When I got divorced, I remember saying to my mother, “This is not where I thought I would be at this stage of my life.” I was sad when I said it, and stuck in the disappointment of my failed marriage. Divorce had definitely not been part of my life plan.
This past week, I had to go for a follow up mammogram after my initial one came back needing “further imaging”. I hadn’t given it much thought until I was headed down to the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale for my follow up visit, when a little voice inside me said “what if they find something?”
Now I am not a particularly big worrier and my approach to life is to cross bridges when I come to them. But at that very moment, alone in the car, I thought to myself, let my divorce be the most challenging transition I ever have to go through. I was afraid.
As it happens, the results were perfect and I am just fine, but the experience got me thinking about where exactly I thought I would be at this point in my life and where I think I am going.
If that were not enough, over the weekend I found out that a friend, not an intimate best friend, but another woman and mother in my town, lost her oldest daughter to a tragic house fire while away at college. I was stunned. My son is going to be 18, soon on his way to college. I just simply can’t imagine her pain and suffering. Again, I found myself grateful for blessing of my healthy and safe children, and the amazing life that I truly do lead.
The truth is that no, I never did think that I would be divorced, raising my kids as a single parent, working hard to secure my financial future, looking at empty nesting as a time to launch my next chapter, and managing far more alone than I thought I would.
Divorce can feel like the old fashioned game of pick up sticks. Remember that game?
After holding the sticks tightly together, you released them with force sending them all over the table. Then, one stick at a time you pick them up, making sure not to touch or move any other stick as you do it.
It took patience and a good strategy for addressing which stick should be picked up first so that none of the others would be affected.
Divorce can feel that way. It can feel as though all of the areas of our lives have been forcibly let go and now are scattered around us waiting to be picked up. And as we begin to create our new lives, everything we do will affect all of the other parts.
And of course, we never expected it. We never imagined while walking down the aisle at our wedding, that our future would include divorce. But today, I am grateful that I do not have breast cancer and my children are healthy and safe.
In fact, I have taken quite a bit of time this week not only to be fully present in my gratitude, but to embrace the incredible control that I have over what comes next.
Divorce has not made me a victim; instead it has given me the gifts of courage, strength, creativity, self awareness, gratitude, love, and control over my destiny.
There are things over which we have control, and there are things that we do not.
This is not where I thought I would be at this stage of my life, but it is a glorious place to be. And while I don’t know what my future holds, I do know that I can create it in any way that I want.
Join me in doing a simple exercise that will help you to gain a new perspective on the life magnificent life that you are living.
Take out a piece of paper and write on the top of it, “The Magnificent Stage Upon Which My Life is Built”. Underneath this, write down all of the things that are present in your life today.
If your children are healthy, write down “My children are healthy!”
If you have a home that you live in comfortably, write down “I live in a home that I am comfortable in!”
Perhaps your kids are grown, or you don’t have any, and you are free to live anywhere you want, write down “I can live anywhere I want!”
I want you to list your assets, attributes, and accomplishments. Your abilities, strengths and opportunities.
For those of you who I am or have worked with, you know that a big part of the planning for what comes next and the designing of your new life after divorce, is being able to see and create opportunities and possibilities…even when they “feel” impossible.
Don’t limit yourself to what you can already see, open yourself up to what might be. I know it can be frightening, but just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not there!
So no, this is not where I thought I would be at this stage of my life, but it is where I am. And I am excited about what the next chapter will look like and the unimaginable joy it will bring!