August 20th: The God Box

One day, while we were still together, my husband came home with a present for me: it was a cedar God box.
He told me that whenever I had worries, whenever I needed to let something go, I could write down whatever was bothering me, write a letter to God, and put it in the box.
I could give my problems over to God.
Let them go.
I liked the idea so I put all sorts of things inside of the box:
A picture of my two children.
One of my husband’s cigarettes in hopes that he would quit.
Letters to God asking for guidance and help on certain issues.
Once they were tucked away in my God box, I would forget about them.
One day, I sat on the bed and opened the box and looked back over the things I had put inside.
I found that many of the problems I had turned over to God, had been removed from my life.
I liked my God box.
I liked having a special place to put my notes to God.
I realized it didn’t matter what type of box it was.
It could have been a shoe box, a paper bag; any type of container would do.
The point was to have a special place to give my worries over to God.

“Dear God, help me to give my worries to you. Once I turn them over, guide me to let them go. Taking back a worry will not help me. It will only cause me to fret over something that can only be handled by you.”

August 19th: Signs

I had a hard time believing in a loving Higher Power.

I had grown up believing that God was a punishing God and therefore, I couldn’t fully put my trust into the idea.

I came to a place in my divorce where I was full of despair.

I felt so totally lost that I looked up and said, “Please, please God… just give me a sign.”

My desperation lead me to look for answers and my answers, were to come from my Higher Power.

During this time period, I had been wearing a necklace with three things on it: my wedding band, a 12-step program ring, and the serenity prayer.

I had been having a hard time with all three.

My marriage was in turmoil and I wasn’t willing to “let go.”

I felt the 12-step program had failed us and drove us further apart.

And, I didn’t have serenity for the life of me.

Every morning, I woke up, put that necklace on and held it close to my heart, where I could feel it weigh heavy against my chest all day long.
Until one day, I got up, reached for my necklace and as I lifted it from the table, watched all three items fall off of the chain.

I had never unclasped this chain since I had bought it.

I had slipped it over my head each time I wore it.

I stood there in silent shock.

It was as if my Higher Power had gently reached out a hand, slipped the items off the chain and said, “Let it go.”

That day, I stopped wearing my necklace.

I took the three items and put them inside of my God box.

I knew that I needed to hand them over to my Higher Power.

I needed to believe in the sign I had been given: a loving God was there to guide me through my pain.

“Dear God, help me to recognize your signs. If I ask for your guidance, make me aware of your answers.”

August 18th: Signs of Stress

Over the years, my husband and I had been through brief periods of separation which had lead me to believe that he would always come back.

So, when we first separated, my body didn’t really react to the situation. But as the separation turned into steps towards divorce… it did. My skin looked ruddy and would break-out. My heart would pound and my head would ache. Some mornings, I woke up so wound up that I would immediately need to throw up.

It was horrible feeling so physically distressed.

My sleeping and eating patterns became erratic. I was on a “fight or flight” alert 24 hours a day.

I knew that there wasn’t much I could do to stop these physical symptoms of stress. I would have to walk through the pain and walk through my feelings before the stress and the physical symptoms would stop.

I decided that if I had to live with it for now, I would find a way to work with it and keep my health at an optimum during this situation.

I began taking multi-vitamins.

I remembered to drink more water and cut down on caffeinated drinks.

I walked daily and lifted weights.

I worked on eating healthy foods and even if it seemed too difficult to eat a whole meal, I would take the time to eat a healthy snack.

I soothed my distressed mind by journaling, praying, keeping gratitude lists, and spending time with family and friends.

I still suffered from the physical symptoms of stress but, my efforts to care for myself kept the intensity level of the symptoms to a minimum.

Learning what we can and cannot change can help us through a trying situation.

I could not change how my body would react to the stress of my divorce, but I could change my role. I could take care of myself to the best of my ability and know, that in time, the symptoms would pass.

“Dear God, help me to put myself first today. Help me to take care of my health and my mental well-being. I will be of  no service to my family, my friends, and my community until I choose to take care of myself.”

August 17th: Beyond Reason

I hated that everything my husband was doing was beyond reason.

Why would he leave his family?

How could he live with seeing us only a few times a week?

What was so important to him that he would walk away from everything we had built: our history, our world… to look for something else?

One day, a good friend said, “It is beyond reason. No one can explain why people do the things they do.”

It was true.

I could question all I wanted.

I could ask my husband why… but I still don’t think I would understand.

It was beyond reason.

I could drive myself crazy wondering why certain things happen.

I could spend every day wondering why this person lived… or this person died… why one family stayed together… why one family fell apart… but I wouldn’t find logic in the answers.

Sometimes… they just do.

Life is beyond reason.

Today, I know that I can spend endless emotional energy trying to figure out why and still not get to an answer.

It happened.

It is beyond reason.

Now, what am I going to do with my life for today?

“Dear God, help me not to waste time trying to find reason where there is none. Help me to use my time to move on and move forward. Help me to accept that things in life sometimes… just happen. They are beyond my control. They are beyond my reason. I must have faith that you know the plan, you know the reason, and everything is happening just as it should.”

August 16th: Logic vs. Feelings

When I was growing up, I was taught not to show my true feelings.

It was not safe to express feelings in my home.

Exposing feelings in my home could cause terrible reactions. It was better not to express your feelings, better to rely on logic.

I began to excel at school.

I learned that logic could hold me. I didn’t have to feel anything to get an “A” on my math test. I could use logic and succeed.

I learned to bury my feelings and rely on my brain to get me through life. I could logic my way out of anything. I believed that if I just studied hard enough… everything would work out fine.

Well, that isn’t the way life works.

Sometimes, we can do everything in a logical manner, hoping to obtain a certain result, and it still won’t happen.

When my marriage began to decline, I was at a loss.

Logically, I believed that if I just worked harder, studied harder, figured out exactly what my spouse needed… I could make it work.

Logically, it made perfect sense. I had always triumphed using my logic. I would triumph again.

But… logic didn’t work.

Nothing about what we were going through was logical. It was all based on feelings, emotions, sensations, resentments that were buried for many, many years.

Every logical conclusion ended with us in a passionate argument followed by a silent stalemate.

We couldn’t get past the feelings… there was no logic.

When my husband decided that he truly wanted a divorce, I once again began to logic my way through it. I read all of the divorce books I could find. I made lists of reasons for this happening. I studied and worked to understand but, my logic failed me. I couldn’t logic my way out of this one.

I was devastated.

I knew that there was no logic to what happened, it just happened.

I would have to walk through my feelings. I would have to feel every emotion that I had hidden away.

It was very scary.

It was very painful.

Logic had failed me.

The one thing I had trusted throughout my life had let me down.

I would have to feel this and I didn’t like it: feelings were uncomfortable.

There was no other way.

I would have to walk through it.

Logic is good but sometimes there is no logic in life. Logic is good… as long as it isn’t used to replace feelings.

There has to be a balance between logic and feelings: one cannot replace the other.

“Dear God, help me to walk through my feelings. I know that it can be uncomfortable to allow myself to feel things, but if I bury them, they will resurface again and again, causing turmoil in my life. Guide me through my feelings, and past the pain.”

August 15th: Triangulation

Before we sought out marriage counseling, my husband and I would manipulate each other through triangulation.

Triangulation meaning that one of us would complain to a third person about our marriage, not to gain insight or deal with our problem, but to keep a connection and manipulate each other.

It worked especially well with our children but any family member would do. Even friends could fall into our trap.

We could put anybody in the middle of our arguments.

It was a very destructive cycle, one that was very difficult to break.

It is very easy to triangulate when emotions run hot:

When you have mutual friends and you each want to give your version of why the marriage is or was failing…

When you don’t want to talk to your spouse so you send a message through a child…

When you want to get a jab in and hurt each other…

When you’re feeling the loss of connection and want to create one, even if it is a negative one…

One comment given to the right person can then be relayed to your spouse and cause them to hurt.

It is a very affective technique when you want to “have power” over them.

It is not something you would want to to do in a mutually dependent and loving relationship.

I had no control over what my husband was going to do while we went through our separation and divorce.

I would have to work on my part to stop the triangulation.

It was very difficult.

Sometimes he would say things to our son and I was sure that he wanted me to react to them.

Sometimes he said things to my relatives that caused me to feel pain.

Sometimes he said things to our friends that I felt were untrue.

If I, while my emotions ran high, chose to go to those same people and send a message back, I knew that I could and that my message would cause him pain.

But, using triangulation hurts everyone; all the people involved.

I had to consciously choose not to do this.

At first, I sometimes failed and continued to “act out.” I sometimes bought into his game; hook, line, and sinker. He would say something to my son and I would call my husband and argue with him about what I had heard. I would do the same when I heard the comments he had made to our family and friends. He knew just how to push my buttons and I let him.

Until one day, I made a decision. I decided to not play the game. If I stopped, the triangulation could not continue.

I made a conscious effort not to play. If I wanted to communicate in a different way, it had to begin with me.

“Dear God, guide me in my communications with my spouse. Help me to be adult, loving and kind in all of my interactions.”

August 14th: Chaos vs. Serenity

I grew up in a house full of chaos: there was always a drama going on.
If my parents weren’t arguing, then my brothers were. If I wasn’t crying, someone was. There was never a set schedule for anything and you never knew what was going to happen next.
My husband had also grown up in a chaotic, unstable environment. We thought this type of living was normal.
So, when we began our relationship and we chose to live in chaos, it seemed familiar.
We weren’t able to create a stable, supportive relationship… we didn’t know how.
We were both working jobs that had constantly changing schedules. Sometimes my husband would be out of town for weeks. Sometimes, I would work days… sometimes nights. When we tried to discuss things, I never knew if we would come to a peaceful conclusion or end up in a fight. I was never quite sure how my husband would react and… he probably felt the same way about me.
Our emotions were up and down.
We had not learned in our childhoods how to communicate openly and honestly.
Sometimes, we were close but most of the time, we were withdrawn for long periods, unable to deal with our true feelings.
When you grow up in chaos, you grow up feeling unsure. You never know who or what to trust. You never know what is safe to talk about and what isn’t. You never know what feeling is safe to show that day, or isn’t. One day, you can do something and no one seems to care at all, and the next day, they do.
How can you be truly open to emotional connection, intimacy, and mutual dependency when you have grown-up in chaos?
It was hard for me to admit that chaos was what I chose over serenity.
It sounded silly… but it felt safe.
Safe, because it was what I had learned growing up.
Today, I know that it is safe to have serenity.
Safe to want stability and open communication in a relationship.
Safe to set boundaries, limits, rules.
No life can be completely free of chaos… things happen… schedules shift… people change their minds… things get crazy but… it is okay to have a relationship and home life that is built on serenity and stability instead of chaos and lack of communication.

“Dear God, it is not easy to look at the past and learn from it. Help me to break out of my need for chaos. Lead me to serenity and open communication.”