Transitions: Advice for Maria Shriver
"Like a lot of you, I'm in transition," former California first lady Maria Shriver told thousands of YouTube viewers on March 28. "It is so stressful to not know what you're doing next. I'd like to hear from other people who are in transition... What are the three things that enabled you to get through your transition? After you transitioned, what do you wish you would have known? I wrote a book a long time ago, Ten Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Went Out Into The Real World Tell me some things you wish you would have known before you transitioned. Maybe it will help me."
It would not become clear how much of a transition this truly was until over a month later, when Shriver and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced they were separating.
"This has been a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us," they said said of their separation, adding: "After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion, and prayer, we came to this decision together."
On May 16, just a week later, Schwarzenegger publicly admitted that he had had an affair some ten years prior with household staffer Mildred Baena, with whom he had fathered a child. Not long after, it is said that Shriver placed high-powered divorce attorney and L.A. disso queen, Laura Wasser, on retainer.
It would later be reported that Shriver, who had her suspicions about the true identity of her housekeeper's son, directly confronted 50-year-old Baena and discovered the truth. Shriver took the information to Schwarzenegger, who did not deny it. This, according to sources, unfolded shortly before Baena retired in January, still several weeks before Shriver finally faced her YouTube audience and asked for advice on her transition.
Divorce is not easy, much less so divorce that comes with such a discovery. Knowing this and reflecting on your own divorce, breakup or other life changes, what words do you have for Maria Shriver?
Shortly after my ex-husband and I filed for divorce, I sat in my new apartment unpacking my things. It was the fifth day I had gone out to buy furniture, silverware, plates and other household items and I'd finally managed to triumph over the overwhelming feeling engendered by so many decisions and bought everything I needed. It wasn't easy -- walking through Bed Bath & Beyond, it was like every item was asking me, "Which of us fits your idea of sanctuary?" I don’t know. "OK, let's start with you, then," they seemed to reply. "Who are you?"
I didn't know that either. I'd been "us" so long, become so used to negotiating, that the freedom of choice was overwhelming. Even selecting bath towels felt like an insurmountable challenge.
I don't know why it was so important for me to define myself, why it wasn't enough to unpack what I had, procure what I needed and restart my life based on whatever my heart desired at that moment. I think the freedom terrified me -- and I didn't trust myself very much, either. I'd followed my heart, as the saying goes, and ended up in a situation so soul-destroying, to say I'd put my heart on restriction is an understatement.
I became practical, erected my own boundaries. Everything in my house was monochrome.
It would be a year before red broke the rule of black and white.
It's been a little over two years since my divorce was finalized and this is what I know: no metamorphosis occurs overnight. That's what this is. It's not that I had forgotten myself. It's that I had changed. Events and people change us, the same way heat and cold change the chemical composition of things. We are not the same we were before the marriage, nor are we the same we were during, and it is a gross injustice to our growth to try to be anything but the pupae that we are upon the end of this stage of our lives.
One day at a time. Be strong, but don't lock up your grief. Grief is a part of the chrysalis as much as determination and the drive to emerge.
Most importantly, don't be afraid if you don't know what you'll do next. Life, growth and metamorphosis are what happens while we're busy making other plans.
What about you -- what words do you have for Maria?
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.