If you want a happy life after divorce then you have to let go of the past.
That’s true regardless of the circumstances that led to the end of your marriage and it’s true for all of us. We all learn things about ourselves in this process. We learn about our values, our beliefs, our choices. And, if we do the self-work, we understand where they came from and if they are serving us or hurting us. This is our baggage. We all have it. And some of it has to go.
Author, Antonia Ragozzino calls this process “taking out the trash.” Antonia recently published her second novel, Taking Out The Trash: Garbage In … Garbage Out. The main character is Ella and Antonia used her own first-hand experiences after divorce to help Ella sort out her trash.
Listen in to my Conversation with Antonia Ragozzino to hear what was the hardest piece of trash for Antonia, the most significant and the most surprising.
Letting Go Is Constant
Recognizing and letting go of your past baggage is an on-going process. It doesn’t end. This surprised Ragozzino who didn’t expect to write a second novel around the topic. However, she says, you never stop taking out the literal trash so this is no different.
“You’re constantly just re-evaluating, making new decisions and new choices,” said Ragozzino.
Ragozzino came up with ‘taking out the trash’ as an analogy for letting go because it was her husband’s chore when they were together, and she hated doing it.
“When he left, I had to do it myself,” said Ragozzino. “It was just a reminder of everything that fell apart.”
The Most Significant Piece of Trash … Learning To Be Alone
The trash that had the most impact on Ragozzino was rejecting the stigma of being alone. There’s an expectation that if you’re single after a certain age, then you’re not doing very well or that you would be better if you met someone. That’s just not true.
“I looked very settled,” said Ragozzino. “I was smart. I had a terrific job, great income, a very full life with family and friends. I needed to take that trash out of my head that there was something wrong with me because I was divorced.”
Getting comfortable being alone takes work since it’s not something most of us are used to or expect. There’s lots of popular music written essentially portraying you as a loser for being alone. Sam Cooke’s 1963 single “Another Saturday Night” later recorded by Jimmy Buffett is a classic example. Ragozzino said that all had to go in the trash so she could start loving herself which she knew she had to do before she could love anyone else.
Are You Pressuring Yourself?
She was feeling pressured because it felt like everyone else around were buying homes and having babies. Turning up single to holiday events made her feel mediocre and like she needed to hurry up and get married and have children.
“Then I realized the trash in my head was my worst enemy because none of them were looking down on me,” said Ragozzino. “It was just something that was swirling around in my head.”
For Ragozzino, getting comfortable being alone meant intentionally staying home alone on Saturdays, finding her own hobbies, eating by herself, cooking and feeling good about it. On Sunday mornings she would wake up and think about what a great evening she’d had.
Once she was happy and confident on her own, she started to go out solo. That included joining dinner parties with other couples and going to weddings without a plus one. She was able to make the best of any situation being alone.
The Hardest Piece Of Trash … Not Having Children
All Ragozzino ever wanted was to be a mom.
“I was trying so hard to hurry up and find someone so I could be a mom and have the baby and experience motherhood,” said Ragozzino.
Once she felt strong and independent, Ragozzino started to feel that she could handle being a single mother.
“Finally, I just stopped thinking about it,” said Ragozzino. “I just took it out with the trash and said, if it was meant to be, it’ll be and if it’s not, I’m OK with it.”
She wasn’t going to have a child quickly with someone who she didn’t feel was right for her. Fortunately, her friends and family were very supportive. They emphasized that she had a great life without being mother. Even her old-fashioned Italian father was all about her not getting married again so was protective in the opposite direction to what might have been expected.
Once Ragozzino felt she was too old to have a baby or be a single mom, she had to make sure she was OK with it. She’s now in a relationship and believes it would not have been possible had she not taken out all her trash.
“I just had to learn how to accept my life as it is and to be OK rather than make any more rash decisions because society expected me to be something that I wasn’t ready to be,” said Ragozzino.
The Most Surprising Piece Of Trash … Not Needing A Man
While Ragozzino had come to see she could thrive being on her own, she didn’t realize how desperately she was still looking for a man. She was still taking time to say yes to invitations to go out on a date with anyone who asked. She wasn’t filtering the requests. She was still of the mindset that going out on a Saturday night was better than staying home.
“I had to take that out with the trash,” said Ragozzino. “I would rather be alone on a Saturday night, happy with myself watching lifetime television for women, washing my hair and peaceful, than being with people who are subpar in my book.”
Taking Out The Trash Has To Be Intentional
Ragozzino recommends making a daily practice of self-reflection to really work on re-wiring your brain. It’s a choice. It’s about thinking what made you happy today, what is holding you back, what you want to keep, what is bringing you joy?
You might start noticing other people’s trash and Ragozzino says the best strategy is to say nothing.
“I see people who need to take some trash out, they hide the trash in back, they tuck it away in their head,” said Ragozzino. “They’re out there pretending to be happy making everyone think they have this great life. We just have to be realistic. We all have trash. No one is 100 percent fairy tale but just say nothing.”
My guest for this Conversation was author Antonia Ragozzino. Her second novel Taking Out The Trash: Garbage In … Garbage Out which follows the main character, Ella as she continues to sort out the trash from her divorce.