The Myth of Perfection

I am not perfect.  No one is.

Sometimes when I am having a really hard day emotionally, I wonder how can this be happening.  I write articles about how to move past this stuff, but I still have to remind myself of my own words.

You’ve heard me talk about moving beyond fear, changing what we can, letting go of what we can’t.  This is hard stuff, believe me I get it.

So what do I do when I find myself living in my head, “awfulizing” the future, trying to control the things that I can’t control?

Well, first off, I allow my awareness of what I am doing to work itself into my consciousness.  I have to be careful here because it is very easy to start beating myself up with that proverbial 2×4.  I know better!  How come I can’t practice what I preach?!  I should be perfect at this, will I ever get this down perfectly?!  – Hint, the answer is no – there is no perfection for any of us.

After awareness comes acceptance.  Accept that I still let fear run my thoughts sometimes.  Accept that I still have a long way to go on my journey.  Accept that the universe still has lessons to teach me.

Accept that while I may never reach “perfection”, I am a whole lot better dealing with my fears and thoughts than I used to be.  The same button pushing incident that sent me down this path this morning would have been a major crises not too long ago, but today it is just a few hours of the thought monkeys running around my head before I could manage to get them back in their cages.

So, how did I manage to cage those monkeys?  By taking action.  By controlling the things that I could – my thoughts, feelings, fears.

First I went deep.  Why am I having these feelings?  What do they mean?  I kept going deeper and deeper, like peeling back the layers of an onion.  What am I so afraid of?  What is the deep, dark fear here?

Once I was able to put my finger on it, I pulled it out into the light and really looked at it.  Was it logical?  Would it really be the end of the world if the worst happened?  Is this about me or how other people would perceive me?

If I was home, I would have pulled out a fear meditation and let that help me to move past it.  But I am in my office today so that wasn’t possible.

Instead, I went to a file I keep in my email of inspirational things I have kept.  Some our emails sent by others, some are things I have written and sent, some are just little tidbits I have picked up here and there.

I knew there was one in there that I knew would help me.  It was an email I had sent to a friend when I was having a major “a-ha” moment.  In it I expressed great insights into fear and love.  I needed to remind myself of that moment – of what I had discovered.

If you are not journaling or keeping some kind of inspiration file, I greatly suggest you think about doing so.  It is so helpful to be able to go back and read what I wrote when I finally “got it” about something.  Because, nothing is linear.  It’s not like we learn something and that is the end.  We keep getting tested and sometimes we need a refresher course on what we learned.

Anyway, after I read what I had written, the knowing was there again.  I “got it” all over again and a great sense of peace came over me.

I closed my eyes and prayed.  I was able to give it over again.  Right when I was done, my phone rang.  All the awful things I was afraid of happening, didn’t happen.  Everything is alright.  But, actually, for me it was finally alright before I even picked up the phone.

So, why am I giving you a play by play of my day?  Why did I decide to pull back the curtain and admit that I have problems implementing all the stuff we talk about on Serenity After Divorce?

Because I want you to know that you are not alone.  Life is made up of taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back, but eventually you will get where you are headed.

Nobody is perfect.  We all think, “okay, this time I’ve got it down” and then realize, “ah, no I don’t.

When you start getting discouraged, it’s time to look back and see where you came from.  To acknowledge your progress.  Only then can we truly appreciate this journey we are on – together.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Tips to Making it Through the Holidays

Well, the holiday season is upon us.

While the media tries to sell us the idea that this is the “most wonderful time of the year”, the reality for a lot of people is that the holidays are the source of a lot of frustration, resentment, and downright depression.

For some of you, this might be your first holiday season after your divorce.  Some of you might have custody arrangements that will leave you without your children for a significant portion of the holidays.

So how do we face our new reality and still manage to hold on to “peace, joy, & goodwill towards men”?

1. This is Your Time

Think back to the years of celebrating the holidays as a couple.  Were there things you wanted to do but didn’t because of your spouse’s objections?  Maybe there were things you had to do but didn’t really enjoy.

Make this holiday season all about you (and your children, of course).

Did you always feel drawn to midnight mass, but never made it?  Do it this year.

Did you spend hours cooking even though you hated every second because your in-laws expected it?  Skip it this year.  Order a holiday meal to be brought in – or even just have Chinese food – whatever you want.

2. Start New Traditions or Rekindle Old Ones

It can be hard when you have to change traditions because of the divorce.

Before my divorce, Christmas Eve was spent with his relatives with lots of food and friends.  Gifts were opened starting at midnight and lasted until the wee hours.

After the divorce, I missed that.  For years afterward, I would just sit around while my son was enjoying the night with his dad feeling sorry for myself.

Now, a new tradition has developed were my mom comes to visit and we spend the evening cooking for the next day.  It is a lot more cheerful and fun.

Maybe you would like to include craft-making as part of your new traditions.  Spend some time surfing Pinterest and get those creative juices flowing.

3. Help Others

Make helping others one of your new traditions.

Volunteer at a food pantry.  Start a blanket drive.  Even just cleaning out your closet and giving the items to Goodwill can have an uplifting effect on your spirits.

In addition, it gives you something to do.  And you are helping others – what could be better?

4. Keep Calm, Cool, and Collected

During this time you may be having more contact with your ex.  School is out, schedules need to be arranged, and presents coordinated.  It is more important than ever to practice our “getting along” skills.

First, get enough rest and eat regularly.  Being tired and/or hungry doesn’t allow us to be at our best.  And we need to bring our best to the table when interacting with our ex.

Look closely at what is under your control and let go of the rest.

Mediate, relax, practice deep breathing – whatever you have to in order to find that place inside you where the joy, peace, and goodwill are residing.

Refuse to let other’s behaviors, words, or actions pull you from that place.

They have no power over you.  They can’t make you lose your holiday spirit – only you can.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up another year – one that may have been extremely difficult for you , it is time to give your self the present of your future.

We may feel uncertainty, heck, even fear, but now is the time to let go of those Ghosts of Christmas Past and open our lives up to all that awaits.

When I Told My Husband I Wanted a Divorce

I thought he felt the same way.

I really did.

When I told my husband that I wanted a divorce, I expected him to be relieved or at least not surprised.

In my mind our marriage had not been working for some time and I thought that he wanted out as much as I did.

Boy, was I wrong.  I don’t think it was because he was truly still in love with me or even really liked me that much, but to him our marriage was comfortable and familiar.

Change was not a friend to my husband.

I had all these fantasies about an “amicable divorce”.  We would both be committed to putting the well-being of our son first, we would get along, no one would get hurt.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.  I hurt my husband (even thought that was the last thing I wanted to do) and hurt people hurt people.  The next 5 years was a trip through hell for me.

This is not a post where I am going to bash and re-count every “terrible” deed of my now ex-husband – I have moved beyond that.

But I do want you to know that I have been through the nightmare.

The fighting, the tears, the threats, the blackmail.

What I wanted more than anything during that time was for someone, anyone to make my ex see how he was damaging our child (in my opinion).  How because he wasn’t behaving like I thought he should, he was wrong.

Why did he not get it?  Why couldn’t he be a rational person and see things my way?

He knew my buttons well and, intentionally or not, he was pushing every one of them.

I was living with extreme anxiety.  I never knew what each phone call or drop off would bring.  Would he be “ok” or would there be another blow up or tantrum over something insignificant.

It broke my heart to see my son caught in the middle and I wanted to know how to protect him, how to give him his own strength.

I had pages and pages of notebooks filled with dates and specific incidents and things said – just in case.  Just in case it got that bad that we ended up in court.  I thank God that it didn’t come to that.

So how did things change?

 I gave up

I gave up trying to change him.  I gave up trying to turn him into a “better father”.  I stopped beating my head against that proverbial brick wall and walked away instead.

I stopped accepting the invitations to the fights.  I stopped trying to exert my power over him and empowered myself to control my reactions.

I had faith that as long as I was a good mom and always tried to do right by my son and let him know how much we was loved by both me and his father, that it would all be okay.

Somewhere along the way, my ex started to change as well.  I’m not really sure what happened.  Actually, maybe it was more my perception that changed.  I can’t know for sure.

Yes, sometimes there are still little flare-ups but they stay little because I am able to just let go.

To not take it personally

To just say “okay, he must be having a bad day” and move on instead of letting it push my buttons.

I has now been 8 years since the divorce and I am still floored sometimes by the progress that has been made.

I was sure that our relationship would never get better – that my son would have to choose which of us he wanted more at this wedding (me, of course!) because his father would refuse to attend if I and my new husband were in attendance.

I would never have imagined that my ex, my son, myself, and my new husband would be sitting down to dinner together on a somewhat regular basis.

And my son? 

He is doing just fine.  He still spends half his time with me and half with his father.  I think he had the whole letting go thing down a long time ago.  So maybe he was teaching me as I was trying to protect him.

In the end, it can all be summed up (as can most things) by the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things that I can

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

 

The 5 Mistakes That Turn a Phone Call With Your Ex Into a Living Nightmare

When you are divorced with children there is no getting out of having to communicate with your ex.  I’m sure sometimes you wish that you never had to speak to him again, but that’s not going to happen – so it’s time to deal with reality.

Today we are going to talk about how to have a productive, civil phone conversation with your ex.  I have found that phone conversations are often more volatile than in person talks.

The phone provides that layer of “safety”.  We are more inclined to say things we wouldn’t say in person – plus we can delude ourselves that our kids are not “hearing” this conversation, so we tend to just let it fly.

Here are 5 common mistakes that we make when having that phone conversation that often leave us either in tears or wanting to pull our hair out.

Angry Dialing

It doesn’t matter what triggers it – your child making an innocent remark about daddy’s new “friend” or that he let them stay up way too late.  The end result is you are steaming mad – steam actually coming out of your ears, your heart racing, your blood pressure sky high.

Your first instinct is to pick up that phone and give him a piece of your mind.  Please don’t.  Nothing good or productive will come of it.

Instead follow the 24 hour rule.  Do not mention it to your ex for 24 hours.  Go outside and pull weeds, punch a pillow, anything but pick up that phone.  If possible have no contact with him during that time.

After the 24 hours, ask yourself “How important is it?”  If you can let it go and move on – do so.  If you still feel the issue needs to be addressed you can now address the real concerns you have without coming off as a screaming banshee.

Accepting an Invitation to a Fight

There will be times when your ex “angry dials” you – there is nothing you can do about that, but you can control your reaction.

I remember once my phone rang and I answered and said “hello”.  What I got in return was nothing but a minute long rant being spewed from the receiver which ended with my ex hanging up.

I literally didn’t even say a word.  I practically had to sit on my hands to keep myself from calling back and asking “what the f# @&?”

Most of the time you won’t be so lucky, the hurting and angry person on the other end of the line wants you to react, to engage in this fight.  This is where the STOP phrases come in handy.  “Sorry you feel that way”, “That’s your opinion”, “Oh”, and “Perhaps you are right”.

The last one is my personal favorite – it kind of stops him in his tracks.  If you just keep repeating these lines in any appropriate combination, one of two things will happen.  He will get frustrated and hang up or he will calm down.

If he hangs up, you can be proud that you did not play a part in escalating this fight.  If he calms down, you can either catch your breath and let the negativity you were barraged with dissipate and continue the conversation or take a small break (say you have to pee or something) if you need to center yourself even more and then continue the conversation.

Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

Your ex has issues (we all do).  There are things you disagree about, things he does differently than you, things he believes that you don’t, maybe a different parenting style.  You couldn’t change him when you were married.  Guess what?  It’s not going to happen now either.

Do yourself a favor and stop trying.  It only frustrates you and destroys your peace of mind.  Unless there is a real danger to your children (in which case you should be seeking legal advice), let it go.

You don’t want to walk around with a bruised forehead from that wall do you?  You no longer have the power to knock it down (you probably never did).  It may come down one day on its own, but it won’t be because of your lectures.

Feeling PHAT

I do not mean that you can’t get into your jeans.  I am talking about your state of mind and making sure none of the following are affecting your good sense and attitude before you pick up the phone.

  • Are you in pain?  Do you have a headache, a stomachache, any ailment?  P can also stand for PMSing.  Either way, it is probably not a good time to try to have a productive conversation.
  • Are you hungry?  This is a big one for me.  If I am hungry I become really cranky and you do not want to be around me until I’ve had some food.
  • Are you angry?  I’m not just talking about being angry with your ex, but are you angry at your boss, the rude driver on the ride home, anybody?
  • Are you tired?  If you are tired it affects your ability to concentrate and to be rational.  A conversation will probably leave you feeling overwhelmed.

So before picking up the phone, check for these feelings and try to correct them beforehand.  If your ex is calling you, do a quick check and if you find something that needs to be corrected, don’t answer – call him back after you have eaten or taken a nap.

Now, I know there will be times when you have to answer (when your kids are with him and it could be an emergency, etc).  If that is the case, do a quick check and if you find a PHAT, take a breath, try to center yourself and pick up the phone.  Just know that you are not at your best.

If possible, once you know it is not an emergency try to put off the conversation until later after you have taken care of you.

Being Mean

I know sometimes it can be tempting to get in our little jabs when we see an opening, but try to resist.  The consequence it has on your relationship with your ex and therefore on the well-being of your children is just not worth it.

So, say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.  This might take a little practice.  It’s ok to rehearse in advance.  Go ahead and talk to yourself in the mirror.  Most of the time it won’t go exactly as planned, but you still will be ahead of the game.

Summary

The most important thing to remember is that while it might take two to tango, you only have control over yourself.  You can only change your way of interacting with your ex.

At first it might seem unfair – you’re trying to be civil and he is continuing to be hostile, etc.  But don’t give up.  Give it some time.  Be proud of yourself for all the changes you are making to create more peace for yourself and your children.

Change what you can control, let go of what you can’t.