Getting right with yourself after divorce is the biggest challenge you’re going to face. All the mechanics of divorce, will eventually take care of themselves. But the emotional fallout might be a bit tougher. I often rely on the language and support of the 12-steps to recover my balance when I’m under the rock of depression or sadness.
And for me, the biggest part of that recovery was regaining some self-confidence and self-love. I felt defeated and broken when I walked out of my marital home and into the world of single dads everywhere. I knew the loss that was coming, now and for the rest of my life I would not have unlimited access to my kids and their hopes and dreams. That loss is still the hardest part for me. I used to love going in late at night and appreciate (give thanks) for their beating and healthy little hearts. Now I can’t to that on most of the nights.
But the areas in me that needed healing were much more personal.
- I didn’t feel sexy or desirable
- My extra weight felt like a fat-sumo-wrestling-suit
- The sadness made it hard to exercise at all
- My initial attempts at dating felt desperate and disconnected
- Loss of all touch and closeness (except from friends and my kids)
- Loss of the hope that I would ever be with another woman
- My mental processes were so wrapped up in ruminating the past, that I felt slow and unintelligent most of the time
And at the deepest core of my pain, I wasn’t sure my body, my soul, was worth all the effort it was going to take to resurface and regain my position as a strong father. A strong single father. At a few dark moments, it just didn’t seem worth it. But then I remembered my dad, and what the loss of him in my early twenties did to me, and I soldiered on.
Today, four-ish years after I walked out on my kids and married life (not my idea) there are still points of pain and sadness, but overall I’d have to say I’ve recovered most of my energy and enthusiasm. I still miss my kids on the nights they are not here with me, but we’re managing. All of us are managing.
Today I read a piece about how the human body ages over time, written from a very healthy and zen perspective. And while I don’t do all these things, I wanted to share them, and the source post, in hopes that you might find some inspiration for your own journey. You are worth it. Whatever you have to go through to get back on top of your game, whatever it is, DO IT.
Here are the 8 Things I Learned from 50 Naked People – published in The Elephant Journal.
So let’s spend a brief moment together, breathing *that* in. I could spend a long time trying to absorb these wonderful affirmations into my own self-image.
The physical body needs love: Your body doesn’t lie.
What are the things that need healing around your body image? I’ll share mine.
The thing your most embarrassed about: my size. Notice I didn’t say weight. I go from moments of feeling fit and healthy to feeling fat and uninspired, often in the course of one day. And it’s not that I’m fat one day and not-fat the next. It’s more about how I see and talk to myself. And I’m working on it, on just loving whatever I am at the moment. Today those emotions are more tripped up by something I ate, or bloating, rather than some massive increase in my girth.
And what I can do about it:
- A better diet (not dieting)
- Fewer rich indulgences (the tend to breed next indulgences: frappacinos, ice creams)
- More activity (doing what I love)
- More energy from healthy activities; 4
- Emotional boost and joy from being in a relationship (when that happens).
I’ve got a gentler way of talking to my 50+ year-old self. I’m still easily influenced and sometimes angered by fat obsession. And I’ve never really felt fit enough since I left high school hyper athletics: I lettered in three sports and was always driving myself to win.
Now, of course, the matches are less important, and it’s the game that makes me happy. Even losing, I can appreciate the skill and performance of the other players. (Tennis is my passion.) But I love playing. I love seeing a player who has it all and disassembles my game with several well placed shots at critical moments during the match. It’s a chance to watch my own emotions and my own reaction to winning (when I win) and losing (when I get creamed). And that too is about balance.
So I lost at marriage. And here on out I have to learn to be a single dad to my two kids. So what. Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way you want it to, so you move on, try something different, and give up only after the last point is played.
So my embarrassment about my fatness is really left over shit. I’m not *that* fat. I’ve been much fatter. And healthy, for me, is not obsessing about fit or fat, but focusing on eating better and playing more tennis. And knowing that we’re not getting any younger, when I look back at some college photos of me, when I was (at that time) feeling quite fat, and noticing how great I looked.
I’m guessing if we could look back on our “now” selves from our “much older” selves, we’d admire our energy and vigor. We would probably not say how fat we were. We might, but those are the tapes I am eliminating from my vocabulary, both inner and outer. So much of what we say to ourselves is mean. If you say it out loud, you might hear how to be more supportive of your process, as you would be supportive of a friend.
I’m not trying to become a model. I’m not really trying to call in some much younger women who are super-fit and perhaps more focused on super-fit guys. I’m not going to be that guy. But I am aware of things more tangible, like my energy, my optimism and creativity, my blood pressure. All those signs are GREAT. What more can I ask for?
Perhaps a partner who’s on the same trajectory of self-love and healing from fat-shaming. We’re not fat. We’re where we are. And we’re here to love ourselves, and with luck, others.
The Off Parent
other posts of interest:
- Sex is Fun: Should You Settle for Apathetic Sex?
- Zen and the Art of Lovemaking – Won’t Save Your Marriage
- All Kinds of Women and the Sparks of Desire
- The Evolving Single Dad: Failure to Hopefulness Again
- The Sensual and the Sexual: Dating After Divorce
- 8 Things I Learned from 50 Naked People – The Elephant Journal
- How ‘Fat Talk’ Became A Social Epidemic — And How You Can Stop It – Huffington Post
image: love handles are whorey handles, laura g, creative commons usage
I’ve seen my abs once in my life. I was a sophomore in high school, I was on the swim team and we were swimming twice a day, lifting weights, and eating well. It was all so planned and supported. And I had swimming teammates, and perhaps a romantic interest in more than one of the women on the swim team. It’s kind of what you do up East in the Winter. Swim, Basketball, or Ice Hockey. I swam.
Once in my life I had the abs we so aspire to. But is it like pornography, the uber-fit woman or man? Sure we glamorize the human body. And the magazines are filled with 20 – 30 year olds who have spent a good bit of their free time working on their abs. I can’t think of anything quite so boring.
I wasn’t one to spend time in a gym. I mean, running on a treadmill going nowhere. What do you do with that? Watch TV? No thanks. And something about being inside, always feels kind of like cheating. But, then again, I live in Texas, and it’s fuckin hot out there. So what’s the trade off?
I probably will not see my iron stomach again in this lifetime. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s not really a goal of mine. I can’t add up the number of hours it would take, doing stuff I don’t like doing, hate actually, over the next 6-months to a year. Um, yeah… Not going to happen.
That’s not to say I don’t have ideas of getting in better shape. I do. It’s just, the learnings I am getting along the journey back to fitness from depression, divorce, and isolation, are unbelievably valuable. It’s a process back to myself. Back to learning what I’m in it for, what I like doing, and what the time is worth that I could be spending “at the gym.”
I have plans. I am getting ready to work with a nutritionist to learn about things like gluten and carbs and my particular chemical make up. But I can tell you this, I have had love handles in some shape and form, since I was 2 years old. And that one brief period of my life, when I was 15, was the only time I’m going to have a GQ-cover-worth stomach.
So that’s not my goal. And while I would love to nuzzle up to the beautiful body above, I’m afraid the effort it takes to maintain that form would completely outweigh the potential time with me, or time fulfilling other parts of what’s important in a life.
There’s a lot to be said for physical beauty. And there’s a lot more to be said for attitude, life approach, centeredness, and warmth. (see Enlightenment post) And when I find the next woman, I hope she has a slim figure, it’s what I’m trained to be drawn towards. [It probably has more to do with my older sister’s ghost than any media driven ideal.] But that’s not the first thing I’m looking for or at.
So here’s the concept: No one is going to hold your dream for you. The woman who I met a few weeks ago, who felt like a first possible “match” was not impressed by something. And she couldn’t possibly see the me I am aiming for. And could I actually expect her to understand my self-improvement plan? No, of course, she sees what she sees.
And the lesson here is, SO DO I. I see myself, and if I compare my stomach to my 15-year-old stomach, I might get depressed. But it’s not about my stomach flatness. That might be something that she is interested in. And it might be something that I marginally aspire towards, but it’s nothing like the athletic-gym-addict stomach above.
I recently met, and hung out with a woman who resembles the picture above. She was funny, cute, spunky, and obviously obsessed with her image. She once said to me, about her beauty, “It’s all I have.” She was depressed about her divorce and she drank alone on weekends when she didn’t have her kids. [The definition of tragedy.]
But she didn’t have time for me. I wasn’t stalking her or anything. We went out dancing one of those vodka nights. And we had a blast. And I was only able to wrestle one more meeting out of her, over coffee where she fiddled with her iPad the entire time.
Her email later said it all. “We can have fun. I just have to get some more of my life back together first.”
A few months later I saw her running on the trail around the lake. There was a moment of recognition and she ducked her head and ran on past. Yes, fine, I didn’t want to interrupt her run.
Later I pinged her via email. “Did I see you this afternoon on the trail?”
“Yes, that’s about all I have time for, being a single parent and all. Work, working out, and taking care of my kids.”
“Okay, well, you looked good. Hope you are well. Cheers.”
That’s what we’re all doing. Setting priorities between work, self, kids, relationships, spiritual practice. There’s only so many hours, and of course, you are what you pay attention to.
So I’m happy with a flat and fit stomach on others. And I do want to get mine in better proportion to how I would like to look. But if I start aspiring towards my old 16-year-old body, I can lose sight of my own priorities.
We can’t set anyone else’s priorities or reprogram their dreams. The near match woman was as close as I’ve come to someone who seemed balanced. And if I’d been more balanced, maybe she’d have seen the same spark I saw. But, of course, she could not hold the idea of who I was becoming, or where I was going. How could she? There’s no one who is going to hold your dream for you.
No worries. Of course she is out there. And the me I want to be is too. Oh wait… The me I want to be is right here. I need to remember that.
It gets better.
The Off Parent
- The Promise in a Thumbnail; Online Dating Hits and Misses
- The Honey Trap: How Beauty Can Lead Us Astray
- The Malleable Trajectory of Desire in Online Dating
- All Kinds of Women and the Sparks of Desire
- Fractured People: Learning About Boundaries in Dating After Divorce
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)