Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One Year Later, Again

I think you all can tell that I'm big into anniversaries lately.  For me, they've become milestones of a sort, markers on the road of how far I've come the past year and a half.  I assume I'll eventually stop caring quite so much about these dates, but until then, bear with me.  Because this past Saturday, I hit another one.

One year of being divorced.

That's a big, really exciting one.

That's a year of me being really and legally free from my financial black hole of a crazy ex.

Honestly?  I thought it would be harder.  I thought I would struggle to pay bills on my own, with only one paycheck.  I thought I would have to give up and ask for help.  I thought I would fail at being an adult.

These fears were something I vividly remember talking to my friend Katie about before I actually decided I did want to get divorced.  I spent a great deal of time adding up my projected living expenses and comparing them to what my projected paycheck would be.  After all, I'd never really lived on my own.  I'd never had to do this.  The closest I came was going away to college, but I didn't have bills.  I didn't have rent or utilities or much in the way of groceries.  And then I got married, and he took over the checkbook.  I deposited my paycheck in our joint account, and he took the bills off to work to (allegedly) pay them.  I had my "allowance" of what I could spend on going out and buying things for myself.  I don't think I need to detail how this was all a terrible idea, and how I'm never going to not have my own separate bank account again, no matter who I do or do not marry.  Sometimes, you live and learn.

Strangely enough, I've actually been a fairly successful adult, in spite of being mostly-unemployed for almost six months.  I am, quite frankly, impressed with myself.  I think that's allowed.

In some ways, it seems like the year has flown by.  I don't know where most weeks have gone.  I don't know how it got to be October.

But in other ways, I feel like it's been ages since I got divorced.  It feels like something long-ago that happened to someone else.  All the unbelievable, stranger-than-fiction things that happened seem like something I read in a book, not actual events that happened to me.

So, how did I celebrate my one year divorce-aversary?

By working my 13th day in a row, of course.

Sandi helped.
I may be celebrating my year of divorce, but that doesn't stop the rest of the world from getting married.  Nor should it.  In spite of being jaded and cynical as I might be, I truly like working weddings.  I remember a few months ago sitting at my desk, reading an e-mail from a bride-to-be, and being suddenly struck and amazed by the fact that some brides (most brides, really) are genuinely excited about getting married.  That their wedding day is one of the best days of their life.  That was suddenly amazing to me.  And depressing, all at the same time.  That's the way I should have felt about getting married, after all.  That's the way anyone should feel about it.

Instead, I feel that way about my divorce.

Last year, I celebrated in an entirely different manner.  I didn't find out about my finalized divorce until a week later, poetically, the day before I performed on stage for the 7th Annual Michelle Mynx Pole Dance Extravaganza.

Some of you may not know that I have been taking acrobatic pole dance classes for the past six years.  It was a decision I made after going to my first burlesque show years ago and seeing Michelle perform.  I knew immediately that it was something I wanted to do, even though I had never before seen anything like it.  It was a decision I didn't tell a lot of people.  For one, I worked for the church. Morality clause and all that.

For another, it was not a decision my ex-husband approved of.  At all.

The fact that I wanted to pole dance was a source of contention for most of my marriage.  We fought about what I could and couldn't wear, who I could and couldn't perform with, where and when I could and couldn't perform.  We fought about the fact that I bought shoes to perform and practice in.  We fought about the fact that I wanted to buy my own pole (with my afore-mentioned allowance).  I was only "allowed" to perform once-a-year at the yearly extravaganza/student showcase.  I wasn't "allowed" to take any costume piece off, even so much as a glove.  None of this was not open for discussion.  It had to be that way, because the fact that I pole danced in public, usually wearing more than most swimsuits, was somehow shameful.  I was told that if I ever took anything off on stage, he would drag me off of it.  It was a joke, but I knew that it really wasn't a joke at all.

But I persisted.  It was one of the few things I thought worth fighting about.  I am and always have been stubborn when I want to be.  I even won a few battles every now and then.  I performed when I could, took classes when I could afford it, fell off the pole during a performance and got back up and finished (after doing a cartwheel and landing on my knees in jazz hands).  And, along the way, I found a group of the best friends I could ever have asked for.  I've found self-confidence and support and love.  And even a few muscles.

From my first, and favorite, pole performance.

It was worth the fighting for what I gained, and I don't for a second regret deciding to start pole dancing.

I'm not saying I'm a great performer.  Far from it.  But I do it because I love to.  The pole community is a wonderful place where everyone is accepted and supported, where you can be any shape or size or gender.  You can be sexy or cute or funny, or all three at the same time, and no one cares.

It was really only fitting that I found out that I was officially divorced the day before last year's Extravaganza.  I had actually backed out of performing after going through the stress of my separation, divorce, and job loss.  But I performed a thrown-together routine at a Pole Kisses show a few weeks prior to the Extravaganza, and Michelle looked at me and said, "Why don't you just do that number?"

And so I did.

One of the things that I remember most about last year's show was standing in the wings, waiting to go on, and the host announcing that my divorce had just been finalized.  The cheer that went up (from some strangers, yes, but mostly from friends) was deafening.

And so, appropriately, I danced my way into my first days of being a divorcee.

I won't be dancing this year, regrettably.  It's my first year in six years that I'm not performing at the Extravaganza.  The reality of it was I don't have time.  And I hate it, but I know it was the right decision.  But it's still where I'll be Friday night, cheering on my friends and fellow pole dancers.

And you should be too.

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