My "Hell Yes!" Moment Didn't Happen Overnight

July 3, 2024

My "Hell Yes!" Moment Didn't Happen Overnight

May 29, 2023

Chip’s Note: Like Debra’s guest post yesterday, you know when a relationship is over and you have three choices: make the best of it and stick around, distract yourself with other passions, or leave even though that may be the hardest of those three decisions.

The answer to Chip’s blog post “Are You Better Off Happy & Single Than Unhappy & Married?” is now a “Hell Yes!” for me. When I finally decided to separate, I was 58. With 60 staring me in the face, life was too short to be this unhappy. My spouse was starting to have medical problems, brought on by years of heavy drinking, which he refused to address. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being his caregiver if he wouldn’t even take the first steps toward living a healthier lifestyle. 

Also, I secretly hoped that serving legal papers would be a wake-up call. It wasn’t. Furthermore, while my compartmentalization skills were being perfected, the negative and angry person inside was becoming harder to avoid. I also had to accept that I was setting a negative example for my children by staying in an unfulfilling relationship for their sake. As it turned out, my attempted brave face didn't fool them, and we were all relieved when it was finally done.

The scariest part was the potential for financial devastation. I was the highest wage earner by a significant amount. No fault divorce may have been good for women in the past, but if you are the higher wage earner, it’s a nightmare. My attorney told me I would likely have to pay him support. Our house would be sold, pensions split – mine worth quite a bit more. 

I recalled my first public sector job working around cops and DAs, both of which have very high divorce rates. I thought “Why are these old people still working?” I discovered that to get those pension years back, which were often part of a divorce settlement, they had to keep working. One cop told me he gave his ex the house rather than split his valuable pension. 

So, I reluctantly added working several more years to my financial misery pile. It was not easy to get back to the “Hell Yes!” moment I had when I started this journey. After spending many, many sleepless nights and having a few anxiety attacks, I finally got there. Stuff is just stuff, and while I would likely pay dearly for my freedom, I felt confident it would be worth it.

The series of events that unfolded over the next several months couldn’t be predicted, but suffice it to say that I’m ok, and being free is awesome. I’m rarely angry anymore. Thanks to my life-changing experience in Baja, I'm building a community of friends and family, including many cohorts from my MEA class, to combat loneliness and share experiences. I often think of the line from a Bonnie Raitt song, “Life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste.” The refrain in the song whispers “Scared you’ll run out of time.” Thank God I didn’t. 

-Denise

Denise Vedder attended MEA in Baja in March 2023. She recently retired from a 30-plus year career in public affairs, where she primarily worked in the public sector. In 2019, she was named the San Diego Public Relations Professional of the Year.

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