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
So, how am I doing? (The photo represents my current location on the path of life. Each day we have an opportunity to travel down the path of GOOD (San Juan = Saint John) or the path of MAD (De Vaca = Cow Path). Each day I make a conscious choice to find the good side is a day that I am happier, my kids are happier, and by extension, even my ex-wife is happier.
I wanted to take a moment of pause to look back over three years of processing my divorce through The Off Parent and see what I can learn about myself, about the changes I’ve made, and the growth I still need to keep aspiring towards. Self-observation has been the most powerful tool I’ve had in my healing and recovery. This blog is a reflection of that process, and thus a good opportunity for illumination.
Intention: I am not here to make you feel better. I am here to get it out. I am here to share my journey. To make me feel better. But mostly to FEEL THROUGH this bitter, enlightening, transformative experience. (from my about statement)
Major Topics Content Mix:
Anger – 44
Dating – 92
Depression – 39
Divorce – 115
Kids – 41
Love – 43
Marriage – 35
Money – 26
Poetry – 41
Self-care – 34
Single Parenting – 30
Stepping back the progression and change seems clear. I can see how this blog afforded me a sort of Divorce Recovery Roadmap.
As I began to ascend from the darkness of depression and anger, the energy also opened up and allowed more hopeful ideas to enter my daily activities. My recovery and my kids health became priorities in my life by year two, and more recently, in this last year I have found myself ever more arching towards a next relationship and the imagining of what that might look like.
So, according to me, I’ve moved from the darker parts of divorce toward the hopefulness of dating again, and aspiring towards simpler and healthier relationships with my ex-wife. I don’t think I will leave any of the elements along this path behind. There will be days when I’m angry or sad. But as I can direct my life and thoughts more towards the aspirational parts of the process, the happier I will become.
Without this blog I don’t know that I would’ve had the outlet for the anger. And for me, that’s one of the issues I struggled with during my marriage. I was “too nice” most of the time. And I sublimated my own needs and desire in the name of being a loving husband and good father. But the anger is power, in some circumstances. And even pushing it somewhere else (overeating, acting out, rage) doesn’t really get rid of it.
There’s a great phrase from Reshad Feild that often helps me remember to deal and open up to the anger.
“There is no time to slay the dragon. The dragon is your friend.”
In fact, during a highly creative and emotional time, about six months ago I went through a “tattoo desire” phase. I was certain that some ink would help establish my new creative promise, and my own promise to myself, never to sublimate my joy, sadness, or any other emotion. Ultimately I purchased a package of temporary tattoos of the design I created from a drawing off the web. Here’s what it would’ve looked like.
The beautiful part is, I can have the tattoo anytime I want. To make the statement. But on days when I’m no longer in that mode, I am just fine with the fade and loss of the tattoo dragon.
To summarize: I have moved from anger and bitter darkness towards dreams of doing it all again. Better, smarter, and with more self-awareness, but getting back out there and giving my heart another chance to connect and soar. That’s what most of the poetry is about. Imagining poetry on the left side of the recovery path would yeild a very different voice. I prefer aspirational love poems. And with that The Off Parent has been transformed into the Poet of #Desire.
So yes, I’d say, this has been an amazing journey. Goal setting for Year 4 is next.
The Off Parent
Reference: Steps to Freedom by Reshad Feild
- 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)