Reclaiming My Life One Footstep at a Time

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

Somewhere I read that the first re-decorating a newly divorced woman does is her bedroom. I thought, “Damn! And I have to be normal?”

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I didn’t set out consciously to gut the master bedroom and re-create it in my own image. Things just happened that way. Maybe it was because I’d always hated the way it was decorated. Maybe I just wanted to exorcise the demons of my marriage bed. In any case, the room was transformed in a matter of days from a dark and sunless cave to an airy and romantic hideaway with walls of mirrors, plush velvet, antiques, and lacy sheers that seem to swoop and hang in the air. My ex had preferred the blinds closed, the shades pulled tight, the sheers in place, the curtains tightly shut, and not a peep of light allowed inside. In our old space, I grew artificial plants because the lack of sunshine killed anything that might have otherwise thrived. (Wow, this is quite an analogy for our marriage!) Now, it’s living plants, candles, dangling snowflakes of gold or red, and a canopy of twinkling lights and dried vines arching over the bed like stars filtering down through an enchanted forest.

Yes, I like this. There’s no sign of my ex in this room. No world-weary secrets hiding in the corner or behind a shadow. The energy is fresh and all mine. My female friends ooh and ahh over the romantic and lush feel to this room, even though the only man to darken the door is the elderly bug sprayer on his quarterly maintenance visits.

I’ve reclaimed this space, just as I’ve reclaimed the whole house and made it “mine.” But I’ve also reclaimed all the things in it, including the things I once hated. The $300 Waterford vase, for example.

I’ve developed a distaste for roses, especially when they’re red, long-stemmed, and in multiples of 12. They seemed to be more of an image thing to make the giver look good, and nothing to do with the recipient. But that’s just my personal experience with flowers. I used to tell my ex that I’d prefer any shade of roses but red, or some flower other than roses, or a rose bush instead of cut roses that would wilt and die in three days’ time. A heartfelt bouquet of flowering weeds would have been preferable to me, hopeless romantic that I am.

When this beautiful crystal vase was presented to me, it had a dozen red roses in it and an apology. It was pretty and it was expensive, but it meant nothing. Nothing but a reminder of how badly I’d been hurt the night before on our wedding anniversary.

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I had thought to sell the vase on Ebay or give it away or just throw it out or maybe take a sledgehammer and make glass dust out of it. But instead, I’ve “purified” it and transformed it into something I can now see as beautiful. It stands on my kitchen countertop, always full of flowers—anything but roses. I now look at it and the bouquet in it and see the coming Spring in my life.

But I’ve also reclaimed my time. For years, I hated Sunday nights. Hated them. Dreaded them from the time I awoke on Saturday morning. From 5 p.m. until midnight and after, every Sunday night, I cooked, cleaned house, did laundry, prepared everything for the coming week. Finishing another load of towels at midnight was nothing. I would get to bed about 1 a.m., exhausted. The girls would help, but somehow I was always still going at midnight. I could never seem to get caught up with the housework. And Sunday nights were the worst because I would go to bed long after everyone else—weary, angry, and tearful—just to keep the household on track for the next week.

One night about 9:30 or 10:00, I was on a ladder in the dining room, fixing a vent while another load of laundry churned and a load of dishes ran, and I overheard my younger daughter in the TV room with her father, who was watching a marathon of JAG episodes on TiVO. I’d instructed her to take Daddy’s dirty clothes to the laundry room and to pick up the diet soda cans he’d left on the coffee table near his TV chair.

“Daddy,” I heard her ask, “why do you get to sit and watch TV every Sunday night while we clean up? I thought you and Mommy were equal.”

After a pause, I heard, “I don’t have to clean up because I don’t make a mess.”

But things are different now. I’ve reclaimed my Sunday nights. With the exception of a couple of rooms that still have divorce-related boxes to be gone through and moved out, the house is clean and orderly and stays that way most of the time. The air smells fresh from opening the windows or burning Nag Champa incense. It’s peaceful and comfortable. A safe haven. A sanctuary. And every Sunday night from 5 p.m. until midnight—the same time I used to drive myself crazy with getting all the housework finished, if I hadn’t already finished it over the weekend—I now have friends over for dinner and conversation. Every Sunday night.

“I’m sorry we kept you up so late,” Jeaneen apologized when she left after 1 a.m. “We’ll try to leave on time next week.”

But I didn’t really mind. I’m used to be kept up late by housework, not scintillating conversation. Now I look forward to my Sunday nights and to these gatherings with friends, new and old. It’s the perfect way to end one week and begin the next.

And so I’m reclaiming my life, one room at a time, one object at a time, one night at a time.


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