with it? Is it going to be as big a deal as I’m worried it might be.
Three years ago my husband and I were in the kitchen of our house. I even remember what he was wearing – jeans, a blue and white striped shirt – and the scent of his aftershave – Old Spice. We shared a kiss and discussed the fact that in three years time it would be our fortieth anniversary. We’d been through a lot during our marriage – separations due to his work, his infidelities and chronic health issues – and survived, so we talked about doing something special for our fortieth.
Less than six months after that discussion he’d left me for another woman.
Two months ago, they married.
To complicate things, November 2nd has always been a bittersweet date for me. My dad died on our second anniversary, so while I celebrated the fact it was the day my husband and I were married, there’s always been a lingering sadness about the date because of my dad.
But that’s another story.
What do I feel?
Honestly…? Better than I thought I would.
This is our third wedding anniversary since he left me.
The first one – our 38th – was very hard.
‘Firsts’ are hard, but in my experience, it was the second of everything – birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Wedding Anniversary – that was the worst. The ‘first’ felt almost unreal. The ‘second’ is when it really hit me – this was forever – but in the eyes of family and friends, you’re supposed to have ‘got over it’ by then – or at least, be well on the way to healing. I know I was guilty of that kind of thinking before it happened to me, but for me, it’s this third year where things are really becoming easier.
Despite everything, I wish my husband and I had made it.
I wish we were going out for dinner tonight with our kids, our family intact.
But we’re not.
And it’s not.
And on this third anniversary of our non-anniversary, that’s… okay. It’s getting better.
I promise you… whatever you are feeling now… it does – and will – get easier.
Hang in there.
I’ve always loved travelling; from my first sight of the sea when I was a wee girl, to that first train trip down to London, to my first sight of Venice when backpacking around Europe as a teenager, to that first transatlantic flight.
I know my way around airports and train stations, and am pretty comfortable hiring cars and booking hotels. But – apart from a few flights – I’ve never actually travelled on my own. It’s always been with people, or on my way to see friends and family.
Now that the divorce process is over, I have this fancy that one day I’ll spend time in countries I’ve always wanted to visit – which means I may have to do it on my own. So… I took some baby steps towards that recently. Forget about two weeks or one month travelling on my own. Could I do it for one day?
To be honest, I was really nervous when I picked up my car rental. I had decided to spend one day and one night on my own visiting a historical attraction I’ve always wanted to see, then stay overnight in a private hotel in a small village, rather than the airport hotels I’m more used to. How would it go?
Well… it didn’t start well. The weather was appalling – bucketing rain and gale force winds. To top if off, I dropped a bottle of cordial on my way to pick up the car, which meant that everything I was carrying – and wearing – got splattered in sticky. Sigh! Was it a ‘sign’ I wondered, that I shouldn’t be doing this? (I’m a great one for signs.)
But the rental went smoothly, as did the drive. I got lost only once – despite my sat nav. The historical attraction was great, I joined a tour, and when it was over, a woman kindly offered to drive me back up the very steep hill to where I’d parked my car.
All that was left was the drive to the hotel – across 10 miles of deserted countryside. I only passed two cars en route and my imagination ran riot. What if I broke down out here? What if I ran off the road and no-one found me for a day… or a week… or… ever???? What if…?! What if…?!!
And then I saw the view in front of me. On one side of the road was an ugly clear-cut, with only a few remaining dead trees scarring the hill. On the other? A serene landscape highlighted by a tiny burst of sunshine on a very grey day. I stopped the car and took a picture, imagining the clear-cut represented the death of my marriage and ugliness of the divorce process. The other side of the road? Hopefully the promise of a golden-ish future.
And you know what? When I arrived the hotel, the owner and his wife were wonderful. They helped me with my bags, and provided me with books on the area when they heard I had old family connections in the neighbourhood. I sat in front of a wood fire in the cosy lounge writing e-mails for an hour, and then had the most delicious dinner.
Next morning, after a fabulous breakfast and leisurely walk around the village, I headed home. I’d managed one day travelling completely on my own.
We’ll get there.
Two days ago, Isobel and I were discussing whether we should continue with this blog. We’re not getting a lot of traction on it, and after almost 3 and 5 years since our husbands walked out on us, we’ve been through hell, come out the other side, and are happier that we’ve probably been in years.
Is that what someone going through the early stages of one of the worst experiences of their life wants to hear?
Only days ago I played a ‘game’ with myself where I took my ex and a friend, or family member, and said to myself, “If I could only see one of these people once more in my life, who would it be?” I went through a whole list of almost 30 people lining up each one against my ex. Not one of my choices turned out to be him, and oh… did I feel smug.
I knew my husband was remarrying this month, but it’s one thing intellectually knowing it’s going to happen. Hearing from someone that it had actually happened was something else. And then to check out her Facebook page – I know, I know. It was mad thing to do – and see her looking so young, pretty and deliriously happy…
All that pain came rushing back. I know in my head that after years and years of having to deal with his infidelity and chronic illness I am better off now than I was with him, but inside…
You can’t turn off 37+ years of loving someone just like that. Despite the divorce papers tucked away in my fire safe, despite everything, it hadn’t felt ‘real’.
All those feelings of inadequacy, hurt, pain, betrayal and loss came rushing back. Hadn’t I been the one to pick him up off the floor in the middle of the night when he’d passed out after his blood pressure dropped so low? Hadn’t I been the one to move our family, not once, but 3 times across the Pond so he could follow his dreams? Hadn’t he told me every day of our married lives that he loved me? What is so wrong with me that he left me?
Once again I thought about that spot in the river where I had decided that, if the pain got so excruciating that I couldn’t stand it any more, I would walk in and it would all be over.
You know something? This whole divorce shit sucks. It sucks big time. It messes with your brain, with your heart and with your whole sense of yourself. You look at yourself and the choices you made with your life and marriage and wonder – if this was how it was going to end up – how you could have been so f—ing stupid as to have stood beside him and supported him for so long?
I was a good wife. I am a good person. When I heard the news of his marriage I was on one of the best holidays I’ve ever had in my life.
I was devastated. I wanted to crawl in a hole and weep.
I will survive.
I will thrive.
And so will you.
There will be days when the pain and loss overwhelms you…
… but then you’ll wake up next morning and get on with your life.