milestones

San Antonin 01

Sometimes revisiting the past can help us embrace the future. (Photo by Wendy Donnell)

Week 4 Query Totals (Agents Only):

  • Submitted: 41
  • Rejections: 7
  • Requests for Partial/Full: 0

And…I’m done. For the moment, at any rate. July has ended, and August is here. Time to set aside query madness and focus on getting my act together for the start of fall semester. Later on down the road – probably in September – we’ll revisit the query adventure. You’ll get an update on rejections (I’m sure there will be many!) and though it’ll be slower going with classes in session, I will manage few more submissions before the holiday season begins in November.

~*~

One of the biggest tasks in post-divorce life is figuring out who you are on your own.

As part of a couple, we acquire a thousand habits that are either a product of our partner’s preferences or an emergent property of the relationship. These habits touch all aspects of our lives: daily rhythms, the food we eat, the friends we keep, the places we go, the things we do on weekends… The list goes on and on. There isn’t anything inherently wrong in this, but when that other person is suddenly gone, it demands a reassessment of whether to continue doing things the way we have been doing them.

Example: Am I now avoiding that park because I never actually liked our evening walks, or does it just make me sad to be there without my ex?

If you never really liked taking a walk in the evening, now is probably a good time to stop. You aren’t beholden to your partner any more; you aren’t responsible for this piece of his or her happiness. Dedicate your evenings to something else, something that you truly enjoy doing.

If you do like those evening walks, but that particular park brings back memories that are still too painful, you have a couple options. You can find another park. Or – my personal recommendation – you can reclaim that space as your own. No need to push yourself too hard or too fast in either direction, but if there’s one thing I have learned about coping with divorce: It is absolutely fundamental to identify what you really enjoy doing and do it. A lot. In fact, you should do everything you like in bold excess, if you can manage it.

In my experience, part of this process of rediscovering one’s preferences involves revisiting the past. Over the last year, I’ve found myself looping back to key points in my life. This has included reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in years, either through their initiative or my own.

It also included resurrecting certain rituals that have strong associations. For example, in Barcelona I walked to our neighborhood bakery first thing every morning, in part because I loved having fresh bread for breakfast, but mostly because it reminded me of summers spent with my grandparents in Frankfurt while growing up.

There’s been a lot of this sort of thing: I keep gravitating toward experiences that were once an important part of my life. Recently, I went out for a night of Latin dancing (something I couldn’t go a week without in my 20s); this summer, I returned to the Ozarks for some good, old-fashioned water sports (harking back again to my childhood).

Not that I want to return to all the habits I had decades ago, but I have been engaging in a kind of mental time travel: looking through windows toward my past as I work to integrate who I’ve been with who I am and who I want to be. I didn’t conscientiously plan it this way, but in hindsight I know a good instinct has led me down this path.

One of the most important outcomes of these multiple encounters with Past Me has been a reaffirmation of the choices I’ve made. This has been a little surprising, because if I’m to be honest, not too long I believed I would find at least one mistake and probably many in my past. Choices I should – or should not – have made. Moments where I went right when I should have gone left, or veered left when I should’ve gone right.

Being unable to identify any glaring mistakes in my past has been at once comforting and unsettling. Why, if I’ve consistently made the best choices I could, has life handed me these terrible periods of deep pain? Why, after having chosen the best partner among all those available to me, did I still end up alone?

It’s a common myth that making the right choices inevitably leads to happiness. But [spoiler alert] life is never constantly happy, no matter what choices we make.

In this sense, making the right choices also inevitably leads to sorrow, loss, pain, and all the other difficult emotions we really wish we could avoid.

But who wants to think about it that way?

One of my favorite characters in The Silver Web, Mage Corey of East Selen, has a habit of insisting there’s no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” choice; there are simply decisions we make and the consequences they bring. Corey does not endorse moral relativism (except, ahem, when he does…). He’s just saying that a fork in the road is nothing more than that: a fork in the road.

So make your choice carefully, but once you’ve made it, don’t punish yourself for what might have been. No matter which route you take, everything life has to offer – joy, sorrow, triumph, and defeat – will be waiting around the bend. To embrace life, you must embrace it all.

4 thoughts on “milestones

  1. Your insight is beautiful and wise. The book I’m working on now touches on these past-me/present-me themes, so it’s resounding in more ways than personal.

    Keep on, keeping on. Love you! Is it December yet?

    Liked by 1 person

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