A while back we introduced you to Kimberly Garner who lived in a beautiful home in the San Juan Islands. In her essay, Kimberly talked a bit about how she was recently divorced. It turns out that Kimberly sold that gorgeous home and is off on a new adventure. I wanted to reach out to hear and see her new place (Kimberly’s style is effortlessly chic and inviting) and to hear how life was going, post divorce. Kimberly once again is smart and wise and really pours her heart out. Welcome back, Kimberly.

It’s been exactly a year since our divorce. We’ve charted a new course as a family and as individuals. I don’t consider us unique to this wilderness called divorce. It’s raw and honest and exposes so much that we don’t want seen or felt and at the same time offers so much we might not otherwise know about the fabric of who we are and what we’re capable of on so many levels. Our children are evermore the nucleus of our “modern family”. They know this in their bones, I’m not sure there’s anything more important. We still feel like a family.

Now, 12 months later, I see the breadth of divorce in a way only hindsight offers. To call it good or bad is misguided. Uncomfortable? For sure! Unfortunate? That’s a matter of perspective. If I could press rewind, I believe I’d still be right here, one year post divorce. But I couldn’t have imagined then where I’d be today. 

Adulting. Adulting alone the last year has been harder than I thought…and easier. Sometimes, I just want someone else to be the boss of me and tell me what to do. I’ve never been like that before — I used to consider myself a pretty solid Type A control freak. That’s changed over the last year. I feel my grip softening in ways I couldn’t predict.

Now I’m more of a Type Q. I don’t even know what other personality types exist beyond Type A, but Q feels right, so I’m sticking to it. The easier part of my year post divorce is tricky to speak of. I know all the sisters and brothers of joint custody divorce know what I’m about to speak to and it feels a bit taboo and tragic, but here goes… I finally have balance in my life. 

The kids alternate weeks between me and Dan which we find works much better for them. They didn’t do well with all the transitions of the 2-2-5-5 scenario. I miss my kids during the alternating weeks they’re with Dan, but since we’re so close I see them often during the “off” week.

Here’s the thing, my life finally feels balanced. That makes me happy and sad. If my life pre-divorce had offered a semblance of the balance I have now, I think I would have been much happier and more grounded. Who knows what that could have meant for our marriage?

But if I could wave my magic wand, I would create a way for married moms, dads and ESPECIALLY stay at home moms to have alone time on a consistent and durable basis. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving.

In the beginning of December I decided to sell my house. I’d been considering selling since the divorce for a few reasons, but was quite conflicted at the same time. The house is beautiful, tons of windows, high ceilings, pastoral views, privacy and the location was primo, next to almost 2000 acres of old growth forest with endless trail running. And the kids weren’t exactly keen on the idea of moving with all the changes.

So I just postponed making the decision — not to mention it’s really challenging to find a place to purchase or rent here, so delaying the process meant less stress for the time being.

But it was becoming really clear inside me I needed to sell. My spirit was beckoning a freedom my memory had forgotten possible. I wanted to feel what it would be like to not be stressed, to not have my life dictated by the demands of the property, both practical and financial.

Ultimately, I wanted to give myself some space to do what I love, to play, to have fun, to reset my mind and lifestyle. I was so caught up in the have to’s and should do’s and selling the house was my way of creating enough space to allow a positive shift. This was the real driver for selling. 

For the last year, I’ve been saying half jokingly, “I’m just throwing myself off cliffs!”. For the most part, it’s true. I’m listening to my inner whisper gather volume and finding it unbearable to ignore. I’m letting this part of me lead right now, even though I’m typically a pretty logical and practical person.

So without having a plan or a place to move, I decided: sell the house. I told two people, a friend who’s a real estate broker and a girlfriend. Within 48 hours I received an offer I was told I’d be “insane” to refuse. So I didn’t even counter, I said “yes”.

I had no idea where the kids and I were going to live next and the closing was set for 6 weeks… and did I mention finding any sort of housing on the island is ridiculously difficult, whether buying or renting?!

This is about the time I wished for another human being to help me adult life. And for the first time in my life, I found myself just wanting someone else to be the boss of me, someone else to make the decisions and just tell me what to do. That’s not really my style, but my style is changing.

The relief just in making the decision to sell the house was changing me. Minus the logistical stress, I felt good — really good. My binary codes were beginning to find stasis just knowing change was coming.

We were leading up to the holidays. The kids and I were heading to Florida to visit my family for ten days, then I had a huge deadline which took another ten days of burrowing in my house filming, writing and editing all day. Then, I had 2 weeks to pack up my 2800+ sq.ft. house. Insane? Indeed.

It’s interesting the process of moving. The layers. First it’s logistics, then the sadness of leaving the place which held so many memories. It’s like a death of sorts or saying goodbye to a friend you know you’ll never see again. I didn’t ask for help.

My friends offered to help me pack, which speaks volumes about them because let’s face it, packing is a pain in the butt! But it’s also a really cathartic process and I didn’t want to rob myself of the experience.

I had no idea how much my house held the old stories, the sadness, the disappointment, the things we couldn’t take back. Our story was steeped in the walls, in the view, in the coming and going. The place was rich with narrative and so much of it was beautiful and equally painful. 

I’m happy I packed the boxes, listened to what showed up, felt all of it. Moving was moving and insightful — I was really proud of myself, too! I packed up almost the entire house, labeled the boxes so well that when the movers arrived it only took us 3 hours to move almost the entire house into 2 storage units.

Then came the last 20% of my possessions and I use that word intentionally. It’s like the first 80% of my things I packed up so diligently and cheerily were my belongings and the last 20% of my things were my possessions. Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! It took me 5 days to figure out what to do with the last 20%. It was a pain in the ass. I gave stuff away, I threw stuff away and I had a huge burn pile.

I gave myself a light at the end of the tunnel, which was a surfing trip for myself and the kids in Costa Rica to celebrate our new beginning, and something exciting to look forward to with the new round of changes.

Now that I’m out of the house, I realize how much the space held a story which is no longer true, and it perpetuated some of the pain it held from a really difficult time in my life, all of our lives. I didn’t realize it was still there, but how could it not be.

During the process, sometimes I’d wonder if I was making a mistake, even though in my gut I knew it was right on target. Now that I’m on the other side, I feel the freedom of the burden the house held, the memories the walls silently echoed. As much as I love love love that home and the property, I’m so happy to let it go and nurture someone else’s story.

I realized it made a lot of sense to rent, not only were there no homes on the market I wanted to call my own, I needed a little time and space to not make big decisions. I figured this would also serve as a little pause button and give me time to recalibrate, decompress and consider what’s next. My hope? I’d experience a new freedom renting — to see what comes up, what slips away, what’s important, what’s no longer important, end the pressure, give space to what’s innately me, and breathe more oxygen into that, whatever “that” is.

Something always fills the new space after a big change and I was curious what would come, what perspectives might shift.

I ended up finding my little pause button rather quickly. A fellow designer suggested I stay at her mom’s home for the three months while she and her husband winter in their home in Mexico. The short term rental didn’t quite fit the idea of stability I was hoping for, but when I met her mom (also a designer) and experienced their home and property, I felt all green lights with a little pixie dust to boot!

We became fast friends, like soul sisters, you know the sort, like “where have you been my whole life? It’s so good to finally see you again!” Their home is a true sanctuary inside and out.  So without having to think a second about it, I said “yes!”. 

My work has everything to do with sanctuary and what happens in our life when our home not only matches our values, but also aligns with our dreams. The fact that I get to experience a place that exudes so much spirit and soul makes my heart smile every moment I’m there. It’s the best gift I’ve received and better than anything I could’ve dreamed up for myself.

I’m recognizing the deeper ways home influences me — really all of us. It’s in the leaving of home and creating another that this comes shining through so clearly. The kids and I packed like we were going to be living in a vacation rental, yet it was really important for all of us the house feel like home. So I brought my plants, Moroccan rugs, mud cloth pillows, Hmong textile pillows, the kids art supplies, French salts, my meditation pillow and yoga props. The kids brought their favorite book collections, stuffed animals, matryoshka dolls and Green Bay Packers helmet.

This home feels deeply feminine. It begs simply being, time just melts away.  We spend a lot of time on the sofa, reading, looking at travel books, planning future adventures together. The home is really holding each of us; it feels nurturing and loving. The kids spend hours reading on their bean bags in front of the wood stove or drawing at the kitchen table.

This home is reminding me of how I want to live, what’s important to me, and things I forgot about myself. I love chopping wood and making fires in the wood stove. I love the quiet moments in front of the window doing dishes — I’m actually happy there’s no dishwasher!

Functionally, the home is really sensible and indulgent at the same time. It’s teaching me how to live, how to soak up moments. For instance, there are candles in every room and lots of them.  I can’t think of anything more sensuous than candlelight.

This home speaks to connectedness. I describe it as a Moroccan riad meets Mexican casita. The bedrooms open up to the living area below. The landscape is brought into the experience of each room with all the large windows.

There are so many elements I’m still taking in not just because of the care to the details but because this home speaks a vivid story and it’s a story of love, of friendship, of capturing moments and being present. It’s full of intention and care. It feels like home and we love it. Whatever comes next for us will be inspired from our experience of this place.

On the outside, my life looks mostly the same, yet on the inside I am durably happier than I’ve been since I was a child, I like me — I finally really love me and all my messy. It sounds so crazy to admit, but it’s true.

I honestly have no idea what’s around the corner, but I do know I’m going to base all of my decisions on what feels right and what’s helping me and my family move in the direction of the life I want to live. Would I change anything? No way. Over the last year I’ve swung between dark despair and dazzling surprise. Today I carry a resilience and emotional sovereignty I didn’t know possible. It’s good and it was worth every ounce of groveling effort and hopeful resolve. 

What do I know to be true now? Loving your self is the foundation of a good life, no matter what that life looks like. Once I began to love myself, on the outside nothing changed, yet everything changed. That’s what I want for everyone. When we love our self and our life, everyone wins.

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Thank you, Kimberly! What a thoughtful and beautiful piece. There really is so much power in letting go of baggage, even when that baggage is things that you love, like a beautiful home. I loved when Kimberly said, “I realize how much the space held a story which is no longer true and it perpetuated some of the pain it held from a really difficult time in my life, all of our lives.” That is so wise! When we enter a new chapter in life, we need to let go of the things that connect us to the old chapter.

I’m a divorcee myself and I really appreciated Kimberly speaking so honestly and frankly about life post divorce. It is depressing and scary and exhilarating all at once. And even when a divorce is absolutely the right thing to do, it is still hard. I’m so glad Kimberly describes the emotional resiliency she learned as she’s gone through this process. She describes her happiness now as “durable” and I think that is something we can all work towards.


You can follow Kimberly on Instagram or check our her website. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com