In the aftermath of my divorce, there were so many stressful issues I had to deal with. There was the overarching emotional crisis, of course, which I would have to work through over time. There were also medium-sized issues, like who would pay for the car to get new tires. Then there were little surprising daily troubles, and these are the ones that taught me the most about myself. When I was married, I never worried about a leaky faucet or a broken toilet seat. These were easy things to fix, because they were things my ex-husband could fix for me. Without him around, and without the budget to call someone else, I had to resort to my own handy skills - and by my own, I mean a complete lack thereof.
I had been divorced for about two months when the toilet paper holder fell off the wall. I muttered complaints about how there was always something going wrong, and cursed my ex for not having fixed it the whole time he and I had lived together.. It had been loose for a year, just like the toilet seat and the faucet in the kitchen, and he had never fixed those either. He always promised he would, but he apparently just never got around to it. It’s a familiar story. I was too wrapped up in other worries to ask him to do the repairs before he left, and they were things that honestly didn’t bother me that much. So what if the faucet jiggles around and the pipe comes loose? It only happened sometimes. Who cared if the toilet seat slid around? I was going through a divorce, and cared much more about whether he was going to live up to his claims and give me alimony payments. We couldn’t even hire an attorney at the time, so minor home repairs were the last thing on my mind. But once I began living alone, I slowly took control of my life and my home again. Without him there, I made a lot of changes, and the broken things started to bother me a lot.
After He’s Gone, Making Your Home Your Own Again
I started in the living room. It is a beautiful room with windows from floor to ceiling on three walls. Light floods in all day, and in the evening you can see the stars. But this room up until my ex moved out was always dark, like a cave. He painted in there, and never allowed any natural light to enter the room. He had to control the light, so the room had drawn shades, curtains, and studio lamps. The day he moved out, I took down every shade. I made it into my reading room where tall green plants now enjoy basking in the sunshine. Having done that, I turned to the bathroom. I don’t know why it enraged me, or seemed so suddenly important, but if I was going to claim my territory, I refused to live another day in an apartment with a broken toilet paper dispenser! I grabbed the fixture and headed to the hardware store.
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Admittedly, I have always been clumsy with tools, and mostly, up until now, had never taken any interest. I had other skills, like cooking, and wine evaluation. I wasn’t even good with a needle and thread, and couldn’t sew on a button. My ex had always done that. (I still cannot sew on a button, but I’ll get to that, eventually...) So, once at the hardware store, I asked for help. I was advised by a kind silver-haired man who showed me exactly what I would need to buy and did a little demonstration for me. He even gave me a tightening wrench (or is it called a key?) to tighten the tiny screw at the top of the fixture. He wished me luck, and I went home to try my hand at my very first home repair. I was delighted when only fifteen minutes later the whole chore was done. No more loose dispenser. I even tried to wriggle it around, and it held firm. I felt empowered and wanted to fix everything.
Empowering Yourself is Easier Than You Think
It may sound trivial, or silly, and in hindsight that dispenser is quite an easy chore. But it was completely new to me, and learning how to do something on my own, however small, made me feel like everything might just be okay. From there, I repaired the loose toilet seat and watched a youtube video that taught me how to fix the pipe under the kitchen sink. I unclogged the shower drain, and sealed the gap around the screen window. All minor repairs, but I did them myself. I realized that being single was an opportunity for me to grow, and becoming self-reliant was a crucial part of my feelings of self worth and also lessened my anxiety. I didn’t have to worry about who would help me do this or that, because I could do most of it on my own. I can change a flat tire, and build my own shelves. I could rest easier knowing that if something went wrong, I wasn’t going to be helpless. I had my own back.
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My marriage has been the most significant thing in my life that I have not been able to fix. I tried, and I failed. Maybe we should have called an expert, but it’s far too late now. I have to live with that broken part of my past, and I know that it was a project too big for me to tackle. It’s not as if you can watch a youtube video that shows you the steps to fixing a broken marriage, though I wish there was one. I may not be able to repair my relationship with my ex-husband, but at least I can learn to repair the washing machine. For now, it’s an accomplishment I can feel good about.