Party of One – Finding Your New Normal After Divorce
One of the things I miss most about married life is always having someone to go out to dinner with. I live within walking distance of two great restaurants, and sometimes I can afford dine out. But I don't, because what's the point in reserving a table for one? I've considered dating someone just to have a dinner companion, because all my friends have girlfriends, boyfriends, or husbands to go out with. Since becoming single, I eat almost all of my meals standing up at the kitchen counter. If I make something really special, I position my plate on the counter next to the espresso machine. If it's just a weeknight stir-fry, I usually eat it on the chopping block beside the sink. It is admittedly kind of a pathetic scene. I should probably just take myself on a date to the nice farm to table restaurant I miss, but it just doesn't seem worth the effort.
Being divorced and being single again has forced me to adapt to a new way of living, and even more significant, a new way of looking at my life. There are many things, eating out being one of them, that I am going to have to get used to doing alone. I remember how strange and sad it was for me in the first few months of my separation to do certain simple things alone, like watching tv. For years, my husband and I had agreed what we would watch together after dinner, and one of my favorite parts of the day was the moment we settled in for the evening over wine and a new tv show or movie. When he moved out, I felt awkward watching Grey's Anatomy alone. We couldn't laugh together at the funny moments or guess at who would be the next to get killed off the show. It used to be my favorite series, but alone, I eventually stopped watching altogether. Now I don't know if I miss the show or just miss watching it with my ex.
When Circumstances Change, Change With Them
There are certain pleasures in life that just seem more fully enjoyed when you can share them with someone else. And when you love someone and feel that they're a part of you, you always want to share everything with them. Whether it's a shared meal, a movie, or listening to the same song together on the radio, these things unite you in a shared experience. During my first month of life on my own, I ate very little, and not just because I was heartbroken. The act of cooking dinner had been a joint activity, and I didn't even know how to cook for one. In the early days of our marriage, it was something we used to love to do together, almost nightly. It made me too sad to stand over a pan and stir ingredients that would be remembered by no one but myself. Sitting alone at the table also felt wrong, which is how I came to eat my dinners standing. Like I said, things have changed. I realized soon enough that I would have to bend with the current or be broken by it, so I began to search out the ways I could make my daily life as a divorcee feel normal to me.
Redefining Normal and Enjoying the Single Life
I started by finding all the movies and television series my ex never wanted to watch, and devoured them all. It felt right to be watching those alone, and took out some of the sting on solo viewing. The table we had eaten dinner on every night together tormented my evenings, so I moved it into the living room and repurposed it as a table for books. For dinner, I eat foods I never did when I was married, and I have learned over time to make smaller portions, and dirty fewer dishes. If I end up eating squash and peppers out of the frying pan they were cooked in, so be it. And on weekends, I treat myself to something special, like a more expensive bottle of wine, or a wild salmon filet. Having something to look forward to, however small, can make a big difference when going through divorce, or its aftermath. It may not seem like it at first, but one day you get to the point where living alone, eating alone, sleeping and waking alone all feel normal. You become okay, and then one day - maybe it's months later - you become more than okay. You find the way to redefine what normal means for you, and what happiness means too. This is your life now, and you own it. Instead of fitting into a mold, you can mold your life around who you are, and what you need right now. As for me, I may just make a reservation for myself at that farm to table restaurant: Joelle, party of one.
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Images Courtesy of Joelle and Lily Atherton