Six years ago I was absolutely impervious to change. Knowing that separation was on the horizon, my head was loud with fear about how my life would drastically change. I clung to structure and predictability as if it were a huge safety net wrapping it’s loving arms around me, ultimately hanging on too tightly to the rope as it entwined itself into everything I did, including behaviours like how I ate and how I exercised. Like a radio resonating with static on the wrong wavelength of sound, my brain would buzz uncomfortably with change and I couldn’t find the proper frequency. Imagining living alone was terrifying to me and my thoughts could only cycle between believing I would fail at parenting on my own, believing I would fail at living on my own, and believing I would damage my kids childhoods in the process of trying. In truth, even my family had real doubts, as I still painfully remember my sister telling me soon after I announced my separation, “But Rebecca, you’ve never been very good at doing anything on your own”.
True as it may have been then, I’ve certainly shown to myself that I can do it now, which is a nod of praise less to myself and more to the plasticity of the human mind and the ways in which we can change. Perhaps this is a welcome lesson to be received by all of us as we enter the new year, for we are typically hard wired to follow the path of least resistance. We stay in the job we no longer enjoy because to begin again is just too hard to imagine and certainly harder for us to achieve. We communicate in the same closed off and ineffective ways with our loved ones, because changing the dialogue, being more open, real and raw, daring to step out of those assigned roles we seem to adopt in relationship feels just too exposing and uncomfortable. We approach a boardroom, a classroom, a family dinner table, and we find ourselves sitting in the same seat, looking in the same direction, with the same vantage point, as if we might be afraid to see or experience something new. Yes, many of us are not open to change, and only when we force change does the shift occur. Over and over again we have to force it.
Oh yes, I remember the struggle in the discomfort of change. I remember sitting with my kids at restaurants as we first attempted a family of three, envious of the perfectly balanced little quadrat of two doting parents and two happy kids sitting next to us, and self conscious of the empty chair beside me as if I were bearing a name tag that read “Hello, I’m newly divorced”. I remember arriving at dinner parties, just me and my two kids, with my anxiety elevated knowing that I’d be the only single parent there, with no spouse lighthouse of safe harbour to navigate back to among the crowd. With each new outing, each attempt as a single Mom, I remember pushing the dial on what I believed I could do on my own, I certainly remember feeling as if I had failed at it, and then I damn well remember pushing that dial again.
Tall and proud I stand alone today. Maybe I had something to prove to my family. I certainly know that I needed to prove it to myself. This year, I feel the strength of a woman who is raising kids through divorce knowing that she’s truly made it up that vertical climb and has arrived comfortably on the other side of change. When I look behind me, I’m still in awe of that majestic hill of divorce that was once in front of me, and I’m grateful I’m in a place where I can offer strength to those who are contemplating the climb, those who have no choice but to climb, or those who are losing hope that they may ever reach the summit.
Six hard years of work has transformed me completely. Indeed, I sometimes wonder: Where did that woman go that used to cry herself to sleep at night during the first years of her divorce? Where is that piece of me that found it so hard to take my two kids out for dinner as a party of three? Where did that woman disappear to? Ironically, moving through the work and fear of being alone has brought me to an unexpected new place, one that once again I cannot imagine changing: My independence! I’m now a divorced Mom that has a very hard time envisioning living with someone ever again. I love living on my own! I love the special time I have with my kids as a tight unit of three, and I love the dynamic freedom that it brings to my relationship with my boyfriend. I’m now entirely comfortable alone in my own home and I have no plans in mind to change that….words that truly should give me pause, as it perhaps is a hint to my better self that I ought to continue my work, turn backwards on my heels a little bit, and let myself once again be open to change.
Wishing Change for Everyone in 2018.