My RV cramps- My gut check

To all my Girlfriends out there. 

I had the RV cramps.    

I’m not referring to that dreaded monthly cramping.  Neither am I referring to the nasty “charlie horse calf cramp” that startles you awake in the middle of the night.   

Stifled  

This Cramping was the: I’m-feeling-stifled-inside-450-SF-of-living-space kind.

Or you could call it:

I-need-a-space-in-our-rv-to-call-my-own-that-feels-rock-solid-and-I-don’t-have-to-pack-it-away-each-day-cuz-I-hate-clutter.

Yeesh.  John and I were 6 months into our world of full-time RVing being clobbered by surprise emotions.

Miss Crampi-poo had moved into our space, and I was not happy.  I needed (wanted) a quiet uncramped space to call my own. 

Back when…

Let me digress for a moment.

Back to the days when my life did not feel cramped.  

For me, the years were 2005-2010.

I was single.  

I was a divorcee.

I owned my own condo.  

ALL the room space was mine.  

This was my condo view:

My condo view of downtown Madison, Wisconsin

Yep, I was 47 when my husband left me for another woman.  (Nope, not going to slam my ex here). 

With my grown sons’ blessings, I moved 880 miles from Philadelphia to heal from my pain and be supported by my loving family.    

I bought a 2 bedroom condo in Madison, Wisconsin.  

My soft landing.  

Jasmine Tea

Back then, each morning, I stared at Lake Monona processing the pain of divorce.  

Crying.  

Praying.  

Repeating.

I drank Mighty Leaf Jasmine tea each morning. 

Each of my days began anchored in the only firm thing that remained in my life.  

My faith.  

I talked (ok, mostly yelling and sobbing) to God about my situation.  

I journaled about my crappy divorce.

I devoured words of comfort from the Bible. 

I sought out counseling and support to process my pain.

There were lots of other things that helped my healing but sitting on that comfortable couch having my quiet (uncramped) time felt safe.

This went on for several years. 

 Dating at 52

John and I have a great story of how we met, but I don’t have time to tell it here. The short version is that we knew each other for 3 years, worked side by side, and then fell in love.  (insert sighs…butterflies…happy face)

Gretty re-marries!  John moved in and Miss Crampi-poo-poo sneaks in.

John and I married in 2010.  With his condo sold, we settled into mine. We navigated the adjustment period pretty well, considering all the emotional baggage we hauled from our previous marriages.  

He cramped

Miss Crampi-do-do hid for the first year and a half of our marriage, but then she spoke in John’s voice.  He was feeling cramped in “my space”.  

I totally got that.

Shopping for a new condo commenced.  We bought OUR place.  

Now we each had our own ROOM for a solitary get-away and quiet time space.

Crazy new ideas

Now it’s time to get back to my original story. 

This is the part when John and I decided to pursue the adventurous dream to become full-time RVers.

We researched how other RVers lived together in close quarters- certain we would succeed. We discussed how to attain our own space and avoid Miss Crampi-no-no.  We dove into full-time RVing.  Our coach felt spacious compared to our tent.  We had become glampers. (glamorous camping).

What could go wrong?

Unexpected nosedive

We nosedived. And it wasn’t Miss Crampino’s fault.

Our coach was giving us constant problems.  

We were spending most of our time in RV repair shops with issue and breakages.

I was feeling overwhelmed.

We had no “normal” days.

The next 3 months we spent shopping for a new coach.

We decided to get rid of this RV and cut our losses…

We found our ideal used diesel pusher coach on February 11, 2015, made her our home…and guess who snuck in?  

Miss Crampi-poo-poo.

John seemed to be able to carry on his quiet time routine each morning. He has the gift of being able to tune out the “newness” going on around him. (Insert snarly face.)

Here’s a photo of his desk area.   

I

My “desk space” was the living room chair with a polka-dot bin next to it that held my laptop.  (The bin also held my Sodoku book, photo books, my Bible, 2 bottles of Torani’s coffee syrup, and a box of tissues.)  

 I tried writing on my laptop while sitting 4 feet away from John.  

I could hear him each time he cleared his throat.  When he giggled, I immediately wanted in on the funny joke. 

Now I was cramped and jealous of John’s workspace.   

May I rant some more? The rhythm of my day was non-existent, I couldn’t concentrate!

Un-Cramping…finally

John and I just passed the 24-month mark of being full-time on the road. I’ve passed near the flame of painful RV cramping and am finding solutions and less heat on the far side.  

What I learned:  

My self adorned need for my “own space” was unrealistic.  Of course, I felt Miss Crampi-doo-doo’s presence when I kept focusing on old solutions for a quiet time space in a 450 square foot coach!  Duh.

I didn’t need a big comfy chair to have my quiet time space.  

I needed a big comfy attitude adjustment.  

Is my Miss Crampino issue completely gone?  Did she get tossed in the RV resort dumpster?

No.  Of course not.  

I didn’t enter this RV lifestyle to have a condo on wheels.

I entered this lifestyle to enjoy the freedom that the road gives to John and me.  

I entered to live a life of adventure.

I can choose to focus on my growth, or I can turn into a crabby gal who isn’t mature enough to seek a new solution to issues like Miss Crampino. 

Adventure is not perfect

Some of my best memories of adventures have been wrought with challenges.

I’ve learned that adventures contain obstacles, require planning, hard work, include unexpected situations, and require solutions.  

New solutions are challenging.  

New solutions are humbling.   

New solutions are rewarding.  

My latest Adventure just happens to be named Miss Crampipoo.

Yes, she has given me challenges and obstacles, but in the end, she has ENLARGED my space…

No, not in my RV…

but in the space between my ears.

16 helpful tips to navigate holidays following divorce, separation, or break-up

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

It’s me, Gretty.  Have you had a recent relationship break-up?  Are you dreading the upcoming holiday season?

If so, this post is for you.  I’ve packed it with 16 practical tips to help you navigate your (potentially painful) upcoming holidays and anniversaries.

The worst pain ever

What makes me qualified to write about this topic?  Here it is.  In January of 2005, my ex-husband of 27 years, left me for another woman who was pregnant with his baby. 

It devastated me. 

When he walked out, a hole was ripped in my soul. It felt like open heart surgery without anesthesia. 

That first year sucked

Initially, I felt suffocated by memories surrounding me in Philadelphia.  I needed the healing love of my siblings to carry me through the devastation, so I moved to Madison, Wisconsin.    

As awesome as my family was for support, I needed a mentor.  In 2006 I reached out to my church for additional help.  I received a Stephen Minister, Betty, who met with me every week.  Her listening skills, empathy, and prayers were powerful.  After a year-and-a-half of snotty tissues, my tears stopped. 

I had processed the pain of abandonment and was on my way to healing. Betty steered me through unexpected emotional ambushes and showed me a healthy survival plan. 

DivorceCare* leader

The next year, 2007, I was asked (along with 11 other post-divorce individuals) to launch a DivorceCare class at our church. Each week our team met with dozens of people experiencing the trauma that comes with divorce or long-term break-up. 

I cannot begin to describe how thrilling it was to see change and healing in our attendees as they worked through the 13-week program. 

Here are some of the topics included in DivorceCare; Anger, Depression, Finances, Loneliness, New Relationships, and Sexuality.

Running into you

And now?  13 years later, I keep meeting so many of you!  Living our nomadic RV life doesn’t detour me from individuals who are surviving a break-up. 

I’ve met you at the dog park.  

We’ve met at author lectures.

You’ve stopped at my RV to ask about our coach.  

At one point I asked John, “Am I a divorcee magnet?”  But then it dawned on me (I shouldn’t be surprised) given these statistics: 

“In America, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. That’s nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces a year.” (McKinley Irvin Family Law)

Replacing Pain with a Plan

I hope the timing of this post helps you. 

Spending time attempting to pick up the shards of your broken relationship will wear you out and cut your fingers.  However, following a game plan for healing will focus your energies into areas you can control.  These 16 tips come from my own life experience and from a program called Surviving the Holidays* which is put out by DivorceCare.                                              

(To all friends and family members who want to help?  I posted “How to support your friend/family while they are reeling from a break-up.”  check it out.)

                                                   

1.  A New Normal.

Acknowledge things will not be the same.  You have a “new normal”.  Before your separation or divorce, holidays or family gatherings were probably full of traditions.  And your significant other was usually a part of the festivities.    

And now?  

That must change.  

Acknowledging that you have a new normal is a big head-start to healthy recovery.   

And I’m not talking about just Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah. 

2.  Hidden Holidays.  

Your holidays may not be other people’s holidays.  

For example the anniversary of your first date, your wedding anniversary, birthdays, the anniversary of your divorce, the day you first met, your first kiss, etc. These hidden holidays will bring stress if you don’t prepare a plan.  

  • Be proactive.  

  • Make a list of the hidden holidays coming up on your calendar.

  • Then circle them.  

  • Plan to give yourself a special treat that day.  

  • Be good to yourself during these holidays.  

  • Surround yourself with people who can lift you up and help you through.   

 3.  You will be surprised by the emotional roller-coaster.

If you just experienced a break-up, you might get blindsided by your emotions

Certain events, areas, smells, tastes, songs, and photos, might ambush you emotionally.  

  • Acknowledge these ambushes will happen.

  • Set realistic expectations for when you do get ambushed.  Don’t bottle up the tears when you hear a song that was your wife’s favorite.  Let it out.  Be kind to those emotions.  Honor them.

  • Don’t be surprised by the magnitude of your emotions.  They are new and might catch you off guard.  Acknowledge the intensity, knowing that this will pass.  

  • Be honest with people close to you about the reality of your pain.  Just saying those words will lift a weight off  you. 

4.  Don’t numb your pain.

Drugs, alcohol, involvement in a new relationship, spending sprees, gambling, and porn are some of the worst things you can do when you are going through the pain of a break-up.  When they wear off, your depression will be more intense, and you will have to deal with the guilt/consequences of your behavior.  

You don’t need that.  

5.  Have a Plan.

Take Christmas for example.   Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need to do this decorating for the holidays as I always have?  

  • Is it necessary to bake six varieties of cookies?

  • Do I need to send out Christmas cards?  

  • What is the most important thing to do this holiday?

  • How many items can I realistically do?  

  • How many do I not want to do?  

  • Do I have the energy to do this?  

  • Who could help me with this?  

  • Do I have the finances to do this

It’s OK to think selfishly.  

You cannot possibly operate at the same level that you used to.  

6. Intensive Care.

Remember this:  If someone was in the Intensive Care Unit with a physical ailment, would you expect them to do these tasks around the holidays?  

Of course not.  

Well, my friend, you too are in ICU.  

An emotional Intensive Care Unit.  

Your wounds may not be visible, but they are real and cannot be ignored.

Honor your wounds.    

7.  Make a budget.  

Be creative when it comes to your spending.  Don’t compete with your ex to buy a more extravagant gift.  Don’t spend money to numb your pain.

 8.  Arrange custody of the children for the holidays, or make a plan for your grandchildren.

Your new tradition may require celebrating on a different day of the week than you are used to.  Be flexible.  

Do not celebrate together with your ex.  Ask yourself what the motivation is behind this thought.

To flaunt?  

To secretly get back together?

It may create false expectations and hopes for the children or family members.  

9.  Choose friends wisely.

Same-sex friends are the safest.  Don’t hang around people who wear you out.  Don’t hang around people who might tempt you to do something you may regret later.  

10.  Help your children prepare for the holidays.

Sit them down and talk it out.  No surprises for them. Give them several days to digest what you talked about.  A few days later, discuss it again to see if they understood the initial conversation.  

Remember, they too are grieving.  

11.  Traditions:  Old vs. New.

Take it slowly with this area.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  

You are exhausted emotionally.

Don’t set unrealistic expectations.  Talk over traditions with your family to see what is really important for you to retain or to reinvent.  

For me, my son’s were 21 and 23. It was a bit easier to create new traditions for Christmas since they were adults. Since I lived in another state from them, my focus was on creating our new holiday traditions.  

Be creative with new traditions. Go visit a nursing home and sing carols with the elderly. Use your vacation time to travel over the holiday. Plan to help others who may need you.  It always feels good to help someone else even when you are hurting.  

12.  The trouble with Isolation.  

Again, be kind to yourself.  Be aware of what you are doing.  

Are you intentionally isolating yourself from people?  

How long has it been since you interacted with people?  

Is this behavior unusual for you?  

If you are sleeping patterns change, contact your doctor and seek medical advice for possible depression.

13.  H.A.L.T.

We tend to have the most negative thoughts about ourselves when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  Be aware that you are more susceptible during H.A.L.T.  You are grieving.   

  • Make sure you are eating regularly.  

  • Know that you might have sudden bursts of anger especially when you are tired.  

  • Being alone is not unhealthy.    

  • Loneliness can be an unhealthy thing.  Talk with someone about your loneliness.  Just because your significant partner is no longer around does not mean you are half a person.  You are still a whole person.

  • Make sure that you get enough sleep each night.  You may need to take a sleeping pill during your months of transition.  I know I did.    

14.  Handling uncomfortable situations.

Your friends may not know what to say, or they may ask you personal questions about the break-up.  

Be prepared with an answer to their queries.  You are free to say “I don’t want to talk about that right now”, or, deflect the question back to them by asking them why they want to know?  Go to social events with friends who know the situation.  Give your hostess or host a “heads up” that you might need to back out of the commitment if you don’t have the energy.  

15.  If you are alone on the holiday.

Give yourself a special treat.  Make a plan as soon as you know that you are going to be alone for a holiday.  Stick with your plan.  Impulsive last-minute decisions may make it worse. Remember, the day is only 24 hours long.  You’ll get through.

16.  Sign up for a support group like DivorceCare.  

Join with others who are on a healing path.  The workbook, videos, and topics led by professional counselors are fantastic.  Click on DivorceCare or Surviving the Holidays* to find a group in your area. 

I hope these strategies have been helpful. Please let me know.  

I care about you.  You are not alone.

Feel free to privately contact me:

grettyemmerich@gmail.com

*I would like to acknowledge and humbly thank DivorceCare for granting me permission to share their information on Surviving the Holidays.