How is divorce like the monkey bars?
Today I drove by a little park that my kids used to love to play at when they were smaller. Aside from a really great shade tree, it boasts the usual staples of a playground including swings, a couple of fun slides, and a set of monkey bars. Oh, how my daughter used to love playing on the monkey bars when she was about seven! Climbing anything was a favorite of hers, and she was quite the monkey!
She didn’t always love the monkey bars, however! She first contemplated trying them out after watching some older girls skillfully swing from bar-to-bar. It looked fun, but she was afraid to let go once she grasped onto the first bar. The first few times, I walked below her and held her legs up as she tentatively reached for the bar ahead of her, while still hanging on tight to the one already in her hand.
Overcoming fear during and after divorce is really no different. The comparison didn’t occur to me in the moments I watched her push through terror to let go and propel herself forward across the rungs of the monkey bars; but, as I drove by the empty playground today, visions of her younger self taking those little leaps of faith drove home the similarities.
When we face divorce, we are like the terrified child standing way above the ground and afraid to make the next move.
The hard earth seems so far below, and we are conscious of the great risk of experiencing great pain in the blink of an eye. Pain is, in fact, imminent and seemingly unavoidable. We hover at the top of the ladder, aware that we need to do something. We can’t just stay frozen in place. The spot where we currently balance feels safe because we at least know what to expect there. It’s not comfortable, it’s not really where we want to be, but it’s better than the unknown.
Something forces us to decide that we absolutely must move.
Perhaps the pain, anger, and weight of where we’ve been finally pushed us off of our miserable perch, or we are now fleeing for dear life. It makes no matter whether we decided to leave our ex, we mutually decided to end our union, or we were callously abandoned. We simply cannot stay “there” any longer. It hurts. It’s lonely. It’s miserable. And literally anything would be better!
Like it or not, we’re forced to risk it all and let go of everything we have because it’s the only way to vacate our starting position.
Letting go of everything seems to fly in the face of reason, instinct, and all that’s holy; but, it’s the only to prevent haunting the crime scene of the demise of our marriage. With all the courage we can muster, we push forward with all of our strength and hold our breath as we actually let go!
For an instant (though it feels like a small eternity!) our hand is empty, clutching only space and air, while we frantically grab for something solid.
That first handful of steel might represent our first feelings of security, a gutsy move into our own apartment, or the decision to meet with a lawyer. The realization washes over us that we survived what we feared! We didn’t crash to the bone-smashing earth, and we’re actually okay!
Rung after rung, we creep progressively through the steps of completing the process of our divorce.
We climb forward while simultaneously healing, growing in confidence, trying and accomplishing new things, discovering new things about ourselves, and stretching the distance between what once was and what will be. We get faster, stronger, and more self-assured. Sure, the risk of failure and pain still exists below every maneuver; but the fear lessons and the risk seems well worth the effort because we start to see progress and feel better about our life!
What once seemed impossible becomes something we’re now fully competent at, if not pretty darn amazing!
Nothing can stop us once we get moving. We certainly can’t go back, and we will lose momentum if we even try to look behind. We literally had to release our old life to allow for the possibility of connecting with the future and any hope of happiness or renewal!
If you find yourself standing on what feels like the edge of a cliff, knowing that you have to take a leap, take heart! You may fear the loss of everything you’ve ever had; but, imagine children at the park effortlessly maneuvering on the monkey bars! The first release is the hardest, and each one gets easier after that. It’s natural to feel afraid of what’s next and to have some doubts about how it will all come together; but, after a while the memory of how it used to be and the anxiety fades until the present becomes normal, and the future is all that matters!