Going through divorce is nothing less than earth shattering. The life you once had is gone. The future you saw for yourself turned out to be a mirage. You may have an incredible community to lift you up through this tumultuous time, or you could be facing it alone. Either way, chances are you’ve come to question just about everything you held to be true in life. Faith, love, even your own self worth. Divorce rips through your life like a tornado and has no mercy in leaving all the pieces in a jumbled mess. You can clutch at those pieces and mourn them—which we all must do for a time—but at some point you’ve got to dust yourself off and get your bearings straight.
As a newly single mama, I felt completely out of place in just about all of my social circles. No longer did I have the (seemingly) picture-perfect Catholic family, and I couldn’t quite relate to my single friends either. I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. I’ve been in this in-between stratosphere, moving in and out of both worlds but unanchored in either. I’ve come to realize that the goal isn’t to pigeon-hole myself back into a certain identity; it’s to discover who I am here and now and let myself be that. A big part of my journey through divorce has been rediscovering and learning to love myself again. And the only way to carve out a meaningful and intentional life that you love is to find out who you are, what brings you joy, and what you truly believe in. I’m still on this path of rediscovery, but here are five things that are helping me find myself again post-divorce.
1. Write it out.
I’ve always been a writer. I began my first diary in second grade and have kept stacks of journals I’ve been pouring my heart out into ever since. Taking the time to delve into my thoughts and put them on paper is extremely therapeutic, regardless of whether they end up turning into a published piece of work.
Another writing practice I’ve taken up was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s gratitude jar. The idea is to set aside a jar or container and at the end of each day write down one moment you’re grateful for. I’m not always successful in doing this every day, but it’s helped me shift my focus from the things that aren’t working in my life to the things that are. There is so much abundance in our lives—we just have to choose to see it!
2. Find your center.
I’ve practiced yoga on and off for over a decade, but taking classes more regularly through my local YMCA, Mobile OM, or at the Hot Wells ruins has helped me to not only make my health and well-being a priority, but it’s also helped me to tune into my inner voice. Yoga has a way of taking you out of the chaos of life and into what’s really going on in your mind. So often we ignore our inner voice, but yoga provides a space for you to embrace who you are in the moment and rejuvenate and to get into and awaken your body. Some days it’s a real challenge to move through all the poses, but by becoming aware of my inner voice, I’m learning how to build myself up rather than tear myself down. And when I’m unable to make it to a class, I try to practice or watch a video at home.
I’ve also recently taken up meditation. I practice mindfulness meditation, and although you might be turned off at the idea of sitting and not thinking, it’s really just about learning to be with yourself and observing your thoughts from a distance. I notice a big difference in my day and my outlook when I’ve taken the time to meditate. So far my sweet spot is about 20 minutes, but even as little as five minutes goes a long way. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of meditation, and if you try nothing else here, this is one thing everyone can do regardless of resources. A great introduction to meditation is the free app Headspace, which guides you through the basics of mindfulness meditation. Short on time and need a quick destressor? Try the Hear and Now app.
3. Learn something new.
Another big part of rediscovering myself is trying out new activities and hobbies to see what I like doing. Picking up new hobbies is a productive way to heal, and it’s also just a great way to have fun and enjoy life again. It’s been incredibly hard not being able to see my kids every day with shared custody, but I’m making the best of it and getting out there in the world. I’ve picked up piano lessons with my kids’ piano teacher, and I’ve recently fallen in love with swing dancing—both of which I had no experience with before. But they make me feel alive and give me something to look forward to. Go sign yourself up for a class, or pick up a book and learn something—find what makes you feel alive again. I’ll be learning the Charleston this month!
4. Work out.
I have to say that working out is probably one of my least favorite things to do. At the gym I never feel like I know what I’m doing, flitting from one crazy-looking machine to the next. Yoga is much more my style (as I shared above), but when I learned that my new employer provides free workouts through the running company next door, I couldn’t pass it up. I pushed myself through that first workout and hated just about every minute of it, but I was doing it as part of a team and we had a personal trainer to cheer us on. And I didn’t want to be defeated by it. If I’ve learned anything through divorce, it’s how to be resilient, and focusing on making it through a 45-minute workout during lunch makes me feel like I’m kicking some butt. I feel powerful and strong, and the rush of energy I feel afterwards makes me proud of making the effort. So even if working out isn’t your thing, I encourage you to challenge yourself. Find a class or a meetup and push past those boundaries you set around yourself—you’ll feel great doing it.
5. Make time for self care.
Along with pushing yourself beyond your limits and working to improve and delve into your state of mind, sometimes it’s important to just be and love on yourself a little. Take time to rejuvenate and pamper yourself so that you jump back into the single-parent race refreshed. My favorite ways to practice self care are to treat myself to a massage or pedicure, or even just get my hair cut. I’m not able to do this as often as I’d like (usually once a month or so with my limited time and budget), but it fills me up each time.
So who am I finding in the midst of all of this? A woman who has compassion and love for herself. Who’s not afraid to try anything and put herself out there. Who’s passionate about finding joy and depth in life. A woman who’s strong and confident as she continues on the unmarked path ahead. I may not feel like I’ve found my place in life after divorce quite yet, but I am finding myself, and I have a feeling wherever I land is going to be pretty awesome—because I’ll be there whole and wholeheartedly. I hope you can find your way back to yourself, too.