Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Books That Helped Me Get Through Divorce

I'm one of those people who turns into an obsessive reader when I'm going through something unfamiliar. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I read everything I could find on pregnancy and parenthood. I read so much that, by the time I hit my third trimester, my OB/GYN told me to stop reading pregnancy books and start reading lighter material to counterbalance all the heavy stuff that was stressing me out. 

When I started heading down the road toward divorce, I naturally reached out for reading material. (And my OB/GYN would be pleased to know that I still follow his advice and add some humor to the rotation.)

Here are my...

Top 10 Books That Helped Me Get Through Divorce

10. "Heartburn" by Nora Ephron

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”

I started reading this book the day after signing the separation agreement. This novel was my way of dipping a toe into the overwhelming pool of books about divorce. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into the self-help books that would force me to dissect feelings and motivations and behaviors. I simply wanted a glimpse of what I was getting myself into with a twinge of humor. And no one does the heartbreak and humor dance better than Nora Ephron.

9. "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

While I originally started reading this book to write a blog post for work, it turned into a valuable lesson in how to nurture my kids as they cope with their parents’ divorce.

My 10-year-old son’s preferred love language is Quality Time, which comes mainly in the form of undivided attention during conversations. Although most of our chats these days revolve around Minecraft and Clash of Clans rather than the divorce, I know he feels most loved when he knows I’m truly listening to what he has to say. And I know that my ability to fill his emotional tank in that way makes him feel safe to talk to me about more serious topics.

My 6-year-old daughter’s love language is Physical Touch. She needs hugs and hand-holding and cuddling to get her emotional needs met. That knowledge was important during all the divorce-related transitions, especially because a child her age has difficulty verbalizing thoughts and feelings. She may not have understood why mommy was moving out of daddy’s house, but cuddling during a movie went a long way in making her feel better.

8. "Seriously, I’m Kidding" by Ellen DeGeneres

After sharing the news of my separation with a select few friends, I was thrilled to find care packages on my doorstep to help keep my spirits up. Bubble bath, nail polish, sweet treats, DVDs to make me laugh or to help me cry it out. And this hilarious book.

I can count on one hand the number of books that have made me laugh so hard I had to put the book down and compose myself. I didn’t think I could find a book to top the laugh-out-loud quotient of Bridget Jones, but Ellen did it. (Just ask the poor dude who sat next to me on the airplane when I was reading this during a business trip. I eventually abandoned my attempts to stifle my giggles. I’m sure he was thankful he brought headphones.)

7. "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin

Moving out allowed me to start over in many ways. I read this book shortly after I moved into my apartment, and it helped build my excitement to decorate my new home in ways that would reflect my new life. I learned to “see things with fresh eyes” and to remember that life doesn’t stop, that “now is now.”

6. "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James

Don’t judge. You know you read the trilogy too and can’t wait for the movie to hit theaters.

5. "Are you There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea" by Chelsea Handler

Another book I saved for those beer and bubble bath nights when I needed some comic relief.

4. "Moving On" by Russell Friedman and John W. James

"Successful recovery requires completion of the pain rather than retention of the resentment. You are the only one who suffers when you don't forgive."

A friend recommended this book very early on in my separation. I ordered it immediately and sat it on my nightstand when it arrived. And that book sat there on my nightstand unopened for almost a year.

This book isn’t just a self-help book filled with theories and advice for moving on after a divorce. It’s a journey through past relationships, analyses of patterns in partner choices and brutal honesty about your own role in the destruction of those relationships. It was therapeutic and enlightening as I revisited relationships back to age 14 and uncovered what I thought I wanted, what I was actually getting, and what I ultimately want, need and deserve.

This book ripped my guts out. But not only did it show me what mistakes not to make in the future, it also helped me recognize sources of anger I didn’t even know I had and taught me the importance of forgiveness. (I’m not fully there on the forgiveness part yet, but I’m getting there.)

3. "Not A Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters" by Brian Donovan

I read this short book after giving up on online dating. I can't tell if the author’s stories made me realize my experience wasn’t so bad or if he scared me into never wanting to try it ever again. Either way it made me laugh.

2. "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery" by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Patty Hansen

This book offered up great feel-good divorce stories (which, I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be an oxymoron). A few of my faves include:

“Through my divorce, I learned to become the person I was meant to be. I went on a journey, deep into my soul and met the me who I had left behind so many years ago.”

“I discovered happiness on a newer and higher level. I learned how to get past the rough spots and remain focused on the happier times ahead.”

“My life had not gone according to plan, but I was okay. In fact, I was better than okay. I was beginning a new phase of life, and I could look at it as scary or I could look at it as an adventure.”

1. "Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle" by Tina Swithin

I ran out of Post-It notes with this one. Too many lessons learned to list.

(In the same genre, I read "Stuck on Me MissingYou" by Larry Bugen, which gave an interesting perspective on narcissism. And I skimmed through “Assholes: A Theory” by Aaron James, which offered very useful suggestions for "asshole management.")

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Anniversary of a New Beginning

One year ago today I moved out of my marital house.

For most of our year-long legal separation, my ex and I lived in different parts of the same house. It was partly to save money, partly because he was traveling for work and would be gone anyway, and partly because neither of us seemed willing to move out.

It wasn’t until we got in a fight one day last May that I realized I needed to move forward. An hour after the argument, I was touring an apartment complex. The next day I put down a security deposit. My move-in date was July 29.

I hired a moving company, and after a friend gave me the boxes from her recent move, I started packing. This time the military wasn’t helping with the move. I was on my own.

My ex and I had already walked through the house and split our possessions with little conflict. I spent the next 2 months packing on the weekends, a task that was both physically and emotionally exhausting.

Somehow I thought the process of placing items in boxes would be as easy as it sounds -- and some days it was. But there were other days when each item placed in a box flooded my brain with memories, both joyful and painful. The teacups we bought in Japan. The photo albums that spanned almost 15 years. The jewelry he’d given me, including the engagement ring that I had taken off so long ago that the once prominent indentation on my ring finger was now gone.

Some days I blasted music to drown out the memories. Some days I gave in and cried on the floor.

I finally finished packing a few days before the big day. I called to confirm my move-in date with the the moving company, finding it strange that they didn’t pick up the phone.  I figured they were busy. After all, I live in a military town, and it was prime PCS season.

Then July 29 arrived. My brother flew halfway across the country to help, the kids were in camp and I was able to make a couple of trips to the apartment to start moving items before the movers were supposed to show up.

But the movers didn’t show up. I called repeatedly. No answer.  At one point, I had to go back to the apartment for my Internet and cable hookup. By mid-afternoon, I had to face the fact that the movers weren’t coming.

While my brother somehow found a moving company that was available the next day, I drove to the address of my no-show guy to see if I could find this jerk in his office. I pulled into the parking lot to find a police car.

Turns out, the moving company I hired wasn’t really a moving company, but a thief the police were actively looking for. The policewoman said I was lucky he didn’t show because the chances were good he would have loaded my belongings onto his truck and disappeared with them in addition to my deposit he had already pocketed.

So instead of getting settled in my new apartment, I was filing a police report that led to a warrant for a man’s arrest.

I was devastated. July 29 was supposed to be my new beginning. Because of this crook, I had to bring all the bedding back from the apartment, remake all the beds, and spend another night in the house I had already said my goodbyes to. My new beginning was ruined, and I had to mentally prepare myself to spend my second last night in this house.

Fortunately, the next day the move actually happened. It took way longer than it should have, and my brother had to get on a plane halfway through, but by the end of the day, I was officially moved out of the old and into the new.

Shortly after the truck arrived at the house, a neighbor came over, another mil spouse asking if we were PCS’ing. (I hadn’t told her about the divorce. In fact, only one neighbor knew I was moving out. I still didn’t know how to tell people, and I just wanted to slip away quietly.)

“You’re getting divorced?” she asked, clearly shocked. “How long have you been married?”

“13 years.”

“That’s a long time. You guys can work things out.”

“No,” I said, trying not to cry. “We can’t.”

She meant well, but it was statements like that I was hoping to avoid. The marriage was unfixable. It was time to move on.

When the last item was loaded onto the truck and my kids and the dog were loaded into my car, I did one last walk-through of the house. The items I left behind were just as telling as those I chose to take. The painting from Thailand. The obnoxious desk I once worked at. The dresser that was so oversized and heavy that it left gouges in the hardwood floor as the movers pushed it into position when we first moved in.

One last look. I said goodbye. And I closed the door for the last time.

People often ask me why I was the one who moved out. “You’ll have the kids more. Why don’t you get to keep the house?”

I’m sure life would have been easier if I had been the one to stay, especially now that my ex has moved to Hawaii and the house has new owners. Knowing how transient his life is with the military, it probably would have been more logical for me to stay.

But I didn’t want the house.

We lived in that house together for 5 years, a lifetime by military standards. But for many reasons, it never felt like home to me. That house saw too much. The walls held too many bad memories and too few good ones. I needed a fresh start. I needed to make my own home in my own way.

Moving out of that house was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But moving-out day was also moving-in day. So I can look back on that day with sadness as the day I moved out of the last house I lived in with my husband. Or I can see it as the exciting day that I moved into my new home, the home where so far good memories outnumber the bad.

As I re-signed my lease a few days ago, I realized that this is where my new life started. One year ago today was a day of new beginnings. I may not live here forever, but for now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Moment: Jumping Into Vacation

We all need a break every now and again. My break came recently when I combined my 20th high school reunion with a weeklong vacation.

I had some time with my parents. Time with old friends. Time with my kids. Time for myself. And a little time OFF from work and emails and deadlines.

Although I almost feel like I need a vacation from my vacation, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated getting away for awhile.

Happy Moment: Jumping Into Vacation
Related Posts with Thumbnails