Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; in my case, a photo revealed more than I could ever say about my wellbeing before divorce…and after
I was going through old pictures recently and came across a photo I took in December of 2019. I had taken the photo as a “before” because I was going to start using some fancy new face cream that was sure to change my entire life and also my face. I wanted to have photographic proof of the transformation.
When I came across the photo I audibly gasped. I honestly barely even recognized it as me. And the truth is, it isn’t me anymore. My eyes are sunken and dull, my skin is pale, my hair looks unkempt and unhealthy.
December 2019 was 6 months before I finally left my partner. As the December 2019 photo reveals, my relationship had not been great for a very, very long time before December 2019.
I had a pretty boring divorce. When people ask what happened, why I left, why we didn’t work, it is sometimes hard to come up with an explanation that sounds good enough to justify blowing up a whole life. There was no adultery or addiction or abuse. But there is the photo.
For me, my vacant eyes in the photo tell everything anyone needs to know about why I left. I was emptied out. In every single way.
I took another photo in December of 2022, three years after my “before” photo of 2019. At first glance the pictures look so different it is unclear that they are of the same person. In 2022 my skin had color again, my hair is healthy, and my eyes…they’ve come back to life.
I’ve never been a drinker, I’ve never done drugs, and I didn’t follow through on using that fancy face cream. What I did do was leave. That is the change that occurred between the before and after photo. Leaving was the best choice I’ve ever made. It was the best choice for my ex and my kids too. All of us are living in happy homes now.
The last three years haven’t been all high fives and happy photos. Even today isn’t that. But I wrote my book, The Shit No One Tells You About Divorce, for those people who are still in their “before.” It is written by someone who is up the road a bit and promises you there is an amazing view waiting just passed a pretty large pile of crap you have to wade through.
Here is some of my advice on how to get through that pile of crap.
A life exploded by divorce can be very confounding. Things have gone ass over teakettle, and you aren’t sure which way is up. You aren’t sure of anything at all. And that’s okay. You don’t need all the answers today, or even tomorrow. (Next week isn’t looking super promising either.) What you do need is to plant your feet and hold on as your new normal starts to settle into place. Don’t make any sudden movements, don’t make any ill-advised purchases, whatever you do don’t call your hairdresser. Take a deep breath and trust that it’s going to be okay eventually.
Buy/sell something big (let’s try to keep the credit rating from being exploded as well)
Text/call the ex and share your emotional turmoil (just don’t)
Lose your temper (with your ex, your kids, or the a-hole driving fifty miles an hour in the fast lane on the freeway)
Get into a serious relationship (don’t bring another poor soul into your mess)
Get bangs (you’ll scare the children)
Get some therapy or coaching (probably lots)
Call/get together with your friends (this counts as therapy too)
Rage journal (the page will gather up all your anger and keep it safe for you)
Make out with a stranger (live a little)
Start moving your body more, going on walks or runs, followed by ordering takeout (balance)
THE LONG HAUL
Even after you survive the initial shock and awe from the early days of divorce there is a still a lot of work left to do. You are building an entirely new life and it is going to take some time for that life to feel worn in and comfy instead of scratchy and ill-fittingly new.
In my experience, it was the minutia of my new life that often felt like the biggest obstacle. How do I fix the sprinklers when that used to be my ex’s responsibility? How do I replace half of my stuff I lost in the split? And how do I survive the overwhelming silence when my kids are gone half the time?
None of those things were solved overnight. I took each obstacle one step at a time and had to become patient in a way I’ve never been very good at.
I had seen divorce as an end, only to discover it was merely the beginning of another very long journey.
Along the journey I found myself soaring and stumbling in equal measure, and there were a lot of days I wondered if everything actually would turn out for the better.
But they did. I know they did, because I can see it in my “After” photo. My eyes in that photo remind me how far I’ve come and how different everything is now. The change was so gradual, over so much time, I had no idea how different I looked now versus before.
Wherever you are on your particular journey, just know that you are a work in progress, and it’s okay if some days are big on enlightenment and others are big on Netflix and cry. All the stages are just pieces of you being put back together, little by little, until a whole new person is formed. That new person is waiting for you; keep heading their way. I can’t promise it’ll be easy, but I can promise it will be worth it.
You may also enjoy reading Divorcing Differently: An Intuitive Path from Untethered to Empowered, by Kristen Noel