One year ago this week, my husband of three years announced his intention to divorce via a phone call from an airport in another country. Over the drone of boarding calls, he informed me he was not returning home from a business trip and he had already made arrangements to change his address. The news was shocking and my worries about a possible pandemic on the horizon only added to the chaos.
My children were spending the weekend with their dad, so I spent that first weekend on my own watching every Nicholas Sparks movie back-to-back and consuming my body’s weight in ice cream. I don’t even like ice cream all that much.
After two days of intensive wallowing in misery, followed by a few harrowing weeks of watching everyone’s worst fears come true about the seriousness of COVID-19, I decided I had two choices. I could take the next 365 days working my way through every single show on Netflix and every single Ben & Jerry’s flavor, all without judgment since I was divorcing in a pandemic. Or I could take the next 365 days to build my new life.
I opted to take the second option, and over the past year, I have negotiated the divorce settlement terms, certified as a divorce coach and financial analyst, and launched a successful business. I also wrote and published a book. What drove me was one part “living well is the best revenge”, one part wanting to help others going through the misery of divorce, and one part raw fear. I’d taken on a big financial obligation in buying out the house and knew I had to hustle.
As it turns out, having your life fall apart is a fabulous training ground for entrepreneurship. Divorce is a business and requires you to define your goals, surround yourself with competent people, negotiate well, take calculated risks, and figure out a strategy to move forward. These same skills are invaluable when you are launching a business, so it was an ideal time to take the entrepreneurial plunge.
When everything falls to pieces, you really have nothing to lose. That positioned me to be more assertive, take on more risk, and operate out of my comfort zone. I’d faced pandemic divorce and survived, so what was a little business risk?
I decided to give myself a year, when not much else was happening. I decided to maximize my education and try a bunch of different approaches. I also committed to write a book, giving myself between the end of summer and US Thanksgiving to get it done. One of the few silver linings of this pandemic is that everything has moved online, making skills-training cheaper and more accessible. I was able to get four certifications and attend several conferences for divorce professionals that, in another time, would have entailed buying plane tickets to Florida, North Carolina, Las Vegas, and New York. I was able to certify more quickly and for less money, meaning I could launch my business and build my expertise much sooner. I worked with my marketing consultant online and over Zoom. The world, while shut down, became surprisingly open and productive and I don’t see that changing for a while.
I also took the time over the past year to heal my heart, something I’d not done after my first divorce, which ultimately led to my second one. The pandemic and my germaphobia made it easy to self-impose a no dating rule. I wanted to focus on my kids, my business, and my healing. I needed to find out why I’d lost faith in my own abilities and thought I needed a partner to make me whole. I read a lot of excellent books, attended some healing courses online, and met kindred spirits from all over the globe. I can’t think of a better way to spend a difficult year.
I was able to form a crystal-clear vision of what I want in life and really fell in love with that idea. I got back in touch with the girl I had been who got lost somewhere along the way. Divorce hits a reset button, as does launching a new business. Suddenly my dreams seemed achievable and with my eyes fixed on that vision, I was able to push through the tough stuff, like dealing with technical glitches and writing a four-hour finance exam with every move monitored by the proctor on the other side of the camera.
Through the coaching community, I was able to find accountability partners who were also using the year to move things forward. I made a commitment to myself to do one bold thing every month, like submitting an article, guesting on a podcast, hosting a room on Clubhouse, or publishing my book. Bravery builds self-confidence. And if I felt a sting of anger or self-pity or rejection, I took those feelings to the gym or to my journal. As part of my coaching program, we coached and were coached by peers. That formed another piece of my healing.
Most importantly, over the past year I developed a sense of resilience and confidence that comes from tackling hard things. I’ve come to adopt a “no pressure, no diamond” philosophy. My greatest strengths have always been built from a place of loss and this past year was no exception. And the very best thing about struggle is the relief one feels when it has passed. After a decade of feeling like I was holding my breath, I am finally able to exhale, even in the midst of a pandemic.
For those facing divorce right now – and COVID has not been marriage-friendly – I’d urge you to take a weekend of eating nothing but ice cream and watching all of the sappy movies you want. And if you want to stay in that place until the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror and your divorce finalized, there will be no judgement from me. But if you want to flex your courage muscles and take a risk at a time when there is no shame in failing, I’d urge you to take this time to chase your dreams. Take a chance, find your people, heal your heart, and launch your empire. Your trials have made you strong and resilient. There is no time like the present to take on the world. 365 days from now, I promise you won’t be sorry.