If you’ve decided to divorce, or you’re in the midst of it, the big D can feel like that uninvited guest. Just imagine it, your cousin Paul from Somerset’s turned up out of the blue. He’s lost his job and got nowhere to stay. So he’s squeezing into your home and life for a while – he doesn’t know how long. And you have to get on with it.
You don’t want to put your life on hold for cousin Paul, and you don’t want to put your life on hold for divorce either. So how do you live the life you want, even during divorce?
This is for you whatever stage you’re at: considering divorce, just setting out, or in the thick of paperwork and negotiations. These are the steps you can take now.
You’re in the kitchen, the children are back from school demanding snacks and wanting to know where their dance kit is, their Uncle Paul is winding them up, you need to send that email you promised earlier… and you feel like your head’s about to explode.
Domestic life, with or without children, can feel like a pressure cooker. Especially when you also have separation and divorce to think about. Where’s the space for you in all that? There isn’t any. And the truth is, you have to create it for yourself. No-one is going to give you a day off to go and just relax and enjoy yourself. You have to be your own best friend with this.
And you need to give yourself some space. Whatever you can make happen: a weekend away on your own. A movie night for everyone else so you get two hours to sip tea in the quiet, and journal. But before you do anything else, book in some time just for you. Your brain will thank you.
Figure out what’s important to you
The crazy thing about life is that it takes over, when we’re supposed to be living it. We can spend our days on autopilot servicing the commitments life throws at us: work, school runs, checking in with parents, keeping up with the neighbourhood WhatsApp debate about bins. And by the time 11pm comes we flop to bed exhausted, wondering where the day went.
There is an antidote to this, and it’s called intention. It’s about figuring out what’s important to you. Which sounds easy, but, actually, if you’ve spent years just keeping the show on the road and looking after everyone else, it can be pretty damn tricky to figure out.
Which is why you need to step away from the chaos. Even for 20 minutes. A solo coffee date after school drop-off. A ‘no tech’ night where you stop scrolling and get your notebook out instead.
And ask yourself this: what do I really want over the next 12 months?
Let it all out in your journal. Even the things that are totally unrealistic. Get all of it out, and when you think you’ve finished write ‘And what else?’ and keep going for another three minutes.
Then read over everything you’ve written, and sit with it for a moment.
What’s possible right now?
Everything you wrote will be telling you something – including the highly unrealistic desires. Want to fly to the moon? You’re desperate for change. Want to sleep for three months? You need rest.
So don’t discount all the over-the-top scribbles. The trick is to understand what underpins them, and find workable ways to make that happen in some way. Even with divorce (or cousin Paul) on the scene as well. This isn’t about overloading your to-do list, it’s getting you back, front and centre, in your own life.
You can’t fly to the moon right now (as far as I know!), but how can you build in some escape time for you? Or, what is the thing you’re desperate to escape from? Can you make it go away, or get some help with it?
You can’t sleep for three months straight, but how can you be intentional about rest? Would it be possible to do a yoga class, either in person or online? Can you be really strict with yourself about having a ‘bed and book’ type bedtime routine for yourself once a week, just like parents are advised to do with small children?
Take the essence of your writing and figure out what you can do to make it happen in your life, right now.
What else do you need?
Maybe you wrote about things that aren’t possible right now, but you can work towards them.
If you have wishes or dreams that aren’t possible right now, then it’s time to think about how they can become possible. What people or resources do you need?
Perhaps you’re thinking about a career change, and you need skills and experience. So, what do you need to help you? Do you need to fund some training, or find networks who can introduce you to opportunities? Would career coaching or advice help you?
If you need rest, is there anything in your life you can say no to for a while? Saying no can be a powerful act of saying yes to your own needs. Which isn’t selfish – it’s necessary.
Get a hold of this important thing you want, and start laying the path towards it. Let people know it’s what you’re working towards. That path might feel 60 miles long. It doesn’t matter.
Once you start walking it, things will begin to change. You’ll find new opportunities pop up that you’d never expected. And you’ll find yourself more ready to say yes to them.
What’s your next step?
So what’s your next step? You’ll have heard that Chinese proverb: ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ And it’s true.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, it happens when we do small things regularly. What’s a small thing you can do today to get you closer to feeling like you again?
If you want clarity on your next steps in separation or divorce, so you can get through it feeling more like you’re swimming and less like you’re drowning, I am your thing! Contact me to book a free consultation.
And make sure you take time over the next year to live life your way, no matter whether divorce, or cousin Paul, is also on the scene!
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com