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Divorce is not the end. I want to specifically address the woman who is getting divorced or is recently divorced. If you hear nothing else in my words today, hear this: Your present and future is not defined by the failure of your marriage. In this letter, I’ll tell you why.
Dear (Insert Your Name Here),
I’d like to share some of my discoveries in the 3 years since my divorce. I’ll share some of the pain that you can probably relate to as well as the victories, and there are many. What happens to you from here is a choice. It’s a choice to play a victim or a victor. It’s a choice to stay low or rise up. It’s a choice to live looking at the rearview mirror or to focus on the present moment. From here, the most important thing you can do is choose wisely. And you’ll have to consciously choose this again and again and again until it’s a habit. Even if you are naturally wired to be a positive person, you’ll realize you have to choose it, again and again.
I’m sorry. Truly. I’m sorry you have experienced the end of a marriage. When we walk down the aisle to the person we believe is going to be our forever, that will treasure us, that protect us, that will grow old with us, we can’t imagine that it will end in divorce.
And more than half of the time it does.
It doesn’t matter whether you chose to end the marriage or your spouse did. You still have to reckon with your mind about what it all means. You may have doubts about the decision if it was yours. You may wonder if you did the right thing or suffer guilt. This is especially true for mothers.
Mom guilt is real.
And if it wasn’t your choice, you may feel shattered, betrayed, bewildered, dismayed, and, well, I’ll just say it – Broken. Girl, you are not broken. Not unless you choose to be.
My marriage ended after 25 years. I chose to leave because my husband, in so many words, told me he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. We had grown in different directions and both of us suffered from family patterns of depression and addiction.
I wanted better.
For years, I gave it my everything. I did everything I knew in my power to make him happy without sacrificing my soul. I was dying inside. I had lost the pieces of me that once made life so worth living. My stomach was in knots from the moment I opened my eyes until I went to bed at night. I was scared most of the time of what was happening in our world and what was about to happen.
And while I was digging my heels in, fighting with everything I had, he was giving up. I think I understand today more of why that happened than I did then.
I asked him to leave. He wouldn’t. The same old story – it was him first. He protected himself first. Always. So. I knew I couldn’t stay where I wasn’t wanted. And, I was paying for everything because he had quit working years prior.
There’s much more to this story and I won’t share it all because this isn’t about him, it’s about you – the woman who is getting divorced (or is).
That being said, I want you to understand clearly that I left because I knew that I deserved better. We deserve better. All of us. We deserve better than to be in a situation where we are in pain every day. We deserve to feel good about ourselves, to feel safe, and to be in a relationship that is a partnership OR be better off alone.
For me, better off, has 100% been alone. It didn’t feel that way at first.
The day I walked out the front door (along with my teenage daughter), I was still in love with my husband. I loved him with my entire being. And still, I knew that I wasn’t going to survive if I stayed. I’d find myself back in the battle of addiction and darkness, which is what he was choosing at that time, and I wasn’t willing to go down with it all. I just couldn’t.
My businesses were suffering, the people in my businesses were suffering, my daughter was suffering. It would have been selfish to stay. And honestly, I knew he would be happier too if we ended it. It was clearly what he wanted.
He never asked me to stay even though I made that option available several times.
I felt rejected. I felt betrayed. I felt like a failure. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like an incomplete woman. I felt shattered. I felt, well, I’ll just say it – broken.
Hang on girl, the good part is coming.
That October morning when I left, I had no credit cards and no cash. What I did have was a business that as long as I continued to work hard and stay strong earned a good living. I had a huge payroll though and massive expenses, so I won’t say I wasn’t scared.
I got a cute little apartment in the neighborhood nearby. Truthfully, I know now that I was led here. I’m convinced of it. I rented the first place I visited even though I saw 7 or 8 other apartment complexes. As soon as I pulled into the gated community, I felt safe. This was my #1 priority. I wanted to feel safe.
I picked the unit that was right by the pool so I could hear the waterfall. Instinctively I knew that I was going to need a place to heal for a while. I needed to hunker down, feel safe, be in the quiet, and learn how to not be broken.
My brother ponied up his credit card and let me pick out everything I needed for the apartment. This was embarrassing, yes and oh so appreciated. He actually worked for me so there was an extra layer of “shame” in that. Luckily, we both had confidence in our work, so we knew I’d pay him back quickly.
It took me about a year, and it was paid back.
Just before Thanksgiving, 3 years to the day I’m writing this letter, there was a knock on my door. There was a box. I’m used to getting boxes delivered as I order just about everything online including groceries. I don’t enjoy shopping so this is easier and more cost-effective.
I looked down at the box and instantly knew something was wrong. It was plain. There was no shipping label. I honestly wondered for a second if it was a bomb. Then I wondered if someone had left an animal or a baby on my doorstep. I knew this box was “left” for me and it wasn’t going to be good.
I kicked it around a bit to make sure nothing popped out. And then, without bringing it in the apartment, with one hand, tentatively, I opened it.
Inside was an envelope which I pulled out of the box. Just then I hear a voice and look up to see a guy laughing, like he had just pulled off the best trick ever, and he said my name and “You’ve Been Served”.
I was shaking. And then I was crying. And then I began calling people because I had no idea what this meant in reality.
See, I wasn’t going to file for divorce. We had separated 10 years prior for 6 months and got back together. I wanted to give it the same amount of time before I made it final.
He filed. OK. Here we go.
He sued me for child support, emergency support, and alimony along with wanting 1/2 of the businesses and such.
Ugg. Are you kidding me?
I chatted with a friend and hired a lawyer she recommended.
Now, what I hadn’t yet shared is that we had about $200,000 owed to the IRS. Why? I could give you many excuses. Bottom line, we didn’t manage our books well as new business owners and it got away from us fast. Once it was a hefty bill, he didn’t want to pay, and I was ignorant to the entire process and stuck my head in the sand like an Ostrich even though I knew that this was going to get ugly.
In any event, the first thing I did after finding a place to live was contact an attorney about the taxes and bankruptcy. Nope. Wasn’t going to happen. I made too much money and we had already been denied an offer and compromise. In fact, all we were doing for the past 10 years was paying people huge amounts of money to fight the IRS that now in retrospect would have cost us less just to pay the taxes!
After that, I called the IRS myself. I made a payment plan with them of $2500 per month for the back taxes.
The IRS was clear that no matter who paid it, it would credit us both and be a debt to us both. There was no such thing as 50/50.
And to this day, 3 years later, he hasn’t paid a dime. I’ve knocked it down over 3 years one month at a time, and still have 2-3 years remaining of payments unless I do something big and pay a big chunk or two off faster.
I decided though that I was going to live my life, care for my daughter, and not sacrifice a new normal to pay it off faster. The payments were satisfactory to them based on my income, so off to contact we went.
I share this all open, and authentically to show you that you are not alone. Lady, there are many of us. There are plenty of men out there suffering this as well, I just chose to write this letter to you, because I feel today like empowering the women going through this massive change in their lives.
Oh. In case I haven’t told you yet. – you matter. You are a beautiful, wonderful, whole, complete individual with a life ahead of you that will be whatever you decide it to be. And if you make the right choices TODAY, Right Now, the rest will magically unfold in a way you can’t imagine.
That’s what happened for me.
But not at first. No. I had to battle. Yep, a full-blown, ugly, bloody war.
I can only describe the divorce battle as one word – GROSS!!!!! It was truly disgusting. I saw and heard things that made my skin crawl and just reaffirmed all of those feelings I was suffering. I truly was rejected and unprotected.
The man I loved and gave everything to for 25 years, including being a stepmother to his children and paying child support for 15 years to their mother, had been keeping journals against me for years. Seriously. He walked into that courtroom with 3 giant 3 ring binders of papers and printed Facebook posts ready to prove to the judge what a villain I was and what a saint he was.
Honestly, more than what he said in the courtroom, or what he did out there in the real world that I heard about, or what he said to me over a text message, the fact that he was building a case against me for years while I was fighting to save our marriage crushed me to the core.
And then I realized that the marriage was a lie. And what else was going on that I didn’t know about? Oh man, I didn’t want to know.
I’ll save you the dirty details of the divorce. Basically, the judge told him that he wasn’t hearing anything about what happened on Facebook or what he wrote in his journals. He was going to go by facts.
The facts were that he had no evidence to show why he should be entitled to emergency support or alimony. We agreed on 50/50 custody and I was required to pay $1000 child support because of my income. That’s just how our crazy state works. Fortunately, the judge allowed me to pay that $1000 straight to the IRS since I had proven I was paying the debt and he wasn’t paying any of it.
After a short time of 50/50 custody, my X-husband lost his place to liveƒ. He had stopped speaking to me entirely outside of court, even where it came to our daughter, so I had no idea why nor was I given any real conversation around it. He just stopped coming to get her and told her that he would work on getting a house.
So even though I had full custody for the next 2 years, I still paid his 1/2 of the IRS payment and got zero parental support. None. I literally paid for everything.
Although she wishes we would have been living in a house, she hasn’t wanted for anything. I feel good about how I’ve provided for her the past few years on my own.
Now, here’s where those choices I talked about have come in for me.
You have the back story. While it takes two people to ruin a marriage, and I’m sure I was a challenging woman to be married to with my extremes, I did feel incredibly shocked and betrayed by all of it.
That day I moved into my new place, I CHOSE that I was going to be strong. When I read those awful divorce papers, I CHOSE to take the high road and give wherever I could and let things go as much as possible. I knew those days wouldn’t last forever.
I had to choose this though every day. And many times a day. When the attorney called me and told me things she had discovered that I didn’t know, I felt like I was punched in the gut. I wanted to scream. I cried myself to sleep nights on end. There were days I didn’t get dressed. I think 3 days in the same pajamas happened 2 or 3 times. I know because my daughter mentioned it. “Mom, are you OK? You haven’t gotten dressed for days”.
While I didn’t work to destroy his image in her eyes, I did let her see me cry. Such is life. And the person I had been connected to at the hip in life and in business was suddenly gone. I didn’t know what life meant anymore. I wasn’t afraid of surviving. I was afraid of Life. Because I didn’t understand what it would look like without him.
As awful as it all was. I still loved him. Even then. And, yet, I would leave again. Because I had to.
In the end, we settled on an agreement that basically said he got his stuff and I got mine and off we would go. Amen. And we were divorced 7 days later.
While it felt like a lifetime, it only took 6 months in truth.
So. Now is when it gets good right? Not so fast.
In the “calm” that came after the war, I became unsettled. And then I became distant. And then I became Depressed. Really depressed. It was the kind of depression that you feel in every cell of your body. It’s hard to even stand up.
What happened to me was, I began to grieve. What’s weird is that I wasn’t grieving for the past. Honesty, it wasn’t even about him. I was grieving for the future and what “should have been”. I couldn’t feel “hope” or passion for setting goals because none of it mattered anymore.
At 45, I felt old, and tired. I didn’t want to start over again. Not, again.
At one point, I was considering whether or not I even wanted to go on, with this life. See, Suicide runs in our family. My mother, herself, told me on a daily basis when I was growing up and as an adult that she wished she were dead. This language was pre-programmed in me.
And yet, I knew deep down that life was worth living. My daughters needed to see their strong mother fall to her knees, broken, and defeated. And they needed to see her get back up and fight for more.
And they did. And I did.
I couldn’t have asked for a better way to lead them. My crash and burn was a visible lesson to what can happen, what does happen, and what survival looks like after if we choose it.
While my story sounds very “poor me, he’s the devil”, that was not my intent. Actually I remember him and his soul as a great person. He was charming, funny and I enjoyed spending time with him when he was in a good place. We did love each other.
One day, I turned on a motivational video by Anthony Robbins, as I often plugged into anything positive I could get my hands on. I’m still that way.
And I swear, he was talking to me when he said “You are depressed not because of your situation, but because of the meaning you are assigning it. It’s the story you are telling yourself about what it MEANS that is making you miserable”.
And just like that, it all changed. He had the answer. I was telling myself I was old and that my future was over and that my past was a lie. I was telling myself that I was rejected and betrayed and somewhat now “unworthy” of true happiness. I was telling myself that I was a bad mother even though I absolutely was not.
It was ME doing this to ME, not HIM doing this to ME. I was the one with the thoughts and I had a choice of what it was going to mean.
The next day, I got up and opened the windows. I went for a walk. A began to spend time in the hot tub and by the pool. I sent myself flowers. I began to get massages, and pedicures, and facials.
Yep, I knew that it was time to receive love like I deserved to receive love. So I began to do the things for myself that I always wished for.
And the universe unfolded in the most amazing way.
I would make a tax payment ($2500) and later that day an unexpected check would arrive. While I have businesses that can earn like that, the timing was incredible.
I was always provided for.
Don’t get me wrong, I showed up! I lead generated like a beast, made myself vulnerable on a daily basis even though I didn’t always feel brave, and most often felt rejected, and I did it again and again.
Did? No. I do.
I show up. I lead generate like a beast and make myself vulnerable even though I don’t always feel brave and most often feel rejected.
You know, I want you to know that I found the most amazing thing through this journey. It was something I never had, and honestly didn’t even know I longed for. It’s not something you can buy. I had to CHANGE to find it. I had to LET GO to find it. I had to get quiet and go inward to find it.
Peace. I found peace.
It’s that amazing feeling of joy starting at your core and coming out of your skin. You know how it feels to sit and bask in the sun on that fabulous first really warm day in the spring? It’s like that, but the sun is INSIDE you. The warmth is in your soul and radiates through your entire body.
That feeling you get when you sit by the fireplace on a cold day and pull your soft fuzzy blanket over your Christmas pajamas and long socks and sip that first taste of hot chocolate. The warmness reaches your stomach and you just sigh this “ahhhh” because it’s that good.
Yeah, that’s peace.
Later, I found the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. Along the same lines of Anthony Robbins, Eckhart teaches to quiet the mind, to stop the narrative, to find the stillness that lies inside buried by the “person” that we have become so attached to. He calls this person our “ego” and teaches us to remove the attachments of labeling, and roles, and stories and find the deep “I” that is within us.
Woah, did it just get weird in here?
I couldn’t tolerate his work the first year following my divorce. It was too heavy and I needed to live in the “pain body” for a while before I was ready to grow out of it.
Through all of these videos and books and stories, I’ve learned that there is nothing more enjoyable than the moments we have right now. Eckhart says yesterday is just a thought, tomorrow is an illusion and the only thing real is NOW.
If yesterday isn’t real because it’s gone and only exists as a memory, as a thought, then why would we choose to be upset about it? If tomorrow isn’t real either, because it hasn’t happened yet, why would we grieve for what was “supposed to be” when “supposed to be” was never a reality? And the odds that things would have happened as we dreamed it are very slim anyway.
If we can celebrate the power of NOW. we can embrace the IS-NESS of what is.
Last week, I was taking a walk and got a phone call. It was one I knew was coming eventually. It was someone confirming something I had suspected in my marriage. I don’t do drama and I had cut out most relationships that were related to us when we were married. I had to. But this source, I trusted.
When I hung up the phone, I stood on the bridge over the freeway where I had been walking and cried. I gave into it for a few minutes. It wasn’t an ugly cry, but it was a cry nonetheless which hasn’t happened over my marriage or divorce in a while.
It took me 20 minutes to walk home and the tears came all the way home.
And then, I stood at my doorstep and DECIDED that I was going to leave it there. While I knew the thoughts would come to mind again, I would choose to not assign a narrative to them. I would accept that this fact meant nothing in reality because it was in the past. And the past is just a thought, so I don’t need to manifest it into the reality of NOW because it’s not part of now. It means nothing today and has no place in the presence.
I slept badly. I had nightmares. The subconscious mind clearly playing it out because I wouldn’t allow the consciousness to. Denial? Not at all. Jut not allowing it to take away what is today because it has no place here.
I was sick and tired for a few days fighting it off.
And I was still good. I just got quiet and went inward and focused on peace rather than the betrayal. It was a choice. And it’s one I have to continue to make.
I’ll leave you with this.
Mooji, another great spiritual leader says, and I paraphrase: ‘Life is going to disrupt you. Things are going to happen. They just are. And when you get right, when you are conscious of it, you will see that it’s not that you won’t care, it’s that you won’t mind.
Love you girl. You got this.
– Ann ❤️
ps: It’s been a few years. I’m still not dating. I’m enjoying every minute right now of personal growth. Give yourself time, girl. Enjoy the power of now!