That relationship may have been long…may have lasted all of your adult life, and maybe you let that relationship define who you are without even realize you were doing just that.
You may have given up a lot of things to make that relationship work. Like me, you may have never realized all of the things you were letting slip by, giving the time that could have been spent with friends or reading a book or having a drink with your sister to that relationship or your family instead, desperately trying to force things to work again. You may have not even realized that’s what you were doing or that something was broken.
You’ve probably lost yourself in that relationship. I’m saying it out loud because I’ve been there and it’s worthy of mention. You may be sitting in your kitchen right now, the lights off, the kids finally in bed. There may be dishes in the sink that need to be done but you just can’t bring yourself to care enough that they aren’t done. You may be wondering — “Am I the kind of woman who cares if the dishes aren’t done?” and “What does that say about me that I just don’t care?” or “…that I do?”
And what really sucks is that all of that…all of yourself…that you gave to this relationship? In the end it just didn’t matter. It didn’t work. And here you sit, none the better for any of it.
I’m going to tell you something, though. The fact that you feel your life isn’t the greatest right now? That is enough justification to allow yourself to feel bad about it. You don’t need to be concerned as to whether or not someone else has it worse than you. Yes, someone else probably does. But that doesn’t mean you’re not also suffering — your feelings are legit — so tell your mind to shut the hell up about it already.
And sadly, no matter who you are or what type of life you lead, there will almost always be people who do not agree with your life or your decisions, regardless of the fact that they know nothing about what you’ve been through, or whether or not you actively made those decisions. These judgers could be your brother or your uncle or your mom. They may presume that because things “looked OK” that they were OK. But anyone with half a brain knows that the relationship was between the TWO of you and no one else and there were many things they didn’t see. Many of those people will come back to your life at one point or another, knowing better, but it doesn’t stop it from hurting when they look at you disdainfully, or like you somehow failed. Some of them won’t be back, and that? Is shit but you can’t change their minds.
What I want to tell you — desperately NEED to have you hear is this: beside all of that? Life is going to suck for a while. Sometimes that’s what happens when things change. Whether or not you initiated that change is not the point. I’m not even going to get into the reasons that your relationship may have ended, but trust that the reasons will come with time and you’ll be better off.
Right now, there’s this new “normal” you’re trying to find. And you may still be in that phase where you just can’t stop crying. That’s OK. Let yourself feel shitty. If there’s one thing I did wrong going through my divorce is that I let a friend tell me that I shouldn’t complain about my ex-husband because he was a “good guy”.
Bullshit. He wasn’t good to me and that’s what mattered. Bitch all you want. Write it down if you have to — get it all out. Say the same thing 1,000 times if that’s what it takes. Be angry. Thank GOD for the girlfriends you have that will listen. They love you.
Cry if you need to. Like seriously ugly cry, whenever you need to. It makes no difference if you do it once or if you do it a hundred times. If you’re at work, go to the bathroom. Hell, sit in your car in the parking lot if you need to. Sob until your heart is empty and you just can’t cry any more. That saying? That salt water cures everything? Is true. It heals. And if you don’t ever cry? That’s OK too.
You’re probably going to feel lost. You may find, for the first time in umpteen years, that you have days where you actually don’t need to take care of anyone else. The first times that you find yourself in the grocery store alone will feel completely foreign. You’ll find weekend moments that used to be filled with the mundanity of doing daily chores or running errands that are now empty. You’ll find many more moments when you sit in your kitchen and feel like you have no idea where to go, or that you don’t know where to start on the things you have to do. If you’re at all like me, this feeling will drive you half mad.
But I want you to get yourselves a notebook, ladies. A pretty one, with a colorful cover that makes you smile. And a purple sparkly pen that writes “just so”. And I want you to write today’s date on the top of that first page. And at the end of the day, I want you to take three minutes to think about your day and write down the good bits. Just make a list — nothing fancy. It doesn’t need to be grammatically correct or in some special order. Just write it down. Tomorrow, use the next page. The day after that, the next one.
And don’t worry if someone else might think your list of good things is lame. It’s not their list, it’s yours, and no one else ever has to see this list but you, unless you have a really kick ass day and you want to Instagram that shit. That’s cool, too.
Did you get a soda at the gas station that had just the right combination of syrup and crushed ice? Write it on the list. Was your favorite movie on TV? Write it down. Did your son, the dawdler, the kid who makes you feel like you’re ready to lose your goddamn mind every freaking morning put his shoes on without a fight? WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN THAT’S FRICKIN’ AMAZING.
Ultimately? Just. Keep. Going.
It gets easier, I swear.
And after a month, you’ll have 30 pages in that pretty notebook that you can flip back through that I promise will make you smile.
After two or three months, the little “good bits” you’ve been jotting down will get better and better. They’ll become bigger good bits, and the shitty parts…the parts I talked about at the top of this post…will seem further and farther behind.
Cherish those friends who let you cry or complain without complaining themselves. They love you. Cherish the feeling of a job well done. You matter. You’re making a difference. Cherish the sticky little hugs around your neck when you’re already dressed for work and now you have toothpaste on your black sweater. Those sticky little hugs will save your life a thousand times, without the attached sticky little faces even realizing what they’re doing.
Be happy about the Saturdays where you are alone but aren’t lonely. Be happy about the Sunday when you buy a new print for your living room wall and you hang it by yourself in *just* the perfect spot. Be happy about the Tuesday where you juggled kids and work and after school activities *and* still fed them a somewhat healthy meal that they didn’t whine about eating. Be happy about the Tuesday when all of that failed but you still had wine in the fridge.
Find joy in the fact that you may have left a house you called a home, but that you are now in a little apartment that’s all your own that you can clean top to bottom in less than an hour’s time. Find joy in the fact that you no longer have to have HIS (or HER) crappy recliner in the corner or lame ass framed movie poster hanging above the sofa and you can piece together a decor you really love.
Geek out when you find a kitchen table on Craig’s list for $100 to replace the card table you had there originally. Geek out further when you get a friend’s husband to pick it up for you. Pay him with beer or a ham sandwich or whatever you have on hand that’ll let him know he’s one of the good ones. Geek out when you can finally afford a new Blu-ray player that connects to the Internet and you discover you can binge watch every episode of Sons of Anarchy on Netflix. Geek out further when you discover you have a pint of ice cream in the freezer to eat while you watch and there’s no one around to judge you for farting while you eat your Häagen-Dazs and swoon over Charlie Hunnam.
This is not the end of your life, friend, merely a bump in the road. A shift in gears. Another page in your autobiography. YOU WILL SURVIVE THIS.
You are so much stronger than you know. Poor or rich or somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter: In a year you’ll look back and wonder how you could have possibly come so far. You’ll wonder why you were so worried about all of this in the first place.
I have faith in you. You got this.