by Erin Skillen
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Originally Published: May 2018
Writing this monthly column since February 2017 has been a surprisingly cathartic process. By ripping myself open and displaying my metaphorical guts in an open forum, I discovered the power of vulnerability to change your life for the better. I met people in the thick of it like me, those who had survived their divorce (or divorces), and those who were still at the stage of just pondering a separation. In each case, we were able to skip the bullshit and talk in a refreshingly real way about our experiences—how we felt about them and what we were doing to get through it. I suddenly became a go-to person, with friends sending others, mostly women, who were at a similar crossroads to meet with me. Writing this column led me to make several new friendships, while also strengthening relationships with some of my existing friends. I am so grateful for all of the good that came of this, but now I’ve recognized it’s time to stop the column and begin my next chapter.
Ever since I learned how to work a pencil in elementary school, writing has been my most intrinsic form of trying to figure out the world and myself. Being able to work through the most challenging time in my life in writing, and connecting with others through that process, meant I reached where I am at now a lot faster, and with a better understanding of all that happened, than I would have by simply ruminating in my head alone. But what is this place I call “now”?
In recent months I’ve struggled to write the column. I’d previously been on or ahead of deadline, but lately my poor editor has had to chase me down for delivery. So I paused and asked myself, “Why are you being such a pain in the ass about this? You used to love doing this!” And I got my answer. “I’m not her anymore and I don’t want to pretend to be.” I didn’t want to have to sit and focus on myself as a separated woman with a failed marriage anymore. Is that still part of who I am? Yup! But it sure as hell isn’t the defining component.
While my own process isn’t as spiritual as Eat, Pray, Love, or as physically demanding as Wild, I do have a process and I continue to prioritize it in my life. My connection to my family and friends is integral and keeps me going. Beyond my loved ones, it has been all about challenging myself and doing things I had dismissed or put off for no good reason: surfing, skydiving, storytelling events, equestrian jumping, etc. By the time you read this I should have completed my first (and maybe last) standup comedy set and have my first two tattoos. Some might just call this a mid-life crisis. Maybe it is, I don’t know. But I’m finding ways to challenge my boundaries and make myself happy. And my kids seem to like having a mom who’s happy and does “crazy stuff” too.
If you’ve read previous columns, you know I’m proficient in the language of romantic comedies. And many of those comedies end with the lead character kissing someone and starting their so-called “happily ever after.” That’s not the case here. I’m single and it is the absolute best thing for me at this point. Sure, I have days where I wonder if I will ever be open to someone again. And then I (or one of my friends) interrupt/s with “STFU!” and I go play with my kids, jump on a horse or work as late as I please.
But enough about me (finally, right?). Let’s talk about you. No matter where you’re at on your own journey—married, separated, divorced or never married—just make sure you’re not beating yourself up or denying yourself any time to do what you love. It’s incredibly difficult for an unhappy person to be in a happy relationship. Parenting is hard enough without feeling like there isn’t an ounce of “you” left, and that your role as Mom or Dad is all you are anymore. It eats away at you, and then it eats away at your relationships with the people you love. And no one wants that. So be kind to yourself. Please?
This has been an incredible opportunity to learn and to grow. I hope you got at least some benefit from this year+ of oversharing—if only to be able to look at it and go “Wow, I’m glad that’s not me! What a dumpster fire!” As they say at the end of one of my guilty pleasure TV shows, “Ghost Hunters”—onto the next!
Erin Skillen is the co-founder and COO of FamilySparks.com, an education company that helps parents navigate the toughest job in the world. She’s also a mom and a bucket list slayer.
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