The night I found out my ex got engaged, I received a barrage of text messages – “Daniella, are you OK?”; “I just heard … how are you?”; “Your time will come, don’t worry” – some out of genuine concern, and others from people who just wanted to keep up on the latest gossip.
I’ll admit that it would have been better for my ego to hear the news while I was out with a gorgeous man, instead of at home in a onesie, binge watching My 600 lb. Life with a bag of chips in my lap, but what are you going to do?
While I took most of the comments in stride, some got under my skin, such as the people who said, “What do you care? Just let him be happy.” Truthfully, I found these comments to be hurtful and, frankly, ignorant. Just because my ex-husband’s engagement brings up emotions in me, does not imply that I want to be in a relationship with him, or that I wish him ill will.
In fact, I am just going to put it out there that I wish the father of my children and his truly wonderful and beautiful partner a life filled with happiness and love.
It serves me no good for them to be unhappy and to have that affect my children’s happiness and stability, as well. It is without question the best thing for children to be surrounded by love and happiness, in whoever’s home they may be living in on any given weekend.
Still, this new chapter in my divorce brings up a bevy of emotions in me. My children will now have a stepmother. My kids will build a whole world of memories and experiences that I will have nothing to do with. My ex is no longer just my ex, he’s someone’s husband. And, if I’m being truly honest, it leaves me with the feeling of being left behind in a race I didn’t even know I was running, wondering if it will always be this way.
People say divorce is like an onion – you cut it in half, shed some tears and it’s done. But, in my experience, this isn’t exactly right. Like onions, divorce unfolds in layers: just as you’re getting comfortable with one layer, another one is revealed.
Watching someone move on without you is hard. It’s not that you want the person back, and it’s not that you don’t want them to be happy. It’s not even about wanting a relationship of your own. It’s the murky water in between. You want to be swimming forward, but it’s not your time. So all you can do is watch – watch the water course over you, watch your ex start anew, watch as life continues on without you. You become a bystander, screaming out to life not to wash you up on the shore and leave you there.
Watching someone move on without you is hard.
But the thing about the water is that the tide always comes back in. There’s always another chance to catch the right wave when you’re ready for it and when life is ready for you. Standing at the shore, you can choose to see yourself as either having been left behind, or at the beginning of your own journey. The choice is entirely ours to make.
I make the choice to sit on my couch and binge watch Netflix. I make the choice to feel meh and embrace it. And, when it’s time, I will make the choice to dust off the sand, get back up and catch the next wave that rolls my way. There is so much I cannot control in life, so much that is out of my hands. But my choices are mine. Embracing my sadness is a choice, acknowledging loneliness is a choice. Ultimately, choosing happiness is my choice, too.
And while I may not choose it today, or even tomorrow, I can choose it when I’m ready.
Daniella English is the author of The Not So Single Life, a single mother of four and a communications student at York University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.