Home > A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings #2)

A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings #2)
Debbie Macomber

Not so long ago I assumed I had the perfect life. Because my husband made a substantial income, I was a stay-at-home mom for our toddler son, Owen. My husband loved and cherished me. We lived in an upscale community outside of Portland, Oregon. Jake and I were members of one of the area’s most prestigious country clubs. My in-laws lived close by and adored their grandson, especially my mother-in-law, Leanne.

Then, in a single afternoon, my entire world imploded. I learned that my husband had been having an affair, possibly multiple affairs, and had gotten his latest conquest pregnant. Leanne was the one who told me.

It was common knowledge that over the course of their marriage my father-in-law had been less than faithful. I often wondered if Leanne knew or if she turned a blind eye.

She knew.

When Leanne learned that Jake had followed in his father’s footsteps she couldn’t bear seeing me go through the humiliation and crippling low self-esteem she’d endured through the years. Her fear was that Owen would grow up to be like his father and grandfather, disrespecting his wedding vows, tearing apart his wife’s self-worth.

I wasn’t like Leanne. I refused to look the other way and I couldn’t pretend all was well in my marriage. That said, I was afraid to walk away from Jake. I feared being alone, facing all the struggles of being a single parent and so much else. A divorce would mean a complete upheaval in my and Owen’s lives, not to mention our finances. I needed encouragement and support.

My parents were gone, having died within a short time of each other. My two sisters lived in another state, and while they were supportive and wonderful, I needed someone close who would walk with me through this valley of tears.

That person, to my surprise, was Leanne. When I filed for divorce, she followed suit and filed at the same time, walking away from her thirty-five-year marriage. She’d had enough.

This was how we ended up living in apartments across the hall from each other in downtown Portland. We became our own support group, encouraging each other. She helped me wade through the emotional mire that went hand in hand with the death of a marriage. Together we faced each day of our new independent lives. I don’t think I would have survived without her, and she said the same of me. We’d been close before, but we were even closer now.

Soon after we moved in to our apartments, Leanne and I made up a list of ways in which we would get through this pain. We called it A Guide to Moving On.

The first item on that list was: Don’t allow yourself to wallow in your pain. Reach out. Volunteer. Do something you love or something to help others.

That was easier said than done. I often found myself weepy and struggling against this desperate loneliness. I missed Jake and all the little things he used to do, like gassing up my car or changing batteries and fixing things. It added up to a thousand annoying tasks I was forced to do myself now. Plus, being a single mother is no cakewalk, either. I’d always lived with others, first at home with my family, then in college with roommates, and from there Jake and I married. For the first time in my life I was basically alone, and that took some getting used to.

Leanne was the one to suggest we each take on a volunteer project. One that would get us out of the house and force us to stop dwelling on our own loss. She opted to teach English as a second language two nights a week. And me…I love fashion and keeping track of the latest styles. One of my favorite things to do was read magazines while Owen napped. That was a luxury now. When it came to being a volunteer, I found an agency that helped dress women going into the workforce for the first time. To my delight, I discovered I enjoyed it immensely.

The second item on our list: Cultivate new friendships.

We’ve both lived the country-club life, our social lives revolving around our friends from the club. I thought I had good friends in Lake Oswego, but all of a sudden I was a third wheel. As soon as I filed for divorce my social life dried up. That didn’t bother me as much as it could have. What bothered me was how eager my so-called friends were to talk about Jake. They were looking for gossip. A few well-meaning ones couldn’t wait to let me know that they’d been aware of Jake’s indiscretions for years and just hadn’t known how to tell me. Yes, it was definitely time to find new friends, which was one reason Leanne and I chose to move to the thriving downtown area of Portland.

The third item and possibly the hardest, for me, anyway: Let go in order to receive. This one came from Leanne, who felt it was important that we not get caught up in a quagmire of resentment and bitterness. She seemed to have a better handle on this than I did. To be fair, she’d separated herself emotionally from Sean years earlier.

This divorce business (emotional separation) was new to me and I struggled to have a positive attitude. (Even now our divorce isn’t final, almost two years into this mess. Jake has done everything humanly possible to delay the proceedings.)

This was by far the hardest because it was a mental game. There wasn’t a checklist I could mark off. The goal was to think positively. That was a joke, right? Leanne assured me that once I let go of my bitterness my heart and my life would then be open to receive.

I’ve had two years to practice and I admit I have been getting better. I don’t hate Jake. We have a son together and my soon-to-be ex-husband would always be part of Owen’s life. Leanne was right, but this step demanded effort. Real effort.

Leanne is emotionally stronger than me. She is older and has the advantage of life experiences. I appreciate her insight and wisdom. I was also the one who came up with the last item on our list simply because I felt it was that important: Love yourself.

Again, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. When I learned Jake had been having affairs, I immediately felt that there was something lacking in me. Okay, not immediately, but a close second to the consuming anger that attacked first. This is really about separating ourselves from the weaknesses in our husbands. I lost fifteen pounds the first month after I filed for divorce. My skinny jeans fit again, and while that was great, I was depressed and miserable. It’d been a low point. Loving myself meant eating, sleeping, and exercising—taking care of myself emotionally and physically. (I was so much better off making a list, and I could do that with this step.)

It meant taking care of myself spiritually, too. After Owen was born I’d gotten slack about attending church services, so after filing for divorce I went back, needing the positive messages and the fellowship. Leanne did, too. And Owen loves his kids’ club class.

The church offered a divorce support group, and Leanne and I both attended the classes. They were wonderful and many of the items we discussed were part of the list we’ve compiled. The pastor made a funny comment. He said that when he taught marriage classes most of those attending took naps. It was the divorce classes where everyone took notes. I could understand this. I certainly hadn’t gone into my marriage thinking Jake and I would be divorced one day. To me, marriage was forever.

So this is it. Our guide to moving on. Our guide to letting go and taking the next step to whatever the future might hold.

The first step in our Guide to Moving On was also the most enjoyable. Every other Saturday I spent the entire day at Dress for Success, a gently-used-clothing boutique. I loved dressing these ladies, whose courage inspired and stirred me. Many had come out of abusive relationships or were looking to get off welfare and find their place in the workforce. It was a joy to fit them with a wardrobe that gave them confidence and the hope that they could succeed.

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