Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Time To Rediscover Yourself

My first few weeks of separation are a blurry memory. I got up in the mornings and got the kids off to their activities, but after that I was depressed and locked in my own twilight zone. Most of my conversation were centered around what my ex did to me or was doing to me--like going on vacation with his girlfriend even though we were newly separated.

A few months of distance and the support of my family (and a good attorney) helped me to realize I had a chance to start over. All the things that my ex did to me were a signal to move on. Why be stuck in his world when his actions were saying he did not want me there? It was time to make a new life. Below are a few of the ideas I learned about creating a new life.

1. Rediscover Yourself. For me, the first step to creating a new life was rediscovering myself. After several years of marriage, my own concept of self had been put in a box and buried somewhere. I spent time catching up with old friends and doing activities I had forsaken in marriage because my ex was not interested. I also decided to try new things like joining a bookclub. (I know it's not skydiving, but it's a start.) I slowly have developed the life that I want. It's empowering, and i don't have to compromise with someone else.

2. Define new goals. Be sure to stretch a little. In early 2006, I left my job in software development and became a housewife. I was happy in this role and loved spending time with my kids. One year later, I was a single mom struggling to understand why my life had fallen apart. Nothing can prepare you for this event, but taking time to lay out short-term and long-term goals can significantly guide day to day activities and keep from feeling so lost. My short-term goal was to prepare for grad school, so I started studying for an awful standardized test and getting my transcripts together. It will be a year or so before I start school and I can hardly wait. This goal is tied to a loftier goal--being a successful entrepreneur. I may never be what I think of as a successful entrepreneur, but at least I have a challenge in front of me.

3. Get your financial house in order. Leaving a marriage is expensive, and costs add up fast--especially if there are lawyers involved. A new life means not splitting expenses, not contributing to one retirement account, and maybe having to get separate health insurance. The costs can be daunting if living week to week. This is a topic that is covered in depth on blogs, in books and even in some software applications. It is worth taking a substantial amount of time to investigate resources and make a budget and savings plan.

4. Build Time for Yourself into Your Schedule. I heard this advice from everyone I knew. Little did I know that taking this advice would help me the most. Doing small things like going to dinner with a friend helped me to visualize what I wanted in life.

5. Don't Rush too Quickly into Another Relationship. I devoted nearly 15 years of my life to one person. May of these years are happy memories even though my ex says he can't recall the details of our life together. Having a drastic change back to being single left me lonely and wanting companionship. I have heard therapists say that if you have multiple relationships, then you carry your experiences from one relationship to next. I have though about this advice and realized I do not want to relive the relationship with my ex. For this reason, I delayed going into other relationships until I knew what I wanted in my life and understood the behaviors I did not want to repeat in my next relationship.

I estimate it will take two to five years to get where I want to be. I am realistic about the timing so I do not lose my long-term focus. It will be a long journey and a happy one I hope.

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