Take a journey with me as I share through complete authenticity and with vulnerability my fear of driving alone after my divorce. I hope you will appreciate how I overcome fears and the “storytelling” that happens after rejection.
Welcome to Midlife Monarch the podcast, episode three. I’m storytelling in this podcast talking about being in my midlife. There will be a lot of conversations coming up in here and one of those happens to be around divorce and starting life over in these very important years.
I want you to know, first of all, that I am in the happiest place I’ve ever been in my entire life. I feel incredibly free, empowered and pretty much stress-free. I still have a teenager at home, and she’s a super, super good kid.
I have set my life up in a way where I have removed a lot of the stresses that I’ve had my entire life since my early twenties that came from being an employer. And I’m really enjoying the things I get to do today. So I want you to know that first.
Anytime I talk about any kind of fears or concerns or depression, which we’re going to talk about because it’s such a prevalent thing in my entire family, and divorce, it’s not because I’m a sad person. I am so, so happy today.
I’m taking a road trip tomorrow to California. I’m in Las Vegas and road trips to California have been part of my entire life. Since childhood, I have been traveling back and forth to California, as many people from Las Vegas do. Disneyland is a frequent attraction for us as is the beach. And it has been something that I’ve done forever.
Speaker 1: (01:59)
My kids grew up on it. My teenage daughter of course still loves to do that. And even though her father and I got divorced, she still wants to do those things with each of us.
Right after the divorce, we moved into my apartment in late 2016, my ex-husband actually took her to Disneyland and I was so thrilled about that. Unfortunately, after that, he wasn’t financially stable (that was actually one of the things that led to our divorce) So he hasn’t taken her on trips since then. I have taken her on multiple vacations but not alone. I’ve taken her on the Alaska cruise a couple of times, to Disneyland several times with my brother’s family or with my adult daughter an so on.
A few weeks ago, my teenager said “Hey Mom, I’d love to go to Disneyland’. We actually just got off the Disney cruise last month with my older daughter. But I thought, you know, the timing is really good.
I’ve never wanted to take road trips where I drive because I don’t really enjoy driving. In fact, I get pretty scared behind the wheel of a car, just have not ever been super confident.
But this year I bought a Lexus and I absolutely love that car. It’s actually an SUV. I feel incredibly safe. I love the safety features. In fact, I just took it in and got Its first service. So when my teenager brought up this road trip I thought, you know, now’s the time. Now’s the time. I’ve got plenty of time to do this.
There’s no reason I can’t just do this with her, by myself, you know? And it’s an interesting thing because I’ve never really loved to just hang out with kids. I’m not a super playful kind of person. I’m very much a “worker” type – entrepreneur. I love masterminds. I love business.
When I’m with a family environment, I love it because the kids play with the kids and the young adults hang with the young adults and the moms are with the moms and the grandmas are the grandmas. You know, there’s kind of that thing going on. And so it’s always felt a little weird to be just me and one of the kids for long periods of time.
My teenager is 16 now. She’s incredibly mature and I love the way she loves Disney and the beach. So yeah, We can totally hang out. So I’m sitting here today planning my trip. Now I’ll share with you something that happened. My original plan was that I wanted to leave at noon on Sunday, which is tomorrow.
And the reason why was because I thought to myself, I want to do this different than my ex-husband would have. I want to do this my way and I like to take a slow roll, get up easy, have my coffee, even do an hour or two of blogging before I leave. Just I like to start my day that way. I always have and not be rushed. I want to pack in the morning, I don’t want to be rushed and, and we’re going in a day early on purpose just for a travel day.
So we’re not going to Disneyland tomorrow. I purposely added a day just for travel because I don’t want to drive for five or six hours and then be tired when I get there. So I knew that I had this full day planned just for travel. We could get in at five or six, check into our hotel, go to downtown Disney, have some dinner. Perfect.
So the other day my ex-husband comes and picks up my daughter and takes her to lunch. We had agreed on shared custody, but because of his financial issues, he stopped taking her. So he comes and gets her sometimes and they do lunch or an arcade or something like that.
She came back and said, “hey mom, I got this idea”. She says we should leave at eight o’clock in the morning so that we’re ahead of traffic and Yada Yada.
I’m laughing to myself going, okay, these are not her words. These are somebody else’s words. And I asked her “well, what makes you fearful of traffic”. She responded, “Well Dad said, you know, it’s better if we leave early cause it’s Sunday and everybody goes back to California later”.
And you know, it was, it was frustrating for me. I won’t lie. I was frustrated by that. I’m like, you know, I’m taking care of our child by myself. I’m doing all this stuff myself and I don’t want an opinion on whether or not the time I chose for leaving on my road trip is smart or not smart, you know? And this morning I can’t stop thinking about it.
I told her OK, we can leave earlier if we add a stop. We’re not leaving earlier because it was his suggestion. I’m trying to remind myself today that, no, this is my trip. I planned it. I’m in control. It’s my choice. If I want to drink a huge cup of coffee on the way there, even if that means we’re going to make two or three stops that’s my choice. Right? That was something I never could do before.
Speaker 1: (07:39)
I had a flashback and I remembered right before the divorce, he took a trip by himself for the first time and we were already having a lot of issues in our marriage. Shortly before that trip, we had dinner one night. And at that dinner, he told me he was only in the marriage for our daughter.
And so I’m, there was a lot going on and I’ll talk more about that later. I believe personally that we still very much loved each other even though his choice of words were awful and sent a very different message.
By that time, I was supporting our family financially. I had decided to leave at that point. I’m doing all this work, I thought. I’m not going to be in a relationship with a person that doesn’t want to be with me. So right before he took his trip, he took his car and got it all souped up. Right.
Check the air in the tires, change the oil. And I had taken a trip a couple of weeks prior to that, a work trip and my older daughter drove us in my jeep and I noticed that for the first time he did not check my jeep out. And every road trip we had ever taken, he always took, it was just kind of a routine thing.
He would check the oil, he would check the air, he would wash the car, he’d put gas in it and he would have fun doing it.
It was kind of like his thing. Right. But he didn’t do it when we left on our trip and I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that he did not care enough to make sure that we were safe in that same way. And I wondered to myself, is he just not ever going to do this anymore or was he always only doing it because he was on the trip?
And then when I saw him take HIS car in to take his trip, I realized that I don’t feel like he ever was taking the car in to protect me. He was taking the car in to protect himself and that really hurt. And that was one of the reasons why we got divorced because I didn’t feel safe. I felt like I was being put in harm’s way and never protected.
Ultimately for me, that was really the deciding factor. After 25 years, as much as I loved him, and I believe he loved me and I believe we had a lot of great things together. I couldn’t be where I wasn’t safe. I knew I could take better care of myself. And that was a big reason. And so this morning as I’m preparing this for this trip, I can’t stop thinking about the cars.
It’s just an odd thing because I’m feeling so safe and so confident and so happy. But I can’t stop thinking if we were together right now, he would be doing, this is what he would be doing to the car today. And this is how he would be prepping for our trip tomorrow. And I’m not sure if that’s on my mind just because of my him tossing his opinion in or if it’s all just scary and new.
I am excited about the fact that this is my trip, and it is all in my power to choose. I’ve done really well with life after divorce in general. The Day I left, I still very much loved my husband and three years later I’m not even dating yet. And it’s a weird thing. I still kind of feel married or obligated even though he’s moved on and is dating. I just can’t yet. And it might also be because I just don’t trust men in general.
I’ll tell you that I have to constantly rewire my brain so that I don’t allow that story to play over and over again in my head. That I don’t allow this film to play where I am constantly watching myself be rejected or tell myself that I wasn’t loved or that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t attractive enough or that I was too old. And I don’t believe any of those things are actually the truth. But you know how it is, you know, what we do to ourselves.
We are the worst on ourselves. We are so critical and I think that people really have a hard time coming out of these spells of grief, loss, divorce, getting fired from a job, financial hardships, whatever because they keep telling themselves a story about why that thing is so bad.
Today I could really easily allow myself to get funky. I really could. I’m looking outside the window and you know, the wind’s blowing, it’s gray outside. But instead, I’m thinking, hey, I get to go on a trip tomorrow. I get to look at these beautiful Martha Stewart roses that are sitting on the breakfast bar that I ordered from a subscription box that I love so much.
I get to live in this beautiful place that I love so much. I love that I get to look outside a window and see a pool outside. I love that my cat is sitting here purring next to me who wants nothing more than to be with me 24/seven. I get to take my daughter on a trip because I have the financial means to do so. I have the freedom to do so. And no way am I going to spend this day in any kind of sadness or regret or bitterness, right?
Which is what I honestly felt when I heard those first comments, I felt bitterness. I had to let it go because you can’t get to better when you hold on to bitter.
This is my trip. I get to choose and he doesn’t get to have an opinion on when we leave and what the traffic looks like because he’s not driving the car, you know? But it’s okay for me to think these thoughts. That’s my opinion on it. I think we’re human. And if we didn’t feel something, especially after a 25-year marriage, when things like this happen, we wouldn’t be human.
I’m excited about stopping for lunch and stopping to fill up for gas when I want, how I want and where I want. I’m excited about being at Disneyland for the first time with just us as me as the adult making our own choices.
I think we can reinvent ourselves any time that we make the decision to do so. And I think we can change the story we tell ourselves. The story I tell myself today is not that my ex-husband didn’t love me because I know he did.
So it’ll be fun to share what happens after the trip as I had out there. So I want to thank you so much for listening to the midlife monarch podcast, episode three and I look forward to continuing the story and hopefully inspiring you and empowering you to make positive change as well in your life.
I’m Lori Ballen.