Tag Archives: moving forward

Fall is Here!

Fall is the prettiest season here in MyState. People come from all over the world to visit the national park and October is one of the most crowded times of the year. The small towns near the national park host Octoberfests, Fall Festivals and go all out in decorating for the season. Once fall is over, the towns decorate for Winterfest, a delightful holiday season complete with lights, decorations and special events.

Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month because of where I live. I love the different colors of leaves. I love all things pumpkin. I love fall decorations. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And my daughter was born in the fall. I’ve written before about how divorce is season in our lives – things are always changing. I’ve also written before about finding the new ‘normal’ in your life after divorce, about finding your happiness and moving forward in joy.

Divorce is a very difficult time in one’s life – especially if your spouse is the one who filed for the divorce. (In my case, I filed.) You can feel rejected, angry, bitter and depressed. It’s okay to feel those emotions. After all, we are emotional beings. It’s part of what makes us uniquely human. But don’t dwell in those dark emotional places. Find the places that make you feel accepted and happy.

If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, I understand what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission make this holiday season different:

1. Feel free to ‘bow out’ of huge family gatherings: You may not feel like doing the huge family holiday, especially if your ex will be present. Carve out a time for you and your children, or for you and a few close friends, to have a smaller holiday gathering. If your family gets offended, don’t worry about it. You are the most important person right now – your healing trumps everything else.

2. Make new holiday traditions: Bring the stress level down several notches. Do simple things like: go out to see holiday light displays, go out for hot chocolate and pumpkin pie, invite a few close friends over to help you decorate for the holiday, have a pizza and movie night with your adult children. Keep it simple. The less stress, the better.

3. Give back to your community: Volunteer at a women’s shelter, collect coats for the homeless, volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, collect donations for your local animal shelter. Giving back makes you turn outward instead of turning inward and feeling that destructive self-pity.

4. Be an ‘elf’: When you’re in line at Starbucks, pay for the person’s order behind you. When you’re at the grocery store, find an elderly person in the checkout lane and pay for their groceries. Be generous with your time and money. If you know of a single mom, pay her electric bill so she can give her children Christmas.

5. Put on your favorite holiday music and sing along at the top of your lungs! Who cares who’s listening?! Let yourself go! Be giddy and enjoy the spirit of the season!

Divorce can be dark and depressing. It can make the holiday season dark and depressing, too. Don’t dwell in that place! Even if you sing, dance or decorate just a little, at least you’re grabbing some of the holiday spirit. Start out small. One of my favorite post divorce activities was to turn out all the lights except the lights on my decorations – fall leaf swag, Christmas tree, etc. I would make myself a cup of hot chocolate and just sit in the silence with my dogs. It was so peaceful. Let peace reign in your heart this season. Get out and enjoy the sights and smells of fall. This is yet another season in your life. Breathe a prayer of “Thank you” and enjoy the whipped cream on your hot chocolate! Hugs, dear one! Stay tuned. . . .

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The Tempest

In Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest” caused a shipwreck that killed the main character’s enemies. One may feel that a divorce is like the tempest. Divorce is painful because it is the rending of two souls intimately joined by promise or covenant – that’s what the rings represent. Divorce can feel like a shipwreck, and all you are left with are splintered boards, broken glass and an oil slick on the water.

I have never endured a hurricane or a storm on the open sea. However, I have endured frightening thunderstorms in the Midwest and dust storms in Arizona. The tempest can take many forms – from thunderstorms whipping the atmosphere into a circular frenzy to mighty winds carrying dust into every nook and cranny and powerful storms over the ocean pushing the sea several miles inland. The tempest can also be the emotional storm that accompanies the ripping apart of a divorce.

I thought about this post this morning. I try to encourage others to walk through their divorce with courage, knowing there is light when you come out of the darkness. I know going through a divorce is not all butterflies and unicorns. I know it can be one of the darkest, ugliest and most frightening places you can be. I think only abuse and death are worse than divorce – at least for me.

Shakespeare’s character conjured up the storm for nefarious purposes. I know of One who calms the storm – for His glory. I can honestly say that if it had not been for my faith and the faith of two close friends, I would not have made it through the tempest. I also humbly admit that I did not ride out the storm as a saint. I rode out the storm screaming and shouting all the way – not out of fear, but out of anger and vengeance. I am not the ideal person to emulate during a divorce. However, I can proudly say that I am still standing, I have withstood the tempest because of the love of Christ.

The storm may be buffeting you all around. You may feel as if you do not have the strength to stand. Pray the prayer, “Help!” You will feel the hand of God calm the tempest and steady you. Have faith. Stay tuned. . . .

Be Prepared

I walked into work Tuesday morning to find that a survey team from a national  healthcare accrediting organization was on campus. The people at Myjob have been preparing for this organization’s visit for the better part of a year. The organization comes every 2-3 years to inspect the hospital for re-accreditation. Even though we expected the survey team in the fall, my boss said they could come as early as late spring or early summer. My boss has been preparing his team for this visit since October.

I am glad we have been preparing for this event. I have learned a great deal more about healthcare and what it takes to run a hospital. I have learned that it is better to be proactive than not. It is better to anticipate possible scenarios than to sit back and “let it slide”.

One thing I have learned, especially through my divorce, is to be prepared. I can honestly say, I was not prepared to divorce and then to deal with all the emotional, physical and financial flotsam and jetsam that accompanied it. Sure, I knew it was coming – I knew that several years before it actually happened. But I was still not prepared.

I wrote about this subject in a post entitled, “Storm Warnings”. However, I’d like to apply a little of what I have learned in preparation for this healthcare accreditation organization visit.

1.  Categories: Organize your divorce preparations into categories – financial, household, relational, work-related, etc. Sit down and make a list of these categories, then add the following: under financial – income, budget, savings, retirement, emergency fund (even though you may get alimony, don’t count it as income because it’s not going to be around forever and you don’t want to become overly dependent on it); under household – will you sell your home? Move into a new home/apartment? Need to have a yard sale? Need to replace household items? (hint: estate sales are good places to get household items – furniture, dishes, etc. if you need to set up a home.); under relational – How soon will you tell people of your (impending) divorce? Who will you tell? How do you break the news to important people in your life (children, parents, siblings, etc.)?

2. Rank: Once you have your categories and have broken them down into sub categories, give each sub category a ranking from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) in order of priority. What things will you take care of first? What things can wait? Work on the #5’s first and cross them off your list when done. Number fives should be things like income (how are you going to support yourself?), housing (where are you going to live?), and debt (pay off old debts and don’t create any new ones until your are financially stable).

3. Finish: Once you have finished an item, cross it off your list. If you are really good and make a spreadsheet, hide that column/row when you’ve completed it. Once it’s done, it’s done.

4. Document, document, document: Keep a copy of all your records. Keep a phone log of your conversations with ex or of any electronic communication with ex. You may have to produce this information if it comes down to “he said – she said” in court. Be aware that unless you inform someone you are recording the conversation with them, that communication may be against the law. A good rule of thumb regarding keeping records and documents is 10 years. Instead of tons of boxes full of paper crowding up your spare bedroom, scan documents and store them on a flash drive, backup hard drive or on the ‘cloud’.

Everything we experience in our lives in a learning experience. We can take what we learn in one aspect of our lives (ex. work) and apply it to other aspects of our lives (personal). The thing is we should never stop growing and learning. And, yes, we can even learn from an unpleasant experience like a divorce. Stay tuned. . . .

Space A

When I was in college, I knew a young man who was in Air Force ROTC at another school out-of-state. He would fly home to my hometown to visit his parents (and me) “Space A” or “space available”. That meant that if there was a military flight leaving from his college town and going to my hometown that had ‘space available’ on the flight, he’d be able to fly home for free. He would call me and say, “I’m flying Space A this weekend. Can you pick me up at the base?” Of course I would. (Long story short, we were supposed to get married . . . .another story for another time.)

I’ve thought about ‘Space A’ over the years. What that really meant was that there was a space for that young man and that made him happy. These days, when I think about ‘Space A’, I think about people or things that I need to make space for in my life. It’s easy after a divorce to shut down and shut people out. The pain of a divorce, the sting of rejection by your spouse, the financial drain – all are reasons to shut down and shut out. It’s easier to crawl into a hole to lick your wounds and admit defeat than it is to stand out in the light of day, flex your muscles and move on with life.

What do you need ‘Space A’ for in your life? New goals and dreams? A new job? A pet? Volunteer work? Relationship(s) with your grown child(ren)? Crawl out of that hole and begin walking forward. You may find out that when you make ‘Space A’ for things and people in your life, you’ll experience a level of happiness you’ve not known before. Check it out. Stay tuned . . . . .

 

To Thine Own Self Be True

Back in October of 1966, Gilligan’s Island had an episode entitled, “The Producer”. Harold Hecuba, a Hollywood producer, crash lands on the island while on a trip to find new talent. The castaways stage a musical production of Hamlet in order to showcase Ginger’s talent to Mr. Hecuba. At the end of the play, the entire cast sings a chorus that ends with the words; “And there’s another thing you ought to do, to thine own self be true.” The Shakespeare character Polonius utters these words in the original play Hamlet. He means, “Do not deceive yourself.”

I spent the first few years of my adult life totally oblivious to myself. By that, I mean, I really didn’t know who I was, what I was capable of, what I thought about things and believed in and where I stood in the grand scheme of life. I think now, at the ripe old age of 50something, I understand myself.

When I was younger, I was easily influenced by others, even as a young wife and mother. I remember when Y2K rolled around. I eagerly jumped on the bandwagon of doomsday preparation because the group of women I hung around with told me to. I would not let my children read the Harry Potter books because the group of women I hung around with told me the books were evil. I did not hold ex accountable as leader our family because I was told to “just let him lead (in whatever way he deems appropriate)”. Wow. I’ve come a long way.

The one good thing about my divorce is that it forced me to get to know myself – apart from husband, children, influential friends, finances. I was stripped of everything I thought I needed to live a good life. The only constant in my life was my faith. I knew that I had to cling to Christ in order to “make it out alive”.

Now I am on the other side – of the divorce, of the second half of my life and of the process of getting to know who I am. I know what I believe in. I know what I am capable of. I know how I react to situations – physically, emotionally, financially. I will not allow myself to be influenced by others to think, do, and behave in ways I don’t believe in or that I question. I won’t blindly follow others like I did when I was younger. I guess it’s all part of growing up, maturing and understanding who I am – being true to myself. Stay tuned . . . .

Don’t Despair

My choice of radio program for news and current events is NPR. Recently, they did a piece on life expectancy and how that has changed in the US over the past 20 years. The research quoted in the piece concurs that the life expectancy for whites is decreasing, especially among poorer whites. That information can be discouraging. While reading that piece, I also read a companion piece entitled, “Explaining the Forces Driving the Middle Aged White People’s ‘Deaths of Despair’. The information and research presented is quite sobering.

Granted, the study dealt with white people, but other races may also feel the same way – that a lack of steady, well-paying jobs for those people without college degrees can cause distress and depression in their lives. I can see how this – the lack of meaningful employment – could cause such despair. I saw that in my ex when he lost job after job after job – and he had a college degree!

What is one to do in a situation like this? You’re middle-aged, don’t have a college degree, but need to be able to support yourself. Many divorced or divorcing women find themselves in this situation. Along with the divorce comes lack of self-confidence and depression. May I suggest the following?

1. Consider community resources: Look into the community resources where you live. Changes are there are low-cost or free (re)training classes in several skills – clerical, retail, etc. Take advantage of what is available to you in your community. Your local YWCA may also have resources available for women returning to the work force.

2. Consider a temporary job: Placement services are always looking for temporary workers to fill in where needed. Your local university and civil service (city and county government) also have temporary job pools available. Temporary opportunities are a way to get your foot in the door for a permanent job.

3. Consider online or evening classes: Many community colleges have evening classes that cater to the working adult. Speak to the financial aid department and find out what kind of aid is available to you in order to assist you going back to school to hone current skills or learn new skills.

4. Consider a support group: We were not meant to walk through life alone. Find a support group of either divorced women or women (re) entering the workforce. By being a group of similar-experienced people, you will find out that you are not alone in your pursuits.

Start out slowly, setting and accomplishing small goals. One example is to improve your keyboarding skills or note-taking skills. Celebrate the small victories you have. Those small victories will go a long way in building self-confidence. Don’t despair. There is hope, there are resources, and there is a way to be able to stand confident again. Stay tuned . . . .

Rollercoaster

I remember when a theme park close to my home built a new rollercoaster. It had several loop-de-loops in it and ran fast. My children couldn’t wait to go on the rollercoaster! After much coaxing, they got me on the ride with them. However, I closed my eyes and screamed when we went on the loop-de-loops! I have always been afraid of heights and the rollercoaster scared me. My children said, “Aww, come on, Mom! That wasn’t scary!”

There are many times when life can seem like a rollercoaster – scary and not fun, ups and downs, twists and turns, moving so fast that you find it difficult to hold on. Your divorce recovery can feel the same way. I remember feeling happy that I was finally liberated from ex, but unhappy that my life was in such turmoil.

Some people don’t assess the risk of a rollercoaster before they get on the ride. They are all out gung-ho to feel the excitement of all the twists and turns, the stomach jarring drops, the negative G turns. Going through a divorce can be like that as well. You just want to be rid of that extra weight (ex) and you don’t give much thought to the ‘ride’ itself – the emotions you will face, finding your new normal, etc.

How does one assess the risk of divorce?

1. Are all your eggs in one basket and is he holding the basket? If he will not let you participate in the family finances or doesn’t allow you to see the bills, especially the credit card bills, there’s a good chance he is hiding something. Open up your own checking account. Open up your own credit card. Separate your finances and establish financial stability in your name only. Do not cosign for anything for any reason. And by all means, do not give him access to your accounts!

2. Who does the ‘lion’s share’ of work around the house? I found myself mowing the yard because ex would get ‘heart palpitations’ if he mowed (and his family has a history of heart issues). He complained about having to load and unload the dishwasher when I went back to school at night. Laundry went undone unless I did it. I was the one who cleaned the house, washed the cars, raked the leaves, etc. And I was working and going to school full-time, besides being a full-time Mom.

3. Are bills missing? Are there odd charges on household bills – cable, etc.? If you have any cause to question, question. Trust your gut. Chances are, he’s up to something.

4. If you feel that your marriage is headed that direction, get professional help: Marriage counseling is a good place to start. However, that’s not always successful. Professional help not only includes a good counselor, but also a good lawyer. Most lawyers will give you a free 30 minute session in order to help you determine a course of action. You need to protect yourself.

5. Protect your assets: Find out if your state has a community property law and what that would entail for your personal and shared assets in a divorce. Make sure the divorce decree spells out in detail who is responsible for what, how long, etc. There was one issue that was not intimately spelled out in my divorce decree and ex found the loophole. He shoved my face in it and left the state owing me more than $21K in alimony.

In my experience, divorce was the roughest when I was not prepared. I was not prepared for some of the actions ex took, even though they didn’t surprise me. I truly felt like I was on a rollercoaster. Divorce is painful, there’s no mistaking that. Hindsight is always 20/20 – we look back and see the red flags in our marriage and think about how we should have been more proactive when our gut told us something wasn’t right. If you are going through the rollercoaster of divorce right now, buckle up and make sure you are protected. Stay tuned . . . .