When I started living life with my truth at the forefront, it didn’t happen all at once. It takes just as long to unravel the stories you’ve told yourself as it did to spin them in the first place. For me, it started with eggs.
One day, shortly after I moved into my newly-divorced-and-broke-as-fuck-apartment I decided to accept an offer for a breakfast date with a man named Tim.
I met Tim via the dating app Plenty of Fish back when dating apps were new and super creepy (they’re probably still creepy).
My newly separated self decided to jump on dating apps, not because I wanted a relationship, but because I’m a sexual creature (like most people who aren’t asexual) and wanted to find a way to get those needs met when my son was away visiting his father. Single moms with full-time jobs, master’s degree programs, and a household to run do not have time to socialize in hopes of meeting someone.
Tim and I chatted for a while before I felt comfortable meeting him. That Saturday morning, I gave a friend Tim’s contact information and the place he and I were meeting. (I also set up a friend to call me thirty minutes into the date in case I needed a quick out.) She was the only one who even knew I was dating at the time because I was still in a shame spiral from my divorce.
See, I’m the one who left the marriage. I packed up a suitcase, a pack and play, a box of toys, and a baby and decided to start over with nothing because it was better than staying in a marriage I didn’t want.
Where I come from, though, women don’t leave. Women stay and put up with bad behavior from their partners because that’s what’s best for the children (it’s not, by the way.) Sometimes these women are left by their husbands, but they never initiate the divorce (or, likely, anything else).
I left, so I was the one who was wrong, bad, and the reason the marriage failed (or, at least, that’s the message I received from the outside world.) Those messages suck and only serve to fuel the shame monster that women carry around anyway.
I left because I realized if my son were to grow and enter a relationship like the one I was in, I would feel worried and disappointed rather than joyful. I knew that my child was likely to wind up in the same sort of relationship I modeled for him, and I decided it would be better to model no relationship than to model an unhealthy one.
Tim and I met at a diner near my house, and I almost ordered scrambled eggs and fruit like I usually did.
But, the special that day was eggs benedict, and I decided to leap.
Some risks pay off, and that morning, my choice to leap off the edge of breakfast resulted in a life-changing epiphany about eggs. Perhaps I always knew that my desire for scrambled eggs was rooted in false beliefs, but I needed a plate of eggs benedict to push me into the cleansing light of self-discovery.
Tim turned out to be an excellent post-divorce dating choice (though, for many reasons, he wasn’t the perfect long-term choice for me). He was also divorced, and a custodial father of two boys. After dating Tim, who didn’t mind if I broke plans because of a fever, dating someone who wasn’t also a parent just didn’t work.
At the time I told him that I wasn’t looking for a relationship, and he never pushed for more than an occasional date and some late-night texting. Months later, when I met Hubby and the two of us decided to become exclusive Tim was visibly upset, but bowed out gracefully.
When I was married to my ex-husband only ate eggs over medium and covered in the fake maple syrup in containers with faces. The sight of egg yolk swirling with maple syrup caused my stomach to insist that it only liked scrambled eggs.
So, for eleven years, I told myself and everyone else that I only liked scrambled eggs. That day I discovered that while I’ll eat scrambled eggs, if someone else is making my breakfast, given a choice, poached or over medium is much more my jam.
Just as long as the yolks aren’t swirling with colored high fructose corn syrup and being sopped up by white toast glistening with slabs of butter. (My stomach turns over just writing that.)
After that day, I went on an egg-discovery mission. I poached them, fried them, and beat them into submission in a frittata. Picture an egg-obsessed Martha Stewart with a toddler on one hip and a slotted, flexible spatula in hand (those things are the best for flipping eggs. Go get one).
Now that I’m thinking about it, perhaps I spent so much time on eggs so I could avoid finding out any more truths about myself that were more difficult to handle than a runny yolk, but that’s another story altogether.
Once I discovered the egg thing, it was as if a train full of lies jumped off the rails and spilled its contents. I found out I believed so many things about myself that were wholly untrue. And, with each lie I unpacked one of those shame monsters lost its grip on my psyche and rolled under the wheels of an oncoming car.
I thought I hated exercise until I learned that it has the power to breathe life back into my soul. I thought I wasn’t capable of household repairs until I fixed a bathtub drain. I thought I could give up writing until I learned that it is the only thing that sets me on fire (in a good way). I thought I wasn’t strong or brave when, the truth is, I am exactly those things and so much more.
Sure, some people get married young and grow together, finding a way to stretch their relationship to hold all that they are and all they become over years and decades. But, some people who get married young don’t and that’s just the way life happens.
Divorce gifts you an opportunity to really look at yourself and figure out who you are, what you want, and how you want to move through the world. You’re no longer tied to another human (except any tiny ones you happen to have crawling into your bed at 3:00 am).
If you choose to accept the challenge, divorce can help you reevaluate your value system so that you can design a life truer to who you are instead of who your spouse wanted you to be. Divorce can help you ditch the scrambled, messy parts of your life and embrace a life of clarity and avocado-toast decadence. You just have to be brave enough to chase that life and know you’re strong enough to outrun the shame monsters.
Divorce doesn’t mean you’re a broken human, just like liking scrambled eggs doesn’t preclude you from enjoying other cooking methods. Divorce doesn’t mean you failed; it just means you learned something, or maybe a lot of things, about yourself that made it impossible to stay.
Maria Chapman is a parent of five, a literacy education expert, and a chronic illness warrior. Follow her newsletter, Lies We Tell Ourselves, for more truth.