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Mari Lyles Headshot

Thriving Through Letting Go

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Over the last six months, I've had conversations with three different friends/acquaintances who've been cheated on and/or abused and dumped, rather callously, by their husband or long-term significant others and now find themselves having incredible difficulty moving forward with their lives. All three women spoke of their hurt in layered calmness, but underneath each conversation was a thick, palpable layer of hatred and a distorted desire for revenge.

My closest friend tried to nonchalantly flick off the hatred she felt regarding her husband's betrayal, like one flicks lint off a sweater or ash from a cigarette. She, too, spoke of her unrelenting pain quietly in measured tones. However, I was jarred with her observation, "I seriously want to kill his ass," a comment she casually threw out in the middle of our dinner. With a society bombarded with violence from every direction and spousal murder/suicide becoming an entrenched fixture in our nation's psyche, her statement wasn't one to be taken lightly.

Because I'd already walked a mile in these women's shoes years earlier, I knew their feelings of vengeance intrinsically. It's hard when the one you love doesn't love you back, when you're no longer "babe," but b*tch, when the very sight of you causes your beloved disgust, when he treats you like something he wants to scrape off his shoe. I knew their desire to have their partners hurt like they were hurting, to cry a river equal to the one they'd already cried. I knew the toxic pull of wanting your beloved to experience instant karma. Their partners' infidelities, abusive language and flippant disregard for their former relationships was mind-numbing but all too familiar. That these women's hopes and dreams were shattered, was reminiscent of all I'd been through. That none of their men were sorry, apologetic or remorseful was heartbreaking. To them, it simply was what it was and their actions spoke loudly: Deal with it, move on! Some women stay and fight the good fight for their relationship; others of us don't have the strength nor desire. When my husband's infidelities killed my marriage, I'd thought of hiring someone to maim him. He stole my car and kicked me and our kids to the curb. Back then, when I didn't know any better, the only thing keeping me alive was the heat of vengeance I wrapped around myself like a warm, comforting blanket. So yes, I knew the full onerous intoxication of revenge. However, when we allow revenge to dictate how we respond to crises and perceived injustices, it leaves an indelible black mark on our spirits.

Which brings me to this: My pain nearly drove me insane, unnecessarily. It didn't stop until I made a conscious decision that I'd rather let go of the pain than fall into the utter darkness of Alice's Rabbit Hole. In order to gloriously thrive, to begin the journey back to wholeness, I had to let go of the weight of revenge to keep from getting drowned in that river I'd cried. I became a huge fan of Kenny Rogers' song, "The Gambler" and played it nonstop. Per Kenny: "Know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run."

Thriving then becomes all about you. It becomes less a cautionary tale about him and more of a compendium about your ability to move on with your life with some semblance of joy, order and balance.

• It's about moving out of the center of the pain and learning to holographically and objectively look at the situation from every angle and make decisions based on conclusions which you can't otherwise assess when you're all wrapped up in misery and hate. And I won't lie and say it's easy, but it's certainly doable.

• It's about you deciding to embrace who you are in the moment, raggedy, sure, but with an eye toward your potential for fulfillment, with or without anyone else beside you.

• It's about you making decisions based upon empowerment and peace, not destruction and death.

• It's about you deciding to celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how insignificant and trivial they may seem. (I learned how to drive a car and afterwards threw myself a party.)

• It's about you learning to love you and everything about you -- how you look, how you smell, how your eyes crinkle when you laugh, your throaty voice, everything that makes you, you. Girl, give yourself a hug! Wrap your arms around you! Because until you start fiercely loving yourself and all you bring to this lifetime, I guarantee, no one else will.

Most of all, thriving through letting go is about you taking the blinders off and seeking the life-lesson in this particular situation and appreciating .. yes, appreciating... what the Universe just dropped on you. That, I admit, is a herculean task and can take what seems like forever. But there is a flow to the Universe and the lessons it allows us to experience, and the quicker we learn those lessons, we can rest assured we won't be learning them over and over again in other relationships. My lesson learned? No one has the power to cause us mental suffering, hurt our feelings or damage our egos unless we relinquish that power to them. We're the captains of our own minds and therefore can control the thoughts we nourish and allow to take residence. From the moment we wake up until the moment we lie down again, we're faced with choices, whether it's washing our face or combing our hair. Thriving is a much higher choice than suffering. Take back your power, girl!

My best revenge? Deciding to thrive... in spite of, and showing my ex-husband I was just as cool, sexy and fantastic (but more successful) without him than I was with him. Now that, ladies, was revenge.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.