Friday, September 12, 2014

Half --- 5 lessons learned about healing not hurting!

When I finally came to the harsh realization that divorce was not fair, I began to feel alive and more comfortable with my new reality.  I also noticed the shackles of hate, anger and bitterness begin to release me.  With this "release" of bondage to negativity, I became better over bitter, happier than I was sad.  I began to regain power over my days, my weeks, my feelings, my emotions and my heart.  I also became a better mother, as I realized that nothing about divorce was fair, but it was my story and my kids' story.  And, most importantly, yet by no doing of my own, I became the author and co-author of both.  
Every divorce is different and unique.  No divorce has the same chapter titles, epilogue or prologue.  However, a large majority of the readers of and those I meet as I travel around a speak, often ask me what I have learned from this journey of abandonment, divorce and blending.  So, here are a few of my most valuable lessons learned.  Know that many of them, I had to learn the hard way, through trial and error.  I made mistakes along the way, but felt impressed to share, as I did not have any resources to turn to.  Hence, I began this blog, that my story, might become such a resource for others, trying to pick up the pieces.   Alas, I will humbly share some of my mistakes, my failures and triumphs, my innermost thoughts, in the hopes that it might help someone, somewhere, who has no where to turn and no one to ask.  Here are my 5 tips and myths to riding the waves of divorce:

1.  He probably won't remember 1/2 of the things that you will never forget!  As women, we may be more emotional and more sentimental than the men in our lives, but one thing is certain, when they move on, they move on fast, often times, leaving you in the dust, to pick up the pieces of broken lives and a hearts, that have been run over by divorce. I remember the day he left.  I drove home from the kid's school in silence.  As I entered the house, there was an emptiness that was indescribable.  I quietly walked around the house looking at what he took and did not take.  The house was full of memories that pulsated through my soul.  "How could he just walk away,"  I thought.  As I composed myself, I was impressed with the fact that if I was going to make it through this, I needed to learn how to take the emotion out!!  I could not go through the rigors of divorce, the legalities, custody, the children, and constantly be wondering, "How could he just walk away?"  The fact of the matter was, and it took me MONTHS to come to this realization -----He DID walk away, so now what?  Consciously and prayerfully taking the emotion out, helped me immensely through many facets of divorce.  And, it's probably true, "He probably won't remember 1/2 of the things that I shall never forget."

2. The glass is 1/2 full or 1/2 empty.....the amount does not change!  It's all about perspective and the future.  One day, a few months after my husband left, he came to visit the kids.  After a visit, he wanted to go on a ride and discuss some things with me.  He looked at me and said, "I'm not coming back and you are not doing anything to prepare!"  I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  It took me a minute to catch my breath, I got out of the car, and went back into the house to face the kids.  I remember my lip quivering with fear, hurt, hate and anger for the next few days.  Just on the verge of tears, and not wanting to face the day.  Finally, I knelt and began to pour out my soul to my high power, seeking guidance, comfort, inspiration.......something......anything!  Then, I went to the computer, and began to just search..........Finally, I decided to call around to attorneys and get back into school........and I have not sat down since!!!  Even though I wanted to punch my then, husband in the face, I realized he was right, I was wallowing, and needed to see the glass or my reality for what it was.  I had 4 beautiful children, that were counting on me, and suddenly, I saw the glass......1/2 full of potential.....and it was all up to me.
My kids would be what I became.  If I were bitter, so were they.  If I was angry, so were they.  If I had a hard day, so did they.  So, I took that glass of divorce that had been handed me, I began to drink and refill with legal counsel, education, fun inexpensive family outings with the kids, and my heart changed.  My empty became full.  My anger became compassion for my children.  And, I used my bitterness to catapult me to BETTER.......all with a glass 1/2 full of faith in the future.

3.  Meet 1/2 Way!!  ----  Be ready to give, support, take time and drop everything, to help your children transition through divorce.  Don't ever use the kids as a means of "getting even", "revenge" or just plain hurting your ex-spouse.  Even though, in the moment, it might feel empowering, the end result is not the optimal for the children.  Holidays and birthdays can be celebrated a day early or a day late.  It's the event, not the calendar date.  You can show you love your children more by being flexible, and working with their other parent, than the greatest Christmas gift or birthday party can ever testify.  Some of my favorite Thanksgivings and Christmases ever, have been the ones I spent with my daughter's in-laws, as my children were with their dad.  I loved getting to know them and spending time with them.  Then, a few days later or earlier, we had the turkey and all the fixings----in a home full of love not hate.  Remember, even though divorce may not have been your choice or your fault, it is your reality!  And, it is unfortunately, the reality of your children.  Suddenly, they have become a statistic.  They are at risk, like it or not.  So, jump in and do all you can to compromise this confusion, that they did not choose for themselves. Meet 1/2 way!

4.  Because your ex-spouse has 1/2 their heart, he/she deserves that respect--- With holding visits, saying unkind things about their other parent, or just plain being negative about divorce, puts them in the middle of a war that they are not armed or prepared to fight.  For years, I have packed a suitcase for my son to visit his dad.  At times when emotions are running high, I have threatened not to send it.  Using the suitcase as a means of revenge.  The reality is, I feel like he should have the things he needs for his kids.  He does not.  Consequently, I have used that a means of hurting, threatening, and getting even.  Perhaps, I have a secret agenda, at times, to make him feel helpless like he made me feel when he left.  For whatever reason, the "suitcase" has been the ammunition, when things are hard.  One day, my son said, "Where's my suitcase?"  It took his little innocent voice to remind me that this crazy suitcase was for my son, not my ex-husband.  Though it seems to make things easier for his dad, which doesn't always seem fair, the suitcase was for my son.  I packed it and vowed to never use that silly suitcase again, as a means of getting even.  Put down your weapons and fill your arms with your children's future and the hopes of a brighter tomorrow.  It's ok to be hurt, angry and just downright furious, but handle it one on one with your ex-spouse.  Use email, texting, or write your feelings in a letter.  I have written letters that I have never mailed, just to purge myself of negativity and hatred.  I have sent emails and texts that I have regretted.  And, to find peace,  I have gone onto to apologize and aspire to do better the next time.  Do not put the children in the middle, as messengers or check picker-uppers.  And, be their voice, compassionately, if necessary.

5. Don't expect 1/2, just expect to make up the difference.  Math is my weakest subject, but one thing I know for sure, divorce is anything but fair.  And, the sum of divorce is not the result of two equal parts.  It is mathematically impossible to take one household and create two that are exactly alike.  It is just as impossible to severe the hearts of children and extended family into two identical pieces.  You cannot divide income, property, holidays, or love, exactly in half.  It took me a long time to realize this.  I spent months and months, trying to make things fair.  Financially and emotionally, the burden was almost too much to bear.  But, the time I wasted worrying about what was not fair, is gone and I can never get it back.  I remember, a few days before going into our final mediation.  I was petrified.  I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I had 4 children relying on the outcome of that meeting, and their future was in my hands.  So, I called a friend who had been divorced.  I asked her questions and she lovingly shared her experiences.  The best council she gave me was that divorce was not fair!  So, I learned to get by on pennies compared to what we had had married.  I sold things to provide for extracurricular activities.  I painted shirts rather than buy them for school projects.  We memorized the "Value Menus" for special nights out.  When our water heater and furnace went out that first winter, I boiled water for dishes and for baths.
When my daughter got married, in the midst of what appeared to be nothing by chaos, angels administered to us in the form of family, friends and strangers. Don't expect 1/2, just expect to make up the difference.  And, I know, that when I have put my family first, miracles happen and that support cannot be measured in dollars.  We can't put in 1/2 the effort unless we are ok with 1/2 the results.  Make up the difference!!  They are worth it!

When you cut an apple in half, you have two heart-shaped pieces with a star of seeds in the middle.  Divorce can be exactly that, if we catch the vision.  If we remember to take the emotion out and focus on healing rather than hurting.  We must see the glass 1/2 full of the future rather than the furious. Be willing to meet 1/2 way and compromise the confusion of divorce and family change.  Remember, then there are children involved, he or she has 1/2 their heart.  As we cut the apple in half, we reveal the heart shaped halves with the star of seeds inside.
 Though my children were raised in a single parent home for 3 years, and now, in a blended family, those seeds are reminders of the possible growth that can come as the result of change and even divorce.  They just need some extra tender loving care.  And, the star shape is no surprise.  No matter what typed of home you have, there truly is something holy taking place inside, as we do our best, in spite of family change and divorce, and raise His children, with His help.  I know that we truly can feel peace amidst the chaos of change, when we seek divine guidance and direction.  And, we have the hopes, that with Him, all things shall be made whole. Divorce is not fair.  Broken things heal. Half is enough, when we realize we are not alone, as we write our stories!