Now that I am a four-year divorce alumni, I find myself as a ‘sponsor’ of sorts to those who follow in my set of solo footsteps. This journey has taught me how important one’s “tribe” or “village” – or more appropriately “family” – is during transformational events. Whether life brings loss like divorce and death; or beginnings like babies, careers and new homes; the people left standing by your side are the ones who matter. These life-altering events don’t have to result in ‘broken families.’ No event or person can ‘blow up’ a family – they just rearrange them! My son and I look forward to our new weekly tradition of “Monday Night Family Dinner” when two of his best buddies and their Mom come over. We hang out in the kitchen and cook over a bottle of wine (us) and throw a baseball around the yard or ride bikes in front of the house (them), before all sitting down to dinner. These kids have become such a part of my family that they know where the juice boxes are (help yourself) and to take off their shoes before any feet go on the sofa. New family members arrive each week when schedules allow –single moms, divorced dads, colleagues, neighbors, parents, school friends and their siblings, and even dogs. It’s like having Thanksgiving every night in the true sense of the word. Wikipedia says a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence/shared consumption. (I am guessing we all fall into the category of shared consumption.) Of course I miss my family in its original and traditional form as shown by the stick figures on the back of way too many cars, but I am really happy I found my new one.
Like my money tree, the last leaves seem to be falling off my giving tree. I truly love giving – I do. I experience immense satisfaction and inner peace when I feel like I can actually help someone else experience happiness. One of the few lovelies that comes with being in your forties is that you realize that some of the most important things you do in life will get you nothing in return. You do them solely for the benefit of someone else with no expectations – and its wonderful. Divorced or single – It takes a village. Our families and our friends need us! But what happens when we literally and figuratively have nothing left to give? How do we allocate our precious and limited time and energy when everyone wants a piece of us!? If you ever feel like that (I know I do), here is my list of 10 ways to give back to the person who needs you the most – you:
- Choose the people who choose you to spend your time and energy on.
- Beware of the energy vampires – you know who they are.
- Redefine ‘obligation’ – its ok not to attend every networking session, school commitment, and book club (you never read it anyway).
- Save some time every day for whatever the hell you feel like doing: sleeping, running, reading, pampering, playing, loving or lazy-ing.
- Take a mental health day once in a while and check out from work or from life. They will miss you but appreciate you more when you return.
- Be grateful to the people to who give to you, but give without any expectations.
- Stay in bed once in a while. Hide under the covers. Alone or with company - it’s a delicious treat.
- Slow down. Drive slower, eat slower, talk slower, live slower. You will last longer.
- Say “No” more. No, I can’t stay late; No I can’t give him/her a ride; No I can’t volunteer…
- Say “Yes” more. Yes you can jump in the puddles; Yes you can snuggle in my bed; Yes I’d love to come over; Yes I’d like a cookie; Yes a back rub sounds lovely.
Try to follow those ten steps and you may just find a little more to give and even have some left over for yourself. Expect nothing and you will receive everything.
Her neck is strained from holding up her chin
And lips cracked from always trying to laugh
Her brain is fried from facing the future
And forgetting the worst of the past
Her eyes are bloodshot from looking so long
And her nose runny from not finding it
Her heart aches for her friends who are sick or sad
And it breaks because she cant make it all better
She is dizzy from taking the high road
And exhausted from running the whole way
Her shoulders hurt from carrying it all
But hunch for not being more grateful
She is tired from climbing the ladder
And bumping her head on the ceiling
So she keeps on working and talking and smiling and going
Because she is afraid of what might happen if she stops