Try shifting your mind: instead of thinking of your trauma as something that happened TO you, try thinking of it as a part of your story. When it is your story, you are the one in control. You can revise, edit, even add or eliminate entire chapters if needed. Here are some hints on how you can learn to embrace your story and use it to help yourself and others.
This interesting article (Are You With the Right Mate?) from Psychology Today highlights some of our cultural assumptions about what partnerships are supposed to be. Divorce is a wonderful opportunity to ponder these questions. Take this time to get to know yourself, your needs, and your path to growth. Take responsibility for your happiness before you look to another to fill the space left by your ex. Take this time to be deliberate in your thoughts and actions. This is a time for clarity.
I really did have a great marriage. In retrospect, though, I’ve realized that he never really challenged me. I am not saying that as a dig against him, or claiming that the responsibility was his, it is just how it was. I could easily say “I can’t, I won’t, I don’t or I’ll never” and he never questioned it. It was comfortable. I developed a rather static view of myself, content to be what I was in many areas. I did push myself, but only in areas where I was comfortable pushing (which are never the areas that need improvement, are they?). Even though this was a lesson I didn’t want to learn, I learned the value in pushing oneself in the areas that cause discomfort. It just might surprise you (as it did me) how many of those, “I wont’s” become “I can’t wait to’s.”
Here are some of the items that were on my “can’t” list that are now on my “bring it on” list:
-riding a motorcycle (sorry, mom!)
-running a race (warning – these are addictive)
-eating spicy foods (I now have to restock chili powder and Tabasco every couple weeks)
-enjoying sports (don’t mention last week’s playoffs…)
-learning to play chess (I’m still pretty crummy, but it’s progress)
-kissing another man (strange at first, but not too hard to get used to)
-cooking (see “I’m Not Martha Stewart…”
-having a dog again (you’ll hear more about this one later)
It is not the responsibility of those in our life to push and challenge us; it is something we must take on ourselves. As a teacher, I am fully aware that growth occurs when I keep the students slightly uncomfortable, just a little beyond where they want to go. Likewise, we can grow when we take ourselves beyond what we think we can do. What can you transfer from your “I can’t, I won’t, I don’t, and I’ll never” list? How can you challenge yourself?
When I was a toddler, I used to try to walk through the sliding glass door. Repeatedly. The coffee table was simply an apparition that should bend to my will and allow me passage. Even the bulk of the couch was no match for my will; I assumed that it too could be bested if I tried long enough and hard enough.
As I approached adulthood and learned about the states of matter,I realized that my chances of walking through solids were pretty slim. However, this did little to temper my will and stubbornness. These traits saw me through many challenges in my life; I succeeded because I refused to give up. I worked to make myself stronger, both physically and emotionally to see me through the challenges that life had to offer. I had perseverance and reliance in droves.
It wasn’t enough. At least not for the long run.
My strength got me through the early days and months of my divorce. I looked to my fortitude to help me push through what seemed like insurmountable obstacles.
Then, one day, I realized the external obstacles were gone. All that was left were my interior barriers, and try as I might, I couldn’t simply lower my head and barrel through them. This was not a time for strength.
I found wisdom in the teachings of yoga and meditation, areas that I had been exploring, sensing that they could counter my natural strengths and bring me more into balance. In yoga, you are taught to find your edge, accept your edge, explore your edge (not to pretend it is not there and continue forward nonetheless, as I was wont to do). Pain is not something to be denied, rather it should be acknowledged and investigated. I learned to recognize my edge and slowly, softly shift it. I became more comfortable just being with the pain, softening my attitude towards it. The process of healing from the trauma made me softer, and that in turn made me stronger and more whole.
Strength found its balance in softness. The two together are so much more powerful than each alone. Try as I might, I still can’t walk through furniture, though.