I signed divorce papers today, ending a 35-year commitment. It’s something I never thought I’d be: twice divorced. But at 60-something, I was looking at an unhappy last third of my life.
I’ve been called selfish for choosing my own happiness over lifelong partnership. I’ve been called stupid for trading financial security and my dream home for freedom. It was a very fair trade.
My ex and I are good partners. We were able to use just one attorney, who complimented us on how well-behaved we were compared to most couples splitting up. That’s when I knew my divorce was a success and not a failure.
My separation was not a success. I took a leap without knowing how deep the fall, without any kind of plan. About six months into the separation, both my clothes dryer and I were broke.
At the laundromat, I found a ruffed-up copy of Dr. Phil’s book Real Life: Preparing for the Seven Most Challenging Days of Our Lives.
I took the book with me to the pub next door and paid for my beer with quarters. The book sparked an interesting conversation.
What I now know is that the challenges keep coming. They will for the rest of our lives. The better prepared we are, the better we come out on the other side of the ditch.
Here are these most challenging days, according to Dr. Phil.
That dog-eared book helped me realize I had to go forward and quit making excuses about my troubles. That’s the day I started toughening up.
Time had come to sell the business and split the funds so I could move on. I was living in my camper. Cute as it is, 19 feet is not enough space for this shoes-and-jewelry girl.
I knew a spirit of forgiveness and cooperation would get me further than blame and accusation. With my ex’s help, I moved into a cottage with rocking chairs on the front porch and fruit trees in the backyard. Who said we can’t have as many dream homes as we have dreams?
The day I closed the trunk on that 26-year dream, I injured my back. After a few days, I called the chiropractor. After a few visits, I called my physician who prescribed pain meds and muscle relaxers. After three days of freaky dreams, I vowed never, ever to drop anything “oxi” again.
As part of my yearlong challenge of being better prepared, I had upped my health insurance so a medical emergency wouldn’t take me down financially.
When the doc called to say a team was waiting for me at the hospital to remove a growth from my spine, a looming pandemic was the least of my fears. I was the only surgery in that hospital Easter week.
I called my miracle friend Julie who has survived more than her share of medical setbacks. When she said with her usual spunk, “It never once occurred to me that I wouldn’t fully recover,” I knew I’d be alright.
Rehab has been a little slower than I’d like, but now I’m living the life of my own dreams. I have a puppy named Lassie who makes me get up and walk. We’re going to regain the strength and balance I need to take me the next third of my life.
My closest friends see my happiness now. A couple have been tempted to question if there might be greener grass outside their own marriages. I tell them, “Stay put… it’s hard going it alone.”
But I also understand no one can live someone else’s dream and be their happiest, any more than I could. While I admit now my leap was the right one, I have cried and analyzed and what-iffed myself to sleep too many nights.
My dream has always been to be a writer. It’s how I earned my living before I married and started a successful business as an innkeeper.
It took time, but I’ve met someone who shares some of my dreams. We are hitching up the camper for a late summer trip to one of many Florida state parks we plan to visit.
I’ll walk Lassie while he floats in the cold spring water. I’ll work on my book while he builds a fire. We’ll make a simple meal, and I’ll have a glass of wine.
Pinch me. I must be dreaming – my very own dreams.
Have you been living someone else’s dreams? What would it take you to live your own? Would it be worth it? Has life made you embrace a new dream? What are you doing to help yourself flourish after 60? Let’s have a conversation!