Sunday, June 24, 2012

how'd you do that?

Since becoming a d-word, several people have asked questions or made comments regarding how I've been able to handle the whole d-word situation. It's not an easy question to answer. Most of the time, I ask myself the same thing! How did I do it? How did I get here? So I spent the last week or so processing some of the big things that happened to get to me where I am today. Please see below if you're interested. *Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a humble-brag. I am not saying I'm an expert or well-versed in d-word aftermath management. This is just what popped out to me over the last year. So take the pinch of salt and throw it over your shoulder as you digest.

Top 3 things you need:
1)  A good therapist. Therapy has been a hugely influential part of my life over the last 8 years. I don't know how people navigate the chaos and confusion of life without a counselor. I can't begin to tell you all the things I've gained from therapy over the last year alone, but I know I wouldn't feel as free and whole and healed as I do today if I hadn't started the journey of recovery in therapy over a year ago.
2)  A supportive community of people. This took several different forms over the last year. I participated in a Divorce Care support group for close to 6 months. While it was cheesy and a little too "this is God's plan" for my taste, for a while it was the only place I felt safe to breathe deeply. I have many friends who towed the line of friendship and I am beyond grateful for them sticking around and working through all this with me.
3) New friends. Simple. You need a couple of new friends who don’t know you, don’t know your former spouse or family. You need at least one area of your life where you can have anonymity again. This became my respite. This was especially crucial for the days I didn't want to have to answer the question "how are you doing?" with the sad puppy dog eyes from those around me. I have met some incredible people over the last year and I'm so glad they are part of my life. They picked up right where I needed them to and that was usually with some laughs, some time around the table, and a patio in the evening. (*These people did not replace my "old" friends. They were simply added to the fold.)

Helpful reminders for the day-to-day:
-Choose to heal. You are worth it.
(This is actually really hard. You have to constantly be checking yourself to be sure you're running the marathon and not the relay. And as a non-runner, I can tell you, every mile was its own individual struggle.)

-Acknowledge your feelings. Let days be hard. Let days be angry. Let days be sad or lonely. But let them be easy, and happy, and enjoyable too. However you wake up feeling that day-- go with it. You’re a human being and you were given the ability to feel a spectrum of emotions. Explore them. Embrace them. Acknowledge them and give the next day a chance to be something different.

-There’s a difference between grieving and mourning. Grieving acknowledges what’s happened, processes it, deals with it, allows the scab to form and the scar to develop. Mourning camps on the land of victims. Don’t get stuck. Don’t pitch a tent. Grieve. And fully grieve.

-Cocoon yourself in music. Let words rattle in your bones and ring out in your soul. You might be surprised how many songs out there sound like they were written just for you. But don’t just wrap yourself in sadness and loneliness and grief. Listen to music that makes you happy. That makes you angry. That makes you roll the windows down and scream. And most importantly, listen to something that allows you to let go. Let yourself move. DANCE.

-Raise an Ebeneezer. Do something that you can look back on and see how far you’ve come. For me, I had a burn party on my wedding anniversary about 6 weeks after my divorce was final. I gathered some close friends and we stood in a circle and threw poppers and vented about the whole situation. It was important to involve others in this process. Divorce ripples out and affects the make-up of the whole pond of people around you. They need to grieve too. We burned a few pictures, a couple of letters,  some words on paper, and a tshirt. It was a blast. A year later (this year) I had a rock throwing ceremony. At my wedding, we had people sign rocks instead of a guestbook. Some friends sailed me out to the middle of Lake Hefner and we threw them in the water. I hurled some. I let some slowly drop off my hand. I skipped some on the surface of the water. Those two Ebeneezers signify my process of forgiveness and letting go. Last year, I started the process. This year, I finished it. “Forgiveness is setting down the load, never to pick it up again.” –said someone famous. This is hard, but it’s so much easier to just let it go and get some miles in your rear-view mirror. *It should be noted that I am extremely sentimental. I realize not everyone is. 

 -Ask for patience and grace. But know that typically when you ask for things like that, you’re given opportunities to practice being patient and graceful. And it’s hard. But that’s why we practice. To get better at it.

“The best revenge is a life well lived.” –Chloe Neill  I love this. It’s easy to get caught up in the anger and bitterness and frustration of your situation. It’s easy to want to get back at the other person for what they’ve done to you. At the end of the day, it’s done. It’s in the past. Don’t waste your time and energy. Instead, pour that time and energy into you and your life and your future. Get rid of cable, get outside, invest in yourself and those around you.

God is faithful. He really does find a way to work all things together for good. I know this because he's taken the dust and ashes of my life and made them into something beautiful.