I awoke this morning feeling deeply grateful for my life. I began my day brewing freshly ground coffee, making a pot of steel oats, encouraging my 17-year-old daughter (who has senioritis) to get moving; and feeding my feline family (yes, I have 4 cats). I had a sense of peace and joy. I realized how much I love my life. I love the people my two teenagers are becoming. I am crazy about my job and my clients and my remarkable team of coaches. I adore the women in my life…my deep circle of girlfriends and sisters. I am in awe by fact that I have consciously created a life I love! Someday I know I will meet a man that I choose to marry.
I am 54 years old and feel younger, healthier and more excited about life than I had a decade ago! How did this happen when back in 2002 I was so lost, lonely, sad and broken? How is it possible that I emerged from an abusive marriage with two young children to care for, an ex who referred to child support as my monthly extortion check and a commission-based job that offered the barest financial security for paying my monthly bills?
I kept the focus on the one and only thing that I had control over…me!
On a recent talk show I was asked how those navigating death and divorce can move past the helplessness and hopelessness they experience. In my years of coaching and my own personal growth I have found the answer to be quite simple and equally as difficult. Keep the focus on yourself.
We have been raised with social conditioning that our happiness is based on yummy cereal, the newest toy, the prettiest dress, the coolest bike, the hottest car, the biggest house and the most attractive partner. It is no wonder that when life throws us a monkey wrench, our first thought is to blame and change our outer world; our job, relationship, living arrangement, etc. We usually feel better once we do…for a little while. Then that same old discomfort tugs at our happiness and we are back where we began.
Happiness is an inside job!
If we rely on the circumstances and people in our lives to be pleasing to us in order for us to be happy, we have built our house on a bed of sand. There will always be difficult personalities to navigate. We will all face trials and tribulations. If our focus is external, we will feel helpless and hopeless when life does not go ‘our way’.
The road to empowerment is paved with self reflection, personal growth and surrender.
Each time your are triggered, look inward. The person or situation triggering you is outside of your control. The triggering event is the gift. Acknowledge and feel your feelings. Then be curious, mindful and accepting of what is:
Triggered by a person:
Example: Your parenting ability or financial responsibility is challenged. When you get triggered, something in what was said is poking a YOUR issue – a fear, an insecurity, an unforgiveness.
- Why did his/her words upset me so much?
- How am I interpreting them?
- Have I been triggered by similar comments before?
- What is it that is so tender for me in this area?
Trigger by a situation:
Example: Your ex isn’t cooperating with the financial or parenting arrangement
- Do you respond or react?
- What is the story you have around the event?
- Are you thinking he always / she never thoughts?
- Are you problem focused or solution oriented?
- How is your perspective assisting in creating a win win solution?
I joined Alanon during the early stages of my divorce and quickly became aware of my part in my dissolving marriage. I began to focus on my fears, short temper and reactions; my lack of boundaries and controlling behavior. I spent the 3 ½ years navigating a painful, contentious divorce with as much grace and dignity as I could manage while continually shifting my focus back to my part (did I mention simple but not easy!!) It was hard work and I had to face painful realities about myself. And the priceless treasure that I received is the life I lead today!
In some ways my circumstances have not changed that much. My ex remains an angry man with a painfully hurtful tongue. He continues to owe me a significant amount of money. Finances can be challenging at times, especially as my children are entering their college years and the expense that accompanies that. And yet, my life is wonderful and every day I feel incredibly blessed to be me. You can too!!
We are the master of our lives and we can navigate all our circumstances with mastery when we keep the focus on our part in every circumstance and relationship.
Here are some 12 Step slogans that I found immensely helpful along my journey:
- Keep your side of the street clean
- How important is it
- One day at a time
- This too shall pass
- To thine own self be true
- Keep an open mind
- Change is a process, not an event