One of the really interesting parts about being over forty and divorced is how an entire new world opens up where you’re free to choose whatever you (and you alone) wish for yourself. It’s no longer about what your spouse wants or what the marriage needs. It’s so liberating you’d expect it to be easy.
Unfortunately, most divorcees I know have absolutely no idea what they want or why they want it. What they wanted yesterday (the job or the house or the kind of life) changed this morning, and will probably change again by tomorrow. We’re no longer sure of who we are now that we’re out on our own. Marriage wiped the slate clean. Divorce is figuring out how to fill it back up.
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Separation (and from what my research suggests, the first few years after divorce) often feels a lot like hanging out in purgatory; a mid-level holding space for the single and utterly confused. Divorce has created an entire society of grown-up people as fresh and needy as newborn babies, as hormonally charged as pre-pubescents, and as set in their ways as the elderly. Spend a little time on OK Cupid if you need the proof. We’re all there, hanging out and talking to one another. It’s less about dating (alright… it does have a little to do with dating) than determining who we are, and what we think we need to get past this funny stage of life. And we seem to be helping each other do just that, though the person who helps you today, might be a different stranger/friend/ok-maybe-I- like-you dinner date tomorrow. It works if you look at it in this way, which is why you see the same people online almost every day.
It’s how I met my good friend John. We’re in the same boat at the exact same time asking ourselves very similar questions.
Over the weekend I went to John’s house, a safe spot amidst the storm.
Sitting on his sofa, and out of nowhere, I started to cry. But unlike Mr. Unavailable, my crying didn’t frighten him away. John likes to joke that he’s practically a girl, and if it weren’t for his mountain man existence, our conversations about vintage dresses and Fiesta Wear bowls might have one believe it to be true.
“Sweetie.” He said. “What is wrong?”
“I don’t know anymore… what I want or what I need.”
Good man that he is, we talked it out and he hugged me until all the tears were released, and then fed me a very grilled up mountain-man dinner, juicy skewered peppers and steak. We watched House of Cards before he set me up in his guest room for a twelve-hour snore. Turned out, this girl right here needed some sleep.
When I awoke the next day to the smell of strong coffee and hot waffles on flowered plates we talked about what it means to be single with children at an age when we know ourselves so much better than when we were young, yet find ourselves flip flopping like fish out of water on decisions so foreign to who we thought we were.
“I think I need to write about this, John.”
“Yes babe.” He said. “I think you do.”
“But, what should I say?” I asked between looking at my phone and taking a couple of bites of breakfast.
He answered non-chalantly, barely looking up while scrolling through his phone, “I think you already know… you don’t need my help.”
And therein lies the answer to the mixed up jumble that my OK Cupid friends and I have found ourselves sludging through.
Many of us don’t know what we want, but we’re not in this alone.
It’s par for the divorce course.
And it really is okay.