This is an op ed piece. In it Whitney discusses the topic of stressful triggers, primarily divorce and moving. She then shares her personal life experiences in dealing with these two stressors. This article is purely based on her experiences and opinions. Although it addresses heavy topics, she tries to bring levity to these stressors now that she’s on the other side of them.
Human nature is such that year after year, people tend to anxiously anticipate the New Year, all hopped up about how they’ll abandon their negative habits in favor of adopting only healthy and admirable new ones. Of course, come 12:01am January 2, a large majority of those mere mortals have already deserted their New Year’s resolutions and reverted to their lifelong, less positive practices.
No one is to blame, really, as those of us made of flesh-and-blood are fallible. As the 18th century English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “to err is human…”
Those words were very much in mind while I was browsing the web recently, musing over my past year or two. I coincidentally came across what I thought was both a funny and apt article on verywellmind.com: What Are the 5 Top Stressors in Life? Among life’s most stressful events, death, divorce, and moving rounded off the top three. The headline struck a particular chord with me because as of two years ago, I’ve been dealing an awful lot with two of the three topics.
Let me take you back to 2022 to explain: After numerous months of making plans, phone calls, and many, many prayers (all under cloak-and-dagger conditions unbeknownst to my then-husband) I summoned the courage to leave him. This bold move coincided with my turning 50, a gentle-as-a-bulldozer-nudge from my bestie (for which I will be forever grateful), and an overdue epiphany that I did not have to put up with being treated, in my opinion, poorly day after day.
That revelation led to undercover plans coordinated with my bestie and superhero-of-a-middle-sister, who flew up to the Hudson Valley in a flash with my likewise-superhero-of-a-brother-in-law. It was April 29, 2022. My sis and bro-in-law grabbed a couple of state troopers from the Dover barracks for good measure and arrived “unexpectedly” at my front door to ensure my safety as I fled my home of 20 years. We grabbed a few essentials, squeezed everything we could into an SUV, and about an hour later the three of us hit the road – headed toward what I knew would be a happier future.
It certainly came as a shock to my ex when those troopers knocked on our front door, especially when he saw my sister and her husband standing behind them. However, I can’t remember ever feeling so happy as when I turned to my then-husband to say, “We have to talk.”
Time to move
After 20 years of mostly-married-misery, Freedom Day had finally arrived! Many expressed their sorrow to me upon learning I was filing for divorce, and my response was always the same: Insistence that they wish me congratulations!
Leaving my marriage was the best decision I ever made, and the day I left my husband was the happiest of my life.
My exodus led me south to Tallahassee, FL. I moved in with my loving sister and her incredible family, making me more joyful and content than I’d been in years. That was move number one.
On my 50th birthday, my BFF since second grade visited. She immediately put me on Facebook, reintroducing me to the world and to old friends. I instantly reconnected with people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. One of them was Jason, the man with whom I am now deeply in love. We’ve known each other since fifth grade, even going to the same summer camp in the Poconos. I was actually his very first crush, and every year I would think about when he gave me a chocolate heart for Valentine’s Day.
Our messaging on Facebook quickly turned into calls, which would last for hours. Those calls soon turned into a flight from Tally to Ft. Lauderdale. Flights soon turned into my moving further south, to Broward County. That was move two.
The three of us made a happy home. Yes, I said three, as I finally had a pet again. I quickly adopted Jason’s dog, Bailey, as my own – something that made my heart swell with joy.
I felt like a teenager again, happier than I’d been in my entire adult life, experiencing the world and doing things with someone who enjoyed my company and respected me and my ideas. We loved spending time together and exploring both old haunts and new spots. That wouldn’t last forever, though, as after several months, Jason transferred his business to the Treasure Coast. That was move three.
On the road again
So, here we are, having now set up another house together, but this time from scratch as a couple. It was rather fun doing so, I must admit. While the article I read describes moving as one of life’s main stressors – and don’t get me wrong, I can absolutely understand why with the logistics and the boxes and the amount of stuff (I mean, how does one accumulate so much stuff?) – moving with Jason was not nearly as stressful as moving with any other person on the planet would or could be like for me. I think that’s just because I was and continue to be so excited, so genuinely happy, at the prospect of sharing my life and my living space with him (and Bailey, of course!).
We have move number four planned in the near future, as we merely rented this first year to get a feel for the community and to see which areas in the Treasure Coast we prefer and where we’d like to plant roots permanently. You may want to check in with me after that move to see if I’m still so rosy-eyed, as my belongings seem to have tripled after my property was shipped down from New York post-divorce!
The biggest stressor
That, of course, leads me to what was really the greatest stressor of 2023: the divorce itself. My ex was neither cooperative nor communicative throughout. When initially served, he refused to grant me the divorce. Thankfully, New York is a no-fault state, meaning his refusal was merely ceremonial.
Yet his obstinacy caused delays, frustration, and expense. What could have been completed within a couple of months took nearly two years. I would not be surprised if it also took decades off my life considering the sleepless nights, angst-ridden days, and uncharacteristic rageful outbursts peppered in between. Happily, that’s all behind me.
These days I can grab the stress ball purchased for Jason for Chanukah, perhaps with great foresight, and take a deep sigh of relief. Most importantly, I can scratch divorce off life’s most stressful events list.
Those who know me well have heard me say time and again that “I ain’t no mathematician,” but let me make a quick calculation.
Divorce can be checked off the list, and we can certainly check off moving. I guess that means I’ve only got to face down death to make it three for three. If the powers-that-be are by any chance reading this, since I’ve only just found my true love late in life, perhaps you could give us a little extra time on that last one? Thanks! •