Last weekend, I myself a birthday party. It is the first time I have had a birthday party in 18 years. I throw my son the most lavish, on theme, birthday parties but somehow, as the years have ticked by, I have let my birthday become just another day at the office but with cake.
I also recently stepped completely out of my well controlled comfort zone and started to ice skating classes last week. This was something I have always wanted to learn but responsibilities in life (and, let’s be honest, prioritising running around after a kidlet’s sporting activities) always seemed to take priority. I was as nervous as a cat being introduced to the family’s new puppy (and ice skated probably just as well as that cat!) but I pushed my nerves aside and enjoyed it.
Both the party and the ice skating were something just for me, something I wanted to do and that I took time out of my work commitments and my family responsibilities to make happen even when it felt easier just to push them aside.
Doing these things reminded me of one of the positives of separation, that is, independence and the importance of celebrating it in a way that is meaningful to you.
When my parents separated, one of the first things my mother did was get a dog. Not just any dog – she got the breed of dog she wanted (who also just happened to be the cutest, most gorgeous and loving, yet most stupid, dog known to mankind). That dog was my mother’s favourite child.
My mother had always wanted a dog but my father had always refused. Even if he had agreed to a canine-acquisition, there would have been a compromise to be made on the breed of dog and the rules as to how it lived within the family. So, upon striking out with her own independence after her marriage ended, my mother marked the occasion by getting that dog she had always wanted and having it live as though it were royalty.
On separation, your choice zone suddenly grows as you now independently make decisions, big and small, often only with reference to yourself. I have seen clients relish this newly expanded choice zone as they decide everything from buying the type of car they liked (in their favourite colour) to buying the unhealthy brand of chocolate breakfast cereal they preferred (this particular client told me that the moment she reached for the cereal gave her immense joy every time she did a supermarket shop).
Whether it finally moving to a location they had always wanted to live or saying goodbye to their ex’s favourite Friday night takeout and replacing it with her favourite, I have seen clients thrill at their new choice zone. I had one client who almost conspiratorially told me how she now bought her favourite bar of chocolate in the grocery shop each week and hid it from the kids. Another client very gladly gave her ex all their camping equipment, swearing she was NEVER camping again, in favour of choosing cities she always had wanted to holiday in.
A consistent favourite new choice is that of a new hair style. Ever noticed how life changes call for a new haircut? I have had countless clients come to see me, looking fabulous with a new hair style. When I compliment them on the fabulous new hair, they invariably grin, touch their new hairstyle proudly and say “My husband always liked my hair long/short/blonde/whatever is the opposite of what I now have!”.
Another popular way of stamping your mark on your new independent state is creating a bedroom space that is all about you and which is your own haven away from everyone else. You can stamp your personality all over your bedroom without compromise. Want 20 throw cushions on your bed? Go for it. Want a massive floral wall mural? Go for it. Want a minimalist haven with a to-die-for wardrobe space that is all to yourself? Go for it!
The choices you embrace and celebrate your independence with will depend on your unique tastes, your values and the areas you have been long living deep in the compromise zone on. This will be different for everyone. For example, for my mother it was getting a dog whereas if I was to find myself single again, I would be dusting off my glass collection and amassing more and more pieces, even if it means kids in the street talk about me in slightly scared, hushed tones as “that crazy glass lady”! Not the choice for you, maybe, but you will have your own version.
So, what new choices have you made now that you are separated? What choices are you looking forward to making?