Friday, July 26, 2013

What They Don't Tell You When You're Getting Divorced

They don’t tell you that you’ll buy crumpets at the grocery store because they were one of your husband’s favorite.

They don’t tell you it’s suddenly strange to have double sinks in your en suite when you’re single. 
(You know that you’ll find a way to make use of the space with all your toiletries ... but it’s weird.)

They don’t tell you that sometimes you’ll sleep better alone.

But sometimes you won’t sleep at all.

They don’t tell you that slicing pain will beat through your chest and you’ll doubt everything you are and everything you’ve ever done.

When you place your duvet in its new cover, you’ll think of the day he taught you how to do that. 
They don’t tell you that suddenly he is there – arm deep in cotton – shaking his head at you.

They don’t tell you he becomes part of your new duvet, so hasn’t really left your bed.

You lose all your bearings. You feel floaty, ungrounded, spinny.

They don’t tell you you’ll misplace your mojo … that you will think you’re unattractive, untalented, and not good enough.

They don’t tell you that he is no longer your home. The thought of that will choke you.

You’ll have to bite the inside of you cheek to stop tears when a medical receptionist asks what your marital status is and if your former spouse is still your emergency contact.

Your spine must turn to steel when you answer “no.”  


They don’t tell you there are days you already feel OK and happy.

Your friends will gather around you and hold up your heart so you can see it.

Your family who will remind you of who you are and that you’re loved.

They don’t tell you that your kid will try to be strong but make forts to cry in, alone, because she misses her dad who is on another continent.

They don’t tell you that your daughter will act out, be angry, lash her tongue at you and you’ll feel like you’re the worst mother. Ever.

But your brothers will help your daughter and give her examples of strong men who will be part of her daily life, keeping an eye on her.

Your daughter will later crawl in your lap, cuddle on the cuddle couch, and tell you – when you’re practicing daily gratitude – that you are the thing, the person, she is most grateful for, and that she loves you “beyond one quadzillion” and that she’d have to keep counting until she’s dead, even when she’s dead, to find a number of how much she loves you.

In those moments, you’ll feel like a hero, like superhuman, like you can do it all.

They don’t tell you that you will be OK.

And your daughter will be OK, too … because you’ll make damn sure of it (and so will many others, including her dad).

You will see love and find it in places, with people, with family, with friends who do love you exactly the way you are.

They tell you you’re OK. Not a failure. Not a nothing.

Yet, you’re scared to write, to create, because you’re afraid of what will come out of you and you’re just doing the very best you can right now to keep your head above the water with a smile on your face.

You don’t know if you’re ready for what will come out of you. Yet. 

They don’t tell you a renewed love for your community will emerge.

You notice things you didn’t before – like how the wind comes into the valley and cools off the dry, hot summer nights.

The cul-de-sac will host iconic summer nights: While the full moon rises against the pale blue sky, you watch children – including your beautiful daughter – lay on the cement and get sprayed with water by a neighbor’s father.

They don’t tell you that you can be broken, or feel broken, and feel completely whole and at home. Simultaneously.

They don’t tell you that you are a package of contradictions.

There will be moments of great strength, then moments of great sorrow.

But you get to rediscover parts of yourself.

Your own style can splash all over the house in beautiful throws, pillows, colors of your choice – and 
that can feel liberating. Empowering.

In fact, alone can be empowering, too … like when you put together the TV stand without help.

It will take you awhile to notice when another man flirts with you – you haven’t been flirted with in years.

They don’t tell you that you’ll feel weird – and like there’s something deficient in you – for liking the sniff of your new freedom. Even those flirts … sometimes.

The beautiful people who love you will give you guidance and help you find your own spirit while deep in hurt.

They’ll gently push you back to art, to beauty, to connect with your creative self: to be who you are.

Friends and your family will bring you full circle.

You’ll bring yourself full circle … or at least to a different circle (you don’t want to repeat it all, after all).

You’re not a failure or loser.

Also: there’s nothing wrong with you.

While you pick yourself up off the floor, you’ll see fragments of happiness blowing towards you, around you, below you.

You slowly see that joy swirls around you always. Even when you’re sad. Even when you buy crumpets.

The home in your heart will be rebuilt.

Eventually you’ll be stronger, wiser, better.

You’ll learn you’re never alone. Ever.

And you’ll be sure to tell others they’re also never alone - because they don’t tell you that when you're getting a divorce.

This is an exercise based on a prompt from Laurie Wagner’s writing course, Telling True Stories

P.S. This is a double post - you can also see it on my professional writing page, Becky Cavender

Monday, July 1, 2013

Culture Shock at Home

It was surreal. I wasn't firing on all cylinders. My mind felt hazy and heavy. Maybe on sensory overload.

The aisles were wider, longer, and taller than what I've been used to for the last 16 months. Though it was my local grocery store and I'd been there countless times over the years, it felt as foreign as the first time I walked into Yangon's CityMart.

American grocery stores are vast and filled with many options. We're kind of spoiled, really ... but that didn't occur to me until I walked down the enormous breakfast cereal aisle last week.

In Yangon, the cereal options were expanding, but you could still count on just a small 2' or 3' square space on the shelves to display availability. There were usually about four different choices or so - not much more than that.

At home, I was shocked to see the entire length of the aisle (at least twice as long as City Mart's aisles) filled with cereal from top shelf to bottom shelf. I could hardly move. My jaw might've dropped open a few inches as I stared.

I still can't get the image out of my head and it's been nearly a week.

Do people really eat that much cereal? Are the flavors all that different? Maybe there were several different box sizes?

Of course I've been down the cereal aisle in the US before, but you adapt to your surroundings: I adapted to limited options (options were treats!) in Myanmar. Often you didn't get options at all: Sometimes items were in stock and sometimes they weren't.

It felt indulgent to buy hummus and my daughter's favorite brand of honey Greek yogurt; but, the ice cream aisle with all the sizes and flavors and brands was almost too much to handle, so I only focused on the section that sold the smallest pots. I grabbed the tiny salted caramel gelato in hopes it would remind me of my recent trip to Italy (even though I didn't have salted caramel gelato in Italy), then got out of that section as fast as I could. My brain was already freezing enough as it was...

Reverse culture shock is as common as culture shock when you arrive to a new country. With each move back home after living overseas, I've experienced it.

Living abroad changes you. Living across the country (in your own country!) changes you. You begin to see things differently. Your values can change.

My idea of bad service at a restaurant is significantly different than what it was before ... so is my idea of bad traffic. At risk of sounding snobby, my tolerance for other Americans' views of bad traffic/bad driving or bad service is pretty low at the moment.

It's not fair for me to get judgy, though. Experience changes perspective. I suspect that after a year, I may give in to complaining about ordinary things that really aren't that important.

After all, I won't live on a road with several bamboo shacks and a garbage heap that the stray dogs eat from. I'll be free to say anything I want about politics or politicians without anyone blinking an eye (except to perhaps argue - but certainly without fear or uncertainty).  My house won't have rats or toads or centipedes or scorpions. I won't have to worry about it raining inside my house every time it rains outside. My concerns will be different. Not easier. Not better. Just different.

If you're repatriating here are a few articles you might want to check out:

Have you lived overseas before then repatriated? How did you handle reverse culture shock?  

p.s. Thank you for your patience during my June holiday! And thanks for re-joining me here to hear about repatriation back in the US and my continued love for Myanmar. 

To read about my journey in the United States as a writer (a single mom writer) and divorcing, then join me over on my professional writing site, Becky Cavender.