Coping mechanisms

Dang. I’m not going to lie. This separating thing is already hard, and we’ve barely begun.

Yes, I wrote a long post about how we’re doing everything we can to be respectful as we dissolve our marriage. I even noted that we’re glad to have the Paltrow/Martin model of conscious uncoupling to follow. And how we’re kinder now that we see a way out of an untenable situation.

But deciding to split our household is not making us magically perfect humans. Shocking, I know. “What? You mean just because you write one thousand words about being ideal partners doesn’t actually make you ideal partners? I never would have guessed.” I knew the civility phase was just a phase, because for four years we haven’t been all that civil. A whirlwind course in breaking habits is in order. And we’re both slipping back into old pattens more often than we’d like.

But we’re trying.

So I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I’m trying to be especially gentle with him. I’m naturally pretty gentle with the kids, but I’m doing an even better job by just giving myself timeouts.

But I’m also using the following techniques to keep my cool and make it through stressful days. Feel free to copy my coping mechanisms if you’re in the middle of a major upheaval. Because I’m nothing if not emotionally healthy and excellent at modeling good behavior. [Snort.]

Sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. I dropped it a while ago, and felt mostly self-righteous but not all that healthy when it was gone. Now I’m quite happy to point out that it’s called self-medication for a reason. I had a few drinks this week, and I do not like at all how compelling it feels to use booze to take the edge off. So I’m going to avoid liquor for a while, and instead I’m choosing chocolate. And caramel. And gummy things and chewy things and all the sugar things. Because I have more than a little going on, and I’ll be damned if I’m going through it with just kale to keep me company.

Biting my tongue. We did not get to the point where we needed to dissolve our marriage because I’m good with calm reactions. I tend to respond before I think, usually with some version of “no.” I don’t like change, I don’t want to change, and I don’t want anyone else to change. Life is complicated enough without relearning things every five minutes. So for most of my life, I could tell you that just “no” will have to do as an answer to every question you ever ask me. Especially if you happen to be moving out of my house but staying in my life. I have a big ol’ “hell no” for all questions that begin from that corner of the Universe. But I’m trying really hard to bite down before “no” flies out of my mouth. Because you know what my future ex-husband needs? He needs someone to hear him out. To think first. And to respond only when a thoughtful, respectful answer has percolated up.

Deep breaths. It would be nice if, along with the sugar, I was exercising a lot. I’m not. I am in a teeth-chattering panic about becoming financially stable immediately, if not sooner, so I’m taking every freelance job that comes my way. And that makes for a day that involves writing every free minute (and lots of sugar; see above). I’m trying to move my body. I know exercise helps mood and thought clarity and sleep and self-confidence. I know all these things very well. But because I just don’t have the time every day, I’m substituting deep breaths. I’ve never been good at slowing down long enough to breathe. Or blink. So now, when something feels really good (like the bearded irises in bloom in the neighbor’s yard, the soul-warming sunshine, the increasing moments of sibling harmony, or a gift from a friend of handmade chocolate thingamabobs) I close my eyes and take a deep breath. And when I want to fight or cry or say something inappropriate, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I’ve probably taken more than my share of oxygen this week. I’ll be honest and tell you: I’m not sorry. I’ve lived 41 years without taking my fair share of deep breaths, and now they’re mine. All mine.

Asking for help. The reason we posted about our conscious uncoupling on the Interwebs is not just because we didn’t want to call the people we love and explain how we’ve fallen apart and can’t make our marriage work. Though, whoa Nelly, the thought of making those calls still chills my highly-sugared blood. The blog-post announcement was rooted in a desire for an army of support behind us. And we got it. We asked, and people called and texted and emailed to say they would do anything to make this easier for us. And that got me to take a big gulp of pride. “Thank you. Yes, you can help. Would you please…”  Nobody yet has said no. You know why? Friends are generally kind and want to help. And people feel uncomfortable about things like death and divorce, so they want to be assigned a project to make them feel useful. I think the next person who offers to help will hear a request to attempt the 2013 photo albums I haven’t finished yet.

Zombie prom. You may or may not have the chance. But if a school you know offers an ’80s Prom Zombie Apocalypse option for the big Spring fundraiser, you might want to roll with it. Have your kids dress up as you try to get the dark circles around your eyes from half-dead dark grey to undead green-and-purple grey.

(I love that this is how they think zombies look…)

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Ignore the mess in those photos. Because refusing to clean up anything is just another of my now famous coping mechanisms.

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12 thoughts on “Coping mechanisms

    • Ain’t it the truth?

      Each day since things started getting really challenging, someone has said something intensely kind to me. And it makes all the difference.

  1. Hang in there. I’m glad you have support. Let me know if you run out of sugar and I’ll send you our leftover Easter candy because I can’t bring myself to throw it in the trash but I really need it out of my reach.

    • Oh, how I’ve negotiated all the tricks of a sugar addict through the years, hiding candy from myself then threatening myself with bodily harm if I kept myself from it the next day.

      Thanks for the offer, but keep the candy. I have sooooooo many sugar options around here, completely unhidden.

      • I just tagged you for a blogging tour. By all means feel free to skip it – I realize you have a ton going on. My logic was simply to give you an easy post idea if you want one. Sometimes mindless writing is yet another coping mechanism. But no harm if you don’t do it! Hope you are still hanging in.

  2. Hi nap. I’m sorry that you’re going through a tough time and proud of you for doing it with such kindness. If you need to self medicate a bit, you might look into actual, FDA-regulated medications with a kind and competent professional. It’s not uncommon to take an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication during a tough life stretch, and it helps to have something that’s designed to target the appropriate brain chemicals in the right dose. I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to do all the lifestyle fixes for depression and anxiety (like exercising!) if I get the meds worked out – it breaks the depression –> inertia –> more depression feedback loop, and then I can climb out of it.

    • Thanks for the idea. I’m staying very present, noticing and experiencing joy, and managing quite well. Despite the sugar. But I’ll file your reminder away in case I need it.

      Cheers!

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