Archive | August 2017

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Sometimes, we were close but most of the time, we were withdrawn for long periods, unable to deal with our true feelings.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.”

August 13th: Breaking Habits

I was at work one day when I called to listen to my voice mail at my home. I was planning on taking my husband’s voice mail box off the phone when I heard he had a new message. Instead of leaving the message alone and letting my husband know that he had a message that he needed to retrieve, I listened to it.

It was a message that he needed promptly so I took it upon myself to call him and let him know.

The message was related to music, and both of us being musicians, this was some times a very “hot” topic for us and a topic in which we knew we could both definitely push each other’s buttons.

I called him and engaged in a conversation knowing full well that I was in a place where if provoked or pushed, I would react.

As it was, I was provoked and pushed and I did react.

We ended up in an argument and I said something that I knew I would later regret.

I had been caught up in my old habits. I had to admit:

I wanted to listen to his message.

I wanted to get all worked up over it.

I wanted to call him and talk to him, or argue with him just so that I could engage with him: that was my pattern.

My bad habit.

I wanted his attention, positive or negative, no matter at what cost to my serenity.

Today though, I am not oblivious to my habit.

I am aware.

Becoming aware of a bad habit helps me to break the pattern and give up the habit.

It isn’t easy… but it can be done.

“Dear God, help me to let go of my bad habits. Bad habits hurt me. Help me to break the pattern. Help me to give up the habit. Guide me out of chaos and into serenity.”

August 12th: Emotional Relapse

Sometimes, I would let what I wanted get in the way of what I really needed.

I had found out that spending time with my husband while going through our divorce was not helping me to move through my recovery. I still wanted emotional closeness, I still wanted our marriage to work. He did not want these things. He was unable to give me what I needed. Yet at times, I would cling to what I could not have.

My husband came to our home on Mother’s Day. I wanted to spend the day with my entire family. My family meaning: my husband, my children, and my own mother.

As the day went on, I found myself wanting more and more of what I could not have. I tried to be everything to everyone and act as if I was calm and centered. I held it together until the end of the day and then, I felt tired and worn out. I felt like I had been holding myself rigid all day long.

I went to bed early that night… hoping that in the morning… I would feel refreshed. Unfortunately, I woke to an emotional relapse.

It felt like I had been tossed into an emotional meat grinder.

Every emotion that I had been working through over the last several months was vivid and fresh in my mind.

I was raw.

I was crying.

I felt butterflies in my stomach and was unable to keep my focus for the day.

I knew what had happened. Not only had I held all of my emotions from the day before, but by allowing myself to slip back into a “comfortable” place with my husband, I had stirred up what was beginning to be put to rest. I put myself in a position to be hurt again. I allowed myself to suffer this emotional relapse.

I looked up relapse in the dictionary and found, “to slip or fall back into a former worse state.”

That is exactly what I had done.

I had set myself up to fall back into a worse state.

To stay away from another emotional relapse, I would have to consciously choose to stay away from what I could not have.

I had to consciously stay away from what I wanted.

I had to become aware that it was not what I needed and that it would only cause me pain and to fall back into a worse state.

“Dear God, help me to let go of what I want and accept what I need. Help me not to slip back into a worse state of mind. Help me to consciously choose to walk towards a better state of mind.”

August 11th: Emotional Highs and Lows

I had the hardest time keeping my emotions in check when I was around my husband.
Either I was in tears when he would come by the house or, I was yelling at him over the phone. If I wasn’t fighting… I was silent or withdrawn, avoiding him so that there wouldn’t be another scene.
Even on days that I could hold it all together, I would feel drained and numb by the time he left to go home after visiting our children.
I couldn’t stand it.
I hated that we could no longer have an intimacy between us.
That something had changed, and it wasn’t coming back.
I still wanted to be with my husband.
I still wanted it to work.
He was in a very different place and I was having a hard time accepting it. What I discovered, was that for the time, no matter how much I longed to be with my estranged spouse, I needed to keep my emotional distance. I needed to stay away. I didn’t want to do it but, I had to or I was the one who would suffer.
Our children were old enough that they could contact their father on their own. They arranged a time when they would speak to him on a nightly basis and I knew that when the phone rang at that time… it was their father. I didn’t need to answer it, I didn’t need to hear his voice. I could let my son answer the phone and have a conversation with his dad.
I felt relief.
I felt like an emotional stumbling block had been removed.
We then discussed weekday and weekend visitations. We set specific pick up and drop off times. Knowing when he would be over to pick my son up or bring my son home allowed me to be somewhere else during that time period.
It didn’t always run like clockwork but most of the time… I could keep my distance.
Then, I realized that I had to give up the idea that our family should spend quality time together at this particular moment in our lives.
It just didn’t work.
It was too emotionally raw for me to sit around with my soon-to-be ex-husband and act as if everything was fine at family functions and holidays.
By setting limits, and keeping my distance, I was better able to keep my emotions under control.
I could stop myself from the ups and downs that were causing emotional havoc in my day-to-day life.

“Dear God, help me to keep my distance when necessary. If my emotional well-being is suffering due to contact with another individual, help me to set limits on the amount of time that I am willing to commit to this individual.”

August 10th: Losing the Dream

I felt the need to see a counselor while going through my divorce. She was very knowledgeable in what I was going through, based on her schooling, but also based on her life experiences. As our session was coming to a close one day she said, “It’s hard to give up your dream. You dreamed that you and your husband would raise your children together, travel together, grow old together, and it didn’t happen. Of course you are feeling devastated. You are grieving the death of your dream.”
I immediately burst into tears.
It was so true.
I had always had these visions of our future and how are life would be:

We would watch our son graduate from high school and we would look at each other lovingly and knowingly; proud of our mutual accomplishment of raising a successful child.

We would watch our daughter go off to college, or some day get married or both… and of course, I imagined my husband would be the one to give her away.

We would travel across the world, being loving and kind to each other in exotic locations.

It was a dream… a beautiful dream… but that dream was not to be.

The loss at the time was too much.
I had to grieve it.
If we had stayed together, would that dream have come true?
Who knows.
No one can predict the future.
Our past track record, our dysfunctional patterns, seemed to negate my dream of ever becoming a reality.
In the seventeen years that we had been married, I couldn’t come up with one time we had gone on a trip without our children. Each trip we had taken had ended with us fighting or my husband giving me the silent treatment. Maybe we would have traveled to exotic places together, getting along beautifully but… probably not.
I remembered back to my daughter’s graduation. Though we were both proud, we weren’t really getting along that day. We weren’t looking lovingly and knowingly at each other. My husband was tired of the crowd. I was hot and trying to keep everyone calm as I acted like a buffer between my own mother and my husband who weren’t really getting along during this period of time.
Yes…we were proud.
Yes…we felt a sense of accomplishment as parents.
Yes…we had great moments that day but it wasn’t like the “movie of the week” dream that I had pictured.
The reality was different from the dream.
It’s good to have dreams but it is also good to be able to look a dream in the eye and see the reality.
While going through my divorce, I had a hard time relinquishing the dream. I looked back and glamorized all that we had. I couldn’t see the truth in each situation. I could only see the dream.
I struggled to see what really happened because all I wanted to do was live in the dream: the dream that I thought I had lost.
The truth was, we had some great times together and we had some horrible times together.
The reality was that my dream was nothing more than a dream. As long as I held on to the dream, I would not be able to move forward in my divorce recovery. Today, I try to look at the whole picture… the loss of my dream and the reality of what our relationship really was.

“Dear God, help me to let go of my dream. It was a beautiful dream but it is now no longer helpful to me. If I can open my heart to a new dream, I open a door to the happiness that you will soon bring to me.”

August 9th: The Three Second Rule

I had been spending a lot of time thinking of my husband and his new life. I imagined that everything I had tried to give to him for the last 17 years, would “magically” come to him now… now that everything I had tried… had failed… and suddenly… magically… everything would work for him once I was gone.
It was self-abusive.
I would create these elaborate fantasies about what he was doing and who he was with. My head would make up these amazing stories and I would let my mind “swim” in them until I was drowning in despair.
I told my program counselor and she immediately taught me the Three Second Rule.
She said that when I felt one of my “elaborate” fantasies coming on, I needed in the first second… to become aware of it: to fully realize that I was about to take myself to a place that I did not want to go.
Then, during the second, I was to say out loud a command to stop myself from continuing my negative fantasy such as: Stop! or Cancel!
And during the third second, I was to practice opposite action which meant, taking a positive stance instead of a negative one like; praying for good things to happen for my husband and for everyone who was now involved in his current life.
I thought I would never be able to do it.
But… I went home, and later that day, tried it out. I went for a two-mile walk through a park near our home where I often went to unwind. As I walked, I caught myself starting in on my negative thoughts. I did what my counselor had told me: I became aware. I said “Stop!” out loud and I prayed for good things to happen to my husband and everyone involved in his new life and then… I continued walking.
Not more than a few steps later, I found myself in negative thoughts again. I repeated the process. By the time I had finished my two-mile walk, I had practiced The Three Second rule over 20 times! I could not believe how much I had been allowing my mind to wander into negative thinking.
I saw that not only was the first second of the exercise making me aware but, that by completing the entire exercise, I was becoming spiritually aware of the amount of time I had been wasting on this practice. I was spending my precious time, my new life, wallowing in negative fantasies instead of moving forward on my own path.
I continued on with the practice for the rest of the day and the next day, and when I saw my former spouse, I could not believe the difference in my behavior.
I was calm and centered.
I was able to listen to his problems and concerns with a cool head.
I did not react to his actions.
By praying for him… I had released him…. And by releasing him… I had released myself.

“Dear God, help me to overcome my need to dwell on negative images. Help me to see that I am only hurting myself by holding on to this false vision.”

August 6th: Imagination

I once heard someone say, “My imagination is a scary place… I can never go in there alone.”

I agree.

It is a scary place.

I have spent a lifetime creating amazing images in my mind. Most of the time, I use them for positive purposes: to tell my children an exciting story, to write a song, to sketch a picture, or to visualize a soothing, beautiful place when I am feeling down. But sometimes, my imagination gets the better of me.

When I’m in a bad space, if I let my mind wander freely, picturing every negative outcome to a situation, I do myself damage. If I allow my imagination to run wild, unchecked, it can take me to places I never wanted to go. It’s like rolling a negative tape. Repeating a vision over-and-over again until you become overwhelmed and sure that what you imagine is what the outcome will be.

Yes, the outcome could be a negative one: there are no guarantees that bad things won’t happen in life.

But why choose to be filled with despair?

Why choose to reinforce the bad?

Why not choose to reinforce the good?

If I find myself going to a bad place, wouldn’t it be easier this time to say, “Stop the tape!” or “Cut!” and change that image?

Wouldn’t it be better to my sense of self and serenity to use my imagination to my advantage instead of my disadvantage?

Next time I will shout, “STOP!” Don’t go there. Don’t live in despair. Don’t live in the negative. It may never happen so why live in such a nightmare?

I will focus on the positive and let my imagination take me to a better outcome.

“Dear God, help me to use my imagination in a positive way. Help me to use it to create beautiful images, positive outcomes, and serene places, where my mind can float freely and serenely.”

August 5th: Getting Carried Away

When my husband and I first truly split apart, it was hard not to focus on what he was doing and who he was with.

I had been with this man for over 17 years.

I was 19 when we first got together.

I had worked so hard to put things right while we were in counseling… To find out that it wasn’t going to work sent me into a spiral. I remember my husband calling me on the phone. He was working out of state and that is when he told me that he wanted a divorce. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that the man I had loved truly did not want to spend the rest of his life with me.

I couldn’t believe that the man I had loved would call me over the phone to tell me that he wanted a divorce. I cried and begged for him to change his mind. He grew cold and angry and defensive. I became close to hysterical. I felt such a loss of control and my mind began to spin.

Who was he with?  I thought.

Why did he want to leave?

What did this new life have to offer that a life with his family could not offer?

For the next few months, it was very hard not to live in my head and get carried away with my thoughts. It became so bad that I would look for answers to validate my fears. I caught myself looking through phone bills, credit card records, rehashing everything he had said and trying to see it in a new light.

What exactly had he meant when he said that?

Had he planned to divorce me all along and was just going through the motions of trying to make it work?

Some of my fears were validated. There were many discrepancies in what he had said and did. Did that help me? No. Did I feel any better finding these things out? No. Did it bring me to a calm, centered state of mind where I was focused on myself and my own growth instead of my husband’s? No.

The problem with getting carried away is that it only hurts me. I am the one who feels the physical pain, frustration, hurt, abuse, anger and sadness. Not my husband. He did what he did. There is nothing I can do about that today. I can not change what happened by looking for answers. I will never find logic in what he did no matter how hard I try to piece it together. I can’t take back what has happened. I can’t take back the past.

If I become carried away in real or make-believe drama about what is happening in the present, in my spouse’s new life, I am only sending myself into a state of shock, panic, and pain. I’m choosing to focus on him instead of myself. I am devaluing what I have today, who I am today, and what my new life will bring me. If I let myself get carried away… I am allowing myself to be abused. Not by my spouse.. but by myself. Do I want to spend my new life abusing myself? Do I want to spend my new life focusing on someone else? Do I want to spend my new life wasting time on thoughts that will only cause me pain? No.

“Dear God, help  me to stay in the moment. Help me not to become carried away in thoughts that will only take away my peace of mind. I can do nothing to stop my spouse from walking the path he has chosen. Help me to focus on myself and keep my mind busy with the thoughts of my every day life.”

August 4th: Hope vs. False Hope

I had hoped that this wouldn’t happen in my life.

I had hoped that my husband and I would not divorce.

I had hoped that my children would not have to go through this painful experience.

I had hoped that something would change.

I did the footwork to prevent the divorce from happening.

I went to counseling, I worked on myself, I tried to meet my husband’s needs, I gave it my best.

I was willing.

I hoped that it would work… but it didn’t.

At first, I felt that I had failed.

That my hope had been pointless.

What good was hope if it didn’t bring the desired outcome?

I found myself filling up with despair.

Letting go of all hope for my future.

I only found hope in fantasy.

I hoped that we would someday get back together.

I hoped that he would call and change his mind.

I hoped that he would come home, come back to me, and be the man I needed him to be.

This was not true hope.

This was despair.

This was “false-hope.”

A make believe hope that I was using so that I did not have to let go.

So that I did not have to look at the reality of the situation.

So that I could live in my fantasy.

The fantasy of making my marriage work.

I had spent over half of my marriage hoping that we would not divorce.

I had spent over half of my marriage hoping that I could make it work.

I hadn’t been able to see that I had been living in false hope for a long, long time.

I had been living in fantasy for over half of my marriage.

I was so caught up in my idea of hope that I hadn’t even seen the signs.

My marriage had not been working for a very long time.

It was time for me to give up my false hope and have true hope.

I know hope that my husband will someday find peace and happiness in his life.

I hope that he finds everything that he could not find within our marriage.

I hope that I will find peace and happiness and everything that I could not find within our marriage.

Hope is believing, trusting that something good will come my way.

Hope is relying on my Higher Power to bring me the happiness.

Hope is trying your hardest, doing your best, and accepting the outcome of the situation.

You know that you hoped for the best.

Why would you hope for the worst?

Accept what has happened and find hope again.

Hope is trust in your Higher Power to bring you what you need in life.

To bring you to true peace and happiness, not the fantasy that was created by having false hope over something that was not to be.

“Dear God, fill me with true hope. Let me trust that things are exactly as you want them to be. Lead me out of despair and into reliance that you will provide for me what I need.”

August 3rd: Longing

Waking up in the morning while I was going through my divorce was very difficult for me.

I would have a moment of quiet peace before the reality of my life once again hit me.

My husband had left me.

He wanted a divorce.

There was nothing I could do to change that fact.

It was what I believed to be the worst moment of my day.

It was like waking from a gentle sleep to a true nightmare.

I would lie in bed for several moments after my realization and long for what was no longer mine.

Listening in anticipation that his footsteps might once again come down the hall.

Waiting for a phone call to come where he would take back his decision and we would once again unite.

Longing was tearing me apart.

Longing was keeping me living in the fantasy.

These things were no longer a part of my life.

I would have to mourn the loss and move on.

I would have to find something else to long for, something in my present, or something in my future.

But, longing for something in my past would do me no good.

It would not bring what I once had back.

If I allowed myself to continually dwell on what was no longer mine, I was then only causing myself more pain.

From then on, I allowed myself a moment each morning to accept the reality.

My husband was gone and I was getting a divorce.

Then, a moment to mourn and long for the life that I once had.

And then… a moment to look forward to the new life that lay before me.

“Dear God, help me to let go of my longing for what I had in the past. Longing for something will not bring it back. Longing for someone lost will only cause pain. Help me to look towards my future and the happiness it will bring.”