Category Archives: practical advice

Isolation is the Opposite of Community

My mom always says, “There is safety in numbers”. This principle is seen time and again  in nature – schools of fish, herds of zebras, flocks of birds, forests of trees, fields of sunflowers, colonies of ants. Individuals are often weak and vulnerable. The strength of the community gives strength to the individual.

I have several coworkers with whom I pray and share my daily life. There have been times recently that life has been rather challenging. We can turn to one another to share the burden of what we are going through. Galatians 6:2 says, “Share one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is ‘the law of Christ’? To love one another as you love yourself and to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. By bearing one another’s burdens, we love one another as Christ loved us.

One does not have to believe in God to be part of a community. I am a woman of faith, so my community is one of faith as well. Cycle Dude belongs to a group of ‘free thinkers’ who get together weekly. There have been times that I have seen “bear one another’s burdens” in action in this group as well. Caring for one another and bearing one another’s burdens is a human thing, not just a Christian thing.

It is easy to want to isolate ourselves when we experience difficult times. We may feel like we are the only one going through this and that no one else would understand. We may feel that our situation is such that no one would want to understand or want to walk with us through the trial. That is a lie. We experience healing and support in community. We are weak and vulnerable when we decide to isolate ourselves from others. Dear one, seek out friends to walk with you through your difficult time. Do not walk alone – let others share your burden. Stay tuned. . . .

 

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Dogwood Winter

Here in Mytown, we are in the throes of Dogwood Winter. Before June 1 rolls around, we’ll have also gone through Blackberry Winter and several others. What that mean is that it will start to warm up and we’ll all think winter is over. Then, we’ll get into the lower 30’s again for the nighttime lows and not make it out of the 40’s or 50’s for the daytime highs. Eventually, though, winter will finally leave and we’ll enjoy a short spring and a long, humid summer.

Healing after a divorce or other traumatic life event can be like Dogwood Winter. You may find that you are well on your healing journey and may be filling pretty good about life. Then you experience a temporary setback – finances, ex drags you into court again, etc. Life may be blooming all round you, but in your particular neck of the woods, it seems like winter will not let go. What do you do?

1. Don’t put away your winter clothes: In other words, be ready for anything. You know how when the doctor will say of someone, “They’re not out of the woods yet”? Well, you’re not out of the woods yet. Be prepared for anything.

2. Keep your eyes on the forecast: What’s the long-term outlook? Are you in a place where you need to begin to establish your own credit? Do you have a 401K and how much/how often do you contribute to it? Get help in getting a hold of your finances. The long-term forecast is that you need to be in control of your own finances.

3. Adjust your thermostat accordingly: Even though it may be cold for a few more days or weeks, it will eventually warm up and spring will really, truly be here. You may be going through a rough time at the moment. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. More and more companies have EAPs – Employee Assistance Plans. These plans include mental health and financial services. If your employer has an EAP, take advantage of it! Your employer pays into the services so that you can take advantage of them for free.

4. Protect your tender plants: You’ve made a great deal of headway over the past few months and years. Don’t let a temporary setback freeze out those tender advances you’ve made in your healing journey. If you don’t already, journal so that you can see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. Journal the progress you’ve made in your healing journey. Remind yourself of where you were several weeks ago, several months ago and look where you are now.

Blackberry winter will most likely hit Mytown sometime in mid-May. We’re ready – it happens almost every year. Be prepared for setback in your healing journey. Sometimes, they are the best way to gauge where you are and how strong you’ve become. Stay tuned . . . .

Learning to Love Yourself Again

Valentine’s Day is approaching, or as some folks refer to it, Singles’ Awareness Day. I am fortunate to have an incredible man in my life and I am keenly aware that not every divorced woman has the same. After a divorce, it is difficult to love and to find someone to love. But that is the perfect time to concentrate on learning to love yourself.

After we’ve been through the shipwreck of divorce, we often feel beat up, unworthy, ashamed, etc. It’s as though we ourselves have been bashed against the rocks and there’s just flotsam and jetsam left. May I suggest the following as you learn to love yourself again:

1. Don’t make any hasty decisions: You’ve made enough life-changing decisions during the divorce proceedings, paperwork, etc. Give yourself a break and don’t make any life-changing decisions, like dating, purchasing a new car or home, moving from on side end of the country to the other, etc. Give yourself a little time to begin to settle into the new normal.

2. Don’t rebound date: Very bad idea. You just got out of one possibly abusive relationship and you want to get into another? But how do you fill that void, that need for human companionship? Volunteer, find a new hobby, foster a cat or a dog, plant a garden – do something that uses your time and talents for good.

3. Get your finances in order: Your bank is more than happy to help you balance your checkbook, work out a budget, etc. If you have a good bank, they value your business and they will assist you in any way they can in order to keep your business. A good business knows that word of mouth speaks far louder than any advertising dollar.

4. Reward yourself: Divorce is a long, hard struggle. You feel battle weary. You probably don’t have a great deal of money. Reward yourself for enduring the storm: Have a movie night with yourself – watching something you have always wanted to watch or want to watch again (the two movies I watch over and over again are Princess Bride and The Muppets Christmas Carol), take a long walk in the park, visit your local arboretum, have a glass of wine on your deck at sunset or a cup of coffee on your deck at sunrise, buy yourself some flowers or a good book (good books can always be found at your second-hand bookstore for cheap!), buy a quarter of a yard of pretty fabric and use it as a table runner. There are all sorts of ways you can reward yourself without having to spend a great deal of money.

5. Live the adventure! Each day is a new day full of new adventures. Thank God when you wake up in the morning and take your first steps out of bed. Praise God for the warm shower. Be thankful for food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Look in the mirror and tell that lovely lady, “You got this, girl!”

Sometimes, it takes a while to learn to love ourselves again, especially if we have been the victim of an abusive or addicted spouse. There will be people in our lives who will feel free to voice their opinions about the divorce. Don’t listen to them. This is a new start, a new normal, a new life that will get better with each passing day. Trust God and trust yourself as you learn to love yourself again. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

Ghosts of the Past

I recently watched a movie entitled, “The Awakening’. Released in 2011, it is a period piece (1921) set in England and billed as a horror movie. I found it be the furthest thing from horror. Movie summary: ‘In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves.’ What Florence eventually sees are the ghosts of her past.

 It is my experience that many women, and men as well, tend to dwell on the past when they experience a divorce. I did that, too. It is easy to second guess ourselves and the decisions we made surrounding the divorce. It is easy to give in to the ‘horror’ of the past, to spend our time chasing the ghosts of choice, ignorance, and fear. In the middle of the night, we may be visited upon by the dark specter of regret who leaves us wailing in the terror of disappointment and disgust. We may tremble as we explore the dark recesses of our own motives and shriek when we discover our own hard hearts.

 We cannot dwell in that creaking house of horrors of our past and expect to heal and move forward after a divorce or other traumatic incident in our lives. We must face that which we fear the most – loneliness, guilt, bitterness, victimization – and resolve to break the chains of our fears. There is no monster in the closet or under the bed. There is no evil lurking in the shadows. The monster and the evil is our own fears, our own unwillingness to resolve the past and move forward.

 A counselor I once saw had this statement written on the whiteboard in her office; “The past is the present until it’s resolved.” We will always be haunted by the ghosts of the past unless we determine to resolve that past. It may be painful, terrifying, and heart-stopping – but the past must be resolved in order to move forward.

 At the end of the movie, Florence seems lighter and happier. She has resolved her fears and conquered her ghosts. She is free to move forward and live her life unafraid. It can be difficult to conquer those ghosts of the past. But once we are free of them, we are free indeed. Stay tuned. . . .

 

 

 

Blessed

Christmas is only a few days away. I am keenly aware that this time of year can be incredibly stressful on its own without adding the additional stress of going through a divorce. I also know that the holidays can be a painful part of the year, too – especially if one has experienced a loss during the year. I remember the first holiday season after my dad died – we felt empty, like something was missing. The holidays are still a rough time for my mom because she misses my dad so much.

I divorced right before Christmas seven years ago. As a result, I didn’t have much money, but I did have a great deal of anger. I was angry that my finances were shot. I was angry that my children did not have good holiday memories like I did. I was angry that ex had more money and was able to give my children more for Christmas than I was. That first Christmas after my divorce was not a very good one.

I was so angry for so long that I lost sight of one thing – how blessed I was. I had a roof over my head, a job, food in my cupboards, a car that ran and people who loved me. God had provided the things I needed. There is a big difference between needs and wants. Our needs are those basics we need for survival, food, shelter and clothing. The wants are everything else – a car, a cell phone, new shoes. Even with as little as I had, I was still richer than many people in other parts of the world.

I am blessed. I do not have the latest and greatest of everything – I don’t need it. I don’t have a car with all the bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I content with what I have, where I am, and with whom I am sharing my life. I have man who loves me. I have a new grand baby. I have six amazing children. My mom is in good health. My siblings are all doing well. I have a good job and a good boss. I have two hilarious pups who think I am everything. I have wonderful friends. What else is there?

The floor beneath my Christmas tree is not stacked high with gifts. I didn’t go into debt to buy gifts this year. My bills are paid. I am content. I am blessed. I thank God for keeping me in His care. As this year comes to a close, I do not wish for next year to bring financial prosperity or more stuff, I wish for more opportunities to serve – my coworkers, my family, Cycle Dude, my church and my community. I am blessed and I wish to bless others.

Keep a quiet heart this holiday season as you meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by expectations, relationships and unfulfilled promises. Know that you are loved. Stay tuned. . . .

What is There to Celebrate?

The first holiday season after a loss can be especially difficult – whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my dad died. My mom and I were celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister in another state. After Thanksgiving Mass, we all three just stood there and cried because we missed my dad so much.

It’s so easy to fall into a funk during the holidays – sadness, anger, depression, and bitterness. Cycle Dude said his deceased wife is the one who made the holidays joyful for him and his children. There just doesn’t seem to be any spark in his holidays. I am determined to change that this year (since I am living in his house, too).

I decorated his house for fall because it’s my favorite time of the year and I always decorated my home for fall. I have tons of Christmas decorations that I will set out as well. I have discovered that there is something to celebrate after my divorce – peace, stability and joy. Those things were dreadfully lacking in my marriage. I celebrate a life of gratitude – for Cycle Dude, my children and soon-to-arrive granddaughter, my pups, my friends, etc.

My life is not perfect – whose is? Yet, there is so much in my life to celebrate. There is so much to be grateful for. If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, it doesn’t have to be depressing. Take time for yourself – what do you like to do? Go out for ice skating and hot chocolate with a friend. Volunteer at your local homeless mission. Bake cookies with your adult children, or for your neighbors or the children at church.

But most of all, have a grateful heart. There is always something to be thankful for. What is there to celebrate? Life! Take the time this holiday season to enjoy life. Stay tuned. . . .

Holiday Grace

The holidays were always a crazy, chaotic time for me growing up. I am one of six children, so we always had a crowd at the dinner table. I remember going to visit my grandparents in Chicago. My mom’s parents and my dad’s parents didn’t live that far away from one another, so we had to visit both sets of grandparents.

My mom’s parents had this wonderful, magic expanding kitchen table. It was a little round thing that somehow expanded to ten times its size in order to accommodate all the relatives that were there for the holiday. My grandma, mom and aunt would be in the kitchen the day before the holiday and all day the day of the holiday, baking, cooking, tasting, basting, etc. Grandma’s house smelled sooo good! I have wonderful memories of the holidays from when I was a child (except the Christmas when I learned there was no Santa – but that’s another topic for another time).

I often tried to duplicate the same holiday traditions, smells, etc. so my children could experience the wonderful holidays I experienced. Sometimes that didn’t quite work out like I wanted it to. Ex would throw tantrums and stomp off into the bedroom. I was glad for some holiday peace and quiet after I divorced.

If this is your first holiday after a separation or divorce, take it easy on yourself. This year, my local adult children and I are combining Thanksgiving and Christmas into one holiday gathering in early December. This is the first time we’ve done this and we may be creating a new tradition. Since the divorce, my holidays have been different. For one thing, they have been more peaceful! I am not caught in the throes of burdensome holiday traditions and schedules, I am not at the mercy of someone else’s family, and I am not having to make excuses for anyone’s behavior.

My first post-divorce holiday season was a mere eight days after my divorce. I had not lived with ex for a year, so the holiday without him wasn’t much of a shock. However, I learned a few things: make time for yourself; it’s okay to decline holiday parties you don’t want to go to; if an activity is a stressor, either do less of it or don’t do it at all (example, curb your holiday baking by a good 90%); relax your holiday expectations. Give yourself grace this holiday season. Jesus wasn’t born in the midst of all the holiday hubbub. He was born on a quiet night, in a barn with the animals as His only attendants. Be at peace this holiday season. Stay tuned . . . .