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 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 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 8th: Reaching Out

Several years ago, I went through a very hard time in my life. Yet, instead of reaching out to others… I isolated. I stayed in my home. I wouldn’t get dressed. I wouldn’t call friends on the phone or return their calls. If people did get hold of me, I would come up with excuses not to speak with them. If they asked me out, I would do the same. I spent every waking moment focused on my troubles. I reached out to no one. I asked for no help. It was a behavior that was hurting me. As long as I isolated, I could dwell in my misery. I could replay over and over in my head what had happened, what I had done wrong, what I should have done. It was a horrible experience. It was like being imprisoned in my mind.

Over time, I was able to look at my behavior and see that I had been isolating. I knew, that if I walked through a hard time again, I would have to practice reaching out… I didn’t want to at first. During my divorce, I wanted to hide. I wanted to wallow in my pain. But… I did reach out. I made myself reach out. I exercised with friends. I talked about my problems with them over the phone. I sought out counselors and professionals to help me through my experience and I reached out to my family. It helped. When I broke down, they were there for me. They didn’t expect me to be stoic. They didn’t tell me to “Buck up, move on, get over it.” They listened. They offered support. They let me cry and they hugged and comforted me when words would no longer help.

It wasn’t easy to reach out, but it kept me from being a prisoner of my mind. Now, I know that when I feel like isolating, I need to take opposite action. I need to reach out. I need to let someone in. It is the only key to the prison I create for myself. “Dear God, help me to reach out to others in my time of pain. Guide me to the hands of kind friends, loving family, and caring professionals who will help me walk through my pain and release me from my prison of solitude.”

August 7th: Decisions

I knew that my husband wanted a divorce but he wasn’t moving forward with the process. He told me in December, yet by mid May, he had still not filed the papers.

I believed that he had doubts about what he was doing and so, I didn’t push the issue.

I still had hopes that we could work it out… that something would change.

One day, I called my husband to speak to him about a commitment to our son. I was calm and centered as I spoke but as the conversation continued, it turned into one of our old battles. Once again, we could not resolve our issues.

I knew then, that I had to make a decision. I could sit around and wait for something to happen or, I could decide what I needed to do and go from there.

Sometimes, it’s okay to wait if you are feeling unsure, confused, or in a high state of emotion. In fact, it may be the best thing to do. Other times, it’s best to make a move, to take an action. I found that living in a state of uncertainty was more than I could handle. I could not wait one more day for my husband to make a decision.

I didn’t want a divorce but… in my many conversations with him I could see that for us, to get back together at this point in time, would not bring either of us happiness.

I called the mediator that evening and filed the papers the next day.

I felt simultaneously better and worse. Better… that I had followed through and made a decision. Worse… that our marriage had truly come to this.

Anticipating his moves had caused me so much worry and discomfort that I had been unable to move forward with my own life. It was a difficult decision, but one I had to make to salvage my own sanity and serenity.

“Dear God, guide me in my thoughts and deeds. If I need to wait before making a decision, help me to be patient. If I need to take action, help me to follow through.”

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.”