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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 21st: Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

I had spent 17 years of my life with my husband.

In that time, we had acquired many habits both good and bad.

Our relationship had many hardships and because we had started off together so young, and with so few relationship “tools…” both being raised in dysfunctional alcoholic families, we didn’t do a very good job of navigating through them.

We fell into patterns of talking to each other in harsh tones, blaming, running away, and pushing each other’s buttons.

Even in the calm periods, the patterns we had learned prevailed.

We would try to be different but, we just weren’t.

When we both began working 12-step programs, I had high hopes that things would change. Some things did… but unfortunately… our root issues and our bad habits were still there.

During our divorce, the patterns continued.

It didn’t matter that we were separated. We couldn’t speak to each other without falling into our old ways.

It was horrible.

We had children together.

We would have to find a way to communicate in a true adult, loving, and kind manner.

We kept trying, but it always ended in a fight: nothing was different.

I was doing the same thing outside of my marriage that I had done inside of my marriage.

I could not change what my husband was doing.

I could not change what he was saying.

I could not change his behavior.

The only thing I could change was my attitude and my behavior.

If I kept doing the same thing and expecting different results, I was bound to fail.

I had not had a different result in one of our heated conversations in 17 years. Why would it be any different today?

I knew then that I could not get into these conversations with my husband any more. That for now, I had to learn not to engage. It was very difficult. I wanted to be in that old familiar pattern even if it was bad. I wanted to have contact with him and I wanted to believe that this time, the outcome would be different.

It couldn’t.

It wouldn’t until one of us changed our behavior.

I could only start with me.

Our children were old enough that they could contact their father on their own. I decided then and there, that for now, I would only contact him if there was an emergency, or a pressing child or financial issue. I had to take time away from him and work on changing my behavior.

So, what could I do differently in these conversations?

Well, I could start by not engaging, working on my communication skills, and for the time being, limiting my contact with him.

I knew that if I wanted it to be different, I would have to work to make it different.

Our communication skills would not change over night but if I was willing to work, to try handling this in a different way, over time, the results would be different and possibly better.

“Dear God, help me to stop doing the same things and expecting different results. Help me to change my part in the old behavior. Guide me to a new way which can then bring a positive result to my life.”

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.
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.”