Image copyright: 123rf/Pop Nukoonrat
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.
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.
It started with the upstairs hallway light. Sometimes it worked, but in the evenings, it didn’t. I had to use the light from my cellphone as I went up the steps to make sure I didn’t trip on a cat.
Next, the light that hung over my kitchen sink was positioned in such a way that the bulb was exposed and glared right at me. I switched to a bulb with the lowest possible wattage, which eased the glare and made my kitchen look clean.
Finally, my dining room light fixture simply stopped working.
The brightness in my home had slowly faded and I had adjusted. Dim light and shadows now become normal.
It never occurred to me that I had spent years living in the shadows of my own life. How often had I dimmed my personal light? Did it start when I trusted the words of others, telling me I was not quite good enough? Did I ever believe in myself? I can’t remember.
After a handyman fixed the hallways and kitchen lights and put in a new dining room fixture, I was shocked. The rooms glowed. I asked him if it was supposed to be this bright, and, of course it was.
And so it is. When you decide to let your light shine, it can be startling. It surprises you and you wonder, “Can I really be that brilliant?”
The answer is “Yes! You can!” Your family and friends want to see your light. The world needs your light.
It turned out that the old dimmer switch in the dining room no longer worked. I love the thought that once you allow your light to shine, the old issues and old patterns have lost their power. Your light can no longer be dimmed. How great is that!
Image copyright: 123rf/Songquan Deng
Recently, I spent a morning with my family in the national park that protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America,
Walking through rugged terrain under a clear blue New Mexico sky, we could see designs and symbols that had been carved onto volcanic rocks 400 to 700 years ago by Native Americans and by Spanish settlers. They were voices from the past etched into giant black boulders, remaining unchanged for centuries. It was a powerful experience.
Later I wondered which of my stories I had etched in stone. Stories about my self-worth, my history and my place in this world. Do these stories still serve me? Are they true? Are they even mine or are they the stories of others that I have taken as my own?
In my personal library, I have the classic trilogy: “I Have No Value,” “My Voice Does Not Matter,” “I Cannot Possibly Follow My Dreams.”
The section of “poor me” stories holds some of my favorites. I take them out whenever I need a good cry or want to feel self-righteous.
Then there is the popular series of “Lack”. “There is Not Enough Love to Go Around” is the first in the series and can cause tremendous grief to those of us dealing with divorce, because if we believe there is only so much love to go around, we force our children to choose between a mother and a father.
Some unhealthy stories are so deeply etched into us, that even if we wanted to, we could not remove them. Instead, we can gently acknowledge they are with us and put them back on the shelf without opening them.
The most important story is the one that informs all the others. It is about living our lives from a place of love, compassion and faith. Out of all the stories, this is the one we must etch onto the rugged terrain our lives.
At the beginning of my divorce I moved into an apartment until I was able to purchase a townhouse, which was the first time I’d ever had a mortgage in my own name. It was very exciting, and also a little scary!
This summer I noticed the front screen door is no longer correctly hanging in its frame.
The refrigerator has been making strange sounds for quite a while and every time I hear it shudder, I send out a prayer that it keeps working. The same with my garbage disposal. Now I need to use the flashlight on my cell phone to go up the steps to my bedroom at night, because the hallway light burned out, and I can’t reach the ceiling fixture to change the bulb and don’t have a ladder I trust.
Frustrated with my fix-up to-do list, I thought, “If I was renting, I wouldn’t have to deal with all these things and life would be so much easier.”
Then I wondered if could I do that with my life—just rent instead of own. Someone else could fix everything that was broken and take care of all the messy stuff: financial issues, stress issues, emotional issues. Wow, now that would make things easy.
But then it wouldn’t be my life. I would no longer have a sense of who I was and would rely on advertisers to tell me how I should look and how spring fresh my house should smell. I might forget to look into my heart when deciding moral and ethical issues, instead depending on the loudest, most bullying voices to tell me what to think.
Owning our lives can be messy and uncertain at times, but it is a privilege, a gift. With the guidance, support and love of others, it can also be exhilarating, joyful and thrilling. The tapestry of every life is woven with colors that are both brilliant and dark, with experiences that either lift us or cause us to stumble. This is how we learn to be resilient, compassionate and courageous. This is how we learn who we truly are. I do not want to become a stranger to myself. Renting is not an option.
As for my townhouse, I decided to call a handy man.