Friday, 6th March, would have been my 16th Wedding Anniversary. Fancy that. If I hadn’t have developed myself, grown some teeth, found my voice, and left, I could have had the opportunity to upgrade my silver holloware. Yup, I had to Google that. It’s tableware that is not flatware. Gravy boat anyone? Perhaps a butter dish? Alright then, a cake stand? #devastated
It’s difficult to try and piece together exactly how and when it all fell apart. On the one hand it felt like very tiny gentle knocks against a glass ceiling. On the other hand it felt like an asteroid suddenly plummeted into it.
For me, there was this small, consistent niggling feelings; of resentment, of not being seen, of not being appreciated, of disappointments, of my low self esteem. I didn’t outwardly feel it all the time, it was a low grade frequency, quietly humming in the background, progressing largely undetected and then suddenly caught me off guard.
There wasn’t this one defining life altering moment, and yet there was.
Reaching the point where my body was trying to tell me what my heart and head already knew took a long time. But when I got there, it felt all consuming, as if all the cells in my body were vibrating and pushing me out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think past that moment.
The moment I made a decision.
Not a thought, not a feeling, an actual decision with action. It felt as if I had stepped off a diving board. A cliché cliché I know. But so apt. I had been standing on that perceived safety of the diving board for a long time before deciding to jump. I say perceived because it wasn’t really a safe place. It was limbo. It wasn’t stable. It’s not solid, not firm. You can’t build a life there on the springboard, dangling over the water beneath, knowing that to move, you have to either jump off (scary AF) or go backwards, climbing back down to your comfort. I knew full well what would happen if I walked along and got to the edge. So I hung out there a lot longer than I intended.
Getting there, to that defining “diving board” moment, was a journey. I did put the effort in to get to that place but that was only the start. It took years to climb up those steps, to reach that platform, to prepare to jump. It felt like I spent an eternity at the edge, contemplating, procrastinating. And then in an instant, it felt like a sudden, defining moment, jump.
As my feet left the board, and I jumped up into the air I felt triumph. I felt freedom. I felt relief. I felt joy. I’m not going to lie. That part of the jump was euphoric and it lasted maybe 3/4 months. Remember, I wasn’t pushed, I didn’t slip. I jumped. I wanted this. I jumped. I felt triumphant in making a decision, being bold and brave. I felt freedom in taking control of my life. I felt relief in that a weight of indecision and limbo was gone. I felt joy in the act of jumping off that springboard, into the air, not knowing what was going to happen next and just being in that moment.
Then the law of gravity kicks in. One must follow the natural rhythm of life and in this case, what goes up, most certainly must come down.
The jump was awesome, but as I started to fall I looked down down down, and panic set in. The floor beneath you is gone, it’s only water below, far below, and for the most part, you jumped on your own. You could have filled a stadium with supporters, friends and family. You could have had some hot Zach Efron type lifeguard waiting at the bottom to save you. But let’s be honest, you jumped on your own and you are coming down on your own. It’s scary as shit, legs and arms flailing about, everything around you is a blur. You can’t go up. You can’t stop mid air. You can do nothing except lean into the fall. All you can focus on is trying to be the right way up, pulling your body in as close and as tight as you can and preparing for the landing. Your circle of focus becomes very small. Survival mode kicks in.
You tighten your belt, build that wall around your feelings, lock that gate to your heart.
This fall can last a few months or years. It depends on how prepared you were before jumping, what you focus on while falling, and how you react to it. In hindsight it’s always best to just embrace it, accept it and allow gravity to do its job. It’s bringing you back to earth, to reality, to where you need to be in order to deal with everything. If you try fight it, it will only take longer. I wanted that part done as quickly as possible. I know that I decided to climb up. I know that I decided to walk to the end of the diving board. I know I decided to jump off. But when I took that leap I felt I was no longer in control and falling. I felt I was failing. I felt as if my life was a free falling blur.
This phase for me was moving to Cape Town, finding schools, a house, settling into my new province, my new area, my new role at work, my new office, my new life. I was trying to find my way. I worked hard to get settled and into a routine as quickly as possible. There has to be some benefits of having moved 17 times in just as many years. I knew the drill, however this time round, there was also the process of getting divorced, which I had zero experience in.
To others I might have looked like a feather gently floating down to earth, taking it all in my stride. But it sure as hell didn’t feel like it. It’s a very scary feeling. There is nothing to hold onto. I felt untethered. You can’t go back, and what’s worse is knowing you still have the landing to contend with.
Just as jumping, and falling were not an instant moment, so too was the landing. The process of landing took months. Not as long as the fall, but certainly no instant crash landing. Instead, picture a crash in slow motion. Very slow motion.
Yes it hurts. Landing, for even the most experienced, has a few bumps. Fact. It’s by no means perfect and smooth. No 10/10 here. Think of it as the decent and landing of a JHB to Durban flight. By the time the plane’s wheels hit the tar at King Shaka, you can’t help but clap and feel grateful to be alive. Reality hurts. The realisation sets in that this is it. It’s actually an anticlimax to everything you have gone through. The hard part was the journey in preparation and climbing up to reach that diving board in the first place.
The hard part was walking along that diving board.
The hard part was making a decision. The hard part was taking action and jumping.
The hard part was accepting that the fall was inevitable.
But, then you land. Be it a bumpy, crash landing or a gentle blip and a graze. It doesn’t matter. You landed. It’s the only way to stop the free fall. No more falling. Shaky sea legs perhaps, a few bruises no doubt, but you can stand and walk, hell hopefully with a smile on your face and a swagger in your step.
The journey to climb up the stairs took courage – to admit to yourself what you wanted and didn’t want from your life; bravery to accept it, focus on making the change happen; energy to take action- all fuelled by a desire to change, to move out of your comfort zone, to be true to yourself, to want a better life. To want more. It was clear what you had to do, and you needed to have the confidence, courage and stamina to take those steps and jump.
Rest. Reflect. Reframe.
Now, on the other side of that jump, after falling, after landing, you need to rest, reflect and reframe.
The divorce is done. There is no big huge thing you need to conquer now. It can feel a bit deflating. Now is the time for rest.
Now is the time for reflection. Now is the time for reframing.
Some advice from me to me
The body and mind only heals in rest, only grows in reflection and only finds joy in reframing.
Let go of past grudges, frustrations, resentment. They hold no weight now that you are divorced. Don’t put any further effort into things which you cannot control.
Reflect on why you feel a certain way when dealing with your ex. What are the triggers and try and avoid those? Write them down and find out the real need behind your reactions.
Find the you that has been locked away.
Find your new journey. Find your joy.