While I was in life limbo post-divorce, I crafted 10 rules for myself to follow. These were rules born partly of pragmatism, partly of fear and anger and mostly of determination. The rules were written in the relative vacuum of the weeks following a divorce. Easy to craft. They’ve proven harder to follow.
So here they are, my 10 promises to myself. Maybe you’ll decide to make them too.
1 – Never Give in Expectation of Reward
I played by life’s rules. Played it safe. It was a barter of sorts – I’ll sacrifice now and you’ll spare me later. But life didn’t play by those rules. And I grew angry. I felt betrayed not only by my husband, but also by life. I did everything right, so why was I being punished? I promised myself to give up on the idea of sacrifice. To instead give or abstain when I wanted to with no expectation of any reward or pardon.
2 – Never Treat Life As a Waiting Room
I just need to get through this month and then I’ll relax. Money is tight right now, but we just need to make it through until next year when business should pick up. I know I haven’t seen much of my friends lately. I’ll remedy that as soon as the summer starts. Yeah, I was a pro at justifying this delayed gratification. And the problem? Some of those expected events never did occur and more reasons to wait did. I promised myself to live every day, no matter what better days seemed to lie around the next corner.
3 – Never Be a Guest in Your Life
When you’re a guest, you try to occupy the smallest footprint possible. To not make waves. And that’s no way to live for long. It was shocking to me when I moved in with my friend and her family after my husband exited stage left – I realized I had been feeling more like a guest in my home (and marriage) of 10 years then I did with her. I promised myself that I would never allow myself to be a guest in my life again; I was going to occupy my life fully.
4 – Never Let Fear Hold Your Head in the Sand
I’ve never been good at confronting my fears. I basically took the “mosters under the bed” theory way too far – as long as I didn’t look, they weren’t real. Right? 🙂 Not so much. I started by facing the easier fears – going downhill, sharing my emotions publically and leaving to-dos undone. Those proved scarier when avoided than confronted. Then came the harder ones – vulnerability and trust. Still scary. I promised myself that I woud face those things that made my heart race and trust that I can handle them.
5 – Never Let Anyone Else Be Your Gatekeeper
I will never again be without a pool of funds that only I have access to. I will never again trust without seeking some sort of verification. I will never again allow someone to create my own perceptions, holding me prisoner of my own beliefs. I promised myself that I would always trust myself, depend upon myself and stay alert to my surroundings.
6 – Never Allow Work to Overstep Its Bounds
I used to let work define me. And then I let it overdefine me. I was more Mrs. B- than Lisa, accomplished in the classroom and sometimes lost outside of it. And so I worked. And I worked, losing myself in the process. I promised myself that I would find balance, sometimes postponing work to play and never turning down an opportunity for fun.
7 – Never Ignore Your Gut
I ignored my dreams of a cheating husband. I brushed off my anxiety as work-related. I believed his words even when they resonated strangely because the alternative was too scary to contemplate. I promised myself that I would have regular check-ins with my intuion and that if it sent up a warning sign, I would listen and look for more information.
8 – Never Give Up
I remember the day when the enormity of my loss hit me. My entire former life packed into a Mack truck headed straight for my heart. And it felt impossible. I had no money. No home. No legal divorce yet. I hated my job. I lost my dogs and many friends. I even lost my ability to sleep or eat. As I broke down, I broke it down. Into tiny and manageable baby steps. I promised myself that I would keep taking those steps, even if the mountain felt insurrmountable. I could at least take one more step.
9 – Never Stop Believing In Yourself
Everything feels impossible in the beginning. That’s why whole programs are designed simply to teach you how to run 5 kilometers. And that’s why I signed up for my first race – a half marathon – during the divorce. I needed to build that belief in myself. To learn to shut out that voice that said I couldn’t only because I never had. And prove it wrong by doing it for the first time. I promised myself that even though I would be overwhelmed, scared and frustrated, that I would hold tightly to the belief that I could.
10 – Never Say Never
We’re often quick to labe a situation as “good” or “bad.” But in reality, it is just is. We ultimately decide what comes from it.
And that just may be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
Never say never.
Because you never know what’s going to happen.
And that’s a promise.