Not Every Day Is a Good Day. Show Up Anyway.

My hairdresser is usually an upbeat and positive woman. Her energy pulls me into the moment and her “bright side” approach helps me forget the fact that I seem to have a little more grey to cover every time.

Yesterday was different. Tears teased the corners of her eyes as she detailed all that had happened to her recently. She was valiantly trying to hold it together, but it was like her emotions were winning at tug-of-war, pulling her over the edge.

Finally, as she applied the last of my color, she wiped the corner of her left eye, picked up a curling iron and exclaimed,

“Damn it. I am going to be beautiful today.” 

And she was. I watched as her hair – and her face – transformed while we waited for my color to set. As each new ringlet was formed, her eyes became a little more determined and her expression became a little more hopeful.


 

It is a fact of life for all of us – bad days will happen.

Some bad days are of the, “I overslept and my car was rear ended on the way to work.” Other bad days fall into the, “I just buried my best friend” category. And in between those, there will be plenty of the, “I’m just not feeling it today” variety.

On those bad days, there is the temptation to crawl back under the covers and wait for the next sunrise to signal a do-over. Our minds feel pulled towards what’s not going right, thinking about it even past the point where thinking is needed. The plummet of our emotions seems as inevitable as a raft in whitewater poised at the top of a waterfall. We yearn to avoid the discomfort and so we try to distract with food, a drink or busyness. And the idea that things can be better is nothing but a distant possibility, so hazy that it seems like the false hope of a mirage.

Not every day is a good day.

Yet even if the chips are down and the tears are frequent, it is still YOUR day.

You can make the decision to show up anyway.

To proclaim, “Damn it. I am going to be present. I am going to persist. I am going to be positive.”

 

My husband likes to say that loyalty isn’t about being there when things are good; it is about being there when things are bad.

Be faithful to yourself.

Even on the bad days, show up.

And never confuse a bad day for a bad life.

 

 

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6 Self-Care Tips When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed By Divorce

These aren’t magic elixirs that will suddenly make everything okay, but these six strategies can help you cope while divorce seems intent on bringing you down:

 

1 – Limit the Time Spent With People Who Exhaust You

It doesn’t matter if it’s your mother or your neighbor, when you’re feeling flattened by divorce, it’s okay to limit your exposure to people that you find emotionally draining. It’s okay to not answer your phone. It’s okay to come up with an excuse why you can’t make the weekly dinner this Friday. It’s okay to duck behind the couch when the doorbell rings.

Right now, you need to take care of you and if that means keeping others at arm’s length for a time, so be it.

 

2 – Say “No” to Unnecessary Obligations

Maybe you’ve always been the one to organize the neighborhood Halloween party or spearhead the new campaigns at work. Perhaps your friends are accustomed to asking you to help shuttle the children around or you are the family “go to” when discord arises.

Their expectations and your past history do not mean that you have to continue those things. This is a time to pare down, to simplify. Say “no” to those burdens that can be pushed off, ignored or delegated. You’re not helping anyone if you spread yourself so thin that you begin to disappear.

 

3 – Cut Yourself Some Slack

You are not going to operating at your normal levels of functioning right now and that. is. okay. Consider this like recovering from a major illness. You’re not going to go straight from the sick room to the starting line of a marathon. Likewise, don’t expect to leave divorce court and immediately be operating at peak capacity.

This is a perfect time to adjust your expectations. Let some things slide. Prioritize where you spend your energy. And, most importantly, forgive yourself for your mistakes and your shortcomings. You will return to your normal bad-ass self again. In the meantime, it’s okay if you’re just managing to get your ass out of bed.

 

4 – Set Yourself Up For Sleep Success

The hours between sunset and sunrise somehow manage to feel twice as long and three times as lonely when you’re struggling. You can make the nights a little more bearable by priming the pump for a calmer mind. Explore trying vigorous exercise at night to exhaust the body. Try instituting a ban on any divorce or ex-related tasks for the 2-3 hours before you retire. Make sure your bedroom feels like a comfortable space with no visible emotional reminders. Lose yourself in a story by watching, reading or listening before you retire.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and find that your nightmares have traveled with you, make an effort to interrupt your thoughts. Try an engrossing puzzle, take out your journal or even just take a bath or shower to help your mind shift gears.

 

5 – Incorporate Daily Movement

When we’re exhausted, we often think that what we need is to stop. Yet too much time in a still body makes the mind quite the active wanderer. Make a vow with yourself to move every day. Go for a walk before dinner or try some morning yoga. If you like being around people, use this as an excuse to join a team or group exercise class.

On those days when you just don’t feel like it, tell yourself you’re going to give it 5 minutes and that you have permission to stop at that point if you want. More often than not, once you begin moving, you’ll want to keep moving.

 

6 – Ask For Specific Help

People want to help. But first, they need to know that you want help and then, they need to know what sort of assistance they can offer. So tell them. I know it feels weird and maybe even shameful to admit that you can’t do it alone. Yet that’s more an internal dialog than an external truth. After all, when you offer assistance to a friend in a rough patch, are you secretly judging them or are you just happy that there is something you can do?

Ask for what you need, whether it be picking up your dry cleaning to an evening phone call to help keep the loneliness at bay. It’s amazing how freeing just a small bit of help can be when your plate is both overflowing and collapsing.

 

The way you feel right now is not the way you’ll always feel. What works for you today may no longer be appropriate tomorrow. Reevaluate your self-care strategies every 6-8 weeks and be ready to modify them as needed until that day comes when instead of feeling overwhelmed, you’re feeling energized and ready for the next step.

 

Surrender

As Hurricane Irma made its first advances into Georgia, I took advantage of a day off school to take in a morning yoga class. The energy in the class was one of nervousness. We all – locals and Florida refugees alike – were stuck in waiting mode, wondering what was to come.

The instructor started off class telling a story about how his children had their hearts set on a kitten. And he had his heart set on maintaining a clean and orderly home. Yet, since his love for his children was greater than his love for order and cleanliness, he agreed to adopting a kitten.

At the Humane Society, the kids fell in love with one cat. And then with a second. The clean and kitten-less home was about to be invaded by the impishness and unpredictability of two young felines.

The instructor shared that his only option was to surrender, to release control over every aspect of the household and to trust in the outcome. He continued to make that the intention for the entire class with reminders for us to trust as we leaned back into balance poses and suggestions to give up the hold, and release into our hips as we folded forward.

I kept that message in mind as the winds picked up and the seven-story trees around the house began to arc to the ground, as though they themselves were attempting to practice yoga. One branch finally surrendered to the force, slamming down onto our fence.

We were lucky; that was our only damage.

Others were not so lucky. Trees are down all over the metro area and power has become the most coveted resource in town.

Natural disasters have a way of reminding us about the limitations of our control. We’re so used to shaping nature to meet our needs – we move rivers, blast through mountains and think nothing of growing gabs in the desert. We are lulled into thinking we are the architects of our domain.

Until we are reminded otherwise.

We’re good at fighting. Excellent at controlling. Experienced at directing.

But often what the situation calls for is something else entirely –

The letting go, the faith, of surrender.

 

Looking For Divorce Stories

I’m working on a project where I need stories about situations where the divorce process and/or court system put you in a no-win situation. These stories will be summarized and all identifying details will be withheld or changed. If you are willing to share, please add your story in the comments or send me an email at lisa@actionpotentialwellness.com. Thank you advance for your help!

Can You Find Happiness With a New Partner After An Unwanted Divorce?

“I can’t imagine being happy with any else but her,” the message in my inbox said. The “her” in question was his ex-wife, who had recently initiated an unwanted divorce. “Do you really believe that it is possible to ever be happy with a new person?”

I asked my journal that same question after my divorce, afraid to voice the query aloud as though that would give my concerns more power. Even while I felt disgust at the realization that I had been sleeping with a stranger, I still fought the connection I had forged with him over sixteen years.

I tried to imagine myself with another man – a generic, faceless one – and I would be instantly snapped back to an image of my ex as though industrial strength bungee cords still tied us together. I thought of how comfortable I was with him and I searched the men in my periphery questioning if I could ever be so vulnerable with any of them. I reflected back on the intensity of the love that I had felt for my ex and I wondered if I would ever experience that again.

I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again with anyone else.

And I’m so grateful that I didn’t allow my imagination to keep me from trying.

___

 

Here are five truths to consider if you find yourself wondering if you can be happy in a new relationship:

 

Your happiness is anchored in you.

When you’re with someone for an extended time, the boundaries can begin to blur. Something that makes them happy, makes you happy. And it’s easy to begin to believe that your happiness is dependent upon them.

Yet it’s not and it never was.

True happiness and satisfaction in life comes from living within your own beliefs and values. It is found in living a purpose-driven life where you know who you are and what you have to give. It is in a sense of curiosity and playfulness. And, yes, it is in the relationships you form with others.

Here’s the important part – the root of happiness and the ability to create it is not found in another person or when your external circumstances change. It is in you. Always has been. Always will be.

Believing it only existed with your ex holds you back. Believing that you can find it in someone new leads you astray. Finding containment within will never let you down.

 

Your marriage wasn’t perfect. 

And it may not have even been good.

I know. Tough pill to swallow. I choked on that one myself for a couple years. But once I accepted it, everything else started to fall into place.

You see, I thought I had a good marriage. A great marriage, even. We never fought. We had great intimacy. We had common goals and values (or so I was led to believe). Much of the responsibility for that illusion lies on his shoulders – he needed for me to believe that things were good so that my suspicions would not be altered. And some of the responsibility falls on me. I needed to believe that the marriage was great because I was too afraid to entertain the alternative.

By allowing myself to see the reality of the relationship, it helped to let it go and by recognizing its imperfections, it also aided my belief that I could be in a happy relationship again.

I used to believe that I had a great first marriage. Now, I believe that its ending was proof that it wasn’t great. And I’m okay with that. I can now look back and smile at the good moments while at the same time accepting that not all was good behind the scenes.

And I’ve taken those hard-won lessons from that relationship and put them to good use in my life now. I’m beyond happy in my current marriage and happier still that it isn’t perfect.

 

Different can be better.

After an unwanted divorce, all you feel is the loss and all you know is what you had. There’s a tendency to smooth over the rough edges and idealize the person who left. The sense of deprivation causes a panicked grasping, an almost-obsessive need to try to hold on to whatever you can of your former partner. Every ounce of your being is focused on the void you feel and you naturally seek to want to stuff your ex back into that space to fill that hole.

Sometimes this manifests through repeated attempts to win the ex back or a more subtle yet persistent pining for the one who left. Other times it shows up by trying to sift through the single scene looking for a doppelgänger to replace what was lost.

You miss what you know and you don’t know what you haven’t had.

A new relationship will be different than the one you had. And different can be better (especially if you learned from your mistakes).

The grooves you followed in your old relationship will be rough at first, as you trip and stutter over the worn patterns with a new partner. But soon, you’ll find your own music.

The strengths of your ex may not be mirrored in the new partner. Yet they carry their own gifts and you may find they bring out new ones in you.

You won’t relive your early twenties with them, broke and optimistic. Yet you will share more experience and wisdom and the confidence that comes with them.

Happiness in the new relationship is found in recognizing what makes it unique, not in trying to make it a carbon copy.

Rather than see this as a burden, view it as an opportunity. A chance to start again, to start better.

 

Fear restricts; hope frees.

Fear weaves a web more intricate than any spider. Fear holds you back stronger than any restraints. Fear narrows your vision more than any blinders. And when you’re wondering if you’ll ever be happy with another person again, you’re listening to fear.

And fear lies.

But hope frees.

Fear tells us that the future will be worse than the past. Hope reminds us not to jump to conclusions.

Fear threatens that we’ll always be alone. Hope reminds us that connection is the natural outcome if we’re willing to be open and vulnerable.

Fear warns that we’ll never find happiness again. Hope reminds us that contentment is always present when we know where to find it.

 

Love doesn’t come with lifetime limits.

I’ve never seen love advertised as, “Limit 1 per customer.”

Yet we often live as though that were true.

Just as parents can find the love for each additional child, you can find the space within you to love again.

Eight years ago, I couldn’t ever imagine being happy with anyone else. And now, I can’t imagine having to go back to who I was with before. Because now, I’m happier than ever.