A Different Chapter

I am proudly divorced (4 years)! Not because I think that marriage or divorce are a joke, but because after divorce I discovered a whole new journey! I believe in the sanctity of marriage and find myself with a wonderful fiancé and family!
Divorce Care, a super helpful course which really helped me on the path to healing along with sharing my story is part of the journey I have chosen. I felt it necessary to write about what I went through with all due respect to myself, my Jonker family, my family I had to leave behind (van der Mescht) and to all those involved. I wish only the very best for all past, present and future through the exceptional and forgiving grace of God. Here I share a few of my tips and antidotes. Enjoy with the right sentiments in mind.

Shared: 2019

In the two years since I have been divorced, I have experienced a multitude of opinions (some I didn’t ask for) and reactions. Most of them have been fairly caring, but with a hint of not really understanding what I had gone through (and the side-effects I still face). I will be the first to admit that prior to going through divorce I was much the same. Like… oh shame poor you, how terrible. Yes, I thought I was supportive, but had zero understanding of what friends were actually going through. 

Onto my own humorous encounters of dreaded divorce. I’ll have you know that one even took place on a first date. Awkward! 

"Let’s call it “Tales of Divorce” or “Divorce Woes” or what do you think my imaginary novel should be called?"

It goes without saying that I don’t want to be writing about divorce until the end of time (it gets old fast), but this specific blog post has been floating around in my mind for far too long. As I have mentioned online numerous times divorce absolutely sucks! Ineloquent, but it’s fitting. Looking back, it is the WORST thing I have ever gone through, but as Oscar Wilde penned “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. 

Regardless this is a humorous post to dispel some of these myths and the drama that is attached to the D word. Yes, it can indeed be a very humorous subject. For example, the day I went to court my dear Mamma who accompanied me to this awful venue… high fived me upon the whole thing being over. Let’s just say there was a confused court clerk that was very displeased with our reckless behaviour. Whatever dude!

Additionally, I had a Divorce Party with my best friends where I received gifts and real deal Champagne (French… oooh la la). It was fun and a welcome end to the extensive pain and suffering I had encountered through the process. Sensitive readers don’t think I take it lightly! My oh my how I suffered, but it happened and life goes on. As my Pappa said to me at the time “no one reads yesterday’s newspaper” so get busy living. 

These are five of the “myths” I have heard most often and they now make me laugh due to them being a load of nonsense (in my case at least). Understand that in some cases they are not... so no knickers in a knot please. Severity is understood, lived through and felt in each fibre of my existence.

Myth Number One - Divorce is Hereditary: 
This one is my favourite! I was on a first date with a fairly nice guy, having a good time. His friends joined us (they were newly married). They asked me why a girl like me was still single? A compliment at first, but not for long. I decided early on to be honest about my journey and answered that I was divorced. Well, that put them into defense mode (initiate lecture stance). I got lectured on a Friday night (well past midnight) that they didn’t believe in divorce and that it didn’t run in their family. This preaching went on long after I had finished a glass of wine. I simply informed them that neither my parents or that of my ex-husband’s were in fact divorced nor had any close family members gotten divorced. Just to let you know it doesn’t run in your family. Please stop thinking that and please stop lecturing poor unsuspecting victims trying to enjoy a first date (while trying to pretend they are Carrie Bradshaw in Durban).

Myth Number Two - Divorce is Contagious: 
Cough, cough… cough! I am infecting you with my divorce disease. Insert eye-roll. Contrary to popular belief I can reassure you that I can’t infect you. I had several people step away from me during this time, as in they didn’t want to see me anymore. That’s totally okay and I understand that it can be a scary thing, but you won’t catch it. In fact, anyone who did speak to me about their marital problems were seeking insight and I encouraged them to get professional help and to try save their marriage. Take a Panado and get over it.

Myth Number Three - Divorce is like a Death: 
You see in most cases when people die, they don’t choose to leave this earth. Whereas when someone leaves you… they keep on living and actively make a choice to walk away, very much alive. The pain of the loss can most certainly be described as grief. Deep, painful, bone aching grief. It comes down to them actively abandoning you by choice. They have not been struck down by illness, or taken too soon. They just gave up. No funeral, just an unceremonious separation. 

Myth Number Four: Divorce is Expensive:
Personally, my divorce only cost R900 (at the time - give or take a few rands). I got legal assistance via EasyDivorces (who knew) and they were an amazing help. What I can’t put a price on is the six months of paperwork, visits to the magistrate’s office, court and the agonising time spent on ticking off an admin list that felt insurmountable at the time. The expensive and excessively distressing time is what followed. I have always been independent and we split our household bills 50 /50 until he buggered off and left me with all the bills of the life we had built together. Rent and let’s not forget to mention I had just signed a lease on a new office (yikes) which I could afford as a married woman, but being left with the internet bill, insurance, errrrry damn thang etc etc etc… suddenly meant that there wasn’t a spare penny in sight. The monetary cost of divorce was low, the emotional cost was through the roof. This analogy does not apply to couples who have children or who have an anti-nuptial contract that isn’t in their best interest. Luckily my best friend set mine up and made sure it was air-tight. Not that I had millions for anyone to steal or run off with. Shoes… though I had a lot of those, but he wasn’t interested (luckily).

Oh, and let me tell you that some of my service providers updated my details and my premiums went up because I was divorced. I fought this as I felt it was a form of discrimination. I can assure you I am far less of a financial risk on my own than I was anchored to another person. 

Myth Number Five - Divorce is Quick:
I was fortunate to manage it in six months, but I have heard horror stories of people extorting money from their former spouses and dragging them to court as often as possible. It takes minutes to make those noble and important promises before God and months if not years to undo it legally, even if your heart has let go. Don’t even get me started on changing my surname. There was absolutely no way I was holding onto the surname of a person who had rejected me. Au revoir. However, I am still trying to get every element of my admin life back to being Jonker! Home Affairs is no help either. Keep your divorce decree in your handbag guuuurl!

Additionally, when I hear flippant comments like “if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced”, I want to remind all Bridezillas that your wedding day vows are fast, but your uncoupling is arduous. Don’t take on this mindset when walking down the aisle. Strive for a healthy, strong relationship with a person who is as right as possible for creating a sustainable and intentional life alongside. There is no knowing what the future will hold and I didn’t think my future would include divorce, but hey you win some, you lose some.

"Two years of being divorced and two and a half years of being without "that guy" and life is great! People still treat me differently and ask weird questions, but I feel well-equipped to answer them. Treat divorced people nicely and leave them in peace. They’re regular humans who just had to reroute their journey."

Shared: 2017

Over the course of what feels like my life, but in fact is just the last year or so I have eluded to a whole bunch of things that were happening within my personal world, via blog posts here and there and via social media. Sometimes it’s difficult to actually be a private person, yet still online. It’s a confusing situation where blurting it all out might seem as if you are seeking attention or any other such stigmas that are associated with being authentic.

Yes... life isn’t all pretty office photos and sashaying around looking glamourous, in fact on most days it is quite the opposite of that. If your life is glam errrrryday (poetic license) then please teach us how you do it.
I don’t prescribe to the confess all mentality that suits the style of some bloggers and vloggers. I don’t have anything against it, I just don’t always want to draw attention to the hardship of “stuff”. 
The all ambiguous “STUFF”, we are all going through some version of it. Sometimes loudly, sometimes silently, sometimes publicly, often times... alone.

I feel like my so called “stuff” has been following me around for long enough as I try to embark on a new journey and a new existence, whilst still holding onto what I value most. I thought it high time to share a few snippets of it with you.

What sparked off this post was my birthday and the idea I had when I turned thirty and did a 30 days to 30 challenge for myself. In this case I wanted to do a 3 days to 33 challenge (not ashamed to put my age online btw), but once I got listing it went far over three and soon I just realised that I needed to do those things regardless of a birthday and the very small and limiting number three. In sticking to the let’s not draw too much attention mantra... the simple story is I got divorced. Allow me this dramatic moment to just fling my arms in the air and tell you it is the most awful thing I have ever gone through... the road that led to it, the actual situation, the event itself. Tears, so many tears! Trying to stay afloat when your whole life that you envisioned is shattered right in front of you and there is next to nothing you can do about it.
So you get up a little each day, you pick up, you carry on, you try to rebuild, fail, cry, cry, cry, try again, cry, okay come on try again... keep going, try. Less tears, more lessons...

During this time there are certain very, very simple things that have stuck out to me. Things that are so simple I probably don’t need to list them out for you However, if this list serves to just remind one or maybe two people of a few important things then my job here is done. So I pondered and thought what is that list, what has gotten me thinking, learning and realising even more?

Save: We are reminded to save from the day we start earning anything, be it pocket money or that very first batch of tips from being a fifteen year old waitress. No matter how little... save your money. If you haven’t been saving then please start this very minute, no this very second.

Shut out some of the noise: The world is so noisy all the time. Mostly through social media. I found that while going through a very difficult time it was as if social media was even more noisy. Happy photos of other people not going through what I was. What did I do? I started an Instagram account where I just follow accounts that I want to see, no people, just quotes and beautiful photos, art, inspiring messages. It’s a personal space to escape to and is totally private. I also got strict with the endless scrolling and dedicated time to actually enjoying my time online. Paying attention, unsubscribing and not feeling guilty for not liking or participating in everything and anything.

Discover your gurus: With all the noise comes an influx of so called helpful insight and advice. In most cases it just adds to the already overflowing brain feeling. I found The Minimalists, a podcast that I have really connected with. It has taught me so much and it aligns with so much of what I hold true. It is currently the only podcast I listen to. It might not be the one for you, but discover who and what you want to add into your life. Find your guru, enjoy their teachings.

Self Love: Loving yourself is the most difficult challenge in life. It is something I realised I needed to pay a lot more attention to. I am me and my marriage didn’t work out and I felt rejected and very unloved, but somewhere in amongst the chaos I started to realise that I needed to love me, in the most humble of ways. Look after me, understand me and stop apologising for who I am. It’s a lifelong mission and the more I learn the more I realise how many people don’t even like themselves, never mind love themselves. Let’s change that, discover what makes you... uniquely you. Nurture yourself.

Find moments of happiness or joy: In the shitty times it’s so easy to just scrap every single moment as awful. I’ll tell you this... despite having a broken heart there have still been moments that have taken my breath away, but I had to realise they were there for the seeing and feeling. I had to lift up my head and look around. Most importantly I had to go out and experience things and people and see that despite it being the darkest of days there is always a flicker of beauty to be discovered. From a beautiful day on the beach through to a rainbow while running through the rain.

Don’t wait: Life is happening. We are all waiting for that "one day". What do you want to do? 
Stop putting it off, find a way to make it happen. Waiting is just a form of denying yourself. Go and do it! It might be simple and for me many things were, but once I went and explored and got moving again I realised and wondered why had I been waiting to do some very basic things for myself? I skateboarded, I went trampolining, silly, fun things.

Exercise: Yeah, yeah... I know if you hate it then this might sound like the worst idea ever. I feel as if exercise saved my life. It kept me going and instead of becoming a couch potato surrounded by tissues (sometimes I have those days) I am now the fittest and strongest I have ever been in my life. I don’t always feel like it, but I stuck it out and it feels awesome.

Small acts for self: It’s important to have a few things that you can repetitively do just for you. I need those things to keep me sane. They are small and easy for example I like taking baths, listening to music and exercising. When I get down I can rely on those little rituals to keep me going. 

Make a vision board: I know it might sound airy fairy, but it’s a great way to see what you want your life to actually look and feel like. It need not be fancy or full of huge, expensive dreams. Mine has simple pictures on, but it’s a happy brain space that reminds me what I am working for and that my ideal life is happening and it’s my job to “style” it if that’s what I actually want.

Get outside: So easy, yet so easily forgotten too. I seemed to have forgotten that I love the beach and the ocean. I have spent more time on the beach in the last eight months that in the last eight years. Nature has a wonderful way of humbling us and reminding us that there is a much bigger picture. In most cases the experience is also free and as a single gal I need all my pennies.

Clean out: Baggage physical or mental got booted and the cleaning out continues. I blame The Minimalists, but it feels great too. Trips to charity stores, the dump, the recycling centre... each one has been cathartic in its own way. Out with the toxic junk, time to make room for better things and by that I don’t mean material processions.

Music: I have always loved music. While I lived in London I was never without my iPod and little has changed. Finding new favourite songs for every mood from kickass to crying mess are essential. My music keeps me going.

Reach out: Hey, I’m not okay and in saying that people helped me to feel better. I have also learnt that I need to reach out to others, check in, ask, listen...

Journal: It’s a clichĂ©, but keeping a journal has taught me how to unpack my thoughts and to also see my progress. I get to say all the things that I am thinking and by letting them out they no longer hold as much power. It shows me where I was in denial, where I have developed and through that I have gained invaluable personal knowledge.

If a good day comes, don’t question it: The days I have felt good, I have worried or wondered why today? I have learnt to just enjoy a good mood day if it comes along. If I feel better then I need to embrace it. Tomorrow might be awful again so I damn well deserve to have a positive day. 

Empathy isn’t real, experience is: I have always thought I am a very empathetic person who could understand the emotions of almost anyone. Well, guess what I can’t. Empathy is not real, but experience is. You might not really know how someone is feeling, but try to be understanding. I have tried to be patient with friends in the past who got divorced and thought I was doing a great job. Now having gone through it myself I understand that I never fully got how much they were suffering. I now know that I need to be more tolerant of others and their emotions. 

I don’t have it all sorted out and I have a far road to still walk, but in evolving I am building and changing for the better and who can argue with that!