When Maria Shriver posits an opinion publicly, she understands she has a choir ready to shout “amen” to her preaching. When she writes about the subject of divorce, as she recently did in the Huffington Post, she must know that she is wading into it.
Her five pieces of advice are fine: 1) do some soul searching; 2) set goals; 3) ask for what you want; 4) believe you can; and 5) respect your progress. Seriously, I am sure that Dr. Phil or Ellen would love to get a recorded hour with Maria to discuss this high-minded list. I cannot disagree with this advice, and I am not about to trash talk a fellow Georgetown grad.
However, if you are a rich, famous, connected, and beautiful woman with a strong family supporting you, you might experience divorce differently than the average schlub. The concept of reinvention is obviously appealing to Maria Shriver.
However, I would argue that, for the rest of us, the most important thing is just surviving the shattering consequences of divorce. Because going through divorce can make you feel like you are not going to survive. Short of the death of a loved one, it may be the worst blow imaginable. Your confidence is shot, and before you embark on the journey of reinvention, you have to possess at least an iota of confidence.
Make peace with the reality that it will get worse before it gets better. If you wake up every morning hoping that it will all be over, you will be deluding yourself. Getting through divorce is a long process. So every day, you just put one foot in front of the other. You go to work and focus on your job. You try to eat healthy food. You exercise regularly. Life sucks, but you have to take care of yourself if you have any hope of surviving.
Do not start dating right away. Oh, sweet Jesus, the temptation of the touch and taste and feel and smell of another person in your bed is like a narcotic. However, along with that sweet earthly delight comes complications because we are not talking about a blow-up sex doll. There is another person in bed with you, and there is no way you are ready to deal with the responsibility of another person’s hopes, dreams, and ambitions. You are a mess. You might be horny, but there are other ways to deal with that issue that do not involve hurting an innocent person.
Create a budget. Don’t know Excel? You’d better learn. Seriously, whip out a spreadsheet and figure out all your revenue streams and outlays. You will surprise yourself about what you will learn, not just about your money situation but where your priorities lay.
Spend more time by yourself than you would like. Lots of people confuse being alone with lonely. In your divorce, you are alone. You are probably also lonely. Go ahead and be lonely for a while. Live inside your head for a while. Embrace silence every day. Why? Guess what? You have just learned the hard way that, in life, we are on our own. When you are finally ready to be with other people – or with another person – you will appreciate them so much more.
Create a list of “needs” and “wants.” Get rid of as much stuff as you can. Simplify your life as much as possible. Stop buying shit. And create a list of the things in your life: do you need it or want it? You need soap and toothpaste. Do you need that Ethan Allen four-poster for your bedroom? You need to buy gas so that you can drive to work. Do you need that new BMW? You need an Internet connection. Do you need 500 channels on TV? You need food in your refrigerator. Do you need to eat out five nights a week? You need to keep your new home clean. Do you need another McMansion? You need to do the laundry. Do you need those Christian Louboutin shoes?
You might surprise yourself to learn that you don’t need so much shit to be content.
I’m waiting for that call from Dr. Phil or Ellen.