It Takes a Village to Survive Divorce

The kids and I moved last weekend. Halfway, anyway. Our mattresses are here, the couch, the dining table, 99% of the kitchen items. The bunk bed in Miles and Grant’s bedroom has not been put together and won’t be assembled until I can sweet talk a girlfriend or brother into coming over to help me. Isla’s bed frame turned out to be broken (bed jumping injury from the old house) so I’m going to have to beg a brother to come over and fix it for me.

There’s nothing pleasant about a divorce, but in my case I’m putting up with the trauma, delays, financial pitfalls and hassles knowing that having it finalized will mean much less stress and anxiety and negativity in my life than during my marriage. But without my friends and family, I’m not sure I’d be doing as well as I (think I) am.

My friends, my sister, my aunt, my uncle and his wife – they’ve all listened to me as I struggled with the decision, made the decision and moved on with the decision to file for divorce from my husband of 10 years. When Zachary called the police on me because he believed I was in violation of our custody agreement by moving back into our house temporarily after I realized the roommate I was renting space from was crazy (I was not arrested; I had a letter from my lawyer ready to show the police officer stating I had a legal right to be in the house), a friend and her husband offered their home to me so I could have a safe place to stay when I was not with the kids. Even though they have two children of their own and busy lives, they were generous enough to let me have a room to myself for six weeks (two more than we’d initially agreed upon) and didn’t charge me a cent in rent. Another friend with an unfinished basement let me store some of the belongings I’d had in my car the night of the police debacle in her home. In addition to the sympathetic ears of married or single friends or family members, I have friends who’ve gone through divorces of their own who give me advice and show me that life will go on after this is all over.

There have been too many acts of kindness to list here, and if I try I will forget someone and feel bad. Like Hilary Swank or Sandra Bullock at the Oscars.

My dad and brothers helped me move heavy furniture up two flights of stairs into the new townhouse I rented. I should add that my dad, who is about to be 64, has moved me about 1,342 times in my life. To college 300 miles away and back home, to apartments, to and from another state, and now this. As he finished putting the dining table together in my new place, the dining table that once belonged to him and my mom, I thanked him for helping me and said that if I ever had to move again I’d hire movers. “Yeah,” he said, his eyebrows raised. But even though he was exasperated, he still helped me. That’s a good dad.

There’s nothing pleasant about a divorce, but the support I’ve received has made it more bearable. My new home is much, much smaller than the old one and we have no yard. I’m worried about how I will afford everything I need to afford. I don’t know for sure when the rest of my furniture and boxes will make it here. I don’t know who I’ll get to help me assemble and fix the beds because even though I know my friends will help me I’m afraid to keep asking, to keep needing their assistance and so I hesitate when a need arises and first try to figure out if I can do it on my own. Maybe Miles is big enough to hold the pieces of the bunk bed. If I buy a drill, maybe I can figure out how to fix Isla’s bed.

I don’t wish a divorce on anyone, so I can’t say that I hope I can return the favor one day. But I can find ways to pay the kindness forward until the days my friends may need me for something. I offer profuse thanks and am trying to be more gracious in accepting help. Like compliments, I’m sometimes too quick to brush off offers because my independent streak wishes I didn’t need help.

Thank you, dear friends and dear family – the listeners and the entertainers and the supporters and the reality-checkers and all.


A Very Cheesy Post in Which I Praise My Friends

I’m a little sick of myself these days.

Stress has been the common denominator in my life for the last two months. Stress was the theme of 2011. I also had a lot of craziness going on in 2009 (complicated pregnancy, bed rest for a month with three children at home, birth of fourth baby), sadness in 2008 (miscarriage), the loss of a dear loved one in 2007 (my Godmother) and 2006 was rough in indescribable ways (house on the market with two young kids, birth of third child, house back on the market with three little ones, a move across the country, and the death of my mother). This is not to discount all the joy and happiness in those years, because I experienced plenty of both, just sharing that the times friends have come to my aid are numerous.

I cannot even find the words to explain how much my friends’ support, listening and offers of help got me through these days. I’m the type of woman who releases stressful energy by talking about what’s going on, and my friends keep letting me do that, even though I’m worried I’m starting to reach a lifetime cap of benefits. I’m sick of listening to my own internal thoughts about the hard times, but my friends keep lifting me back up and standing by my side while I go through them. They’re not sick of me (or, if they are, they’re sweet enough to hide it).

A recent example – Zachary can no longer go to Disney World with the kids and I (long story). Our airline tickets are non-refundable, and the kids talk about our trip at least once a day, so canceling was not an option in my mind. But how can I take four kids to a huge theme park on my own? With the varying ages of the kids and the fact that at least one of them will probably be scared of each ride, I didn’t see how I could make it work.

I shortened the trip by two days, making things a little more manageable (saving hundreds of dollars didn’t hurt, either) and asked my dad and brother if they could go, but they weren’t able to take the time off work and projects to do so. Going to Disney World with your own kids can be anxiety-inducing enough, so I know that it’s not high on the priority list of non-parents to come with and hang out with me and the kids through the long days in the parks. Vacation days would need to be arranged, pre-planned commitments rearranged, transportation figured out. It’s work, and I know it.

And so I was completely floored, in an awe-struck “You’d do that for ME?” kind of way when a friend offered to go with me if it meant the difference between canceling the trip and still being able to go. She has three girls of her own and would need to find someone to watch them at home for a few days of the trip, but she was willing to do that. My sister offered to come for two days if I couldn’t find anyone else (which is huge because A) she’d have to leave her sweet little baby behind for two days and her husband of just over a year and B) my sister is NOT a fan of theme parks and would happily abstain from Disney for the rest of her life), and then my uncle said he’d consider going, too, if he can make some changes to his schedule.

People willing to take the time to fly to Florida so I can keep the promise I made when I first told the kids about the trip. I know what a sacrifice of time and energy it is to those who offered, and I’m unbelievably grateful.

And this is why I’m getting all Kumbaya today. My friends listen to me, they give me solid and unfiltered advice (I prefer bluntness and I get bluntness), we all go out and unwind together, they offer to watch my kids and I offer to watch theirs, they hug me when I cry. I don’t wish problems on my friends but I wish I had more to give back to them right now. I’ll find ways to repay their kindness in time – that’s the way friendships work, after all – sometimes the balance of need is equal, sometimes you get more than you give, and later you give more.  For now I’m doing what I can to pay it forward. I volunteer for a nonprofit organization that has monumental meaning to those it serves. The kids and I are going to participate in a Feed My Starving Children event this winter. I’m trying to figure out a way to raise money for the local food shelf by donating my business’ services.

I have been so lucky and rewarded by loving people in my life, and I want to return the favor for others who need a little love and compassion. Dear friends, I thank you for being such amazing people.

Written to participate in Just Write, while I try to stay awake through the haze of a very bad cold.

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