#101. Taking Charge
With much gratitude, I receive a lot of emails from women who share their stories of heartbreak, fear, depression and feelings of worthlessness as they go through a divorce or find themselves embarking on single motherhood for a variety of reasons. The early months and years of single parenting are so daunting and terrifying that it’s amazing we don’t spontaneously combust. Having ‘snapped’ into a state of complete insanity during that period of divorce madness myself, I totally understand where my readers are coming from.
When I remember how I defined myself by a complete obsession with anger and fear, I shutter at how sad I actually became. Like Lenny Bruce, I ran around with my affidavits and told anyone who would listen about how I was betrayed and abused. How the Family Court system was deranged and how the institution of marriage was the ultimate weapon used to subordinate women. From my experience, that was all true. The entire experience of marriage and divorce was a full blown attack on my dignity, humanity and sense of justice. I couldn’t believe how duped I felt about the whole goal of marriage in the first place! I didn’t know what to do with all of those feelings, so I basked in them for years and couldn’t move on. Or rather, I didn’t want to move on.
In the early months of single motherhood I was in shock. Naturally one remains in shock until it wears off. Not much I could do at that point. But when my fight instincts emerged, I was pissed off and hell bent on blaming my ex for every failure in my life and challenge that I was ill equipped to handle. Rather than accept the new opportunity of single motherhood and construct a new plan for my life, I was going to wallow in self-pity for ten long years!
The problem was, all that wallowing and anger kept me in a really bad place that only empowered my ex and allowed him to further denigrate me. My life became his proverbial punching bag and with every metaphorical punch, I took it, allowed it and became a professional victim. I got fat, depressed and drunk. I’m not sure how allowing some man to destroy me seemed like a good idea, but it must have or I wouldn’t have allowed it to continue as long as I did. In retrospect, it wasn’t him who was destroying me. I picked up where he left off the day I walked out and did a way better job of ruining my life than he ever could!
This ugly self-destructive phase ended a few years ago, and it’s only because I crawled out of the darkness that I can now see things clearly. If I could go back and do it all again, I would have still left that dysfunctional marriage when I did. No question. Leaving a bad marriage was the best thing I ever did for both my son and myself. But, I would have made a much greater effort to work through my complicated emotions with a mental health professional, get some much needed anti-depressants, access other single parent resources and embark on a fitness regime to begin building a new and better life rather than bask in the rubble of an old, dilapidated one.
There is a solution to every problem. Always. Sometimes we just have to make a choice – a non-negotiable choice to take charge of ourselves and map out a new plan. Creating a non-negotiable schedule where we include therapy, workouts and finding community resources to assist where necessary with job searches, housing and financial assistance are critical in moving on. The problem is that there is so much residual hurt from heartbreak and fear of raising a child alone that we get diverted from the work we really need to be doing for ourselves. It’s that emotional baggage that keeps us from developing a new life plan.
I think I was scared to develop a new life plan as I didn’t have the confidence or self-esteem to believe that I could succeed at anything in my own right. Blaming my ex and being a ‘single mother’ were the perfect excuses to not even try to live the life that I wanted to for fear of failure. I also thought that my misery was ‘normal’. I was miserable for so long that I truly believed that failure and sadness were simply my lot in life and accepted them.
But that fear was not real. I mean, it was a feeling that I interpreted as a limitation rather than an indication to do something different. I attached a meaning of limitation and immobility to the fear sensation. That fear became a lie I told myself and masked as anger. This lie told me that I was worthless and that the best years of my life were over. This ‘normal’ state of misery kept me from making an effort and effectively advocating for my own life! The meaning of fear and misery that I gave power to was killing me.
As a mom, I am the biggest advocate for my son. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do to ensure that he has the opportunities to reach his potential and be treated with dignity and respect in all areas of his life. I just had to take that same fighting spirit and fight for my life!
My heart goes out to every person that I am so blessed to hear from via this blog. I want to tell every one of you how amazing you are. How strong you are. How wherever you are in your phase of divorce, motherhood and/or womanhood, you are being given the greatest gift of your life with whatever pain that you are facing. This pain is an opportunity. It is a physical embodiment to precipitate positive changes and opportunity to free yourself once and for all from everything in the past that was wrong and demeaned your beautiful spirit.
You just have to choose how you want to live. You may need help on figuring out what that looks like, and that’s fine! Call your local Jewish Child and Family Services – you don’t have to be Jewish to access their abundant services. Or try the Catholic Family Services. Check your YMCA or local community center. Go on MEETUP (http://www.meetup.com/) and find a Single Parent Group to join! Be your own advocate. Learn about whatever resources are available to help you through this rocky period and educate yourself on the legal circumstances of your situation if applicable.
Three years ago I made a choice to take charge of my life. I decided to find a therapist and do whatever she told me to do. The anti-depressants were a great start! I made a choice to put forth the greatest effort that I could muster to get myself onto a new path. I decided to live. Since I was dying anyway, (at least that’s how I felt), I figured that I had nothing to lose by trying one last time. I just had to overcome my fear of failure which still rears its ugly head but I just don’t care if I ‘fail’ anymore. I don’t interpret failure the same way that I used to. Everything I have tried has taken me in a new direction. When I let go of the desired and expected outcomes that I attached onto new experiences, I began to enjoy the ride of life. Sometimes the best opportunities come from the ones we don’t attain or had ever considered.
Keep those emails coming! I am so grateful for your time and comments. YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS! Just start by making one choice everyday that honestly serves your best interests and isn’t dictated by the anger you have for your ex or the past. One choice to call your family doctor for a referral to a therapist or group counseling support resource. One choice to go for a walk and get your body moving again. One choice to eat a little healthier. One choice to believe in the truth that you are worth every happiness in the world. One choice to cling to the resolve to keep going with the truth that your pain is temporary and is there to beg you to make some much needed changes in your life. All of these choices will add up to one enviable life!
Ladies, you will move past this painful period. We are women! We are the strongest creatures on earth! All you need to do is decide to take charge of your own life. No one can do that for you. Ever. Building a positive and rewarding life is a process so be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. In time you will be living the life that you have always dreamed of and show your kid/s that anything is possible. Just figure out what you need and then figure out how and where to find it. If you keep doing that, all of this current anger and fear will dissipate and your ex won’t have any power over you ever again. You will have the power and peace that comes with confidence and independence over your own course. Now I think that’s worth the temporary discomfort and effort. It was for me!