It is yet another Saturday night and I am sitting on my couch in my warm, comfortable living room watching Soap Net’s marathon of the five “Young and the Restless” soap operas from the week.  I am pampering myself by sipping on a glass of dry, red wine and enjoying my choice of salty munchies as I get cozy under the blanket and hunker down for the night. After so many weeks of this being my weekly routine I ask myself, “how did I get here?” I know the answer to this question and it comes with emotions equaling confidence, pride, guilt, fear, but most importantly, self-love.

The answer to how I got here lies in the 36 months I just lived through. It started when I made the incredibly hard decision to end my marriage of nearly 20 years with a man that I married when I was 19 and he 30. That marriage produced two wonderful children, a boy and a girl, who were teenagers when the divorce occurred. He was a wonderful man, a hard working provider, and good father. We definitely had happy times together and shared many loving memories. So why did this end? It ended because I had a deeper calling and things I needed to accomplish – and accomplish on my own. In retrospect it was probably very unfair to him; he didn’t ask for any of this to happen.  However, it was a burning desire that I had inside of me, and the older I got the more I needed to find my passion, accomplish big milestones on my own, and simply take time for me and my life’s purpose.

Of course the divorce was gut-wrenching and exhausting. How can it not be? You are ending something that everyone relied on heavily for many years. However, the more people relied on this unit, the more pressure it put on me. Also, a person changes so dramatically between the ages of 19 to 38.

As is typical after a divorce, your friends encourage you to go out and take your mind off of it.  I was no exception to this.  While out with my friends I was reintroduced to someone that I had known for years as a distant acquaintance. I purposely chose to speak to this person because I did not want to date again for a while. This person had the reputation of being someone who did not settle down and seldom had a steady girlfriend. In my mind this was perfect because I thought he could be the person I could call when a new movie came out or a new restaurant opened. It started off this way for a few weeks, very casual; however, it quickly changed when he called one day and asked, “Do you want to be exclusive?” Although I was nearly 40, I had never heard that expression before. Although I knew what it meant, it was so foreign to me and to be asked that so randomly, I fell into my old habits and produced a nervous laugh and said, “Ok.”

OK? It wasn’t ok. I really didn’t want to be exclusive because I wasn’t ready for that. I was still wide open and raw from the breakup of my marriage. I wanted a casual companion and not someone I felt I needed to be completely open with yet. However, the small, child-like person that I can be at times answered for me. The person that can be too nice and not put herself first. This here may seem at odds with my earlier statements about divorcing. Clearly I wasn’t too nice and I did put myself first. However, the fact is that I didn’t for so many years. I finally grew tired of putting myself last so that when I had enough guts I ripped it apart ruthlessly. That is what I tend to do – be too nice, too giving, too self-sacrificing – so when I do finally tire of it my reaction is extreme. This is a life lesson for me – balance!

So here I am not learning from past mistakes and not putting myself first because I didn’t want to hurt another person – a person that I knew less than one year! Well that hurt came sooner or later because I ended up breaking up with him because it was an incredibly unhealthy relationship. I truly knew after only a couple months that it was not right for me, yet I stayed in it for a year! Part of me wants to say I did this as a way to beat myself over the head so that I would not repeat these mistakes again.

That breakup actually felt good and refreshing because it was like cutting off a dead part of me that was holding me back. I also decided that I did not want to keep repeating my mistakes.  That is when I decided to take some time off and dedicate that time to myself. I did not go into this time of my life saying that I would take a full year, it is just what happened. Your soul knows.

That is how I ended up on my couch on repeated Saturday nights watching a soap opera marathon. That may seem lonely to some of you. To me it was soul cleansing. Cleansing because I did so much more than watch cheesy TV. I created in my home a Zen room. It was mine. It was beautiful and peaceful and just what the doctor ordered! I read countless books at this time. I did yoga in my Zen room. I tried to meditate. Still trying to meditate! I sought out like-minded individuals and attended “healing through loving kindness” classes, found a metaphysical store that has a beautiful vibe to it, traveled by myself to visit a friend in another state, went out with girlfriends, and joined workout classes. It was a lovely time.

People would ask me if I was dating anyone. I was proud to say no. Proud because I don’t need a person in my life to define me. Also, I was dating myself. As weird as this may sound, I was. I can take myself to the movies. I can go to a party by myself. I even went to a wedding during this time by myself. Can I tell you that it was the best time I have ever had at a wedding? I decided during this time that I was a really good date. So good that I became my own new standard for, when I was ready to date again, who I would spend my time with.

But even more than finding another person to spend my time with, I learned that the only person you will be with for the rest of your life is yourself.  You have to love yourself and be kind to yourself above all. This is not being selfish; it is being realistic! This is what my 52 weeks alone on a Saturday night taught me. It taught me, through the incredible books that I read, that you have to give love to receive love. This is not just in the romantic sense but in the daily living sense of smiling at the cashier, wishing a coworker a wonderful evening, and holding the door for someone.

Please know that I am not encouraging a divorce. Clearly you can carve out time for yourself in your own way to remember who you are – and yes you can! – your soul’s purpose depends on it. It is important to know who you are as an individual and not just as the extension of someone else. If you are alone, I encourage you to take time to discover or rediscover who you are before the emotions of a relationship sweep you away.

My 52 weeks of soul searching did result in me meeting the love of my life, us finding our dream property and home, and getting married on that beautiful property after 4 years of dating. He is a man that I can be completely open and honest with in all aspects. To know that you can love someone as unconditionally as they love you is the true meaning of life. Isn’t it ironic that he, too, had a marriage that ended, had a series of girlfriend flops, and then chose to take time out for himself?  Ironic or meant to be? Ironic in that he took a year too. Meant to be in that we both have discovered a type of love we never knew existed. We were truly meant for each other, and if neither of us hadn’t taken chances, we would not know a love this deep. However, the 52 weeks wasn’t about this. It was about finding ourselves.  But in finding ourselves we found each other.

Life truly is beautiful!