On the day my divorce was finalized, I was at the top of a mountain—literally.
I hadn’t planned it that way, but that’s the way so many life changing events happen. I wasn’t in as good of shape as I had intended and it was a heck of a climb for my beginning hiker’s legs. My energy and confidence sunk as I reached a false summit, about 500 feet from the top, and realized that the small dots at the top of the ridge were people.
For a split second I felt the urge to turn around. To give up.
These feelings of discouragement were reminiscent of my attempts to leave my marriage. Home life was stressful at best and dangerous at worst. I had decided to leave multiple times, but gave up when the alternative seemed more painful than staying. Every time I turned around, with my children in tow, and came home I felt a little smaller, a little weaker and little more defeated.
The day finally came when life at home became more unbearable than the worst alternative, and I filed for divorce.
During divorce the most intimate areas of our life are on exhibit and the worst of our actions and words are highlighted like a news reel twisting everything out of context or even bending them until they are unrecognizable. I was not fully prepared for the viciousness of my husband’s response, which turned my world upside down. I adjusted and pressed on, not because I was courageous but because I had no choice.
How is it that the person who we once laid with at night and shared our most intimate secrets with is now our adversary? Our name jaded and falsehoods said about us to others. It’s a nightmare. Yet, at some point it’s over.
The divorce is final. We can dare to take a full deep breath and exhale with the confidence that we are still intact and on firm ground.
Regardless of how destructive the marriage was or how hurtful the divorce, there is a mixture of pain and relief, fear and excitement, sadness and joy. We can’t help but to be shaped by the experience—but we also have the power to determine how it shapes us.
We have the opportunity to break down old, calcified habits and identities. It is a time to re-evaluate who we are, what we value and what has been holding us back. It is a time to look with detached curiosity at the person we became during our marriage and who we intend to become.
For me, these five actions have kept me clear and at peace while embracing the transformative process:
1. Cast aside blame.
This is easier said than done. Wrongs have surely been committed. Feelings have been hurt and confidences betrayed. However, one thing is certain: Transformative growth and forward momentum can only occur while looking ahead—not behind. Energy expended on blame cannot bring about a different outcome than has already occurred and only serves to fuel anger.
2. Forgive yourself.
This has become so commonly spouted that it’s cliché, but truly so powerful. For mistakes made, for being foolish, for children affected and other guilt triggered beliefs—forgive yourself. Guilt and self-deprecation are forms of self-indulgence that allows us to focus on the past and on things that we can no longer control rather than facing what we do have power over and paving the way for the future.
3. Watching our anger.
Yes, watch it! Trying to extinguish it is fruitless. But, it will halt our growth if we allow it to fester deep within. As we begin to be aware of the seedlings of anger we can watch it with curiosity and consciously decide if it is worth our time.
4. Gut wrenching self-assessment.
Chances are high that friends and family will lift us up as if we are heroines in a tragedy where our evil ex plays the villain who attempted to slay us. This is helpful during the process of divorce, but during the following time of transformation it is helpful to take honest stock of our own weaknesses.
After all, we are trying to transform into better people, right?
5. Start living.
Regardless of financial constraints, increased household chores or other limitations, we can all choose to live more fully every day. Notice the smell of an orange peel, the sound of laughter, the warmth of hot shower all upon the background of a new life full of possibilities.
Nothing we read, nothing we do will erase all of the pain. It will surprise us at the most unlikely of moments like a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Accept it without judgment, but don’t clutch it. It is the pain from our experiences that will help fuel the fire of transformation within us. When the pain subsides, then take a deep breath and revel in the experience of being alive.
Feel the exhilaration as a new chapter in life lies open, not yet written. We are free.
Author: Rachel Hansen
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: stevenleonti at Flickr