By Audrey Cade
I imagine my life like a book, within which are chapters representing different stages and events of my life. Certainly, my marriage was one such chapter in my life’s book, and my divorce the defining end of that chapter. So, in gazing upon a fresh, clean page of my life after divorce, the possibilities were, indeed, limitless for what could be written in the next chapter. Where to begin?
New life. New home.
The first entry in my post-divorce chapter was to establish my new home as a single mom. This task was both exciting and overwhelming.
I was most excited about this step because it allowed me to escape from the gloom and shadows of bad memories in my marital home. It was so important to me to have a change of setting so that my new start was a fresh start. Staying in the home that was once ours was simply not an option for me.
I was intimidated by fears of not being able to succeed on my own. What would I do if something broke, if I heard strange noises in the middle of the night, or if something came up with the children that required more than just my two hands?
It was so important to me to have a change of setting so that my new start was a fresh start.
My next challenge was to overcome my fears and achieve the fresh start I was seeking within the limits of what I had available to me.
Where else to begin but to start searching the ads for rentals? After a couple of weeks of combing ads for anything in the area I hoped to settle in and within my new single income household budget, I found a dream of a place. Actually, it was even nicer than my home with my ex; so, I was super excited to move my kids in and start living life again.
Let’s Do This! (aka She Can Do Anything!)
With keys in hand to my new place, it was now a matter of transferring all services to my new address and moving.
Moving was the first moment where I proved to myself just how much this woman can achieve when she needs to. This was the first of many moments that helped me to build confidence and feel ready to at least try to overcome any obstacle in my way.
I honestly don’t know how I did it! I couldn’t actually move into my new home for a few weeks, but the landlord was willing to let me start bringing my belongings over up until my move in date and store them in the garage. Every evening after work I loaded up my station wagon with as much as I could possibly fit, then every morning on the way to work I unloaded a carful into the garage. We’re talking big dressers, boxes galore, everything.
Without any help, I pushed each large box or piece of furniture across my floor, then across my front porch, and into my car. I literally moved every single item to my new house one morning at-a-time until all that was left was my mattress and sofa (only because I couldn’t “she wrangle” them into my car), which my ex’s cousin agreed to bring to me in his truck. I took so much pleasure in accomplishing this huge feat without ever once having to break down to ask my ex for help or even let him see me sweat. It went surprisingly smooth, although I admit that I was probably running on adrenaline.
Designer taste. Garage sale budget.
Part of setting the stage for rebirth and a fresh beginning is in all of one’s surroundings. My preference would have been to discard every last thing that reminded me of my ex or our past life together. How could I move forward if the very sight of various objects around my home would just transport me back in time to the negative moments I wanted to escape?
For the most part, I didn’t even pack anything that I felt represented “us” or our past life too much. I brought everything that was mine before we married (which was quite a bit), and we had agreed to what we felt was an equitable split of all other furnishings.
Although I couldn’t replace everything from before, I could give it new life with a coat of paint.
Despite multiple car trips with household goods, I had some major holes to fill. Friends gave me a dining set and a bunk bed for my son, and I bought a washer and dryer off of a co-worker. I still had to buy a bed for my daughter and dressers for both children, and wanted to give them both a decent selection of toys and activities to do at my house so that it felt like home. I also had to purchase just about everything imaginable to stock my kitchen and bathrooms. Yes, it was an expense on me, but I chose to leave the old stuff (and the memories) behind.
So, with a very limited budget and quite a few expenses to supply my home, I wanted to make my home feel cozy, safe, and personalized for my kids so that it was a place they looked forward to spending time at, especially with all of the big changes going on in their lives. As much as I would have loved to go on a massive shopping spree and replace every divorce-tainted object with something fresh, that simply was not possible.
This is when I let my creativity run free. As the saying “necessity is the mother of invention” implies, when you have to achieve something, you will find a way. And, when I was in need, the decorating gods delivered. Hardly a week went by when the perfect coffee table and end tables left on someone’s curb didn’t end up in my back seat.
I became a thrift shop, garage sale, and abandoned décor goddess finding one diamond in the rough after another and transforming it into something beautiful for our home. I became a Pinterest DIY junkie in this chapter, and proudly transformed every last marital relic with a coat of paint or a fresh spin on what it used to be. I found that one of the easiest and least expensive ways to change the look of something was with color. Although I couldn’t replace everything from before, I could give it new life with a coat of paint or jazz it up with an accent of a pretty fabric.
My house. My way.
As this was now my home, I no longer had to express myself within the limits of what my ex would accept. My bedroom got a fresh and more feminine twist with walls painted Tiffany blue, and I repainted my bedroom furniture black to tie in the black and white brocade comforter and window treatments I bought. It didn’t cost me much, but it looked (and made me feel) like a million bucks. It was mine, without a trace of testosterone or bad memories.
Purple towels for the bathroom? Why not! I answer to me now!
The whole closet to myself? Well, yes! I think I will, thank you!
No ugly “guy recliner” in the living room? Check!
Toilet seat not left up in the bathroom? Affirmative!
What a rush to come and go as I pleased, cook what I pleased, clean up only my own messes, hang whatever I want on the wall, watch whatever I want on TV (even if it was a crappy little TV, it was mine!), and have the peace to focus on where my life story would take me.
What I can take away from this experience.
Yes, I did have to figure out how to survive in new territory; but, I did it. I had never set up the internet, a video game system, or a dryer by myself. I was a one-woman show… I had to figure it out whether I wanted to or not. This might mean watching a Youtube video, calling a friend, or getting elbow deep in something disgusting; but, as we all know, the price of having your own place and being an adult is taking care of business — pretty or not.
If I can do it, anyone else certainly can. There will be moments when you wonder what you are doing and if you will ever make it through. Often, one of those beautiful moments of triumph pops up at just the right time to offer incentive to keep going. I consider these early days of post-divorce transformation to be some of the most memorable and empowering of all others. I proved to myself what I can do and what I’m made of. I moved mountains to do better for my children. I planted a garden in the ruin and allowed something beautiful to grow.
My next chapter wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I had many moments of terror as I wondered how I might pay a bill, worried about how to help my kids adjust, and cursed under my breath as I had to figure out how to set a mouse trap or tackle something out of my comfort zone. The somber times were as important as the euphoric ones because they grounded me, helped me to focus and prioritize, and forced me to learn and grow. Every moment, good or bad, is priceless beyond measure. I made mistakes, and I also made lemonade. The important thing is that I never gave up.
About the Author
Audrey Cade is the author of “Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision” (on Amazon) and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. She enjoys family outings, a variety of arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, and writing. She is a featured blogger for Divorced Moms, has work regularly appearing on Divorce Force, and articles appearing in Step Mom Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.