My friend Alice told me I should write a book about the passages you go through when you get a divorce. Gail Sheehy wrote a book called Passages about the passages we all go through in life. So many things about our stories are different, but, really, our journeys are so similar. While I was running this morning, I was sorting out my thoughts on what those passages might be ….. those passages that we all go through after such a huge change and loss as a divorce.
This past week, I met with a woman who is struggling in her marriage. Her path is so similar to mine. She was talking about the emotional pain that was ripping her apart and how she is walking on eggshells all the time, terrified to act, terrified to be herself since she may lose the marriage that she wants so badly to work. For a moment, I was catapulted back to that time when I felt exactly like she did. I was paralyzed in pain. I had no idea how to move forward, and I was scared to death that anything I did would be the nail on the coffin of my dream-filled relationship. It was a very scary time in my life, and I was overwhelmed with pain and fear.
Feeling the way I do now, it is hard to even remember in my body how that felt. At this point in my life – a very happy, exciting time – I can’t imagine why I wanted to stay in that mess. But, I know that, at the time, it was the only choice I could see. I thought this morning how changes like that are really a fight against inertia. It’s not unlike the big changes it takes to move from being a couch potato to a marathon runner. Our bodies and our minds want to stay the same. They have no reference point to change. The issue, though, is our spirit – our soul – sees things differently. The soul sees the possibilities ahead, the dreams, the ways that life could be if we would only get up and make the changes necessary to really be fully alive.
One night a few years ago, I went on an eating binge. It was the way I dealt with my depression for most of my life. This one would be my last real binge. I had been changing the way I lived and the way I handled issues, so I’d not been binging that badly for a very long time. My body got so sick from it that I threw up in the middle of the night. I told my friend Elizabeth about it because I don’t keep secrets anymore. She thought it was fabulous that my body was telling me, “No…. I’m not doing this anymore.” I had begun a new way of living and got beyond the inertia of using food to comfort me. Physically, I couldn’t go back even if I tried. In AA we always say there is nothing that ruins a good drunk like having a bellyful of AA. It’s just never the same when you relapse. You’ve found out that there is another way, and inertia has been conquered.
My acupuncturist tells me that every cell in our body regenerates every 7 years. So, whoever I was 7 years ago, does not even exist physically anymore. I’ve been sober a lot longer than that, so not one cell in my body has ever tasted a drop of alcohol. I believe we are made of three components – body, mind and spirit. Physically, my body does not crave alcohol because it is totally new. However, my mind remembers the taste, the feeling of relaxation it brings, and it also remembers the bad stuff. So, my mind holds the history of both the good and bad. My mind can be tricky. The same brain that will tell me to eat that apple pie because it will make me feel so good will call me a fat pig as soon as I finish it. The mind is unencumbered by reality, and it will move quickly from one thought to another. But, my spirit holds the key to the future. My spirit knows what moves me in the direction that I need to go. It’s my spirit that loves the present, that watches with joy the sunrise, that fills with love around people that care about me. My spirit is unencumbered by inertia. In fact, my spirit doesn’t even understand inertia.
When I was stuck in the place where my friend is stuck, I was stuck in inertia. I didn’t know anything else except what was happening to me. I was in a battle with my spirit because it knew I needed to leave to thrive. I had done everything I could to make that marriage work, and it was destroying my soul. Being stuck in inertia is like laying in a hole trapped by a big stone. Even though I’m being crushed, it takes a huge effort just to move. I can struggle against it a little bit, but that damn rock keeps me pinned. It’s very similar to the effort it takes to stop eating sugar, to start exercising, to quit smoking or learn a new skill. The hardest part is the beginning. The first passage I went through during my divorce was thinking about divorce. Next, I started talking about it, rolling it around on my tongue to see how it felt. That also served to strengthen my voice. Then, I started to take baby steps like opening a checking account but not putting anything in it. With each little step I took, like moving against that rock, I might move forward a little, but I’d inevitably fall back into the hole. But, what I didn’t know was that with each movement, I was building muscle; I was becoming stronger. There came a day when my spirit rose up and engaged the muscle that I was building, and I pushed that damn rock out of the way. I was free. The battle wasn’t over, but there would never be any going back into that hole. It was the point of no return.
I hear people talk about how their spouse lost a lot of weight, and then they divorced them. They blame the weight loss and the fact that their spouse looked good and found someone else. I don’t buy that at all. I think their spouse battled inertia, made some major changes and then realized they could never go back to the way they were. The thing about inertia is that if you win over it in one area of your life, it makes it less likely it will take over in any area of your life again. Healthy couples are always growing. Unhealthy couples are often caught in inertia. When one person breaks loose, the relationship has to move forward. If the other party is still caught under a rock, they can very easily get left. That’s not a journey of the body. That’s a journey of the spirit. A spirit in motion wants to be with other spirits in motion.
I started running in 2005. I was a runner in college, but I hadn’t run in 25 years. There was not a cell in my body that knew how to run in 2005. It was really hard to get started. The first months were brutal and were driven primarily by my brain telling my body to move. As time went on, and my new cells regenerated already knowing what it felt like to run, it got easier. Today, there is not a cell in my body that doesn’t know the freedom and the feeling that running brings. My body doesn’t know how NOT to run. I’m working on speed now, and my cells are fighting that. One day, most of my cells will not know how NOT to push themselves to run faster. But, until I get there, I have to push with my mind. But the desire …. the desire to run faster … comes from my spirit. My spirit knows the whole spectrum of life. It knows that if I’m not moving forward and growing, I’m dying. And, my soul does not want to die. It knows that this life is short, and I have so much to learn and do. Anything that holds me trapped in inertia is holding me back from growth.
For me, it took about 3 years to really heal from my divorce. I liken that to the halfway point where half of the cells in my body knew what life was like without my marriage. It was the top of hill. The journey wasn’t over, but it was much easier. At three years, more than half of myself had never know the inertia of being shackled to a relationship that wasn’t working. It was so much easier to move forward. Today, my body can’t even imagine staying in a state like that. Like my binge, to go back there would probably make me physically sick. Life is a journey of push and pull, of inertia and movement, and pain and growth. I hope that rock of inertia is gone forever, but I don’t kid myself that it may come back one day in some area of my life. But, this time I know how it feels to move that damn rock and start traveling forward.
The enemy is not time. The enemy is inertia. You are either moving backward or forward. Where are you headed? How do you get that rock off your gut? Ask your spirit. It knows. Don’t listen to your brain or body. They are not in charge. This life is a soul’s journey, and no matter what you put it through, it will not give up. It’s unencumbered by inertia. Listen ….