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Starting Over in Midlife
Some baggage is constant, some changes; it depends on the trip. In any case, there is baggage that you should leave behind every time. But nobody ever does. We always carry way more than we need. And so it is with life as you move on after a divorce.
You will have many fears in your suitcase that you should overcome or leave behind. I’m sure everyone goes through the same thoughts and processes after it is all over. Let’s spend a little time discussing the most common ones and the choices that you have to deal with them.
First of all, you are not a loser. Just because this marriage failed (and maybe one or two before this one!) doesn’t mean you will fail every time in the future. Worrying about failing again is the biggest fear after divorce. What’s the point? Be positive and confident. With proper planning, a new outlook on life, and learning from your past mistakes, life can be good. This is probably the hardest fear to overcome after losing a spouse, especially in midlife, as I was.
The notion of failure is baggage that must be left behind if you are to begin building a new picture of the future. The threat of failure will continue to plague you if you don’t decide now that it will not happen again. In your mind, picture all the possible ways that you THINK you will fail, attach them to a huge helium balloon and watch them float away into nowhere. Forget about failure. Think about success. You can repack your bag with positive thoughts and keep them there for the entire journey.
Personally, I worried about money and finances more than anything. All I could think about was alimony, child support, loss of pension, and on and on and on. Then I said to myself, “Damn, it’s only money. There is more to life.” I could have suffered insomnia for another few years, fretting about the loss of half the equity in our house, paying alimony for the next several years, and worst of all, losing at least a quarter of my future pension. But I didn’t. I made the decision to stop. Again, it was all within my power to change. And you can do the same thing.
You will not be financially destitute. You will just have less money than you did in your previous image of the future. There is no doubt that both parties suffer financially after a divorce but you can make the right choices to minimize the effects. The new vision of what lies ahead will need to agree with your future financial worth. With planning and downsizing, anyone can survive on less income. You just have to start painting a different picture and packing it away. Children would have cost money whether you stayed married or not. And just think of all the stuff your wife or husband won’t be putting on the Visa bill.
Sex, love and happiness. You’re thinking (except for those of you that are divorcing because of another woman), “How am I gonna meet anybody else? I haven’t been on a date for years. Can I even kiss another person after this many years? I’ll never find someone else at this point to spend my life with.” And on and on it goes. The mental traffic is unbearable. Once again, get over it. Don’t go looking for a long-term relationship; if it is meant to happen, it will. And sex can be fun in midlife; it doesn’t have to be a major event. It’s not like you haven’t done it before by now. What the heck is the big deal, anyway?
Oh, the moralists will say to take it easy, you will end up being hurt again or they will give some other reason for not going out and having a good time. Trust me, sex is way underrated for those in midlife. This is a time you can have fun and not take it all so seriously. Check out the sex shops, buy the handcuffs, and get the plastic sheet and the baby oil. Stop being a prude and start having fun. My God, your life is half over…oops, that was sort of a negative statement, sorry.
And finally, we have the fear of depression, anger, and bitterness hanging around forever. It is your choice. You can take the pills or you can give yourself a good kick in the rear and move on. I preferred the latter choice myself. It seems to work better for many problems that are taken way too seriously by counselors.
“Tell me how you feel.”
“I feel like I need somebody to give me a swift kick in the butt and tell me to get a life.”
Probably not a typical exchange in many offices. I did the counselor thing, with my former wife and without her. It helped a bit but it really convinced me the only person that could change my feelings and concerns was me. Going to a counselor is really just an excuse to get someone to tell you to get on with it. It’s a lot cheaper just to tell yourself. Sure, you will make mistakes along the way, but that is life and how life’s lessons are learned.
So your new life begins, starting now, with another piece of sage advice:
Throw away your excess baggage, repack your suitcase, give yourself a kick in the “you know what”, and start the new journey.