Are You In Love With the Person or With Their Potential?

I was lucky.

The decision to file for divorce was a no-brainer for me. At that point, my husband was MIA, had committed bigamy and had used all of my money (and credit) to fund his other life.

Many of you do not or did not have that decision present itself in such a clear-cut manner.

And I feel for you.

I used to play a little thought exercise where I would consider how I would have responded to finding out about my ex’s actions at some point along his pathway to destruction. When I’m honest with myself, I probably would have been way too forgiving and lenient with his behavior.

Not because I would have been okay with what he was doing, but because I believed in him. After reaching the understanding that he needed help, I would have held onto the hope that he would have accepted it. I know that I would have grasped onto any glimpse of the man I knew and loved and made excuses for actions that didn’t align.

I’m afraid that I would have stayed too long and endured way too much. Confusing a love of his potential for a love of the person. Setting hard boundaries would have felt too much like giving up on him, and that thought would have been devastating.

 


 

I currently teach accelerated math students. That means they all have the ability to be in my class and they had to demonstrate that in order to register. But one of the first – and often hardest- lessons they have to learn in my class is that it doesn’t matter what you can do. It only matters what you do.

Most of them learn the lesson. I love to watch them grow and mature over the year as they slowly take on more responsibility for their learning. Others struggle to put their potential into practice. And at some point, I, along with their parents, have to decide if this is the right place for them at this point in time.

It’s given me an interesting perspective on potential. After all, I’m evaluating it on an almost constant basis and with a large number of people. And from what I’ve learned watching them, I would now handle a situation like the imagined one with my ex very differently.

We often face these situations – with our children, our employees and our spouses. We can easily get so caught up in the frustrations of the “shoulds” and the defection of the fears that we have trouble seeing the situation clearly.

 

If you’re facing a tough decision about somebody and you’re trying to balance their potential with the current reality, try asking yourself these questions:

 

Do they believe in their potential? Does it look the same as what I envision?

Are they motivated by different goals that are currently more important to them?

How far away are they from what I perceive as their potential?

Are they motivated to work towards their potential? Do they care about the impact on me? 

Are they making progress towards their potential?

What sort of timeline am I looking at for them to reach their potential? Am I willing to give it that much time?

What will the growth process entail? Am I willing to put the work in too?

Am I realistic about their potential or am I asking them to be somebody they’re not?

Do I believe that I have the power to make them change?

Am I lowering the benchmark or my boundaries in order to avoid making a decision? 

Am I constantly excusing their behavior?

Am I setting appropriate boundaries so that their choices have limited impact on me?

Am I holding onto my hope that they can change out of a fear of confrontation or of letting go?

Am I allowing their actions to consistently compromise my own well-being?

Am I okay if they never change?

 

 

It is so hard when we see what somebody can be. We can be so distracted by the possibility that we ignore the reality. Or, we can become fixated on the idea that if we just motivated them the right way, said the right thing, that they would change their ways.

Yet their journey is different than yours.

They may change and grow. But not on your timeline. On theirs. And not to your goals. But to theirs. When we only see people from what we perceive as their potential, we are not truly allowing them to be themselves. Rather, we are trying to push our own ideals, beliefs and needs upon them.

Here’s the reality –

You cannot change them. You cannot ignore their current state forever. You cannot manifest their perfect potential. You cannot decide what is important to them. You cannot make them revert to the way they were or become what they said they wanted.

All you can do is try to gain a clearer picture of the situation and make the best decision you can.

For them.

And for you.

 

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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.

 

 

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!