Divorce changes you, in good ways. After all the negative emotions and stresses of ending a relationship dissipate, it's time to learn, grow and move on in life.
Here are nine things I've learned:
I look at life differently. Of all that I've gained, perspective means a lot to me. If all I've gained could only come through the hard times of my past relationship and divorce, then so be it. The perspective gained is hard to learn or teach another way perhaps. I would never give it up. Even on the worst days, the simple question, "Would I go back to six months ago/a year ago/two years ago?" keeps me focused on the good and moving forward.
2. Little things don't matter
Sitting amongst others, I often find myself listening to the conversations humming around me. The complaints of spouses and being offended make me cringe slightly. Those might have bothered me too much at one point. It seems so trivial and petty to me now. In the big picture, those things just don't matter like they used to. When you go through weightier matters, the little things lose their significance.
3. Look at people for who they are
I fell in love with people again. I let people into my life and myself into theirs. Their stories, character and passions ignited my own. Every person I have come across has touched me in some way. Stepping beyond my world where so much was broken, exhausting me beyond my day to day, allowed me to see and appreciate each individual for who they are. I look past their cold personality or obvious shortcomings and find the heart, something good I see in them. In even the smallest moments like checking out at the grocery store, I find I make a connection with another, if only a smile or a laugh but usually something much deeper.
4. Empathy for others
As much as they have been through, there's always a backstory. I have my own heartaches. There are things that I've experienced and felt that few, if any, can relate to in the same way. Others have theirs. I feel for them and the trials and pains their hearts hold. I give them their space and listen. As much as someone will share, they typically will hold the deepest pains and keep them for themselves. We've all been through our own hard things.
5. Be flexible or you'll break
You can't do and be everywhere. I've had to learn to accept that I am only one person. Sometimes schedules change last minute. Three kids have to be at three different places at the same time. At least one person will be late. You do the best you can and make it work. I've always been fairly independent. I've had to learn to ask for and accept help. My friends have filled the gaps where I needed a little extra help. I'm grateful for their insistence and love.
6. Give yourself a break
You can only do so much. I thought at first I had to step up and do it all, and do it perfectly. It was an impossible expectation. One week early on in my new single parent role I broke down in tears to a friend, upset over having fed my kids so many meals out of the freezer that week. She looked at me and asked, "Did they get fed?" Maybe we weren't sitting down to home cooked meals every night like we used to, but we were getting through each day the best we knew how, and it did get easier.
7. The hard times pass
They aren't forever. Some days you do just survive. Other days you own it. Many things are new. They take time to get used to. I was blessed to be a stay at home mother for twelve years. Returning to work outside the home flipped my world. It was hard. It all feels second best to where I want to be, at home with my children. But I've been blessed to have the hours and vacations as my children. It's becoming easier.
8. Make the most of the moments
Treasure the here and now and what you can gain from each day. They mean so very much. I never thought I'd be the one building a pinewood derby car with my son. I loved it! It was a first for us both, and we got to share it. It didn't turn out perfectly, but it didn't have to. We learned and laughed and accomplished it together. We'll always have that memory.
9. Know and love yourself
You can't help anyone else if you don't first love yourself. Take the time to rediscover and establish yourself once again. Challenge yourself. I've knocked items off my bucket list, gaining new hobbies, friends, skills and confidence. I've learned to appreciate my alone time, too. I make time for myself each day, knowing I need it to relieve my stresses, gain clarity and be a better person for myself and my children. I recognize my strengths and limits and love who I have become and am excited to see who I will still become. I've come so very far and will never go back.