It's 3:00 a.m. your heart is racing, body temperature rising, and an inner critic and child are at war within. Scared, isolated, and alone, landmines litter the landscape of your mind and threaten to send you spiraling out of control or plummeting into depths of despair.
Some days it feels as though all you can do is get the kids to school and drag yourself to work. But like it or not, you must garner your strength and take steps to separate or dissolve your partnership or marriage. So how do you rise from the ashes and soar through a divorce when your wings feel broken
Listen to your Inner Voice
As you go through the process of separating and getting divorced or dissolving a domestic partnership, you’ll hear countless voices in your head: the voices of fear, loathing, guilt, insecurity, anger, impatience, frustration, and a slew of others that annihilate your confidence. Your spouse, children, friends, family, lawyer, accountant, mediator, therapist, strangers, and the judge also may chime in, muddy the water, and erode your confidence. These internal and external voices will compete for your attention and may become so loud that they drown out the soft essential voice within.
What is this inner voice? It comes from deep within, and different people call it different things like, intuition (which stems from a Latin root that means to look inside), the voice of God, angels, Spirit, Source, wisdom, intelligence or instinct. It is a source of personal power that developed over millions of years and has enabled humanity to survive and evolve. Martin Rossi, M.D., author of The Worry Solution: Using Your Healing Mind to Turn Stress and Anxiety into Better Health and Happiness (Harmony Publisher, 2010), describes an inner voice or intuition as “the art of knowing without the use of reason or logic.” Dr. Judith Orloff, the author of Second Sight and Emotional Freedom (Grand Central Publishing, 2008), characterizes it as“…a feeling of ‘rightness’ in the gut, an unemotional delivery of information, and a compassionate, affirming “tone.” Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine, believed intuition told the thinking mind where to look next.
Regardless of what we call it or where it originates, your inner voice is a compass that, when given room to speak, will help you through a divorce.
Find your Center
Historians say that the theory of relativity came to Albert Einstein while he was listening to music, which he often did when baffled by a physics problem. Einstein found that solutions would often arrive when his rational mind relaxed. To find your center, you too must calm the body and relax the mind.
If you already have a religious or spiritual practice that soothes, comforts and puts you in touch with your inner voice, you may turn to it each day to settle your soul and find your center. If your practice involves physical activity or rituals impossible to do anytime and anywhere, create a variation to use in a pinch when you need to tune into your inner voice.
Don’t worry if a calming, grounding practice isn’t already a part of your repertoire, options abound. Meditation and prayer, affirmations and mantras are often used and may appeal to you too. A practice may be as simple as repeating a prayer like, “The light of God surrounds me, the love of God enfolds me, the power of God flows through me, and heals me, and protects me. Wherever I am, God is, and all is well.” Or, you may make breathing exercises a part of your daily routine. Maxine Schnall describes a simple process in her book What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger: Turning Bad Breaks Into Blessings (Da Capo Press, 2009) that you may enjoy. It invites you to lie on your back with your eyes closed, arms resting alongside your body, and “…imagine the universe blowing positive energy into you with each inhalation and withdrawing it with each exhalation.”
You can learn other potable techniques for finding your Center in Madisyn Taylor’s book, Daily OM: Inspirational Thoughts for a Happy, Healthy, and Fulfilling Day (Hay House, 2012), like Linking Center: Checking in with Your Heart, Sky-Blue Healing: Blue-Light Guided Meditation, and Gut Response: In Touch with True Emotions.
When we act from our centers, we have a choice as to how we respond in a moment. Instead of reacting in haste, we stand in the eye of a storm, observe the turbulence around us, and act with intention. Being centered improves our abilities to focus, increases efficiency, and enables us to traverse daunting legs on life's journey.
Do Just the Next Thing
One of the most common mistakes people make in divorce is procrastinating or putting things off until tomorrow. People procrastinate for many reasons. For some, the legal process brings up unbearable emotions like fear, sadness or anger and putting off necessary tasks allows them to avoid unwanted feelings. For others, procrastination is a way to escape making difficult decisions, and perhaps on some level, absolves them of responsibility for the outcomes. Regardless of the reasons for dodging one’s duties, procrastination is often one of the worst mistakes people make in divorce and results in higher levels of anxiety and sometimes causes irreparable harm. Thus, it’s wise to cultivate concentration and adopt techniques that help maintain attention.
In her book, Real Happiness at Work, Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace (Workman Publishing Company, 2013), author and co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, Sharon Salzberg describes how a scattered visual artist who felt powerless in her life found balance and self-esteem. When the artist complained of being overwhelmed and uncertain of where to begin her work, Sharon invited the artist to do only one task per day and continue working solely on the task until it was complete. When the artist’s mind wandered, she drew her attention back to the present moment and did just the next thing. One by one the artist did “just that closet, just that mailing,” and after the experiment, she found she was capable of focusing and completing her work.
American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott shares a similar tool for breaking big projects into manageable parts. In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anchor, 1995) Anne shares an anecdote about her brother who, as a child, was struggling with a report about birds that was due in school the next morning. “Immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead,” Anne's brother asked his father how to write the report, to which Anne’s dad responded, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."
At the front end, legally separating, getting a divorce or dissolving a domestic partnership may seem impossible to wrap your head around, so break the process and problems down into manageable bite-sized pieces, which are less likely to throw you off kilter and easier to digest.
Commit to the Process
Getting divorced can be like running a marathon. It goes on and on and on. It tests a person’s sanity, stamina, and resources. And even the strongest feel broken. So how can you endure where others have failed? By making and keeping commitments designed to sustain the clarity and confidence you need to make healthy choices in your divorce. As you embark on and continue your divorce journey, I invite and encourage you to make the following ten commitments every day, every week, every month, until your divorce is complete.
- Be faithful to your core values and beliefs. Put aside the expectations of others and, as much as possible, the demands of the world. Focus on your experiences and what you know to be true.
- Act with integrity, optimism, and purpose. Avoid webs of deceit that exacerbate the stresses of divorce and enjoy the personal satisfaction you'll feel when acting honestly and ethically.
- Acknowledge your fears and limitations and use them as litmus tests to determine whether the decisions you make are for your highest good.
- Stay or return to the present. Being present avoids unnecessary pain that stems from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Take care of your spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical health. Speak with a therapist, priest or coach. Play with your children. Treat yourself to a massage. Feather your nest egg. Sleep. Laugh with friends. Do whatever you can to nourish your mind, body, and soul.
- Eliminate destructive habits and counterproductive behaviors. If you’re drinking, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, spending time with pessimists or skipping the gym, stop.
- Consciously find and use tools and resources that will help you get divorced with confidence and clarity. Use methods tested and honed by others that can save time and money and reduce worry.
- Surround yourself with trustworthy and supportive people. There is power in numbers, and encouragement from healthy people who want to see you move through your divorce with grace will help you persevere.
- Take consistent action, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable. The road may be bumpy at times, but you’ve got to cross bridges to get to the other side.
- Make choices and take action. From an empowered stance, know that you are not a victim, and you have a hand in creating your reality. Consider your options and choose those that best reflect who you are and what you value. "Your wings already exist. All you have to do is fly." (Unknown)
About the Author. Helene L. Taylor is a twice-divorced California family lawyer, who advises, coaches, and mentors smart, successful, spiritual men and women committed to peacefully legally separating and dissolving domestic partnerships or marriages. A frequent presence in the media, Helene has been featured on Time.com, Entrepreneur.com, MSN.com, More.com, and, Lovetoknow.com. Helene offers one-on-one family law consulting, group coaching, and luxury divorce retreats. To learn more about Helene, visit www.heleneltaylor.com, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-968-3028.