At some point during the divorce and separation process, I remember feeling like I had done everything I was supposed to:
I found a decent lawyer, was working with a good support system, my finances were under control, and I was no longer crying myself to sleep every night. Or in the office bathroom. Or while waiting for the light to change while stuck in traffic. It had taken months secure those victories and check off those boxes.
So, why was I still feeling awful?
Most people going through divorce know of that dramatic, chaotic feeling I’m talking about. I thought everything was under control, but before I knew it, the ex-to-be would a text saying he’s going to be two hours late picking up the kids. Or, after going back-and forth for months on the divorce settlement, thinking we’d agreed on everything, some last-minute disagreement on dependent support would come up, dragging the process out for three more months.
Silliness like that builds up during divorce, especially when our emotions are already frayed. Day after day, week after week, month after month. During that time, we’re trying to stay strong, saying “I’m fine” through clenched teeth to anyone who asks, when the truth of the matter is we just want to scream.
Why can’t we get a break, for just one day, during this divorce?!
Here’s the bad news I learned: I was to blame for the divorce frustration I felt, because I was the one who kept doing the same things over and over again that made me feel awful. I was the one getting angry over everything my ex-to-be did or said. I was the one who was not thinking logically and calmly when speaking with my lawyer. It was my own outlook that was making me feel crazy during the divorce process.
I couldn’t get out of the daily divorce mess if I kept doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result that didn’t make me feel horrible.
That doesn’t mean I could fire my divorce attorney, flip my boss off, and run away to Tahiti.
The only way I was going to escape the daily divorce insanity is if I changed how I reacted to it.
Think of the daily toils of divorce as the 5-foot view. During divorce, we usually only take action when something is right in front of our face, meaning that we usually react to it emotionally, and usually not in the way that best suits us and our moving on without being stressed and bitter.
But how are we supposed to accomplish that feat?
The only way to get out of the rat race is to think bigger, think better, think ahead, remind ourselves that we need to stop thinking about the BS around us and start thinking about The Big Picture. Sure, I was stuck in this divorce process where day in and day out it’s never-ending to-do lists and too much advice. But that didn’t mean I had to continue letting it bring me down.
And so, after weeks of trying to figure out how to think beyond the daily drama and to get to The Big Picture, I discovered that the easiest, most compassionate way was to think about my future, in small increments, and what I wanted from it. At first that seemed really overwhelming to organize, until I made it into a list, and then an exercise. It wasn’t easy, but after several revisions and applying it in my own life, I was able to ease the anxiety and drama I felt everyday during divorce.
First, I had to ask myself following questions:
1. What do I want—really want—for myself in the next week?
2. What about the next month?
3. How about in three months? What do I want accomplished?
4. In the next six months?
5. The next year?
6. Where do I want to be three years from now? If I could be anywhere, doing anything I wanted, what would that look like for me?
Hopes and dreams rock, but I wasn’t done there. It was time to put it all together.
I listed at least three steps for each of my goals, and called them the Action Plan:
1. In the next week, what three steps will I take to change how I’m currently handling the craziness?
2. In the next month, what three steps will change how I feel right now? What will I do to make that change?
3. Three months from today, what three steps will I take to feel more secure?
4. Six months from now, what changes will I have made to erase the toxicity that I am experiencing today?
5. 365 days into the future, what systems will I have put into place that made me stronger, more confident, and a more mindful person?
6. Fast-forward three years. What changes have I made that have resulted in my ability to move on and not only survived, but thrived since my divorce?
The Game Plan to Break Free
It feels good, doesn’t it? Being able to imagine the endless possibilities that await all of us.
But remember—we don’t have to wait for them.
This thinking can be easier said than done, admittedly, and it does take some practice. It’s normal to react emotionally when something upsetting hits us, especially during divorce. But being mindful of changing those feelings of upset to looking at the Big Picture is possible when we make the commitment to ourselves that we want to escape the divorce insanity.
So, for those experiencing the same, remember to think boldly. See the forest and don’t just get stuck in all the trees. We must remember that what’s waiting for us on the other side is that matters, and that’s where our energy needs to go.
We must think about where we want to be, what we want to do, and what we are going to do to create that future for ourselves—that second chance we didn’t even know we’d have.
Author: Martha Bodyfelt
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: studio tdes/Flickr