Author: Erin

The First Holidays After Divorce

The First Holidays After Divorce

I am sitting alone on Thanksgiving morning with the dog, drinking a cup of coffee and reflecting on the fact this is the first Thanksgiving without my daughter. The way our parenting plan and schedule worked out this year I won’t be with my daughter on Halloween, Thanksgiving, her actual birthday, and Christmas Eve & Christmas morning. Needless to say, the holidays have hit differently for me this year.

I have had a multitude of feelings about spending some of my first holidays alone post-divorce. First and foremost, I am sad, but I get this was a natural consequence. It wasn’t unexpected in that way. It has been hard fielding questions about how my daughter liked Halloween or how she dressed up (I dunno because I wasn’t there) or what my plans are for Thanksgiving. This whole experience has also given me the ability to understand how my mom felt when we went to our dad’s for the holidays. It’s a bit different, since we only saw my dad on holidays & weekends, but I recognize the sameness of our situations in spending holidays alone. I do have compassion for her experience, as this is not an easy time to navigate, but also disappointment in that she guilt tripped us and made us feel bad for seeing our other parent. That is something I have been thoroughly intentional about…I do not want my daughter to feel guilt at seeing her dad or spending time with her dad. Divorce is hard enough on a kid; there is no need for a parent to layer their own guilt on top of an already challenging situation for a child.

I also have felt anger towards my ex-husband. We were in an amicable co-parenting place before he allowed another woman to move in and run the show and our co-parenting relationship has taken a hit as a result. I would have loved for an invitation to have been extended to me to spend at least a few hours together with our daughter on this day. But that hasn’t happened. I don’t think it will materialize in the future, so I am left to cope with this reality solely on my own.

I have come to realize that the first holidays feel similarly to the experience of navigating the first year after someone dies. As you approach these days, you realize things have been forever altered. It can be filled with emotional landmines as you grieve the loss of your intact family and any traditions you may have had. I was unpacking Christmas d├ęcor and stumbled across a paper mache snowman I bought with my ex on a trip to Mexico City. I smiled at the memory while feeling a pang of sorrow and then promptly threw it in the trash. I hope you do not romanticize the past with your ex, as there was a reason why the two of you got divorced. Although the memory made me smile, I recognize that my life is ultimately far more peaceful and joyful NOW post-divorce then it ever was married. Despite any grief I may feel about this time, I know in my heart I made the absolute right decision for myself. I was invited to friends, and while I appreciated the generous offer, I declined it, as I wanted to allow myself space to grieve and navigate this new normal on my own.

Let’s not also forget the positives too. It is a time for you to CREATE new traditions on those holidays you DO have you child. My kid is old enough now for us to bake Christmas cookies together. I love baking and want to involve her in a new tradition where we make Christmas cookies for friends and neighbors. Although not new, we adopt local kids from our Boys and Girls Club because I want her to realize there are kids in this world that have socks, underwear or a winter coat on their wish list for Christmas. Despite the difficult journey our family has gone through, we still are very fortunate. I want her to see the holiday is not all about receiving; it is about giving. It is about helping where you can to make your community and world a better place. And it’s an opportunity for you personally, dear one. I decided to see a movie later today by myself. I booked the ticket last night and am looking forward to movie theater popcorn later! While I am not cooking a full on Thanksgiving dinner for myself, I did get from the store certain holiday foods I love (stuffing, pumpkin pie. etc.) and plan to cook them later. It is not all sadness and grieving; there are some hopeful, joyful moments during this time.

If you are going through the holidays post-divorce for the first time like me, my heart goes out to you. My wish is for healing and love to surround you, even in those tough moments. Know that it is not all bad, it will get better, and you will get through it. Be hopeful for your future.

For the Love of Toes

For the Love of Toes

I plop my feet in your lap because I know you want them. I look to see your face light up with delight and ecstasy immediately. I feel the scratch of your beard and warmth of your lips brush the top of my feet. The combination of rough and soft sends delicious shivers up my legs. Next, I feel your hands, soft and warm, enveloping my feet. Moving slowly and deliberately across my arches, heels, and then lightly over my toes. You take your time, exploring every single inch of my tootsies, admiring whatever nail polish I have on or the curve of my arches. You are generous with your affection. Your hands are strong but gentle and soft. It is the same with the rest of you, which is such an interesting dichotomy about you to process. It is one thing I appreciate most about you; your complexity and duality.

You’ve told me you need my toes in your life. You’ve told me how much you love them. I see it, I see it all over your face. I sincerely do not understand the fascination but enjoy giving something that elicits such pleasure. And I am surprised by my own reaction too. Even though I do not share the same love of my feet, I appreciate your appreciation of them. This simple, tender act brings me such unexpected pure joy. I am grateful for these small moments, as I let out a sigh of happiness.

A Pristine Fall Day

A Pristine Fall Day

The sunlight shines down brightly on me, warming my body from the inside out. The path around the lake is littered with leaves and crunches underneath my feet. I take a moment to breathe in deeply and look around. I spy a bee lazily buzzing around to the remaining flowers, enjoying the last few drops of sweetness before the cold sets in. The wind whips the trees, as a colorful shower of leaves flutters down to the ground at their own pace. A butterfly catches a gust of wind and rides the wave purposefully to her next destination. I breathe in again, smelling the decay of the fallen leaves, thankful for this moment in my day. My life. My season.

The fall season is a perfect analogy for life. Trees lose their leaves, but still manage to survive…and eventually thrive once again. Bees, butterflies, and birds migrate to where life suits them best. The sun doesn’t shine every day, but we know that even on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days, we will emerge and see the sunshine once again. Seasons change, but do not last forever. Things come to an end. Releasing, darkness and rest gives birth to new beginnings.

Today is a pristine fall day for which I am enormously grateful.

A New Beginning

A New Beginning

As of the 1st of this month, I am now officially divorced. I was on the phone with my sister when I received the paperwork from my attorney and I cheered with joy! I was filled with a sense of liberation and celebration at having the legal paperwork in hand. It was a year ago in September that I asked for a divorce, and we now have come full circle. I also love the fact that both events happened in September, the 9th month. The number 9 represents completion; the end of a cycle. I am no longer his wife and am reclaiming myself with this and each and every day that passes. I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to write a new story in my mid-40’s. I get to redefine myself solely for ME! I get to choose the narrative of my life moving forward. Admittedly, I didn’t feel like I was in the driver’s seat of my life in my marriage, and the prospect of taking back the reigns of my life is exhilarating.

But this new beginning is not without its challenges. I am weary because I need to sort through the last financial ties that still bind us, and it feels like a slog. I keep telling myself that I am nearly there, that this is the last stretch in a very long, exhaustive race. I have carried the majority of responsibility (financial, emotional, and parenting) while together with my ex, and feel a similar burden as I am wrapping up items from the divorce agreement. In addition to that, because I have chosen to go back to my maiden name, there are additional hoops to jump through including an updated social security card, driver’s license, passport, and getting all new credits and debit cards as a result. I spent a majority of the weekend trying not to feel overwhelmed by these last steps. It’s as though I am on the last few miles of a marathon…and I am desperate to see the finish line.

That leaves the one tie that binds us; our daughter. And if I am honest with myself, this has been the biggest challenge. He has already had a female “friend” staying with him while our daughter is there. It appears she now has basically moved in. He has only been in the new house for a few months, so the routine is still new for the two of them. Let alone adding in a third party. This friend was someone I suspected him of having an affair with last summer (she’s one of a slew of women) and it was the final implosion of a marriage that was on life support anyway.

My daughter confessed to me that she felt like she had to be perfect while this other person was at her dad’s house. She went on to tell me she couldn’t be herself and had to hold in her big feelings. My heart ached as she sobbed and told me she didn’t want to tell him because she didn’t want him to feel like a bad dad. She is almost 8 and has more emotional intelligence than her 46-year-old father. I made sure to explain she is not responsible for others’ feelings. I grew up experiencing that weight and it has been something I have struggled with my entire adult life. I tried having a conversation with him about the situation, but unsurprisingly, he was unable to consider his own daughter’s feelings or perspectives. I do not hold any ill will towards my ex or his friend. My sincere hope and prayer is for my ex to live a life that makes him happy and fulfilled. As the father of our child, I want him to be healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. I recognize I do not have control over the situation in his house, so I said a silent prayer that his friend genuinely loves and cares for our daughter.

I am excited for my own journey and hopeful that things on a co-parenting front improve for the sake of our daughter. And with that in mind, I continue to show up and be the adult, the bigger person, the one who takes our daughter into consideration, while being free to walk the path that brings me the most joy and happiness.