April 15, 2017

The Best Divorce Advice I Learned the Hard Way.

For the greater part of a decade we had approached life hand-in-hand, side-by-side.

Through cross-country moves, building businesses, and designing our dreams we were an “us.” A family.

Then, at the age of 32, I asked my best friend and husband for a divorce.

I had never wanted to hurt him. I cared for him with a profuse and unwavering sense of commitment. We had sacrificed deeply for one another. He took on the greater weight of our financial burden, and I steered us through the emotional ups and downs of grown-up life, growing businesses, following dreams, facing the inevitable, and occasional defeat. I nurtured  and nested with the more homely duties of cooking, cleaning, and gutter clearing.

I didn’t mind my crafted roles in the name of “us.” I had chosen my role, and played it dutifully.

Years would pass before I would acknowledge the unsustainability of the house we’d built. I thought then that I was doing it for love, for art, for something greater than anything I could ever do alone. I thought then that I knew love, I thought then that I was happy. I had no idea how wrong I was.

I wasn’t living my life or my dreams—or using my God-given talents. I was giving it all away in support of his. For decades I’d dreamt of family, of writing, of something more. But when, on a California beach so many years before, he had given me his tender heart and entrusted me with its care, I accepted the challenge head-on, forgetting to look back to assess what I had chosen in those fleeting moments.

Yogi Bhajan, the man who brought Kundalini yoga to the West called our lifetimes the age of information—the Aquarian Age. He said that veils would be lifted, and all things would eventually come to light. They did for me, one memorable holiday.

It was in the way his parents loved each other that I first noticed our cracks. There was something missing, something vital, and maybe even some things hidden.

Facing the cracks in my marriage shattered my world to pieces. I lost my family, my life, my identity. I no longer knew who I was, what I wanted, or how to love and trust again. I had been so committed, I had failed to see what we really were, a lovely illusion.

The thought of life alone was terrifying. My ex had been my everyday, my meaning, my purpose. His family was my own, his friends, his dreams. I had nothing. No savings, no security, no back-up plan. As discussions began and we considered amicably parting, I wrote furiously, for the first time in years.

I begged some greater force for merciful salvation. I needed a home, a job, a support system, a plan. I needed to start over, but without any sense of who I still was, it would prove a long, scenic, winding road ahead.

The responsibilities of our rescue dog would become solely my own—his care, his walks, his hospital stays. I was terrified. I begged the universe for some financial rescue, some way of steadily supporting my sweet pup and myself.

These days I am in awe of the fact that I made it here. For years I fell into a tailspin of ill-suited relationships, too much partying, and flailing about through life as though I didn’t want happiness.

I call my way the scenic route—treacherous, troubling, sometimes directionless. I regret none of it, but I wish it on no one.

These days as I round out age 37, I am blissed beyond belief at the makings of my life. My sense of self, my sense of balance, my commitment to my own endeavors, my relationship, my career, my unwavering awareness of where I’m heading.

I have driven through some scary places, and by the grace of pure grit and a lot of patience, I made it through to the other side. As I see other thirty, forty, fifty, sixty-somethings going through demise in their own relationships, I want to help save them from the turns I made, the cliffs I lunged off of. It doesn’t have to be so hard. No one has to get so lost.

So with gratitude in my smile and peace in my heart, I’d like to share my guide to gracefully navigating through your own divorce, even when doing so seems like the most treacherous mountain you’ve ever had to climb:

1. Find sadhana. In Kundalini Yoga what we call sadhana is a daily discipline, or a regular practice to connect you to the quiet place beyond the mind. For some it’s a silent morning meditation, a multi-mile runner’s high, mastery over tricky yogic inversions, the completion of a lovely painting, the crafting of a nourishing meal, whatever it is that makes you feel like the perfect self you already are. Do that—and do so with diligence.

For me it’s writing and teaching Kundalini Yoga. I’ve loved crafting words since I was a small child, but I foolishly gave it up because I thought that, in comparison to my novelist husband, my talent was useless, and Kundalini was a yoga I had not yet discovered.

I see now the value in running away on a far-off journey, on immersion into a new way of living that can help with the shock. You’re diving in the deep end of the cold pool, no tomorrow will be like the days you had before. But when you know just a few of the most vital ingredients to include, finding a new “normal” doesn’t have to be so difficult.

2. Seek a therapist. It was not until one day when I found myself sneaking through the phone of a wrong-for-me older boyfriend, that I realized I needed help.

My capacity for trust had been shattered, I had to learn to love again, but first I had to learn to love myself. It may sound easy, but it’s best left to professional care. I carefully searched for the right therapist for me, one that insurance would cover, and that my friends agreed sounded right for my personal quirks.

In two years I completed our work and was told I was ready again to live in the world without twice monthly check-ins. I had a toolbox of sorts—acronyms and practices. And there was some feeling of accomplishment in knowing I had graduated from therapy, in seeing that I had worked hard, and was beginning to resurface.

3. Return to your roots. I had long since moved away from my New Orleans family and friends. Admitting to my mother how flawed my relationship was, was as daunting a task as any. But in the end, the time after my marriage was perhaps the best time spent with my mom, ever.

Being open and honest with my family, long-lost friends, even strangers who would become friends, opened me to the love and support that all were waiting generously to offer. Admitting the pain you are going through, and the challenges you are facing in your day-to-day endeavors takes courage.

Allowing others to be there for you with friendship, job referrals, and even taking you out for a dinner or yoga class, takes downright fearlessness. But you’ve already had your world shattered, and you are still here. Allowing others to be of support is vital to recovery from any of life’s great losses.

4. Identify and heal your patterns. I wasted my newfound freedom dating the same wrong-for-me sort over and over again. I was faced with the chance to find true love, I had been gifted a do-over. But insteadI left a string of three month relationships in my wake, and every one of them was emotionally unavailable and still had deep self-work to do.

I was in need of deep self-work so I was attracting men to date, and female friends, who also had some growing up to do. But as time wore on and I recognized and grew weary of my patterns, I was able to prevent those ill-suited relationships from continuing.

Once I found myself, I finally found the man I wanted to build a family with. Had we met a few years ago, the relationship would have drowned in our old patterns and self-destructive behaviors. We were both still sorting out our true identities, and it was only after finding them, that we found each other.

It’s a rare thing to be told how to be a human being, adult, or romantic partner. And I don’t claim to know what any sweet soul in this world is going through. But if there is one thing I recommend to everyone, it’s to identify and do the things you have to do to know that you are you.

Identify the things you’re passionate about, and even if only on the evenings, weekends, or over your lunch break, do those things. Because only when you know and love who you are for all of your own dreams, fantasies, and wild ways, can you truly love another in a way that will not break.


Relephant bonus:


Author: Kristen Campbell

Image: Flickr

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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