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.
I believed I had good self esteem. If not good, it was adequate. It got me by and I believed making it through my divorce proved I could handle anything.
But it turns out that when there is a new challenge and life expects me to be something more than who I think I am, I freeze. I hope that if I ignore the situation, it will go away. I remind myself of my cats, who think if they don’t look at something, it’s not there.
When I finally look at this new “challenge,” I begin to rationalize. “I don’t have enough self esteem to handle this, so I have to stay right where I am. I’ll sit with a cup of tea, get stressed, get acid reflux and watch Judge Judy so I can feel superior to a few random people.” Eventually, I get angry (thank goodness)!
When I rode horses, I didn’t have the self esteem to compete, but I did have the love of riding and the passion and drive to do it. So, I did. At first, I competed embarrassingly badly. But there were people who picked me up and dusted me off, often literally. My self confidence grew as I became a better rider, but more importantly, so did my self esteem. I learned I would survive mistakes and embarrassment. I learned that those things don’t define me any more than winning a blue ribbon defined me.
I believe self esteem doesn’t come from reading self-help books, though they can help.
I believe self esteem doesn’t come from meditating, though it helps.
I believe self esteem comes from walking out the door and living your life.
Each step and each misstep will feed your self esteem and it will grow. You will learn more about who you are and be amazed. You will be more compassionate to others, understanding that, like each us, they are doing the best they can. Your life will be filled with confusion and joy, messes and celebrations, mistakes and miracles. What could be better?
The following is a guest post by Jennifer Beckman of Beckman, Steen & Lungstrom.
Getting a divorce may feel like an overwhelming process, as if you’re drowning in a sudden wave of decisions. You might not know where to start, especially when you are also trying to take care of yourself emotionally. Keep in mind that you don’t have to walk through this process alone and your attorney will help you through your divorce process.
These five questions will help you make sure the attorney fits you and your needs.
1. How often do you mediate cases and how often do you take them to trial?
Asking this question will give you an idea of how the proceedings will go, and if they will go in a way you want. Whichever method you think will work better for your case, you will want to make sure the attorney is well versed in that method.
2. What good and bad points do you see with my case?
This might be a tough question to ask, but it is a great way to test how forthright the attorney is. You want to feel like you can trust the attorney to give details plainly to you.
3. How do my opinions and input factor into the decision-making process?
You might want your opinions to have a high input in the decisions, or you might want someone else to take more control in order to help lift some of the burden from you. Either way, you will want to make sure the attorney matches what you want.
4. How/what will you charge me?
This questions is important, especially since you’ll need to evaluate what your financial situation will be after the divorce. It might be hard to think about this post-divorce future, but it’s important to make sure the attorney’s price fits your needs and won’t put you in a hole afterwards.
5. How will you communicate with me?
This questions will give you a clear picture of whether or not the attorney will communicate in a way that works best for you. It will also show you how flexible they are. Phone calls and emails are pretty standard means of communication, but maybe those don’t work best for you. Do they text? Do they make Skype calls? It’s important to feel like your attorney will work with your preferences to make sure you stay well-informed.
During divorce, we often lose many things, including our sense of who we are and our dreams for the future. We lose the path we have been on for so long and can begin to feel like we are wandering in a dark forest or floating alone in a vast ocean without an anchor or sense of direction.
Along with all these life changing loses, we also lose stuff. As shallow as this makes me sound, I do like stuff!
In my mind, there are two categories of stuff. The first category includes a roof over my head, a furnace, running water, a tooth brush, toilet paper, a refrigerator and all the other things we feel are necessities of life, that millions of others do not have.
The second category includes the cute pairs of shoes, a stylish outfit or two, a piece of nice furniture and an inspiring piece of artwork.
But I had a problem. I believed people would judge me by my choice of stuff, so I needed to have stuff they would like, too (I did my best to ignore all the things advertisers told me I needed in order to be happy, successful and loved; I was confused enough without input from them!).
I did not lose all my stuff during my divorce, but I lost enough to make me realize how much my life was defined by it and how much I defined myself by it. At first I was frightened, then angry, then blaming and finally, embarrassed. Why do I feel I can’t recognize myself without stuff?
“Time to grow up sweetie!” I whispered to myself.
Stuff is fun and can bring joy and beauty into our lives, but it does not define us. We have the privilege of doing that ourselves. Stuff is not a substitute for meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. Stuff we do treasure can be found in unexpected places. I have a rock collection I love, simply from looking where I’m going.
Where are you going? What stuff will you leave behind? What will you treasure?
The following is a guest post by Joan Steffend with an introduction written by our founder, Barb Greenberg.
Are there days you feel you don’t quite fit into your life, that you have lost your way or lost your footing? Are there times you feel you are trying so hard and nothing seems to work out? Do you sometimes doubt your value?
Please know you are not alone. Someone recently told me to consider these feelings as “growing pains.” They remind you to pause and to reevaluate. In doing so, you will “grow” into a new understanding and relationship with your life. Please be patient and remember you have more value, more relevance, than words can express. May these words from Joan Steffend comfort you:
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word relevant. Was I? Am I? Could I be? Is it important?
What does it mean? That there’s a place for you.
What does that mean? That you fit in this world, perfectly, just as you are.
What does that mean? That you can let go of the struggle.
What does that mean? That life rises up to support you.
What does that mean? That you can relax.
You are relevant, even if others don’t see it or know it.
That is enough.
You are enough.