September 20th: Forgiveness

I had often heard that forgiving someone was the answer to releasing your own pain… but forgiving… was not always easy.

Some of us have suffered physical and emotional abuse: an event so large, so debilitating, that our resentment builds until it consumes us.

We start acting differently; maybe choosing to stay home instead of going out, fearing that we may run into the perpetrator of our pain.

But the truth is… we become our own perpetrator of pain.

In the first months of my divorce, I was so hurt, so lost in my despair, so angry that my marriage had failed, that I could barely contain my anguish.

I would try not to lose self-control with my soon-to-be ex-husband, my children, my friends, but I was like a wounded animal, ready to bite, at any word, any action, I perceived as causing “more injury.”

The truth though… was that I was sad for my loss and angry at my spouse for causing me pain when I still held him so dear.

I was heartbroken.

Over time, as the “newness” of my pain began to cool, I was able to look at my situation, and work towards making it a better one.

One of the keys to accepting my divorce and moving through my pain, was finding forgiveness.

Finding forgiveness does not mean that we accept another’s wrong doing, it means that we accept that we cannot change what has happened.

To move forward in life, I had to let go of my anger and focus on what I could do to make the immediate future better for me and for my children.

Today, I am thankful for these painful experiences.

By walking through a difficult time I learned:

to show compassion to others in similar situations…

to let go of resentment so that I can heal myself…

and that giving it over to God… asking God to heal the wounds of my pain, led me to my true life path; one that now brings me peace and serenity.

“Dear God, help me to forgive. Help me to express loving-kindness and compassion in my day-to-day life.”

September 19th: Breaking the Habit

Over the course of my divorce there were several times I believed that a reconciliation was inevitable.

Part of it… was my own fantasy… my own belief… that suddenly something would magically “change” from the way it was in the past… and it would all work out.

Part of it… was my husband’s ambivalent behavior related to our relationship.

One day, he would be flirtatious, attentive, almost hinting that he was up for a second chance on our marriage.

On other days, he would be moody, sullen, almost as if he wanted to punish me for some relationship sin he felt I must have committed.

Each time he was kind and loving, I would get my hopes up and have several days where I would soar with joy.

Each time he was angry and hurtful, my world would topple down around me.

As time went on… and I witnessed this pattern replay over and over again… I realized that it was a bad habit: a habit that I would have to break.

We were both addicted to the drama of our relationship.

I began to listen to his words as if I were a quiet observer; noting them… but not reacting to them.

The more I became a witness to the moment, instead of a participant, I learned to step back from my behavior, and breakaway from our pattern.

I wasn’t able to change my bad habit “over night” but by practicing my new behavior, I learned to change it over time.

“Dear God, help me to breakaway from my past by practicing new behaviors for my future.”

September 18th: Letting Go

Letting go of someone or something was always difficult for me.

I would grow attached to a person, an outcome, and believe that if I just kept pushing… just kept working on it… I could make it right.

Even when I knew the person, or the situation was not in my “best interest,” I  would still push forward.

I just couldn’t let go.

I would fixate on all of the time I put into a relationship.

Or all of the time I put into a goal.

All of the time I put into “fixing things,” or “getting it right” and it seemed to “Let go” would mean that all of that time was somehow now wasted.

No matter how tired, worn-out, absolutely exhausted I found myself: I wouldn’t “Let go.”

One day, my sponsor said, “You remind me of a bull-terrier when they won’t let go during a tug of war with a rope.” Then she rested her hand on my arm and said, “Let go. It’s time… just let it go.”

Letting go doesn’t mean that you “give up.”

Letting go means that you stop fighting for your outcome… you “let go” and leave the outcome to God.

I would have spent my whole life trying to make things work with my husband.

I would have spent all of my precious time trying to fix something that couldn’t be fixed.

I needed to mourn the loss of my relationship, accept that I had learned many valuable lessons along the way but, when the time came to put down the “rope,” I had to be ready to move on… and let go.

“Dear God, help me to let go of what is not working for me. Help me to accept that sometimes I don’t know what is best for me… that you do… and if I stop fighting your will, I will find a new and better way to learn, love, and live.”

September 17th: Perspective

Often when I was dealing with my own trying situation I found it hard to keep perspective.

It was so easy to get caught up in my own pain and despair.

One day, my sponsor said to me, “I see that you are suffering, but the quality of your problems are so much better today.”

At first, I felt angry that someone seemed to be minimizing what I was going through but as the day moved on, and my thoughts grew calm, I realized that my sponsor was right.

In the days when my husband was living in his addiction my problems were significantly worse:

Would my husband survive the night?

Would my husband find recovery and be there for our family?

Would my husband be able to work through his guilt, shame, and pain and continue to abstain in his sobriety?

Today I was dealing with our divorce.

Yes, it was a horrible problem to have but I had to look at the reality of the situation: things could be much worse.

We were going through an inevitable break-up but my soon-to-be ex-husband was clean and sober, working a 12-step program, and providing support for our children as he walked through this difficult time.

I was fortunate as well:

I had my health, my children, my home, and a job that brought me joy and financial security, as well as my Al-Anon program to offer me experience, strength, and hope.

Perspective makes all the difference when you are struggling with what “is.”

If you can find a foundation amidst the chaos…

If you can find perspective when you are full of despair…

Then you can focus on what needs to be done to move your life forward.

“Dear God, help me to keep perspective during this trying time. Let me look honestly at how far I have come and how much I have learned as I have walked my path.”

September 16th: Longing

I have often struggled with longing for things I could not have but during my divorce… longing increased.

I longed to reconcile with my husband.

I longed to remove my past mistakes.

I longed for a perfect future.

Longing left my heart heavy… its strong, persistent yearning could not be fulfilled.

Sometimes, things would happen that would allow me for a moment to believe that maybe… just maybe… if I yearned for something long enough that my own self-will would make it happen… yet… it never did.

Longing was becoming an emotional stumbling block that was getting in the way of my day-to-day life.

It became hard to focus on my work, my friendships, my family… I was constantly consumed by my desire… my longing.

It is hard to let go of what we “long” for… but if it is stopping us from moving forward in our lives, from the work we need to do in the present, then we must find a way to let it go.

“Dear God, help me to appreciate my life today. Help me to see that to love the things I have is to truly be thankful for God’s abundance and grace.”

September 15th: Staying in the Moment

During my divorce  I found it hard to stay in the moment.

I would catch my mind in constant thought: either looking back at the past, or worrying about the future, but rarely in the present.

One day, one of my program friends said, “Don’t you see?  You’re straddling the fence of time. One foot in the past, one foot in the future, while you are ignoring the present. Take a moment… and enjoy the “present” view.”

I started to think about how often during the day I was living in my head and focused on a different time.

How often I was mulling over past events that I had no control over: those events had already happened. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it now.

And the future? That was taking up space in my head as well… but it wasn’t helping me to worry about the unknown.

I had to make a conscience effort every day to stay in the moment.

I knew that I had to spend time doing the footwork to move through my past and prepare for the future but… I had to also fight to stay focused on the fact that the present is all we have and the moments held within it are precious… not to be wasted… not to be overlooked.

We must find joy in the day, embrace the people who surround us, walk with us, during our trying times.

The simplicity of a moment: a beautiful sky, an ocean breeze, a walk with a good friend, a kiss from those we love, the small gifts of the present are more valuable then we realize and are too often overlooked as we struggle on our path.

Life is fleeting, and to waste precious time on what we can no longer change, and what we cannot possibly know, is to short change ourselves from all of the unexpected joys the present brings.

The “present” truly is a “gift” to appreciate.

“Dear God, help me to stay in the moment.  To find gratitude in the smallest things. I am thankful for the time I have on this Earth. Help me to appreciate these precious moments of my day-to-day life.”

September 14th: A New Direction

I had been with my husband for so many years that when we began going through our divorce, I felt truly lost.

I felt like I had no direction and wasn’t sure where life was taking me.

Some friends thought this was great.

They could see endless possibilities in my future.

I could only see my fear.

I was scared of what lay ahead of me.

I had so many hopes and plans for both of us.

It felt like we had walked through so much together, that we had come so far as a couple, and then… our dream was snatched away.

I needed my own direction now but I found it hard to navigate in such emotional turmoil.

I decided that the best plan for me would be to work towards goals I had first set within the course of my relationship with my husband.

Those goals weren’t so scary; it wasn’t too much of a change to start working on them now.

I looked at what I had planned for myself during the time we had been together:

I had planned to get back in shape.

I had planned to be closer to my children by being in their day to day lives, and engaging with them more.

I had planned to return to school to get my graduate degrees and I had planned to begin playing music again.

I made a conscious decision to work on those things.

I found comfort in the familiar.

These were goals, dreams that I was used to… I had set my sight on these goals for many years.

Now… was the time to act.

I began by exercising and eating healthy. I worked hard to take care of myself.

I spent time each day playing with my children or just sharing intimate conversations with them.

I went to the college and picked up my paperwork to apply for the graduate program and I began to play local shows with my band again.

It was a new start in the right direction.

Suddenly… I stopped feeling lost.

Sometimes change can be so big that we can’t bear it. But if we start with small, comfortable steps… steps that may have begun in our “former” lives… they can carry us over into our new beginning.

“Dear God, help me see your new direction for me. Let me have the strength to get out of my own way, and follow your path, the one that you have chosen for me.”