If you spend time around young kids, you’ve probably heard Disney’s Frozen soundtrack more times than you can count. But have you ever really listened to the lyrics of “Let It Go,” the mega-hit song from that film? Elsa, the feisty heroine of the story, sings: “Let it go, let it go/ Can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go/ Turn away and slam the door.”
If you’re going to survive the inevitable challenges, hurts, and tough decisions you’ll face during a divorce, you’d be wise to take Elsa’s advice. Here are 6 things you’ll have to “let go” if you want to move forward with your life:
- People who don’t support you. There’s an old saying: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” When you go through difficult times, you find out who’s really in your corner. Some friends and relatives who you thought would always be there for you will end up abandoning you. Others, including some folks you don’t think of as part of your inner circle, will step up and offer astonishing amounts of support, kindness and sage advice. Until you experience tough times, you really don’t know who will fall into which camp. Once it becomes clear that a particular person just isn’t there for you (or may even be working against you), you need to let them go. Concentrate on keeping the positive people in your life and actively seek out new friends who share your interests and sensibilities. (And remember, friendship is a 2-way proposition. Make sure you reach out to those around you who need a helping hand).
- Anger. Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” A divorce involves so many hurts and frustrations that it provides an unlimited supply of grist for the “anger mill.” Anger is an essential part of the grieving and recovery process, so these feelings are understandable and — to a point — useful. However, eventually your wrath will outlive its usefulness. It will work against you, poisoning your spirit and preventing you from living a full life. Acknowledge your anger, then work through it by accepting responsibility for your own life. Consciously decide to move on, to be happy and positive instead of bitter and miserable.
- Paralyzing Fear. Fear is a basic human emotion; it’s built into our DNA because it is required for our survival as individuals and as a species. What’s tricky is figuring out how to distinguish between circumstances that are truly threatening and those that merely bring us out of our comfort zone. Artist Georgia O’Keefe said: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I’ve wanted to do.” Ask yourself: “What do I want to do that I’m afraid to do?” Chances are, the thing that you fear most is the very thing you really need to do. Start small, then work up to your biggest bugaboo. There is no limit to what you can accomplish once you let go of fear.
- Bad habits. When we feel upset or frustrated, it’s easy to fall into toxic habits. Think of these as a modern day version of “the 7 deadly sins:” gluttony (overindulgence in food, alcohol, or drugs), sloth (isolation and lack of exercise), envy (wanting what others have, which inevitably leads to self-pity), pride (inability to ask for help when you need it), lust (looking for love in all the wrong places), wrath (lashing out at others), and greed (focusing on what you lack instead of what you have). Obviously, none of these “sins” will serve you well. Let them go and replace them with their virtuous counterparts: temperance, exercise, socialization, kindness, generosity, love, and above all, gratitude.
- Possessions that weigh you down. In her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo advises, “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” Look around you: are you surrounded by depressing mementos of your past? Do you live among objects that not only don’t bring you joy, but cause you pain and distress? Let them go. Pass the family photos along to your children. Replace the linens and towels you once shared with your spouse. Sell the jewelry your husband gave you. Use eBay or Craigslist to get rid of the fancy wedding china that you never use. Donate any outdated or ill-fitting clothing. Have a big yard sale and use the proceeds to buy new furnishings for your fabulous new life.
- Your old vision of the future. This last item is really tough. One of my favorite quotes comes from philosopher Joseph Campbell: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Your post-divorce life may be radically different from the life you once expected, so you’ll have to refocus your vision to match your new circumstances. Divorce initiates major life changes, many of which are extremely unwelcome and difficult to accept. You may be forced to leave your “dream” home, your income may decrease, and you may have to redefine how you and your children spend the holidays. Events you once blissfully looked forward to — growing old with your spouse, sitting side by side at your children’s weddings, hosting your grandchildren together — probably aren’t going to happen. And you will definitely have to learn how to depend more on yourself. It’s not easy, but if you want to be happy, you’ll have to let go of the old image of your life and replace it with an exciting new vision of your own design.
Alexander Graham Bell once said: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Don’t waste time focusing on what’s behind you. Take Elsa’s advice: turn away and slam the door. You’ll find a new door in front of you — the door that leads to your future happy life. Don’t be afraid to open it!
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