This article was originally published on YourTango.com, the premier media company dedicated exclusively to love and relationships, and I am now able to publish it on NancyTellsAll! Life takes us on a ride filled with twists and turns, devastating drops, tunnels of love, fun escapades and catch your breath moments. We all have stories to tell, and I think that we can learn from each other by sharing our experiences. YourTango agreed:
I dreamed the other night that my kids told me my ex-husband, their father, was getting remarried and buying a million dollar home in Maui. "Oh, must be nice!" I responded sarcastically to this breaking news. I immediately felt bad for allowing my sixth grade schoolyard voice to speak out loud, but I felt such resentment and jealousy that he was living high on the roasted pig with Miss Newby, and I was still struggling financially as a single mom. Then I woke up, and those feelings were all too real.
It was becoming apparent that my mind was spending way too much time on what was lacking in my life, dwelling on the unfairness of it all. I knew intellectually that my fixation on the negative details of my past would lock me into a future I didn't want.
However, the facts remained: I had gotten the house in the divorce, but that soon ended up a short-sale statistic. My "nest egg" netted out to be a big fat goose egg. As for spousal support, I (stupidly) agreed to receive it for a finite period of time -- even though I had been a stay-at-home mom for 18 years without having established a career prior to marrying. Of course, I'll be able to fast-track it to a successful career and a comfortable income for myself, I figured. Psych! The recession hit, grinding my progress -- and any possibility of rebuilding my bank account -- to a screeching halt. I have to say that I honestly sometimes feel I'm being punished for having stayed home for nearly two decades to raise my children.
Yes, I wanted the divorce, so I had made my own (twin) bed. I could have decided to stay in my marriage where I felt financially secure, but that would have meant living without any emotional connection. I needed and deserved to feel heard, understood, appreciated and acknowledged -- to be looked at in the eye by my husband, to feel cherished and adored. And I didn't.
I also felt that he didn't respect what I brought to the marriage and to our family because what I brought had no monetary value. While I didn't contribute financially, I created our home and raised our two children to become loving, compassionate, inspiring human beings, and I couldn't be more proud. Yet, in a short amount of time, as a 40-something-year-old woman, I was under pressure to earn an income that took him an entire career to establish.
So yes, there are times when I've wanted to scream that it's not #*&/- ing fair! And as the clock ticks closer and closer to the moment when my support lifeline will slip through my fingers, I worry that my vulnerability and fear will grow into a monster anchor keeping me immobile, or at the very least, from enjoying life.
It's amazing how one little dream can cause such a sh*t storm. It's also amazing how the universe, like Superman, knows exactly when and where to come to the rescue. This time it picked me up and put me back on my feet via cyberspace with a "random" message from Nora Ephron:
"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."
"Yes!" I yelled out when I read this in an email. If I accept the role of victim, then I am essentially handing over my power to someone else and forfeiting my opportunity to experience joy and live to my full potential. Why the hell would I choose to do that?!
Then I looked up the definition of heroine: A woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities.
Most of us don't realize how strong and capable we are. Too often we use our energy to fight against what is, instead of coming face to face with making it better. Once we can stop looking in the rear view mirror, we can start to take action toward beginning a new life.
Here are more lessons I learned along the way about what to stop doing -- and what to start doing -- to spring forward toward a more fulfilling life post-divorce:
Stop: worrying about the future. Focus and be present each day and the future will unfold.
Start: feeling gratitude. We've all heard that being grateful for what we have makes us feel better. Even more to the point, when you focus on and appreciate all that you have, you will receive more of what's good in your life. What you focus on expands!
Stop: copying and pasting. We need to talk about what has happened to learn from it -- vent, seek advice, or get a hug, but be careful that what happened to you doesn't begin to define you. Share with a few chosen people, then label it "Past File" and send to the archives.
Start: taking walks and longer showers. Honestly, this is when I have my best ideas. To help find the answers you seek, or to feel more at peace, give yourself the gift of taking a walk outside, or take an extra few minutes in the shower to relax. It works!
Stop: the limiting beliefs. Beware. Maneuver around these or, like quick sand, they'll keep you stuck, sinking into your fears.
Start: realizing that how you feel affects what happens. Think of ways to create positive feelings. This can be tough, and I'll admit seemingly impossible at times, but the energy that our feelings produce and emit into the world will create a boomerang affect. What we throw comes back to us.
Start: focusing on what you do have. Yes, as opposed to what you don't have, or don't have anymore. You will receive more of what you want this way.
Stop: worrying about the "how." You can become so overwhelmed by not knowing how to accomplish what you want that you never try. Once you know what you want, the "how" will happen. Baby steps. Fall down. Get back up. More baby steps. You did it as a toddler without thinking.
Start: stepping to the other side of your comfort zone. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with comfort. However, if it becomes more of a "caution zone" surrounded by yellow tape, it's only preventing you from proceeding ahead.
Start: realizing it's all how you look at something. I recently asked my 102-year-old grandma how she has gotten through all that she has in her life, and she told me, "Attitude is important. It runs your life." Out of the mouths of the aged! We have a choice as to how we see things. We can either look at a situation as an adventure, and view the possible rocky terrain as a way of becoming more adept at conquering challenges, or we can see it as an overwhelming burden. Either way, you will be right.
Your life can be what you want it to be depending on how you choose to think. The good news is you get to choose. So choose to be the heroine in your life!