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Failure is not a word that fits for much of life thanks to the judgment that oozes from it.
Have you ever heard someone say they felt like a failure because they were in the process of divorcing? Have you ever felt like that yourself?
Maybe you are, or were, in a marriage that didn’t work and couldn’t last. Maybe you tried desperately to keep it together or felt for a long time that something wasn’t right. Or maybe you were blindsided and shocked when your partner announced they were leaving and it was over. However your divorce began, you may have found yourself overwhelmed by pain, fear, grief and confusion.
Why would anyone judge this as if it were a grade on a report card? This is a situation where human beings are struggling to find their way. It is not a failure. It’s life and life is filled with choices and change, with loss and grace.
Often people say things happen for a reason. I would encourage you to take this one step further and create a reason for what happened. When you have sufficiently recovered from your divorce (or any life trauma), you can choose to grow, to learn, to make a difference in some way. You can make the choice to be more compassionate with yourself and with others and strive to heal and look to the future.
We are always falling down and getting up. We are always bumping into old thoughts and certainties that no longer fit us. The more we experience life, the more we reevaluate and change our perspectives.
It’s not failure. It’s growth, it’s change, it’s a gift.
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On Sunday I went the book launch of “Watershed Moments,” a compilation of stories from individuals who had overcome dramatic events that changed the course of their lives.
The events the authors described were filled with pain, fear, and anguish. Each shared how these seemingly “end of the world” experiences were simply the end of one world and the birthing of a new one.
If you’ve ever given birth or watched someone give birth, you know there is nothing simple about it. It’s not easy. It’s painful. It takes time to heal and to understand the magnitude of the miracle that has come into your life.
It was true for each of these authors. Their transitions were definitely not easy and often painful. It took time for them heal and to understand that a miracle had occurred and that their future was once more, or for the first time, filled with hope and possibilities.
I’ve heard people say we need to give up the stories of our past so that we can write a new one. After reading this book, I believe we should not give up these stories. They are a part of our history, and we need to honor them, for they have impacted who we have become. We may have found or regained our power, our voice, our courage. We may have deepened our faith. We may have become more authentic. We now stand as the heroine of our own story and in the process inspire others to do the same.
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I really didn’t want to write about Valentine’s Day this week, so I decided to write about last Saturday instead! I went out to breakfast with a group of kind, supportive women friends. We greeted each other with laughter and hugs, sat down at a large table, ordered our food and started talking. We shared stories of joy and grief, of clarity and confusion— conversations women have been having with each other for generations.
We had become a small, compassionate community sharing a meal.
Research shows that being part of a community helps us stay healthy and live longer, but often during divorce friends feel they have to choose sides and may drift away from us. Our community becomes fragmented and breaks apart, and we wonder if we will ever find a new one.
How do you find a new community?
The first step is to participate in life, even for short periods of time. Do something you love. You may want to take an art class, join a ski club or volunteer for a cause you believe in. If you are more adventurous, you will certainly want to try something new!
The second step is to be discerning. No matter how charming someone may be, trust your instincts, and don’t pursue a friendship with anyone you wouldn’t want to meet for breakfast and share heart-felt stories.
My Saturday morning might not have included the traditional Valentine’s Day chocolates or roses, but there was the sweetness of laughter and the fragrance of friendship which smelled a lot like fresh brewed coffee and great hash browns.
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My dream Sunday night was filled with such intense worry that I woke up overwhelmed by the feeling. I had been on a high bridge. There were people in the water far below struggling to stay afloat and those on the bridge were jumping in to help them. I decided to do the same, but at the last minute got very scared. It was a long way down and when I looked, I rationalized that I didn’t see people in the water, but just a large school of fish.
I jumped anyway.
Meanwhile another part of me stayed safely on the bridge and watched….and worried. “How could I do this? I wasn’t prepared. What had I done? I should have stopped myself from making this disastrous decision.”
Then I woke up, but the dream stayed with me.
I understand that sometimes I jump into things not fully prepared. I understand that when I get scared, I’m good at looking for excuses not to jump.
Like everyone else I have a strong voice in my head dedicated to protecting me. To that voice I say, “Thank you very much!”
But when does that voice block us from moving forward, from following our dreams, from jumping into the unknown?
How many of us decide to do something that we know is right and then doubt ourselves and spend all our energy worrying, rather than pursing the choice we have made. How can we remain whole and be informed by our worry without being limited by it? How do we keep the lines of communication open with ourselves?
I believe it begins by sitting quietly with ourselves and having one thoughtful, honest conversation at a time.
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“Look what he did to me!”
This became my mantra after my divorce when I was so miserable and broke. I repeated it often and each time I did, my friends gave me a hug and another dose of sympathy.
Then, in the middle the night, a voice as clear as a bell woke me from a deep sleep.
“Not acceptable, Bucko,” was all it said. It didn’t sound like the voice of an angel. I didn’t think angels used the word “Bucko,” but it worked.
It was time to take responsibility for my future, which seemed overwhelming, daunting and terrifying. Even so, I stopped looking at what he did to me and began deciding what I would do for myself. I went back to my previous job as a marketing director with Mary Kay Inc. but soon realized this career was no longer a fit for me. I tried again and decided to substitute teach. Once more, it wasn’t a fit. Next, I interviewed for a job in retail and when I didn’t get it, all I could was mutter “What’s going on?”
Each attempt exhausted me. Nothing seemed to be working. Yet every once in a while, in the midst of all my frustration, I saw a glimmer of hope— something that I wouldn’t have been able to see before. I saw something else that stunned me. By staying miserable and broke in order to gain sympathy, I had given control of my life back to my ex and that was certainly not a fair exchange at all.
Many of us have good reasons to be angry, resentful, miserable and it’s important to honor these feelings. When the time is right, it’s also important to honor the voice that lets us know it’s time to move forward. It may call you “Bucko” or “Sweetie Pie,” “Dear Heart” or “Hey You!” And whether it’s clear as a bell or a gentle whisper, please honor this call to move forward and experience the gifts that are waiting for you.
I eventually found my way. I have a career that brings me joy and fulfillment, I’m surrounded by people I love and respect and I continue to listen for the guidance of voice that called me “Bucko.”
I have been watching a wonderful woman struggle with the decision of whether or not to divorce. She’s made it very clear that whatever happens— if her marriage stays together or if it ends— she is determined to change.
I’m humbled and awed as I watch her give birth to her new self.
Giving birth is painful. The pain often feels like it will never end and we will not be able to bear it. It is also messy, an emotional roller coaster. Once it’s over, a new life is created for which there is no manual.
The most powerful thing we can do to protect this new life of ours is to speak our truth.
I do know amazing women who can’t even imagine not speaking their truth.
For those of us who have learned to be silent at an early age and for those who have been intimidated into silence, speaking our truth can be terrifying. If we say how we feel or what we want, someone will abandon us, humiliate us, rage at us or worse.
We become accomplished actors, smiling, laughing, staying busy with our lives, fooling others and ourselves into believing all is well.
When there is a crisis and we are pushed to go deep inside our hearts, we recognize that by not speaking our truth, our spirit has withered. What a tremendous loss. We understand that being silent is no longer an option. To protect the precious life we have birthed, we need to wrap it, swaddle it, in a blanket of truth, honesty, love, compassion and light.