Fall is in the air. Most of the leaves on the trees that line my walking trail have already changed from green to gold and orange. Many of them have fallen from the trees, and all the shops on Main Street have outfitted their windows with pumpkins and Halloween décor. The clothing boutique a few doors down recently closed its doors, and an art gallery has already begun the process of moving in. My weekly vegetable delivery is filled with squashes and potatoes instead of lettuces and tomatoes, and the sun is disappearing into darkness earlier and earlier. In short, things are changing. Whether we like it or not, another Autumn has arrived, and nature is preparing itself for winter. The transformation doesn't happen overnight, but it is a steady process that is life-affirming in its power. When a transformation is happening, whether it's the season turning over a new leaf or the change happening in our lives, there is no stopping it.
The Little Changes Divorce Brings
Over the past year, I have seen my life transform. In some ways the changes have devastated me, and in others they have been rewarding and even empowering. My divorce has certainly been a major part of the changes. I tried to save my marriage for a long time, but it was out of my control, like the weather. Trying to fix my broken relationship was kind of like trying to put fallen leaves back on their branches. It just doesn't work. The only thing that does work is to accept change as it happens and remember that nature breaks what doesn't bend. For me, that lesson has always been difficult. Even as a child, I hated change. My mother used to say I was a creature of habit, like a horse. It's true that I like consistency, and I still get upset if I miss my 4 pm walk, or have my daily routine interrupted in any way. Divorce definitely upset my usual routine. It wasn't just a grievous event, it also threw me off my settled-in ways. After years of marriage, it feels awkward to readjust to living alone. I went from cooking dinner every night at seven thirty and dining at a table to eating macaroni and cheese out of the pan standing up by the counter. And then there were the bigger changes.
Painting by Pakayla Biehn
And Then There Are The Bigger Changes….
Dating again was a particularly awkward change in my life, since I had chosen to date women for the first time in my life. I didn't know what I was doing, and felt like I had to metamorphose into a new person in order to date at all. Coming out in my early thirties felt like joining a strange club where I would have to change who I was in order to fit in. But no matter which gender you date after divorce, it feels like becoming a different person. That's because the truth is, you're not the same person you were when you were married. At least not exactly the same person. Part of my resistance to letting anyone new into my life was ruminating on the thought that she would never know me the way my ex did. She wouldn't have years of memories with me and know all of my odd quirks. Because we hadn't grown together, there would be no shared memories to speak of. I mourned not being able to relive them with the person who had made them with me. But another side to that, is that even when my ex and I reflected on times now passed, we felt like different people looking back. Together or apart, we had both transformed into who we are today, for better and for worse.
Painting by Pakayla Biehn
Adapting and Accepting Yourself, Transformed
Another significant change for me after divorce was my financial situation. I hadn't prepared myself for the difficult times of supporting myself on my own with one income, and initially I had to work long hours to make ends meet. With time I adapted, and if I could give myself advice then based on my current knowledge, I would have told myself to stop beating myself up about not having it all together right away. None of us have it together all the time, and especially not right after divorce. Money is a functional part of life that we need to survive, but you also have to trust that you'll be okay without stressing yourself to the point of exhaustion, as I did in the beginning. You will be ok, I would have told myself, and you will get by, as people usually do. And you will even eventually find someone to make new memories with, even though they won't be memories made with your old self as you once were. This is the advice I would have given myself if only that had been possible. Most of all, I think I would have told myself, You'll still be you....but, transformed.
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All images courtesy of Pakayla Biehn