Fear of change is one of the biggest characteristics and challenges of a divorce. It doesn't matter whether your spouse left you or you left him, change is scary. Even if deep in your heart you know the marriage can't work any longer, change is scary. And even if you know that staying in the past is most likely worse than facing the unknown future, change is scary. Terrifying, actually.
Fear of change can stem from several things:
1. Going from being a couple with kids -- a "typical" family to being a single parent.
2. Feeling financially secure to feeling unsure you can provide for yourself.
3. Having to be the head of your household -- handle big decisions without the support of a partner there.
4. Dating again after being married for years.
5. Getting into a relationship with another man and having sex after being with the same person for so many years.
6. Possibly having to sell your home and move into a new place.
7. Wondering how your kids are going to handle the change.
8. Going through the legal process of getting divorced with the man you thought you were with for life.
9. Feeling like you might grow old alone.
Like most people, I have a fear of change. But there's a memory that stands out in my mind from four years ago that I think might help those who fear change.
I live in Chicago, known as "the windy city" (although some say we didn't get that name because of high winds off Lake Michigan, but rather because of shady politicians). But there really are a substantial amount of days when the wind is so gusty it feels a little bit unsettling -- like you're waiting for the power to go out or for a tree to fall on your house. If it's garbage pick up day, forget it. Your recycling items are most likely scattered all over your driveway.
So anyhow, I will never forget this. About four years ago, I went downtown to cover a story for the Sun-times Pioneer Press at the Home and Garden Show at Navy Pier. I was interviewing some of the cast of Days of Our Lives. It was actually really cool meeting Kristian Alfonso (Hope), Peter Reckell (Bo) and my favorite -- Deidre Hall (Marlena).
I brought my then 10 year-old son with me, and while we were walking from the car into the Home and Garden show, the wind was so fierce, it was really scaring me. The wind was loud and strong and things were flying around. I was afraid something was going to hit my little boy, whose baseball cap had just blown off his head.
I looked over at him to see if he was OK, and I'll never forget what I saw. He was laughing hysterically. He thought that his inability to walk across the street was the funniest thing in the world.
It was right then that I started laughing, too. The wind had become so strong that we were trying to walk, but were seriously almost standing in place. To hear his laugh and see his chubby little cheeks rounded and his face so happy was an unbelievable gift-an image that like a home video will stay in my head until the day I die.
I was worried about the wind and he was enjoying it. Negative thoughts of something bad happening were going through my head while my son was embracing the miracle of the wind's power. Being held back by wind was stressing me out. He got a huge kick out of it.
The experience made me realize that the way we choose to look at something is completely in our power. You can wake up and see that it is raining outside and be sad about it, or you can enjoy the beauty and think you are getting free gardening in your yard. You could end up having to go back to work after divorce for financial reasons and surprisingly become blissfully happy in a new career. And of course, you could be devastated by your ex leaving you for someone else and then meet the love of your life.
I'm not saying there is good in every kind of change. If God forbid you or a loved one becomes ill, there isn't a fun or good way to look at it. But I have come to realize that most problems can be solved or at least managed, to some extent, and that when bad things (or I should say challenging things) happen to us they often turn out to be catalysts to a gift or a better place.
Fear of change is very normal, but next time something unexpected happens leading to a life change, don't be so quick to fear it or become upset by it. Like a chess player, try to think a few steps ahead to where it might lead instead of dreading what's about to happen.
"Fear is excitement without breath," said Robert Heller.
Doesn't being excited sound a lot better than being fearful?
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.