When I was going through my divorce, everyone said “This must be such a sad time for you.” But actually, even more that sadness, what I remember about that time nine summers ago was that it was a roller coaster of highs and lows.
What I mean by that is, some days were really scary, but not in a bad way. Kind of like the first time I was going up the hill on The Thunderbolt, by far the scariest ride at Kennywood Park, the amusement park I went to as a kid. A feeling like that isn’t scary in a bad way, but rather scary like you know things are about to get really exciting in a positive way. So, despite the shitty time of being newly separated, there was a tinge of excitement when I thought about the future. Really, the distant future. Why? Because I had a feeling that this time would at some point pass, and who knew what (or who) was out there? At 41, I had so much time left to pursue happiness. (And by the way, you can say that until you are 85.) Plus, I had two little angels. How can the future seem the least bit gloomy when you have young kids? It can’t.
But other days, the roller coaster would come crashing down faster than the 400 foot drop on the Thunderbolt. But instead of screaming with excitement and laughter, the drop seemed like rock bottom just happened. And, it was here to stay. Everything seemed hopeless and frustrating, as if I’d never get out of this awful, depressing, complicated, mind-gamey and expensive (think attorney’s fees) phase of my life.
Going through a divorce truly is like riding a roller coaster. The ups and downs are exhausting. I remember thinking that I could not predict what would happen to me each day. What I mean by that is, every day seemed like there were surprises in it, both good and bad.
One day everything would seem peaceful and manageable, until my lawyer called and gave me bad news about the case. Then, after sobbing about how unfair everything was, I got a call back from a prospective employer who seemed really interested in me. Now it felt like, “OK, I can handle this.”
But then, the next day, I found out my ex was seeing my neighbor. Ouch. That one was like a punch in the gut. She was 10 years younger, beautiful, great body, etc. Not more than a day later, I met my now best friend in kickboxing class. We were both getting divorced and decided to meet for dinner. From the first girl date, we were true friends, leaning on each other through thick and thin through our roller coasters. We are still best friends, by the way.
Then another bomb a few days later. My daughter was acting out. Big time. She was not handling the separation well. Hello therapy for everyone. Add in that I got the worst flu I’ve ever had in my life and I seriously wanted to end it right there.
But then, a few weeks later, my ex took the kids on a trip and a friend called and asked me if I’d meet her and her husband and a few of his work buddies at a bar. I went and met a man who would become very significant to me. A sweet, kind, funny (and majorly hot) younger guy. We dated for a few months. Now I felt young again and energetic and full of confidence. It almost felt like God was sending me a message: “Life isn’t over. It’s just beginning. Things are going to change, and that’s a good thing!”
I guess one could say that life in general is like a roller coaster, not just divorce. But I think in life after divorce, although there are still highs and lows, they aren’t so extreme. That kind of roller coaster can only come with finding peace and acceptance of the past, and living an authentic life.
People always talk about living an authentic life. What does that mean to me? It means doing what you love, both personally and professionally, knowing your capabilities, taking advantage of your strengths, accepting and learning from mistakes, consistently striving to do your best, and most importantly loving the people you love with all of your heart, every single day.
Nine years later, my roller coaster is kind of like a kiddie ride, at least for now. My dad always used to say “Boring is good.” I’m bored in a very blissful way. With a great job, kids I adore and a boyfriend I’m crazy about, maybe better words are content and very very grateful. In other words, I really hope I stay on this ride!
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.