Over lunch with some girlfriends, we chatted about a mutual friend going through a nasty divorce. Like most of us, she was taking it in phases; the denial phase, the anger phase… the Jack Daniels phase. Most of us agreed that — at some point in our divorces — it seemed that we nearly lost our minds. So much is going on. You’re being forced to keep multiple balls in the air at one time that it’s only a matter of time before you drop one. Then two. Or, if you’re like my friend Leslie, you give up trying, scream at the stupid balls and walk away. But in talking about what we gained from our divorces, I couldn’t help but wonder — what did we lose, and did we really need it in the first place?
Most people will agree, going through a divorce, you lose control. You’re being forced to place your entire life in the hands of others to help you. First an attorney. Then a mediator. Possibly a judge. It’s a painful, frustrating and confusing predicament you find yourself in and there’s the very good chance that you might not make it out with your sanity in tact. For those who have been through it — and lived to tell about it — they will likely agree that the act of losing control can actually help you later on. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But consider how many things happen in life that we have no control over and we must simply release control over to the universe and hope that it all turns out all right in the end. A child leaving home. A parent with failing health. We make the best plans we can, but then we must do what feels horrible and unnatural to us; we must let go of that control. If you can let go of that intense need to control every little thing that’s happening, you might gain something that was there waiting for us; peace.
When you are in a marriage that you feel safe in, you relax. You get comfortable. Habits become ingrained; routines get established. A divorce is the equivalent of duct taping dynamite to that life and striking a match. Your old routines are blown to bits and laying around you. Your comfort zone is now in little shreds beneath your feet. It’s enough to make most of us want to lie in the fetal position for days on end. Possibly with a bottle of Grey Goose. But when you lose your old routines, something miraculous happens. You are taken out of your comfort zone. It literally forces you to look at things a new way; try something different. And, because every single day in your life is different from how it used to be — you’re more apt to go further out on the limb to discover a new comfort zone or happy place. Your old way of life is gone, but in its place is a raw, freshly exposed future that you can design anew. Most of my girlfriends in this phase started a new hobby, joined a new club or reinvented themselves altogether.
People say that you only truly find out who your friends are when you go through a divorce. I can personally attest to the truth of this statement. Losing friends in your support network is sometimes the hardest thing to come to terms with as you navigate the way through the process. It threatens the very foundation upon which you secured your old life; the faith you had in the people around you to catch you and support you if you stumbled or fell. But suddenly, not only are you in a freefall, but the people you thought would be there…just aren’t. When faced with this situation, it makes you appreciate the friends and loved ones who stick by you. And, believe it or not, it makes you a better friend to others when they need you.
There are lots of ways to look at what divorce takes from us. Sailing into the Bermuda Triangle called Divorce you can only wonder if you’re going to make it through without losing yourself altogether. But from the other side — emerging from the Bermuda Triangle — we might discover that what we thought was losing might be the universe’s way of giving us something we never had. And it might make us appreciate it all the more.
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