Dazed and downcast, I sit on a box the movers set down at my new apartment. One of them tells me, “Why are you so sad? Your life’s just beginning! I’m divorced, and my life is the happiest ever. Yours will be, too.”
I wonder if he is on crack. Happiest ever? I will never be happy again.
I’m also upset that the movers know too much about me. Ideally, I wouldn’t have told them my personal business, but they did wonder why I was moving only half the furniture out of the condominium. So I spilled the beans about my husband and me splitting up.
A neighbor had watched the movers load my few possessions onto their truck. She finally came up to me and asked what was going on. I said confidently, “I’m leaving my husband.” I’ve heard the fights between her and her husband in the condo next door, so I know all is not well in their relationship. She looked at me with admiration and hope and said, “Maybe I should leave my husband, too.”
She is 80 years old.
After the movers leave, I sit on my couch in shock, but I know I had to leave such an unhealthy marriage. A relationship that grew even more dysfunctional with my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. My husband did not support me, and I went to medical appointments and treatments alone.
Within only two years, I reflect, I’ve endured breast cancer and the end of my marriage to the only man I’ve ever loved.
Adapting to single life is rough. I cry whenever I’m in a grocery store because I know I’m cooking for one. I usually settle for a dinner of Doritos. In fact, I’m not eating healthy at all, opting for fast food, junk food, and anything-but-real food.
I justify my poor food choices by telling myself I got cancer despite a healthy diet, so I might as well throw caution to the wind and eat unhealthy foods now.
I watch a lot of television to escape from the reality that is my life. Everywhere I go, I see reminders of what I once had. Couples walking hand in hand. Elderly couples that remind me that I won’t be growing old with my soon-to-be ex-husband.
I feel like a failure. Divorce is a failed marriage, and is a type of death. I mourn the man I fell in love with — though he no longer exists.
Eventually, self-pity gives way to glimmers of happiness. My friends keep me so busy on weekends, I have much less time to feel sorry for myself. I’m a bonafide social butterfly for the first time in my life. I’m making new friends and am starting to host dinner parties. On weekends, I stay out with friends until the wee hours of the morning.
A caregiver for so long, I am finally learning a vital skill: how to take care of myself.
My new friends take me clothing shopping, a foreign concept to me. When I was married, there was no time nor money to purchase clothing. My relatives would buy pieces for my shabby wardrobe. Now, for the first time in a long time, I start noticing things like nice shoes, nice clothing, nice purses. Oh, and the beautiful jewelry. I start getting massages regularly. I am eating healthy again. I am running regularly and feel great. When I was with my husband, the world seemed painted in black, gray, and white. Now I’m seeing the world in color.
My interest in art is reborn. When I was married, my husband wouldn’t allow me to oil paint. He threw out all my paintings. He forgot I was an artist. And, even worse, I forgot.
I hang out at the local Hobby Lobby shop and buy oil paints and canvases. I don’t know what I’m doing, but all of a sudden I’m painting novice apples, vases, flowers, cups and saucers. I grow hungrier for art. And, then, a miracle: oil painting classes are beginning soon at the Hobby Lobby. Monday nights. I learn the basics of painting through semi-private lessons.
I paint several times a week. I have stacks of canvases — from landscapes, to birds of prey, to all kinds of animals, to still lifes. I can’t stop painting. And I never want to.
I feel happy.
Now that I’m taking care of my physical and spiritual needs, it is time to be a caregiver again.
Grappling with chemo-induced menopause has not been easy. For a long time, I dreamt of having children one day. But when my ovaries died, so did that dream.
Until I cross paths with a new friend.
And I confide in her that I won’t be having kids.
And she tells me she adopted her daughter and encourages me to consider adoption.
Once my divorce is finalized, I apply to adopt a baby from China. But I am scared, as I think I have two strikes against me: I’m single, divorced at that, and I’ve had cancer. What agency in their right mind would approve me?
My agency did.
My daughter and I have made a wonderful life together. I think that mover was right: my life has turned out to be the happiest ever.
Please feel free to share the new beginnings you experienced in life.
Has an illness caused an upheaval or change in your relationships?
Tags: divorce aftermath, divorce and cancer, spiritual healing