I am writing this because I went through some shit. I imagine many people are going through similar shit, and I want to express what I learned just in case it is of value to someone else. Of course, every person is different, life circumstances are different. Regardless, I think there are some core truths that anyone going through a mid-life divorce can benefit from.
I was married for 10 years. I dated my ex-wife for 8 years prior to getting married. Eighteen years is a long time to spend with someone. For privacy sake, I won’t detail why the marriage ended. I will say that I was devoted and faithful for our entire relationship. Her family and friends became mine, and I supported her education and career. I was far from perfect, and mismanaged many things over the nearly two decades we were together. I know, though, that I was a good husband. My ex-wife and I never had kids, she was working on her education and career nearly the entire time we knew each other. This was a blessing in the end; kids would have made the already difficult transition even more complicated.
Considering the necessary narrative, I will summarize and link the primary steps I took to get my life under control (relatively.) These steps made the transition and my personal growth much more consumable.
Clear out the noise - simplify your finances to the bare minimum.
Minimize - simplify your life. Get rid of things.
Read - read books to motivate you, about loss and about growth.
Write - write in a journal daily.
Meditate - meditate daily.
Travel alone - take solo trips, long hikes, and explore alone.
At the time the decision was made to go separate ways, I had just started a new business. I had left my salaried day job and was depending on my partner for “air cover” while I built the business. We had discussed this and considering my contribution to our lifestyle for the nearly 8 years of education (she obtained a PhD in EE) we felt it was my turn to build something I wanted. Unfortunately, the the split came in less than 6 months from when the business was launched. I was still in the building phase of the business and we had no customers, no revenue, and the product was merely a prototype. As a result, I had no income, no place to live, and was in a panic. Under some peer pressure from my ex, I had signed a deal with a technology incubator and we had our first investors. I couldn’t quit.
I moved in with a buddy who had just bought a modest home in Alexandria and lived in his basement. I paid a modest rent, subsidized by what savings I had left. I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and watched my spend judiciously. This dovetails well into another topic about the entreprenurial state, and the necessity of the “have to make this work” mentality.
Clearing out the noise.
Of course, my finances were of concern. The first thing I did was a full audit of my monthly spend and removed everything...literally everything. After the exercise, the only bills I had were my meager rent, healthcare, cell phone, and a long term investment commitment I had made prior to the divorce (ouch). I also switched my banking to a bank that had a simplified interface that displayed your monthly obligations and your cash out. HMU if you want recommendations. I think it is equally important to point out what I didn’t spend my money on from month to month. Wine clubs, gym membership, Netflix, cable, internet, website subscriptions, anything that required a monthly spend. Fuck. All. That. When I audited it was clear how much I was wasting. Better yet, I realized I didn’t need any of that shit. I am now in a better financial situation, but for the most part I still don’t have any of those monthly commitments.
I read so many books right after my separation. I can’t tell you what works for you - everyone has their own perspective. I was most interested in mindfulness and self awareness. Something about my person and my life choices put me here. Whether those things were right or wrong didn’t matter, I wanted to understand them and be *aware* of who Kurtis Minder is. I am still not there, TBH, because Kurtis Minder is this iterative thing and elusive at times. I do feel, however, that I benefitted from the search and curiousity. Books I recommend:
Above I talk about the simplification of finances. When I felt the benefit of that simplification I quickly pivoted to everything else. I read some blogs and books, watched a documentary or two on the minimalism lifestyle. The old saying about your things owning you is very true. For me, I looked at each *thing* in my life and asked “...would I trade time for this thing...” and if the answer was ‘yes’, I got rid of it. What do I mean? I mean when you own a car it gets you from A to B. But then sometimes you have to take it to C and D. The car wash, the oil change place, the garage. It also complicates your finances, you have to pay for gas, for mainteneance, insurance, registration, parking... OMG, do you need that thing? Do you know how much time it takes to own it??? How much is that time worth to you? Apply this to anything... Electronics. What happens when your new WiFi gadget doesn’t connect to the internet? You troubleshoot it. It’s frustrating. I don’t know about you but I would rather have that time back and whatever joy that electronic thing was supposed to give can be replaced by something more meaningful. Clothes. We don’t wear most of the clothes we own. They take up space, and believe it or not....they cost you time. When you get up in the morning and you try to decide what to wear, there are 50 things in your closet that become part of that decision equation. It complicates things unnecessarily because you aren’t going to wear 90% of those things; you never do! Yet, they enter into the equation. Get rid of that shit. Really think about what you need for a wardrobe and prune and prune and prune until you get down to the bare essentials. You will thank me for it.
I think I have struck a good balance. I have the things that are important to me and really bring me joy. Those things get a pass. Things like motorcycle items, hiking and camping gear, and vinyl records (cuz I am a wannabe hipster) remain a part of my daily life. In every other area, I have been pruning down to the minimum. I feel free, I can breath, and when I have free time I am not doing laundry, fixing the WiFi router so I can make my WiFi connected lighbulbs work right, or watching TV. I am outside, I am reading, I am walking, I am running, I am riding my motorcycles. All things that bring me joy.
Long before my divorce I began writing in a personal journal each morning. I had many reasons for doing this but primarily was to increase the fidelity of the conversations I was having with myself. Cognitively when you write something down, you are reaching multiple parts of your brain...the thought itself and the writing of the thought reinforce each other. Thoughts, even self reflective ones, and ephemeral. When you have to deliberately *choose* the words that you are thinking and put them on paper it is more impactful. Write in a journal, talk to yourself about your feelings, “why did that happen?”; “when she said this, I felt like...”; “I am feeling down....I think because...”.
I write each morning about my thoughts and feelings about work, relationships, and family. At the end of each entry I write three things or people I am grateful for. I then write an intention or dedication for the day. Something like this:
I am grateful for my health.
I am grateful for Paul.
I am grateful for my walks with Tracy.
Today is about sincerity.
This end to the entry plays a role in my meditation and throughout my day.
I took up meditation before the divorce also. It helped me find stability and centeredness. Meditation created a “clean mental slate” for me to start each day with. I still do it nearly every morning. Like yoga, meditation is a practice. This means, like a sport, you get better at it the more you do it, but you have to start somewhere. When I started, I read some blogs and books on meditation. I did two minutes a day. Two minutes is a long time to sit in silence... I am up to ten minutes a day now. It is natural for your mind to wander during meditation, mine still does frequently. It is important to not punish yourself or get anxious when this happens. It is natural and part of the process.
At the end of my mediation (I use a meditation timer app that sounds a bell), I think of three people in my life. I try to think of two that I love easily and dearly and imagine me embracing them. I then picture one person that I love but find difficult and do the same. Needless to say, there are repeat customers on that last one. I then think of my dedication from my journal for a moment. That’s it. Maybe it all sounds silly, but it is a simple thing that takes a few minutes a day and can make a profound impact on your demeanor and outlook. Try it.
I am one of those extroverted introverts or whatever. I tend to be a social being but need my recharge time alone. I did this in my marriage by taking the occasional moto ride or going for a walk or run alone. As you can imagine though, the bulk of my time was spent with my partner. After the divorce, it could be lonely. After all, I had virtually merged with this other human being. That person became a part of me and after the divorce there was a piece missing. Or so it seemed. I quickly found that taking solo trips, whether that was a multi day hike on the Appalachian Trial, or riding my motorcycle across the country alone, was fruitful to the healing process. I am sure many travel bloggers have covered this in depth, but there is a self affirmation to being alone and in a new place. Organically meeting new people and experiencing life through a single lens. Your lens. This can be hard at first, especiallly if you aren’t used to it. It gets easier quickly and you will soon find new confidence and individualism building. Combining this with meditation, journaling, and reading can be powerful, too.
Meh, that’s it I guess.
I could write a dissertation on what I have learned trying to meet someone in my 40s but maybe that is better over a glass of wine (I have a few vices left.). HMU if you have any thoughts or questions.