Divorce is often a long process. Apart from assembling the required documentation, writing checks to your attorney and making the requisite trips to IKEA (where you fight with college kids over the practical and value-minded inventory), you end up spending a lot of that time simply waiting.
Waiting for your divorce to be final.
Waiting for the legal approval to make changes to your name, your accounts and maybe your living situation.
Waiting for the uncertainty and the pain to end.
And maybe even waiting to live.
Let’s face it – waiting sucks. Feeling helpless sucks. Feeling insecure and lost as you tentatively start your new sucks.
And you know what can help all of that suck a little less?
A finish line.
I had no business signing up for a half marathon.
But I did it anyway.
I was a late-in-life runner, never even attempting it until my thirtieth birthday. I started out on a quarter mile track, making it only halfway around on my first attempt. I stayed with it over the next two years, slowly adding distance until I could comfortably run five miles.
I was satisfied with my routine and I would always laugh off any suggestions that I should sign up for a race.
Until my ex left.
Then, suddenly, I was fixated on the idea of signing up for a race. And even though I really had no business attempting a thirteen mile distance, the decision ended up being one of the best I made throughout my divorce. Because doing something with a finish line has benefits well beyond the obvious.
Don’t worry if you’re not a runner. You can approach a finish line on wheels, on water or even just by walking. If that does not appeal, enroll in a course that ends with a certification. Sign up for a class that has a culminating project or presentation. Build or create something that has a clear point where you can say you’re done. The only requirements are that it is something that takes time, commitment and sustained effort and concludes with a defined end.
Here’s what you can expect to gain once you cross your own finish line:
Maintaining a good attitude is the single most important attribute during divorce. And it’s also the hardest. The goal of a finish line helps to keep your attentions turned towards something encouraging and attainable.
The rejection and stigma associated with divorce can do a number on your self-assurance. The only way to truly build confidence is to accomplish something that you find challenging. Each step that you take towards your own finish line will be a step towards a stronger and more optimistic you.
First divorce kicks you down. And then inertia keeps you down. A finish line gives you a reason to get up. Motivation to keep moving. Structure to keep you honest. And progress to keep you encouraged.
Many post-divorce goals feel impossibly huge – new home, new budget, somehow raising good kids and surviving single parenting and maybe even finding new love. A finish line is like life, simplified. It’s practice working towards and reaching a goal that is smaller in scope and short in duration before you tackle the bigger aspirations.
Before the divorce, “husband” or “wife” was probably a substantial component of your identity. And now there’s a void, an opening. When you sign up for something with a finish line, you’re assuming a new identity, whether it be runner or scholar, and along the way, finding your new tribe.
Limits Unhealthy Behaviors
It’s easy to turn to destructive habits in an attempt to manage the difficult emotions that arise during divorce. The structure and accountability of a finish line offers some resistance to the pull of the next drink, another doughnut or just one more hour of Netflix.
Divorce changes you. You can’t stop the transformation, but you can direct it. Your efforts towards your finish line are making you stronger, more confident, more capable and more humble. Each step is one step closer to a new you. A better you.
The day of my first half-marathon dawned cold and wet. I was excited and nervous in equal measure. My body ran the first part of the race, until my limbs started to fail. Then my mind picked up and completed the event, running on pure tenacity and determination.
By the time the finish line was in sight, I was depleted. Those last few steps felt like an impossibility. Yet somehow I made it across. I turned to look back, my tears meeting the rain streaming down my face.
I made it. I was on the other side.
And in that moment, I knew I could make it to the other side of my divorce as well.