Archive | August 2017

August 24th: Courage

I was scheduled to speak at a 12-step meeting on the day that I filed the papers for my divorce.

I was to tell my story and offer the group my experience, strength, and hope.

While driving to the meeting, I started questioning why I was going. I was so down. I felt that I had nothing to offer. What could I say that would inspire anyone?

I pulled into the parking lot and mustered up the courage to go inside and tell my story.

As I stood at the podium, I noticed people listening intently. I saw people smiling and acknowledging what I was saying. Some even nodded and cried.

When I was done, many of the people I had just spoken to came over to hug me and thank me for sharing. Each one told me warmly that I had helped them with a problem that was going on in their lives at the time.

As the members of the meeting left to go home, I noticed one woman hanging back, waiting to talk to me privately.

I walked over to her and took her hand in mine. She smiled at me and said, “You are so courageous. I am so thankful I was able to hear you speak tonight. You inspired me to be strong. I know that I can get through this.”

As I walked back out to my car and started to drive home, I realized that my story didn’t have to be a pretty one or a perfect one to inspire another.

All I needed was the courage to tell it.

The courage to walk through it.

The courage to share it.

Courage means, “Strength of mind to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

I had done that.

I was courageous.

“Dear God, help me to have courage in trying situations. Help me to withstand my problems and triumph over them by having strength of mind.”

August 23rd: Prioritites

Even though things hadn’t been great for me and my husband for quite awhile, I still missed having him around.

I didn’t have him to help the kids with their homework while I cooked.

Or pick my son up from music lessons while I folded the clothes.

I missed being able to call out to my husband for help and unfortunately, during our separation and divorce, we didn’t have the type of relationship where I could ask for his help.

I had heard of people being a better team after a break-up, but that wasn’t what was happening with us. We couldn’t even communicate at a civil level.

I felt so overwhelmed.

I felt so trapped.

I was left taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of our family and the strain was catching up to me. I didn’t know what to do. I had to let go of something or I knew I would end up in ill health.

I had to learn to reschedule and re-prioritize what was truly important.

For now, I might have to do a fast food dinner instead of cooking. If ordering out freed up my time so that I could get a task done that was weighing heavy on me, then it was worth it.

For now, I might have to let the house be messy so that I could help my son with his homework. What was a messy house compared to helping my child?

Once I started to prioritize, figuring out what I really wanted and needed to spend time on and what I could let go of for today, I started to feel better.

Maybe there would come a day when I could ask my husband for more help.

But for now, I could look at what needed to be done and decide what was truly important to accomplish. I could look at what could be left, and what needed to be tended to, and if I could separate the two, I would find peace in my decisions.

“Dear God, help me to see what is truly important. When I am feeling that there is too much to do and too little time, guide me to see what really needs to be done and what can be left until later.”

August 22nd: Maybe You’re Right

I once heard if you really don’t want to get into it with someone there are ways to stop the argument before it starts.

I first started practicing the “Maybe you’re right” rule at work. If I thought someone was trying to pick a fight with me, I would stop myself from reacting and say, “Maybe you’re right.”

If someone said something to me that I felt was a dig at my personality, I would calmly say, “Maybe you’re right.”

If they questioned my judgement in a certain situation, I said, “Maybe you’re right.”

By not reacting, and by taking a step back, I could look at what this person had said with a rational mind. I could see if what they said had any truth in it. If it did, I could approach the person later, in a better state of mind, and discuss their concerns.

If what they said didn’t “hold water,” if it was truly meant to just cause a reaction then, I had removed myself from the situation before it escalated into an argument.

I liked knowing that a person was unable to get the rise they may have expected from me and that I could choose not to lose my peace of mind, or my serenity by just saying a few simple words: Maybe you’re right.

After practicing this technique for awhile, I noticed that people at work, who had tried to get a reaction from me before, stopped baiting me because they were unable to get the “hoped for” result.

I also found, that the people who had honest concerns, respected me for the way I was able to keep a cool head, my calm way of thinking, and my ability to take a step back, and look at myself and my actions.

By using this phrase, “Maybe you’re right,” I took my personal feelings out of the situation and stayed rational.

I was able to bring an emotional situation a step down, instead of reacting and causing it to “step up.”

“Dear God, help me to take a step back when provoked. If I can calmly and rationally, distance myself from the situation, I can then see if I have a part in it. Taking a step back will give me time to see what I truly need to do.”

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.”