The following quote, by the fashionable Diane Von Furstenberg, resonates with me every day: The biggest mistake a woman can make is not to be herself in public or private. My divorce story will tell you why.
I celebrated my 29th birthday as a newly divorced woman, donning fresh battle scars and the proud grin of victory. It was a long time coming. There were clear signs it was time to call it quits on my marriage but I knew it wouldn’t be easy being alone again and I needed that to happen, and fast.
I plunged into singledom the only way I knew how, dating guy after guy after guy. I had always been a serial committer. When one relationship ended, I found myself launching straight into another. There was no time to get to know who I was or to consider what I wanted from love. I just jumped from one to next and to the next, without stopping to take a breath.
I met my ex when I was just 17. At 23, I moved my stuff out of my parents’ house and into a downtown condo with him. From my insecure vantage point, this man, who was 11 years my senior, was my knight in shining armour. Days, months and years went by as I flexed and bent to accommodate my husband, the man I let call all the shots. When his career brought him out to the ‘burbs, I was right behind him. I abandoned my exciting urban life and moved to a small cookie-cutter neighbourhood that really wasn’t my style. I figured that’s just what you did when you decided to settle down.
People talk about losing themselves in relationships but I never gave myself the permission to discover who I was in the first place. I was his wife. I started my career in marketing by applying for a job he found by accident. If you’d asked me who I was or what I wanted out of life or a relationship, I would have been dumbfounded. I was letting life pass me by as opposed to grabbing the opportunities I wanted.
Looking back, I realize that divorce taught me a great lesson. Yes, I had to start over again in a relationship with another man, but first, I had to start over again in a relationship with myself.
All I did during that time in a committed relationship was continually deny any power I had as a separate being. I denied the things that made me a woman because I didn’t even know they existed. I suppressed my natural ability to experience the entire spectrum of emotions available because I didn’t want to be too complicated. It was just easier to be a good girl, quiet and agreeable. I was afraid to explore my creativity because I didn’t want to be too messy. Clean seemed, well, cleaner. I hid my best physical features because I didn’t want to be too sexy. I didn’t want to create conflict. I tempered my opinion because I didn’t want to be too bossy. Following someone else’s lead was more ladylike.
And then one day, I woke up. I could no longer deny it. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, living and working in a way that didn’t ring true and sharing my life with a man I no longer connected with. I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t let another day go by without taking action. All I really needed had been inside me all along. What I had to do was simple. It was to check in and listen to myself, trust in what I wanted and take a few risks to get there. I needed to be brazen.
So for all the women out there, who are brazen but don’t know it yet, here’s my wish for you: Be the very things you yearn for in other people, places and situations.
Be the light you seek. Be the love you crave. Be the acceptance you need. Be the understanding you demand. Be the confidence you aspire to. Be the connection you ache for. Be bold. Be wild. Be brave. Be free. Be real. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Let go. Move on. Cry. Laugh. Sing. Get angry. And then move and breathe it all out. Celebrate each other. Declare your wins. Honour yourself. Revel in love. And then, do it all over again.