On these days without my child because I have shared parenting, I look forward to the quiet and important distractions that keep me sane. Without them I would be a sobbing, devastated mess…dwelling on missed hugs, smiles, spontaneous laughter, and sweet little kisses.
Really – I know this first hand because I was a sobbing devastated mess for a few years until I learned to turn those quiet distractions into moments of strength and clarity.
I learned that I get to focus on the quiet or sweet silence – something that I don’t get to experience when she is around. I have learned to embrace this quietness – something that once grieved me now fills me up. It is a re-energizing moment. A moment to breathe. The silence that once screamed of voidness (which is apparently not a word) and loss now comforts me and provides moments of reflection, clarity, balance.
Honestly – I used to kiss my sweet girl goodbye with a strong happy face mask, close the door and sink to the floor in a fetal position and sob. Snot dripping, knife-like inflicted pained sobbing. Though I still do smell pillows and pajamas left behind, it is more of a bittersweet/happy reminder – a promise I will embrace her again soon…not a devastating never ending loss.
That was not a wise way to live back in those slow internal death days, but I guess I had to get it out…so I could move on to this next level of coping. A healthier way.
I have some friends who have lost their children at such young innocent ages to pediatric cancers and tragic accidents. Their tragedies have also helped mold and form my newly found composure – by putting my situation into perspective. My pity parties have definitely been curbed as I have seen these families deal with the most unimaginable horror, with grace, honesty and beauty. I realized how ridiculous I was being by dwelling on the negatives rather than the positives.
But everything has a cycle. If you are in the beginning of your journey of a new divorce with forced time away from your babies…take heart, but also know that it’s ok to cry, sob and grieve like you’re dying. Get it out, but don’t stay there. You can camp out for the night at pity party alley, but you can’t live there. That’s not for you – or for your kids when you do have them.
Here are some tangible and wonderful distractions to do with your forced silence:
- First of all – Make a list of places you want to go and things you want to do that you could only really enjoy alone or in adult company. This is important because you WILL forget. Depression can set in fast and you need that “Go to list” as something to look forward to. These ideas usually come to you while your kids are with you (let’s be real for a moment – you know those moments in time when they are driving you crazy and you start thinking things like “OMG – I could SO being doing this or that…” Those This or That’s are the starting points for your new list of things to do when they are away – so make notes. On your hand, a gum wrapper or these days – a text to yourself.
- If you are having trouble thinking of something to do – take some time to remember who you were before – we sometimes lose ourselves in a relationship, a divorce, or parenthood. Who were you before? What did that person love to do? Remember your hobbies and start making time for them again.
- Sign up for art classes. Water color, acrylic, oil, tile mosaics, floral arranging – don’t limit yourself. JoAnnes, Michaels, and other hobby stores often have free or reasonably priced lessons. Or look up different techniques on line – some great learning videos on youtube these days.
- Go to a Lowe’s or Home Depot Do it Yourself Workshop. (You know… I am women…hear me roar! I don’t need a man to fix THAT, thank you). Sorry guys – you can attend to. No shame in not knowing how to assemble a door knob…but maybe now’s the time to learn that new skill.
- Sign up to blow glass if that is available near you
- Call up a friend and make time to reconnect. Friends are not telepathic and do not keep track of your personal schedule of when you do or don’t have your kids. Swallow your pride and initiate the call. You will both be glad you did.
- Find some live music and actually go and listen
- Pick up a local “things to do” magazine and start circling interesting places and things you want to do or see that you never even knew existed right in your own town.
- Head to the library for something for…YOU! Not the kiddie section. In fact – purposely avoid the kid section. This is your time. It’s ok to guard it selfishly because let’s face it – you have no choice. Own it girl (or guy).
- Organize those 5000 photos you have downloaded on the computer and have never printed out.
- Go to a coffee house
- Go Shopping
- Go Hiking
- Go Kayaking
- Go Biking
- Find a stream or creek…and just listen and breathe it in…as long as you want to. No shirt tugging and restless whining to hurry to on to the next thing.
- Take a book or an Ipod to a nature reserve. Hike, find a peaceful place and read, or listen to the wind in the trees or your favorite music.
- Take time to find some new music or artists. There is more to life than Dora the Explorer and Disney Channel and it’s ok to find it, and embrace it. Look for Indie Artists. Utilize Pandora, Spotify, etc. There is a whole world of really great music and artists that never get mainstream radio that you need to hear.
- If you have a weekend – take a trip! By car, by plane. Go visit a long distant friend.
- Bake something. Again – something grown up that you enjoy. No mac and cheese or hot dogs here. Spoil yourself a little.
- Take a cooking class.
- You never had time for the gym before – well guess what doll? Now you have time! Do it.
- Take a spinning class.
- Eventually and only when you are healed and honestly ready…start contemplating the idea of dating. But make sure you are not looking for someone to heal your wounds or “complete” you. That is a dangerous lie and trap. You don’t need rescued. Chances are you will only end up in another heart break. Take this time to really find you. This is a gift – a rebirth!! Once you have done your mourning – Embrace it. Never forget who you are again. Then promise yourself that you will never lose yourself again. If you ever do find someone worthy of you – they will have to accept you for the amazing person you are and not want to change you.
When you learn the art of taking these moments to re-build you, to rejuvenate you – you will in turn be a stronger, healthier, better parent. You have to take time to lick those wounds, but find a balance. As you get stronger and better adjusted you can take advantage of more and more of these wonderful spirit building quiet and important distractions that will keep you sane.