watch out for banana hammocks.
I split from my now ex-husband a few months shy of my 40th birthday. For a girl who had usually planned life around major events this was fairly significant. There would be no party, no big trip, no celebration, no one coordinating activities, or buying big gifts. I wouldn't be taken out to dinner that night. And since just about everyone else in my life was furious or shocked with the idea of the divorce, I wasn't anticipating anyone taking over.
I did the only logical and rational thing a gal could possibly do to save the fragile pscyhe, I ran away. Yep, skipped town with my three kids and booked a few nights at my absolutely favorite place to be with them, Skytop Lodge, in Skytop, PA. Ok, so we didn't run away all that far, it was a two hour car ride, and I was conscious of escaping my reality - therefore I had rationalized it wasn't all that bad. While it was a calculated escape, I felt very safe and quite secure in my decision knowing that I could celebrate on my terms...I hadn't done much on my terms in quite some time.
Skytop is an old world family resort in the Poconos. Meals are family style and amazing...you must dress for dinner. During June activities include swimming, boating, hiking, and rock climbing. We were there during the week and only a few other people were visiting. Whenever we wanted to do anything we had to alert the front desk and we could hear them radio around to find assistance for us "the girls would like to borrow bikes," "the girls would like to go boating." We were "the girls."
When we first arrived the kids wanted to swim. We have only visited Skytop in the winter and they had never swam in the outside portion of the pool. Of course, they didn't even ask if I wanted to join them for a dip as they there was no way it was going to be the required princess temperature of 90 degrees for me to go in. So I sat and watched from my lounge chair as they held underwater handstand contests and swam laps.
And then it hit me....like the few times I have stood up in my kitchen and made cerebral contact with an open cabinet door... I was vacationing with my kids....as a single mom...stepping out with my new label in a very significant way....oh my gosh.
Did I look different? Could anyone tell? Was I supposed to be acting a certain new way? Don't get me wrong...I had done lots of things alone with my kids....but nothing of this magnitude. I had no one to check in with, no man to call ...and it was astonishing that I felt so ok, awesome in fact. I started to realize how alone I had felt in the many years of the marriage. It was always me, in charge, dragging us along through life..I had been miserable steering the ship without an active co-captain. To top it all off, for all those years, I felt the need to put on a big show that everything was super fantastic - it had all been so exhausting. Now I was down a person, more alone but I was no longer lonely. It was perfectly divine.
Quite focused on the "single mom stepping out" part, I made sure to take careful note of my surroundings, as this was an epic moment I wanted to savor. I remember the way my children played (I took a picture of the underwater handstand contest - all you can see are their little feat - the photo still hangs in my room). I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of Skytop in the spring since I had never seen it before...the way the sky was overcast and it was getting late and we needed to be dress for dinner - but I wanted to sit a bit longer. Then the majestic scene came crashing down when I looked to my right and there was a weird guy in a banana hammock oooogling at me (and just for the record, banana hammocks are soooo not Skytop attire).
Then I started unexpectedly emoting... the tears rolled down my cheeks just beyond my RayBans....and not even the banana hammock could distract me from the release. I felt a peace I had never before experienced. For months I had been trying to convince myself that everything was going to be ok - and now it was clearly part of my belief system. The hardness of being a single mom had softened, the disappointment in myself had started to fade. I deserved to be this happy. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have the slightest inkling how the whole mess was going to turn out for the better, I just knew it would. I could sit confidently in my life even with the "single mom" social stigma (self-imposed) just as comfortably as I sat in that chaise. And I guess all my worry about how I looked in my new role was for naught...according to the guy in the banana hammock I looked just fine, thank you very much.
As if all that upheaval of emotion wasn't enough of a birthday present, I also realized that I couldn't confine my breakthroughs to my psychologist's office or my scheduled journaling time. And you will find as you move through your divorce and into your post-divorce life, you never know when those precious moments are going to hit. Savor them, your surroundings, the even the oddities. Take a moment to acknowledge the work you have done to get to a point of clarity, honor it in some way, and move forward to work for the next one.