Three summers ago, about halfway into a divorce, I was living in a 19-foot camper parked about a mile from my business and a stone’s throw from my marital home. I walked across a bridge to the beach in the mornings to go to work, but I was too melancholy to enjoy the scenery.
When I needed things from the house, I’d go when the ex wasn’t there and make myself miserable by wandering around the home I helped design and build. In the evenings, I’d hang in the neighboring beer garden to drink wine and listen to music, sometimes in tears. Sleep seemed impossible.
Fast forward three years, I’m sitting in the same camper in the same park. The business is sold, and the divorce is far back in my rearview mirror. I can drive by my ex’s house and forget to even look at it.
I’ve met my match who enjoys the camper as much as I do and doesn’t blink at all the chores that come with it. He pulled it and parked it here for the summer where we will spend weekends enjoying the pool and beach, fresh seafood and live music in the beer garden.
Most nights, I sleep about seven hours which makes me look at least five years younger. It’s a good thing because my partner is exactly that much younger than me.
I’ve come full circle back to this camp spot. When I set out alone, I did not have a clue what I wanted. Truth is, I didn’t even know who I was. I hadn’t been alone since my 20s. I had arranged my life according to my marriage – which failed. Now what?
I remember having lunch with my sister in a noisy sports bar. We were sharing a burger, drinking craft beer, and talking louder and louder with each round. I was telling her about all the things I’d do when the ex died. I was nearly shouting when the crowd suddenly quieted.
“When he’s gone, I’m going on a Transatlantic cruise. And I’m getting a dog!”
The couple sitting next to us busted out laughing, and the bartender high-fived me. “You go, girlfriend.” It was pretty funny.
Honestly, I felt ashamed of myself. Was I really waiting for my husband to die before I started living my own life? I so loved my work and being a homemaker, it seemed like enough. I feared the day he might die because I couldn’t imagine being alone and not having anyone to take care of.
The incident that ended my marriage wasn’t so dissimilar to events of the past. I just couldn’t ignore it any longer. It became clear to me my ex didn’t even like me, much less love me. And I am a very likable, even lovable, person.
Did I park the camper so close that first summer because I wanted him to come beg me to move home? Maybe, but I doubt he even drove by. My heart was so broken, I felt hopeless.
One sleepless night that first year in the camper, I was mindlessly checking email. There was one from Mike Dooley, author of Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living the Life of Your Dreams. He was hosting a live event in Denver and offered a chance at a scholarship to attend.
I applied, explaining I was mid-60s, going through a tricky divorce and needed the conference so desperately. Two weeks later, I was in Denver.
Just being chosen for the scholarship was a confidence booster. The conference itself was a lot of fun. What surprised me most was how other people thought I was so funny – after decades of being told I had no sense of humor. I loved the city and its bricky downtown, hopping on and off public transportation to get from my Airbnb to the conference hotel.
Denver cured my melancholy. It helped me decide I’d stay in Florida and try to jumpstart a real estate career. As soon as I was home, I moved my license to a boutique brokerage in historic downtown Bradenton with its bricky, oak-shaded streets and public transportation.
That office became my family. Then I found an old cottage where I could walk downtown or catch the bus to anywhere just a block away. I was finally living the life of my dreams.
Now I’m retired, comfortably secure and in a very healthy relationship. Our two-year-old mini-Aussie Lassie romps in the yard, chasing her balls and butterflies. My sis and I talk about taking that Transatlantic cruise. How could I ever have felt so miserable with life?
A good friend who is having troubles in her marriage recently said something that scared me, but it hit home. “I understand how people can commit suicide,” she said, rushing to assure me it wasn’t in her own mind. She said she now understands the feeling of hopelessness. But she also knows there is hope because she sees how happy I’ve become after my own bout of hopelessness. I need to stop and see her more often.
Friends and family were my lifeline in the dark times. Even when I didn’t want to talk on the phone, I was getting calls from coast to coast from those who know me best. Even voicemail comforted me. Another thing that helped so much is the best piece of advice I ever got from my mom, “When you are blue, go find someone to make happy… even if it is the clerk at the grocery store.”
What was your full circle like? Have you gone through a traumatic event and found yourself happier on the other side of it? What have you experienced from point A to point B?