My Wish for You, My Single Friend….

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I wrote this blog for a friend who was newly single a couple of years ago. I watched as she navigated her break-up with her significant other. I supported her as she went through the initial stages of grief .. anger .. bargaining .. denial … depression … acceptance. I let her talk … and cry .. and vent … and held her in my heart as the fear … that fathomless fear …. of being alone crashed into her world. She is now settled into her single life and doing amazing well. At the time, as a single woman and a writer, I seemed to her like a guide that could help her embrace being single and have a full life regardless of whether or not that space in her bed is ever filled again. I may seem like a guide that does it with grace, but know that everything you feel, I feel. Being single … like being married … is not an easy path. But I’ve come to know that it’s not the path of singleness that is so hard, it’s the path of life. I woke up this morning wanting for all my single friends some things that I also want for myself. So I feel like reposting this for all of my beautiful, courageous, and wise female single friends. This one’s for you….

P.S. I love my single guy friends, too, but I only have my experience as a woman. I think a good deal of this will apply to you, too. Embrace your feminine side!

I wish for you, my single woman friend, COURAGE. Courage only comes from walking through fear. It is not a quality that is born in you. It is a quality that is developed over time. It is an act of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You had the courage to end what wasn’t working for you, and in countless conversations with divorced friends, I have discovered that ‘leaving’ even a bad relationship is one of the hardest things we humans ever do. You already have the courage to walk through that and come out on the other side. The muscle-building has begun. Keep developing that muscle by trying something new today… and everyday. Walk a new way to work. Call someone who interests you and ask them for coffee. Go on a trip by yourself and discover the beautiful joy of seeing a new place with only the filter of your own eyes. Tackle a personal issue with the help of an advisor and feel the joy of overcoming your own problems on your own without the distractions of another person’s reaction. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is feeling the fear and walking through it anyway.

 

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I wish for you FINANCIAL SECURITY. It is so easy for me to feel that because there is one income, I can be shortchanged in that department. It is also easy to fall into the trap of thinking that couples have the softer way with money. But, over the years, I’ve learned that another person can wreak havoc with money and drain you of any hope of ever having financial security. I know people who, after their spouse dies, are left with mountains of debt instead of the comfort of being supported in their grief. Being married is no guarantee of financial security. In fact, with two people who may have serious medical conditions as we age, the risk may be even more that some catastrophe may strike that will wipe you out financially. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that money would be more plentiful if there were more of it coming in. That’s not necessarily the case. I wish that you will feel the joy and the freedom of being the breadwinner of your home. You may not have as much money coming in as you’d like, but you are the sole decision-maker on how to spend it. You can budget without fighting about it, and you can spend lavishly on yourself without complaint. I wish you the blessing of feeling financially secure in the fact that God provides for us, and, if something happens that is financially devastating, know that you have friends who will support you in the struggle.

I wish you STRENGTH. The one thing I miss is strength. I miss the heft of a partner who can open jars, help me load my kayak and carry kitty litter. As women, we are not as strong physically as the opposite sex. I hope that you find alternatives. I hope you find a male friend who giggles with you when you bring your jars to him to open. I hope that you find a great gay boyfriend who will help you move. I hope you learn much more by the act of asking for help than you do from struggling on your own. Go to the gym and do strength-training. Practice Power Yoga. As you look into the future and fear the weakness of aging, I hope you realize that muscle atrophy is a choice. It’s not inevitable. And you already know how strong you are inside. In the area of inner strength, I will argue to my death that men are the weaker sex. It is the surfing of emotions that builds the inner strength to navigate the trials in life. And, you, my dear, have endured childbirth. The strength required for that task should be envied by muscleman everywhere.

I wish you PASSION. Yes, the only lover you have may be yourself at times. I wish that you will discover that passion is not reserved for those with partners. Count your blessings that you don’t have to endure the torture of making love to someone who no longer desires you. Many walk that path day after day. The meaningless embrace of ‘going through the motions’ is way too prevalent, and you no longer have to feel the sting of rejection during the very act that should be connecting you to your lover’s soul. You can create the atmosphere you want .. feminine and sexy. You know what feels good. Your mind can take you places you’ve never been with no regrets. The heat of another person may be missing, but I hope that you can even find that in a way that works for you. Remember that passion doesn’t only happen in the bedroom. Passion is that feeling that overcomes you when you take in a breath-taking sunset after a beautiful dinner that you provided for yourself and took the time to prepare to your own delight. Passion is discovering something new about yourself. Passion is embracing the life you have and accepting no limitations. Fall into your sensuality, find ways to increase your energy and let yourself feel ….. EVERYTHING. Become the best lover you ever had.

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Most of all, I wish you LOVE. So often we think of love as romantic love. I’ve written about love before, and many people think I’m always talking about romantic love. I forget to qualify it because I finally see romantic love as only one kind of love, and I also see it as the most difficult one to have. It’s so easy to lose when the day to day act of living gets in the way. There are so many types of love out there, and there is so much of it. We live in a sea of love, but we don’t tap into it because we are so desperately focused on romance and partnership. There is love in family – even family of choice. Build one if you don’t have it already. It is more important for single people to build a family of choice because we have to rely on them more. There is no ‘default’ help. We have to ask for it. We have to walk out the door, get on the phone and, heaven forbid, ask for help. Invest in building that community. Spend a large portion of time creating new friendships, hanging out in the places you feel supported and deepening your current relationships. It is an investment that pays off exponentially. Even married women need these communities. The absence of one can be the biggest barrier to leaving an unhealthy relationship. Give that gift to yourself. Tap into the unending love of God. Do what works for you spiritually. You have the gift of finding your own spiritual path without having to negotiate that with a partner. You choose the direction. Follow it. The love is right there waiting for you. If you want romantic love, I hope you get it one day. But, I hope that you focus on love. I hope that you learn that all of the love you need is provided by you and God and your community. Knowing that, you won’t settle for counterfeit that turns into endless pain.

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My friend, being single is not an easy walk, but I also know that being married can even be more difficult. It’s definitely more complex. BE SINGLE. Don’t BE Divorced. Don’t BE ‘in between relationships’. Learn what it is like to BE single in an authentic way. Be comforted in the fact that you are much more in control of your happiness than if you were coupled. When you wake up in the middle of the night with that hammer of loneliness beating on your chest, please realize that it is only a feeling. You are not alone. Your bed may be empty, but your heart is full. That is so much better than having a man lying in your bed on the other side of a cavern so big that your heart aches at the sheer size of it. Embrace your life. The spaces beside you will be filled. They may be filled for moments instead of years, but it’s not the duration of the connection that matters – it’s the depth. Invest in yourself, and, if, by some chance you want to step into a partnership again, you will be the kind of woman that manifests endless love not endless want. I want that for you, my friend. You are so deeply loved … and you are not alone. Know that behind those eyes of many married women who you think pity you is a different feeling altogether. Many are thinking … OMG, I wish I had your freedom… your COURAGE … your PASSION … your STRENGTH … your FINANCIAL SECURITY … and, yes … your LOVE.

Fill Your Fillings, Gurl!

 

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One of my friends in Memphis used to say “fill your fillings, gurl!”. I always giggled but usually I was so sad when she said it that it was hard to laugh too hard. Every time I get down in the dumps I hear her sweet voice reminding me to “fill my fillings” … and I do.

I grew up with the notion that I needed to put on my big girl panties and deal with whatever life dished out. That was fine when life was dishing out a C when I wanted an A or my boyfriend of the month went out with my best friend. It was an effective way to cope and get on with life. But, just like every other coping mechanism we pick up when we are a kid, when the problems get bigger and rapid-fire, those coping habits fail. At some point we realize we are overwhelmed, sick, suicidal, crazy or addicted to something…. or all of the aforementioned. At some point the coping mechanism becomes the problem that triggers the fall of the dominoes.

I had several ineffective coping mechanisms. I wanted to be perfect – or to be seen as perfect – to avoid criticism. I got angry when things didn’t go my way until so much didn’t go my way that I was angry all the time. I ate sugar and drank alcohol to cope with fear and sadness. I spent money when I felt alone. At some point, there are consequences to all of these behaviors that begin to overshadow the consequences of just “filling my fillings”.  I didn’t know that, of course. It’s not like I said, “I am afraid to express my anger, so I’m going to eat this whole bag of Dove candies.” It took a couple of therapists, a few workshops, a twelve-step group and many friends before I unraveled the truth that stuffing my feelings was making me sick.

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There’s a lot of research pointing out that repressing your feelings will give you heart disease and some cancers. I’m not a medical expert, so I’m not going to focus on the medical conditions that can be caused by repressing feelings. I’d rather tell you my experience. I do “fill my fillings” today. So, I have the experience to say what life is like before feeling my feelings and after feeling my feelings. I’m somewhat of an expert on my own emotions.

Right after my first divorce, I was visiting my friend Lorna in Knoxville. I struggled with depression, and so did she. On top of the depression, I was experiencing grief from the loss of an 11-year marriage. I now know that I was also repressing almost every bit of anger and sadness that I had ever felt because it made other people uncomfortable for me to be sad or angry. As a side note, my repressed anger that eventually turned into rage was my core issue in both of my marriages. Had I dealt with this sooner, I may have had more marital success.

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I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and I blurted out to Lorna that I was just so incredibly sad and depressed that I felt like I couldn’t function very well. I expected the usual, “oh, you’ll get through it” or “you have nothing to be sad about, you have a wonderful life before you.” Instead, she said, “Come here….”. I walked over to her, and she motioned for me to sit beside her on the sofa, and she put her arms around me in a big hug.  I cried the tears of a million years of sadness. My tears had never felt so welcome, and they poured out all over her like a summer rainstorm. I will never forget how I felt in that moment. I was accepted and loved and supported in my pain. The feeling was so profound I feel it right now – 25 years later.

It would be a long time before I experienced that kind of acceptance again about expressing my emotions. I saw a therapist in Michigan because I was still stuck in my lifelong cloak of depression. I broke down one day and told him that I just couldn’t take being depressed anymore. The weight of it was killing me, and life was so hard when I had to literally drag myself through it everyday. I was so sick of fighting the disorder that grabbed me when I was a teenager and seemed determined to suck the life out of me. He told me to quit fighting it. Huh? “Quit fighting it,” he said. “When you are depressed, just accept that you are depressed. Everybody gets down. It’s normal. And do 20 minutes of exercise every day.” I realized that when I fought it I was beating myself up for not being able to pull myself out of it or for being so weak that I had it or one of a hundred different failures. All of these self-perceived failures brought on a dark cloud of shame. Acceptance let me release it.

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It would take years and lots of talking and tears before I finally got to the end of my depression. I learned that when I stuff my feelings, they don’t go anywhere. They sit inside me and require feeding in order to keep them from eating me alive. So, I have to feed them food … or alcohol … or new clothes … or any one of a hundred things that abate the hunger for a moment. I was never content. Meditating was miserable, and sleeping was impossible. As soon as my mind got quiet, my anger or fear pulsed up and increased my anxiety. If I tried to do something fun, my sadness would sit on my shoulders like a huge boulder weighing me down. I had no energy; I was constantly irritable; I got colds all the time because my immune system was on overwhelm. I was never content…. and I really wanted to be.

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Today, I feel my feelings when I’m sad. I have a handful of friends that know that sadness is really, really okay, and they will hold me through my tears. That same handful of friends will play the role of the object of my anger so I can safely get it out and express myself without losing a job or embarrassing myself. I know how to journal and figure out what boundaries I need to set if someone is making me angry or hurting me. Meditation and yoga allow me to be quiet so I can feel what is bubbling up – even when it’s really small.

The difference in then and now is huge. I have days of sadness instead of one long lifetime of chronic depression. My sadness used to be a huge boulder that I carried around. Now, it is a boulder but a manageable one. I can put it down or make it dissolve slowly with tears. I rarely have rage. I do get angry, but my anger is an indicator that I either need to readjust my thinking about something, or I need to set a boundary. I haven’t had a cold in years. If I can stay clean of caffeine and sugar, I sleep like a baby with no sleep meds or supplements. I have energy for my ever-evolving passions. My lows are less intense, but my joys are exponentially more enjoyable.

When people started telling me to feel my feelings, I didn’t understand what they meant. I thought I was feeling them all the time. I was in pain all the time. I had to get the gunk cleaned out by allowing myself to fall apart before I could do the regular housecleaning on my feelings. It was a long, slow process, but I’m so glad I did it. I found this article today that might help you if you want to start “filling your fillings,” but you don’t really know what that means.

A Technique for Feeling Painful Feelings

In a way, I’m asking you to feel bad for awhile. And, if you need me to, I’m happy to support you in doing so. Contrary to popular belief, feeling your feelings will make you healthier, stronger, happier and more content. Give it a try…. fill your fillings, gurl! Your tears and anger are welcome here!

 

The Act of Letting Go

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This morning I’m posting a listing for my diamond ring on eBay and am a bit reflective about how that ring was created. The cocktail ring is comprised of two diamonds in a white gold design. I’ve often been complimented on it. It is unique, and the two diamonds sit a bit of a distance apart in a swirly elongated pattern. I had it custom-made after my second divorce. I wanted a unique and modern piece to showcase that beautiful diamond. But the jeweler noticed my diamond necklace which was made from the diamond in my first wedding band and offered that it would be even lovelier with two. I took their advice, and the one-of-a-kind ring was created.

I didn’t think I would ever want to part with this ring. It is symbolic of a huge piece of my story. I invested in my marriages, and I worked really hard to make them last. My first husband and I  got married when I was 23, and we decided to just have wedding bands. After we were married 7 years, he came home one day and said he was going to get some jewelry cleaned, and he thought I might want my rings cleaned. I thought it was odd because he never really did stuff like that, but I went along with it. The next day he brought it home and put it on the dresser. I didn’t notice until later when I picked it up how shiny it had become. It was a really lovely gesture. I had the diamond made into a pendant after our divorce. It was my first diamond, and it was very special.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy second husband purchased the second diamond at a small, local jewelry store in Southwest Michigan called McCoy Brothers Jewelers. It was recommended to me by several local people. The two men who ran it were gemologists and were throwbacks from the 60s. You had to call to see if they were open because they didn’t keep regular business hours. If they wanted to close, they closed. They made their own jewelry and did not accept credit. If you wanted their jewelry, you paid cash only or put it on lay-away. But, their jewelry is stunning. As I got to know them, I realized that their jewelry hobby supported their main hobby which was traveling all over the world collecting unusual stones and rocks. They had an entire room in the back with stones from the most amazing places. They were so cool, and the ring was absolutely beautiful. The band was formed to look like a ribbon with the solitaire sitting right on top. It sat in a my jewelry box for a year before I had the heart to do something with it.

Over the years, my friends have sold their wedding bands and diamonds. It’s such a personal decision whether or not to keep it. With both of mine, it took me a while to decide. I have been noodling this decision on whether or not to sell it for about 6 months. The reality is that the sentimental value has now worn off for me. I saw the new ring as a symbol of creating something new and unusual from my history. I’ve thought of it as a wedding ring for myself. I’ve since bought my own diamond earrings and given the ones my ex gave me to his daughter as a graduation gift. I wanted her to have them since they originated from her father. I am sentimental. I hang on to things long after they have lost their usefulness because of their symbolism.

I am in a time of transition. I’m not sure where I’m headed, but I know that something inside of me has already transformed. The outside ingredients of my life will in time fit that new picture. This move here has given me cause to re-think the way I live my life, and with the internal changes that are happening in my heart, I know that I want a different kind of life. I am in an exploration mode, and I’m beginning to enter a disassembling mode. I can feel the letting go happening in a number of areas. I’m letting go of people that don’t work for me anymore, and I’m seeking new spirits for playmates. I’m cleaning out closets and getting rid of things that no longer serve me. I’m cleaning out my diet and letting go of habits that slow me down. And, all of a sudden, I have become drawn to closing the chapter of my life that has long been over. It’s time that those diamonds move on to light up another beautiful face. They served well for me. They were physical evidence and sparkly celebration of bridging that chasm between who I was and the person I came to be. May God bless their journey into their next heart. Oh yeah… and may that journey be worth a lot of money for me! 🙂

P.S. If you’re interested, let me know. I’ll tell where you where to locate it for your Christmas shopping list!

Remember to Say ‘When’

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One of my favorite movies of all time is Regarding Henry. If you haven’t seen it, and you want to see a movie that makes you smile about the power of the human spirit to change and evolve through hardship, I encourage you to check it out. My favorite message in the movie among all of the beautiful messages that are present is about saying ‘when’. Henry, who has suffered amnesia and has some brain damage, has returned to work. His secretary is pouring him coffee, and she keeps pouring. She tells him he must tell her ‘when’. He learns this lesson about a number of things and finally says ‘when’ on his career. It’s easier to say ‘when’ on a relationship or a career when you have no memory or recollection of the past, I guess. I wish we all had the opportunity to forget the messages we learn about life early on.

I have several friends who are contemplating the end of their long-term romantic relationships. They each have their own story, and this is not their forum, but ending a relationship is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done … every time. I’ve ended an engagement, two marriages, numerous friendships and lots of superficial encounters that I’d hardly call relationships but they had enough significance that it wasn’t easy to say ‘when’. I’m codependent. I will always have that tendency although I’ve gotten much better. I never said ‘when’ in the past. I say ‘when’ fairly often now.

Because I write about divorce, people talk to me about their journey. There is so much pain and guilt incorporated into that particular rendering of ‘when’. Not only is there the brutal pain of the loss of the relationship and the dream, there is the overwhelming guilt that divorce brings with it. No matter how common, when it’s your divorce and your broken covenant, it’s deeply painful. I discussed it with a minister who told me that the vows also include the covenant ‘to love, honor and cherish – forsaking all others’. The vows were already broken long before the part about ’til death do us part’ was broken. We put so much emphasis on the wrongness of saying ‘when’ that we forget about the rest of the vows.

Since I’ve been in recovery from codependency, I’ve learned how to say ‘when’. I’ve learned to say ‘when’ to coffee, poor quality food, hurtful relationships, dysfunctional jobs and people, places and things that hurt me. A friend of mine was newly dating a man, and she was trying to decide whether she wanted to continue to date him. There were a few things that bothered her, and she wanted to know if she was being too picky. I actually don’t know if I’m the right person for that conversation, as I’ve become really damn picky. But, I told her what I remind myself. This is your life and your relationship. If you don’t like something about it, you can say ‘when’. It doesn’t matter if I think it,s right or your Momma thinks it’s wrong, or if he thinks your are being unfair. We can choose what we want in our lives and what we don’t. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with him or his lifestyle. It just means that you don’t really choose to have that in your life. We each have our own limits based on our own past experiences and wounds. We get to choose what we have in our environment. And I actually love it when other people tell me ‘when’ to. It teaches me how they want to be treated. It’s clean, it’s loving and it helps our relationship.

I say ‘when’ on relationships pretty quickly now – male or female. I’ve learned that I don’t deal well with non-responsive people. My core issues get triggered when I have to put all of the work in a relationship, or if it’s not mutually affectionate. So, when I meet somebody and they ignore my attempts to contact them or consistently cancel commitments with me, I say ‘when’. There’s nothing wrong with them. They are who they are, and they probably mean nothing by their non-responsiveness. But, I don’t want that kind of behavior in my close relationships. I want people that accept me and like me as I am and that want me in their lives enough to pursue me as much as I pursue them. I may have fewer people in my life, but I sure have closer relationships based on my higher standards. And that’s precisely what I want. I had to say ‘when’ in order to make room for the good stuff. Otherwise, I imagine I’d be spending all of my time chasing people who really aren’t that interested in being friends with me instead of opening space to meet people who do.

When I say ‘when’ to something, I actually get this really big jolt of energy. If I have to say ‘when’ there is somebody or something that is draining me emotionally or physically. So, when I say ‘when’ that rope that’s dragging me down snaps, and I get a backlash of positive energy coming back at me. I also believe that when I tell the universe NO … I don’t want that … I’ve just alleviated one future hard lesson that I have to learn. As my friend Elizabeth says, “I’m glad I dodged that bullet.” I wish saying ‘when’ made me bullet-proof. It doesn’t. It just helps me get out of the way, and it gets easier every time I utter the word.

Inertia: The Drive to Move the Rock

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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 ….

Loving and Missing My “In-Between” Place

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This is my street where my house and my old apartment are located. My apartment is on the right at the end of the street. It’s almost time for those trees to bloom!

There’s a couple I know who are separated. I’ve seen the changes in their lives on Facebook. No one’s ever announced they are separated, and I have no idea if this is temporary or if they are moving toward divorce. It’s basically none of my business, but, whatever is happening, they are separated and in a transitional phase in their lives. It makes me think of the bittersweet times I had after both of my marriages ended. It makes me remember the places I lived at those times. They are etched in my memory in glorious detail because of the emotional impact that is tied to them.

I’ve heard that memories are more significantly remembered when there is emotion tied to them. The emotion etched every detail and feeling into my brain, and I still have the ability to go back there in a second. My first apartment after my divorce from my first husband was in an apartment complex in West Knoxville. It was nothing special to look at. I was poor, working at a call center, and it was the first time I’d ever supported myself in my life. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I changed jobs almost immediately because a great opportunity came up at work. Because of the distraction of a traveling job and the excitement of a large-scale project, I didn’t have the time to really feel my way through that transition. But, I do remember spending a lot of time listening to Country Music Television and crying along with the sad storytelling lyrics of the country songs popular in 1996. I remember having my first guests over and cooking in that frightful little kitchen but loving it because it was all mine. I remember being afraid but also very hopeful at the same time.

Click on the pics for captions.

I live right down the street from the apartment I lived in after my second divorce. I loved that place. It was cute. It was in Midtown Memphis which is THE coolest part of Memphis. It didn’t cool well enough in the summer and didn’t heat well enough in the winter. But, it had lots of light and lots of character, including a cute young drummer downstairs who had an enormous crush on the sexy lady upstairs. I had a great friend that lived one block north and one that lived one block south, so I could walk to their homes. This time I knew I could support myself, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be married.

What I remember most about that time is feeling really empty. Melody Beattie calls this the “in-between place.” I was in the process of letting go of my married self and my ex-husband. I had to sort out what was “his” and what was “mine.” When I was married, we had mutual interests and interests that we grew to love together. I had to let those go or decide how I would enjoy them in the future. For most, I let them go because there was too much grief associated with them. It came in fits and starts, but I remember a long period of letting go and grieving. Then, I remember a period of sitting with nothing. I didn’t really know what I liked or didn’t liked. I had never been single in Memphis, so I wasn’t sure where I liked to hang out. And, quite frankly, I didn’t have the confidence to go try new things yet. I had to heal.

My first Christmas tree in that apartment with my boy Simba.

My first Christmas tree in that apartment with my boy Simba.

This apartment became an incubator for me and my new life. It became the place that I tried on my first fledgling dating relationships. I was too fragile, so they didn’t work, but I put my toe in the water. It was the place that I discovered Facebook and started reaching out to old friends. It was the place where I learned to cook new dishes that my ex would have never enjoyed. I learned to love running and running socially. I did yoga in my yoga space there and learned to see and love my heart as a single woman. I did the majority of my codependency work there, uncovering the baggage that I had accumulated over a lifetime of being in addictive relationships. I learned to stand on my own and let the chips fall where they may.

My cat Nala on her last day of life. She perched on my bed and looked out the window as if to say "so long."

My cat Nala on her last day of life. She perched on my bed and looked out the window as if to say “so long.”

I still walk by that place when I walk my dog. I look up to the top floor, and I can see that broken girl that moved in there, hurting, sad and afraid. I can see the woman that I became…more hopeful with glimpses of happiness and then full-fledged serenity. I see my two cats that I had to euthanize while I was there. They had been through so much with me. Most of all, I see the walls of that midtown apartment that contained me for 2.5 years of my life, my in-between place. They were the canvas on which I created my life. They were the safety net I came home to when I couldn’t face the world anymore. They breathed with me as I moved through the waves of grief that at last I let surface. If those walls could talk, they would tell the story of my becoming who I am today. I hope my friends allow themselves to experience the in-between place. It’s that place that makes all the difference in letting go and moving forward. I actually sometimes miss that place now. I’m glad I get a chance to walk by every now and again and remember.

Cutting the Ties That Bind

A friend of mine is suffering through a divorce. The divorce is final, but I know from experience that a divorce is not final at the court appearance. It takes years for it to really be done. In this particular drama, one person is having a more difficult time letting go. I was the leaver in one divorce and the leavee in the other. I can relate to both sides. I remember the drama I produced when trying to get my ex engaged again and to stop his leaving. It really was the best decision for both of us, but I did not want to feel the pain. I unconciously tried to stop the pain by stopping the action. It is rare for both parties to be ready at the same time.

I was reading a blog that suggested people wait until they are emotionally attached to have sex with someone. The author suggested that as we get to know each other and spend time together, we start to bind to each other with “cords”. As these cords get more numerous with each little interaction and connection, the attachment gets more powerful. The theory is that when you have more attachment, the sex is more powerful and enjoyable. If that’s the case, then there must be millions of “cords” formed by the time a couple gets to a divorce.

Alita, a friend of mine, is a massage therapist, and she gave me a massage after my second marriage ended. I was in a lot of pain. I was the leavee in this one even though I was the one that physically left the house. I was not ready for it to end. I was “tied” to this man in so many ways, many of them unhealthy attachments. She said to me during my massage,” I get this visual of you being tied to Rick with these huge laces. The thing is that they are tied in bows. All you have to do is reach up and untie them to release him.” I remember saying to myself…NO….I can’t do that now. I could just feel the falling away as if I was falling off a cliff that would end in my death by shattering in a million pieces.

Towards the end of my grieving process, I used a visualization to help me visualize my healing journey. I experience the world very physically, so seeing and feeling what I was going through really helped me see where I was. The first time I did it, I closed my eyes and just let my intuition take over. I saw my heart. It was bound and wrapped and strangled with these cords. It was turning purple and bulging out in between the cords because it was so tight. I literally felt my heart was being strangled. As time went on, and I continued with my work, the cords became looser. I thought that one day they would just fall off. But that’s not what happened. As time passed, and I continued to visualize the status of my healing heart, the cords transformed into beautiful purple velveteen ribbons. The ribbons were soft around the edges. They were no longer strangling me. They enhanced the beautiful red hue of my heart. It was then that I knew I was done.

The thing I know is that you can’t just cut all those cords. Some people try. But, what they end up with is a rather extreme reaction rather than something that is healing. The leaver has at some point begun the cord-cutting way before the divorce is initiated whether they knew it or not. It’s hard to get to that final act. The one who is left has to begin the process once they realize where this is headed. I can see both sides, and I know how hard it is for both. As the leaver, I was filled with guilt even though I knew I had no other choice. When I was the leavee, I was filled with anger and crushed with rejection. But, either way, there were cords to cut…one…at….a….time….slowly….painfully….crushingly. Those ties that bind us are the ones that can literally choke us to death unless we let them transform into something different….velvety….soft….healing.

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Me and my first husband, John

I am divorced. I’m actually divorced twice. But, a divorce of any number sucks. I know why God hates divorce. It’s not that he wants us to suffer in an unhealthy marriage, it’s just that divorce is horribly, wretchedly painful. No matter how you slice it, if it can be worked out, it’s better than this alternative. But, sometimes it can’t.

Me and my second husband, Rick

Now, I am truly happy with my life. Don’t get me wrong. But that has come as a result of a lot of grieving and adjustment. And there are still days – rare – that I wish it hadn’t ended this way. I often get really mad about it when I have to carry a 40 lb bag of kitty litter into the house. That’s what HE was supposed to do. I also get angry (which is almost always a coverup for sadness or hurt, by the way) when I get rejected by someone I’m dating. I shouldn’t be back dating again. That was not Plan A.

The worst part of the aftermath of divorce is the guilt. If you are new to this game, the guilt never really goes away. It lessens. But, it’s always there. The other day, someone posted a picture of an elderly couple on Facebook. The caption was something like: “How did you make it 65 years? Answer: We lived in a time when something was broken, you fixed it. You didn’t throw it away.” Really? Do you really think that divorced people just thought it would be easier to quit? Only a person that has never been divorced would think that. They have no idea how horribly painful the choice of divorce really is. I do.

The divorce process itself is painful. Both of mine were relatively simple legally. We had no kids. I basically took the toys I brought and went home. But, it was still painful. It really is a ripping away. It rips away the family that you learned to love as part of your own. It rips away the dreams and plans for the future. It rips away the person that knows more about you than anyone else in the world. It just leaves a gaping hole in your life. I cannot even fathom how parents feel when they are divorced. I, at least, don’t have to see my exes after it is done. Even with that, it took me about 3 years after each divorce before I felt like it was really over. Not everybody takes that long, but that’s what it takes for me. I’ve read that the average recovery time is 2-3 years.

When my friends are going through a divorce, I feel honored to listen to their story. I know that when you are going through it, you have to tell your side of the story a million times. You don’t come to the decision to divorce because you were great at resolving conflict. It was such a gift when someone really listened and empathized with me. Later, I could look at both sides more realistically and see my part in the problems. But, that was long after the hurt and anger died down. So, when someone I care for goes on and on about their ex-spouse and how badly they were treated, I listen. And, I empathize. I validate their feelings. And, I give them the dignity to move through the very ugly and painful part of the grieving process that is ANGER. It is normal, and if you don’t process the anger, you will never get through the rest of the grieving process. When I do this for my friends (and sometimes strangers), I see it as giving back what I was given in a really tangible way.

I have a rule that I don’t date anybody that’s less than a year from their final divorce date. They are crazy, insane, mixed up and scared. I made that mistake once. And, I made this rule because I know that I’m insane when I’m going through a divorce. And, the weird thing is, I don’t feel insane at the time. So, I just don’t trust post divorce feelings, promises or desires. I have men that argue with me about it all the time. I’m over her…. I never really loved her….it was just the final legal paperwork, it was over years ago….blah…blah…blah…It’s not about you, baby. It’s about me and what I can tolerate.

As scary and painful as divorce is, it happens to a lot of us. So, we cope. I went through Divorce Recovery, twice. I hired a counselor. Many times, I paid that counselor to listen to me while I cried just to have a man validate the feelings I felt. It was worth every dime. I took a 2 year break from dating. In fact, I wasn’t even friends with any man that wasn’t gay during that two years. I took care of myself, walked my spiritual path, learned to exercise, surrounded myself with friends, did comforting things for myself, got massages, ate right and just did things that gave life to me. I rebuilt my life in a way that was supportive of who I am. Oh yeah….I cried a lot. I take that back, I sobbed. I cried so much for the first year that I could have floated my kayak on my tears. And, then, slowly, I stopped crying and started living. What was ripped apart was finally mended, stronger and with scars, to be sure. And now, when someone says they are going through a divorce, my heart softens for them because I’ve been there. And, if they will let me, I give them a really big hug.