As I’m traveling through these first few months of separation from my husband, I find myself forced to deal with many special and unique challenges of being single. The loss of our future together, the absence of my “person”, getting used to being alone, being a single parent, having all new financial and family responsibilities, etc.
I’ve never really done this before. After my first marriage ended 11 years ago, I was able to stay home with the kids because they were still so little and I just couldn't afford the childcare. Now that the kids are older and I have the ability to provide for us, I’m becoming extremely aware of what single working parents have known all along. This is an extremely challenging life circumstance. There is a new and sometimes crushing pressure to provide stability, not just financially, but physically and emotionally, having to pick up the slack for the missing partner. Even though the missing partner is still very much present in our family, he is living apart from us, and his involvement is limited.
Everyday when I wake up, there is this moment where I forget what’s happening, because everything feels familiar. For a moment, I am comfortable. I feel safe. Then reality comes crashing through my consciousness like a naked Miley Cyrus on that damn wrecking ball. The familiar walls crash around me, and I remember. I am alone.
I am alone.
That statement is enough to bring pretty much all of us to our knees. We aren’t meant to be alone. We are meant to have loving partners and strong ties to our community, big families and close friends. While it’s true that I do have friends and community, not to mention a house full of boisterous and amazing kids, I am unpartnered. And that is terrifying.
There are a gazillion terrifying things that happen in our lifetimes. There are people in the world who are literally fleeing for their lives, refugees of war and famine. There are people facing financial crises, joblessness, homelessness, illness, death of loved ones, cross country moves, births, mental illness, breakups, etc.
There’s just no way to get through life without facing something that scares the shit out of you. Any major life change provides us with the opportunity to feel an unholy amount of fear and uncertainty, but also the opportunity to feel hope and courage and faith. And all of those things, at the same time.
So what is the one thing that sees us through these major life challenges and get us through to the other side, where security and comfort and safety resides?
It takes resiliency.
Life can beat you down. We all get our teeth knocked in at some point, sometimes, many points during our lives. There’s just no way around it.
At these crucial points in our lives, our belief systems and personal stories really come into sharp focus. We can fall into the comfortable lull of victimhood, we can find things to numb the pain of our reality, or we find something to hold onto. A mantra, a song, a poem, a quote, a memory, a hope. This thing serves as a sort of mental life raft that we cling to, that we use to pull us out of bed each day to face the unknown. It keeps us sane and driven during times of intense conflict.
When I visualize the word “resiliency”, I see a person with amazing elasticity, physically able to bounce right off of the ground like the earth is a giant trampoline and the person is made of rubber. They trip, they fall, they get pushed, they crash. Maybe they’re clumsy, maybe they aren’t really paying attention to the cliff they’re about to walk off of, maybe someone’s pushing them off of the cliff. Either way, they don’t get obliterated. They simply bounce right off the ground, and perhaps without much grace, but always consistently, land back on their feet. Maybe it takes them a second, or a minute or 2 years, but they eventually land back on their feet.
It really bothers me when people say I’m strong. I know what they mean when they say it, but it doesn’t feel accurate to me. I am resilient. I don’t feel strong. The thing about resiliency is that you don’t have to be strong. Or courageous, or graceful, or in control.
Resiliency is simply the ability to retrieve all of the bits and pieces of you from a fall, and to put yourself back together, and keep going. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect, in fact, it creates space for failure and mistakes. Because each time you fall, you know, without a doubt, you’ll be okay.
In order for resiliency to really take hold, you have to really have something that gives you hope.
For me, at this point in my life, it is the hope and awareness that while I feel lonely and isolated and sad and grieving my losses, it is temporary. I won’t be alone forever. I will find love again, and it will be more amazing than I can imagine right now. I also fill my brain with positive messages. From books, podcasts, articles, talking with friends, meeting new people, etc. As someone who easily falls into the depths of victimhood, I must actively search out and practice flexing and building my resiliency muscles. I am the creator of my life. I can have successful relationships, provide for my family, find healthy ways to deal with the stress and loneliness of life.
It all comes down to one personal statement of truth, that you must believe, while also looking directly into the face of fear, doubt, pain, rejection, sadness, loss. Even if you don’t have any proof that this statement is true, you still know it is.
“I can do this. And I’ll be okay”