autumn days

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Optimist's Guide to Divorce

I love my library, even when late fees get steep.  Fees are part of the deal for my family at the library, especially now that I am the only adult responsible for getting things back on time.  In the two months since M died, I have damaged one book and lost two others.  Our books may be falling apart, but we humans are generally keeping ourselves together. 

In our library's new book section, I found a simple drawing of a woman riding a bicycle in the wind.  It reminded me of Under the Tuscan Sun, a book and movie and adventure I love.  This carefree bicyclist was gliding across The Optimist's Guide to Divorce: How to get through your breakup and create a new life you love.  Six months ago, I would not have considered this title.  I have just gone through a death instead of a divorce, but if you skip a bit here and there, this book completely applies to my situation.  I am trying to get through my broken heartedness to create the new life I love... with my healthy, whole children.  I get a little thrill reading about recovering from divorce... as if to pretend it is what I've just been through, as if there is a small chance our M could walk back into our lives and kiss his children.  Divorce is preferable in some ways to the path our family has traversed.

Reading this book each day for the last two weeks while I wrestle my exhausted-yet-sleepless toddler, I have enjoyed the camaraderie of listening in on other women's stories of how they dealt with heartbreak, how they processed, connected with others, planned, and made the most of loving their new lives.  These women found themselves to be stronger in a myriad of ways than they had previously known.  My children and I are bringing some of their ideas into our own lives.  We have created a meal plan (Soup Sundays and Taco Tuesdays!), a budget, and my children are now responsible for all their own breakfasts and lunches.  (Why do you think Cheetos count as lunch?!)  I make larger dinners that double as leftovers.  My daughter makes toast and fried eggs for our family each morning and then tackles some dishes and laundry. 

There are stories detailing how to accept what has happened, seek therapy, create a home you love, bring in extra income, budget for what is most important, and so much more.   

I am currently right in the middle of the book at Twenty Things that Will Make You Feel Good.  This list reminds me of how I used to care for myself and how I will again.
  1. Take a bath with Epsom salts.
  2. Get your hands in playdough.
  3. Do a good deed for someone else.
  4. Sit on a chair and watch the stars.
  5. Plant something.
  6. Read a fun novel.
  7. Ride your bike in a park:
  8. Take a brewery or winery tour with an upbeat friend.
  9. Cuddle up with dryer-warmed towels.
  10. Visit a fair or theme park and ride the rides.
  11. Focus on gratitude.
  12. Sign up for lessons.
  13. Declare a fashion goal, such as Wild Print Wednesday or avoiding black.
  14. Roll car windows down and put out your hand.
  15. Schedule a massage.
  16. Write a love letter to an old friend.
  17. Wiggle toes in the sand.
  18. Hang chimes outside your door.
  19. Paint.
  20. Create something and get lost in the project.
Our family has been through something awful.  While we would give almost anything to go back to the lives we shared before diagnosis day, there are many silver linings to find on this leg of our journey.  At least that is what I tell myself to get through the density of the situation.  For every positive aspect we find now because of M's death, there are a trillion negatives.  I intend to feel okay about where we are and how we got here, so I focus upon our silver linings.  Here are some.

My children are learning to work hard and take pride in the work they do for our family.  We are expressing our emotions through more yelling and crying, and holding each other as we talk through it all.  Regular game nights and book clubs with friends and family are awesome.  Decluttering without as much negotiation is nice.  I purchase and dole out fewer sugary foods.  We spend less on hot water, heat, and groceries.  I am planning for new light fixtures, wall colors, and simple (summer yard sale) décor.  We don't need to move into a bigger "dream home".  I get to sort through and pass on my parents-in-law's possessions.  We can see our family together again in family videos.  I am finally reading adult books again.  Good books.  I get to smile when sharing this title with a friend.  I get to make the time to talk about it all here with you.  Silver linings.  For these I am thankful.

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