September 20, 2020

The Next Chapter

Embrace the beauty of your solo journey.

In the story of life, I’ve just started chapter 53. Here, there’s a plot twist. After being in a relationship for close to twenty years, I’m now sharing custody of two cats with my husband.

I won’t be sharing the various and sundry reasons for our separation except to say things simply didn’t work out.

I’ve been living on my own for only a few weeks so I don’t have any words of wisdom for getting through something like this. Plus, we all forge our own paths, and what works for me won’t work for someone else. Also, right now I’m too busy – navigating the upheaval, getting organized, dealing with practicalities, adjusting to significant change, learning (and relearning) things – to be philosophical.

This time last year, I was in Greece on a writing retreat. So many good memories. One of the biggest things I took away from that experience was that I could rise above my fears and do new things. That said, I still had a fear of being “alone” without a partner to fall back on when I was feeling down, anxious, stressed or unwell. But I was at least entertaining the idea that I could be more independent.

Now here I am. Striking out on my own. Of course, I have family and friends who are supportive, but I don’t curl up beside them at night. In fact, my mother recently offered me a body pillow she doesn’t want. I’m taking her up on that.

Despite the newness of my situation, a few things have struck me in these early days.

I’m doing things I haven’t had to do for myself in the last twenty years – put gas in my car, go through the car wash, deal with service providers, figure out my finances, and more. Lame, I know, but my husband did all that. He was trying to be helpful, and I was happy to focus on other things. However, I think both of us were contributing to my lack of independence and fear of being alone. In just a short time, I’m realizing that I can look after myself. I even impressed myself by putting some of my new furniture together. Self-confidence booster for sure.

I can be alone. One of the things that terrified me the most about being alone was having an anxiety attack and no one there to help me through it. Twice since being alone I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with an attack. Both times, though, I took matters into my own hands. I got out of bed, popped an Ativan, and held an ice pack against my chest (cold is a great distraction). After the first attack, I added the Island Helpline to my phone contacts list. Just knowing there’s a number I can dial helps. The good news? I haven’t called the helpline nor have I had an anxiety attack for several nights. I’ve also proved to myself that I can deal with one on my own.

I’ve got great family and friends who have reached out to offer support, company and encouragement. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with the outpouring of generosity; however, now that I’m getting a bit more settled, I’m starting to reach out and take people up on their offers. In the coming weeks and months, these connections will be important as I adjust.

Overall, I feel free. Confused. Disoriented. Up. Down. Sad. Happy. Disappointed. It’s all part of the process. I’m trying to take the attitude that this is an opportunity to take care of myself and cultivate the next stage of my life. It’s a time for personal growth, connections, hobbies and developing a sense of self. More time alone means extra time to pursue my interests, discover what I like and dislike, eat whenever I want, stay in bed if I want, listen to the same song ten times over because I like it, and more.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the “could haves” and “should haves,” but I’m going to ditch that mentality and work on accepting and being open to whatever unfolds. In life there are many hellos and goodbyes. So while I say goodbye to this part of my life, I’m open to the hellos that await. All in due course.