My latest blog post from DivorcedMoms.com … Be Strong!
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Say someone has done something that you don’t like. You get angry. You get mad. You think about it constantly. It keeps you up at night. You can’t seem to let it go. You brood about it. You may turn to vices to help you get through it. You remember every detail of the ‘infraction’ and you relive it and rehash it over and over. All this serves to do is create stress and strife in your life. It affects your health. It affects your emotions. Is it worth it?
Can you think of a similar scenario in your life? I am willing to bet you can and it has something to do with your divorce. Am I right?
You Have the Power to Forgive:
Forgiveness is a selfish act. Think about it. When YOU choose to forgive someone, it’s a decision that YOU make, and then YOU feel better. The other person doesn’t have to give YOU permission to forgive. The other person doesn’t have to accept YOUR forgiveness. YOU alone are in control of having the power to decide to forgive. How awesome is that?
People say to me, “I’m not ready to forgive yet because I don’t want that person to get away with it (whatever ‘it’ might be).” There is a popular misconception that if you forgive someone that it means he isn’t going to be held accountable for his actions. That is actually irrelevant.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hold that person accountable.
It doesn’t mean that you are going to let that person walk all over you.
It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences for his actions.
It does mean that you are choosing to not dwell on it every day and let anger consume your every thought.
We all know how difficult it can be to say those three little words, “I am sorry.” Anyone with children knows how difficult it can be to get one sibling to apologize to the other for the normal acts of sibling rivalry.
As parents, we also need to teach our kids a different set of three words: “I forgive you.” Our kids need to learn and understand the power of forgiveness early on so that they learn to not hold anger inside. Teaching your kids about forgiveness is an amazing gift you can role model for them. Teaching them about forgiveness by role-modeling it in the context of your own divorce (and perhaps in the context of co-parenting these same kids for which you are being a role-model).
How to Forgive:
I am repeatedly asked, “Please teach me how to forgive.” I don’t know how to do that. I wish I did. I want everyone to feel the liberation and peace that comes with forgiveness. Some people like to “own” their anger. They make it a part of their life story and frankly enjoy carrying the burden. I think that’s a crazy load to carry. I tell people that forgiveness will happen if they are open to dropping some of the anger and looking forward to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.
Arguably the best-known scholar on forgiveness is Lewis Smedes (1921-2002). Smedes was a professor of Theology and a renowned Christian author who wrote the incredibly popular book, “Forgive and Forget.” He said, “Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love’s power to break nature’s rule.”
A more modern-day quote on forgiveness came from Tyler Perry when he said, “It’s simple: when you haven’t forgiven those who’ve hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward.”
The power of forgiveness allows you to feel peace. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still going to face noise, trouble or hard work. It does mean you can be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.
Are you ready to forgive and start walking forward? Why not? What is stopping you? Don’t you want to be calm in your hear? It’s life-changing, and you can do it!
Here’s my latest from eHarmony! Finding Yourself in the Friend-Zone
My son loves all things football – watching football, playing “real” football, and playing “fake” football on his Xbox! We were joking around about something the other night and he mentioned being put in the “friend zone.” At first I thought I misunderstood him, that he was talking football…again…and that he had said something about the “end zone.” The context of that didn’t work with our conversation. I asked him to repeat what he said, and this time I clearly heard the word “friend zone.” When I asked him to define this, he said, “It’s when you like a girl, and she just wants to be friends…you get put in the friend zone!” My husband and I started laughing hysterically. I think we could both relate to being put in the friend zone at various points in our lives.
Fast forward to a conversation I had just yesterday with one of my dearest friends. She has been dating a guy for the past five months, and called with the realization that she is really interested in…yes, you got it…“just being friends.” She wants to put him in the “friend zone!” She was nervous about how to tell him. After all, she does care for him and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she knows that they don’t have a future together.
What should she do? I said, “You telling him the truth, and not leading him on or continuing your relationship, is a gift to him.” He may not see it now, but it is. He wants to meet his soulmate. He wants to settle down. He wants to meet someone who loves him unconditionally in return. My friend knows none of these things are possible with her. The gift she is giving him is the honesty that he belongs in the friend zone with her, which allows him the opportunity to look for his soulmate.
Sure, this kind of honesty may hurt his feelings in the short-term, and he may not be interested in being friends, but that’s no reason to continue a relationship. Whenever I talk with someone who is upset about a break-up, I always say, “Better to find out now that someone really isn’t that into you rather than 16 years and two kids later.” Isn’t that the truth?
When is it time to call it quits? When is it time to realize that your feelings aren’t as strong as they should be? When is it time to cut your losses and move on? Some people say they know in a matter of one or two dates if there is potential, and if there isn’t, there are no third dates. Others, like my friend, find out after several months of dating that there are underlying issues that are deal breakers.
My friend made a really good point that I think all of us should pay more attention to. She said, “I started thinking about how he might be able to change (the thing that bothered me), and I realized how wrong that is!” Absolutely! It’s not about changing who someone is; it’s about embracing every piece of them. We have all seen too many divorces where one spouse says, “I honestly thought I could change him (or her) and I couldn’t.” Not only “you couldn’t,” but also “you shouldn’t!” Those things that you would like to change, which are seemingly small, inconsequential or annoyingly cute while dating, seemingly turn into deal breakers years later!
I think alarm bells should clang loudly whenever you start to hear your inner-voice talking about what you might be able to change in someone you are dating. So many problems start from that foundation of, “After we are married, I am sure he or she won’t…(fill in the blank)…anymore.” Nice intentions, bad idea. The reality is that that too many marriages fail from this kind of thinking. He or she doesn’t change — doesn’t want to change — and suddenly all sorts of issues arise. One thing leads to another and 16 years and two kids later, nothing has changed but the fact that he or she still isn’t that into you. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be put in the friend zone earlier rather than finding out later. I do consider that a gift.
What about you? Have you been put into the friend zone? Did it ultimately end up being a gift?
Here’s my latest post from The Huffington Post – June 6, 2013 … Staying on the High Road
‘The high road has less traffic’ is a life philosophy that says you maintain your moral compass, your personal code of ethics, and your values, at all times. Taking the high road means you are able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of how you acted, or reacted, in light of trying situations. It means that you had an opportunity to respond with equally nasty behavior, and you chose not to. Several people have reached out to me this week with essentially the same question: How do I stay on the high road, when my ex- (or soon to be ex-) is so far off the high road that it’s not even funny?
“We have a ‘morality clause’ in our divorce agreement, but my ex-husband is blatantly ignoring it. He has different women spend the night all the time … when our children are at his place. How am I supposed to explain what is going on?”
“My ex-wife tells the kids that I am stupid and ignorant, and tells them that if I loved them more, I would pay more in child support.”
People start to believe that if other people are taking the low road, then they are completely justified in joining them.
“I know my husband is having an affair, so I am going to spend all of his money. He isn’t the only one who should feel fulfilled.”
“I think she is having an affair with a supplier at work so I’m going to call the integrity hotline and report it anonymously so she gets fired.”
Yes, these are all real situations that people have shared with me about the challenge they have in facing low-road behavior and the normal human condition of wanting to respond similarly.
Does responding negatively in return make it right? I don’t think so. Sure, it may make you feel better in the short-term. Revenge can feel therapeutic. Releasing that pressure cooker of anger feels great. Our natural response tends to be, “I’ll show him!” or “I’ll get even with her.” Giving him a taste of his own medicine is justice, right? Letting her see what it feels like levels the playing field, right?
Perhaps in the short-term, but I’m not sure it does in the long term. If there are kids involved, you have to continue to co-parent together. It’s much more challenging to co-parent from the perspective of both parents being on the low-road. Furthermore, your kids don’t need to witness both parents on the low-road. It’s hard enough for them to have to deal with one parent’s poor behavior, but to have both parents acting like idiots, makes it even more challenging.
I also argue that you are the one who has to live with the consequences of your low-road behavior. You don’t want to be embarrassed by how you responded. Did you do something in the heat of the moment that you now regret? Did you look and act like a lunatic? Being able to stand confident in how you responded to a negative situation is a pretty honorable place to be, and a testament to your character.
“Yes,” said one person recently, “I get all that, but at the end of the day, it’s like banging my head against the wall over and over again … I take the high road, and he doesn’t. It gets old. It gets frustrating. What am I supposed to do?”
That is such a tough situation to be in, and the only answer I can offer is that two wrongs don’t make a right. I know it sounds trivial, elementary and so much easier to say than to put into practice, but it’s the best I can offer. You will feel better in the future when you look back and know that you made the best decision for your children to observe. You will feel better in the future when you look back and know that you made the right decision for your character and your reputation.
I know: easier said than done! It’s like when my kids ask a question and want a real response, and all I have for them is, “Because I said so, that’s why,” or “Because I just know … trust me!”
Help me out here! What response do you give to people who are trying to take the high road, but who are consistently faced with low road actions in response?
I love this post … ! Same Pond = Same Fish
I had a conversation with a dear friend a few weeks ago. She would love to meet a great companion who shares similar interests to her. She’s very active and constantly on the go. She’s not interested in getting married. She would simply love to meet a man who enjoys the same activities she does so they can do these things together. She was lamenting that she is always surrounded by the same people and that she never seems to meet new people. This was a problem for her as she hasn’t found the companion she is seeking in the current crowd she hangs out with regularly.
I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for her situation, and merely suggested, “If you are always fishing in the same pond, you are always going to be catching the same fish.” Period. End of story.
She chuckled as she clearly knew what I meant, but I’m not sure she was inspired to go find any new ponds in which to fish. She is comfortable in her current pond. She knows what to expect out of them. They are predictable and safe. Going to find new ponds might take her outside of her comfort zone. It might require a bit of planning. It may induce a bit of anxiety. It could even be uncomfortable the first time she visits another pond. For many people, it’s human nature to avoid making ourselves uncomfortable and pushing outside of our comfort zones.
No one said fishing in new ponds was going to be easy. No one said it was going to be worthwhile. Who knows!? Some ponds may not be stocked with the kind of fish she wants; others will be full of great fish! The challenge is that she will never know which situation she will encounter if she doesn’t at least try fishing in a new pond. The old adage, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” makes all the sense in the world in this case.
Find a new pond
She became more intrigued by my pond analogies, and asked me how one would go about fishing in a new pond. Great question. I suggested that instead of always fishing in the work pond, or the Friday-night bar-scene pond, that perhaps she might want to switch it up and also fish in the volunteer at the animal shelter pond or the local community college digital photography course pond every now and then.
Great dates aren’t just going to show up on your front porch. Admit it, if someone just showed up on your porch and said he was there to take you out to dinner and to play golf, you would slam the door shut and call him a creeper. You have to be visible to let people know you are available. You have to be out there meeting people — and meeting new people — to stand a chance of catching new fish.
I’m hoping the fish and pond analogy works because when I suggested to my friend a few months ago — albeit much more directly — that she step out of her normal routine, that she switch things up a bit, and that she get involved in some new activities, she bluntly told me that she was far too busy to add anything else to her plate. OK. She can be too busy doing what’s not working for her, or try something new. She didn’t see it that way.
I’m hoping the pond and fish analogy might have done the trick. Only time will tell.
What about you? Can you share your stories of when you switched ponds and found the fish you were seeking?
You think you know what you’re looking for until what you’re looking for finds you.”
I wrote a post last week, Do You Prefer Divorced or Never Married?, and I will admit, I dropped the ball entirely and was gently reminded by many of you that there is a third option: widowed! There were great comments not only about the perceived pros or cons of dating someone who is divorced versus someone who has never been married, but also about that third category of people who are in the dating pool who are neither divorced, nor never married, but rather widowed. I love your comments, and I love the healthy dialogue that ensues, so please keep them coming!
The point of my previous post was to provoke a discussion about people who feel very strongly one way or the other about who they will date. For some people, including the colleague I mentioned, dating someone who was divorced was not an option. She didn’t want to deal with any “baggage” and was certain that any divorcee would be bringing baggage to the table. Another friend couldn’t imagine dating someone (presumably in his 40’s or 50’s given her age) who hadn’t experienced marriage before. She assumed he would be too set in his independent ways to be successful in learning the art of compromise.
I didn’t, however, mention that third option of being in the dating pool as a widow, or dating someone who has been widowed. My bad! I heard from several of you directly via email with some really great insight about dating from this perspective, and I wanted to take the time to share some of these with you.
Some of you said dating someone who was widowed would presumably answer that question about whether the person “knew” what it was like to be in a committed relationship like marriage since they had experienced it directly. You also said that dating a widow, as opposed to a divorcee, might remove any “baggage” associated with having an ex-spouse and the challenges that are often found in dealing with the emotions of having an ex, a divorce in your history, co-parenting issues, etc. On the flip side, you wondered what “other baggage” might be there in terms of wounds that hadn’t healed, and wondered about ever being able to “measure up” to the memory of the former spouse. If children were involved, you wondered about being able to fill the void of “mom” or “dad.” It’s a bit different than stepmom or stepdad when the biological mom or dad isn’t around.
Many of you who are widowed were confused as what to put for your relationship status. Divorced isn’t true. Single doesn’t tell the whole story. Widowed isn’t even always an option. You wondered when the right time was to share that you were widowed. You thought if you shared it up front, that people would be scared off, fearful of any emotional baggage. But, if you didn’t share it up front, then when was the right time to bring it up? You said you didn’t want people to “feel sorry” for you. You have healed, you have the memories, and since you are back in the dating pool, clearly you are ready to move on and find love again. You wanted to be in charge of that decision, not have someone else make “assumptions” for you.
Several of you provided great advice: “Own it. You being widowed is part of your story. It’s not good, bad or indifferent; it just is.” And, just like you wouldn’t want a divorced person to talk about his or her ex all night long, so too, you shouldn’t talk about your former spouse throughout your date either. Address it, then move on to other more interesting conversations with your date to measure how well you connect and whether that spark is there that will lead to more dates and more time spent together!
At the end of the day, I take the perspective of one reader who commented that we should all get rid of our preconceived notions, stereotypes, and parameters that serve to box us in, and instead be open to meeting someone with whom we connect on all levels regardless of whether he or she was divorced, never married or widowed. We all carry “baggage” based on our life experiences, regardless of our former marital status or lack thereof. And, we all know that stereotypes are not applicable to everyone! I think it’s fair to say that each of us would like to be judged or evaluated on our own merit, our own personalities, and our own quirks, as opposed to being dismissed solely because of some preconceived notion about what it means to be a widow, or a divorcee, or a life-long bachelor or bachelorette.
As I said before, I’m glad my husband didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about what kind of woman he wanted to date when we met. If he had said he wasn’t interested in dating an older woman with two kids, we might never have gotten beyond hello!
What do you think? I would love to hear from people who met someone who fell outside of their initial idea of who they would date! What led you to remove your preconceived ideas? In the end, did those preconceived notions hold true, or not?
Profile Writing Party! – my latest for The Huffington Post – May 16, 2013
“Dating is a numbers game, and online dating has the best odds.” — Judsen Culbreth, The Boomer’s Guide to Online Dating
One of my dear friends told me the other night that she is finally “giving in” and joining the on-line dating revolution. She told me she thinks, “it’s finally time” to see what’s out there, although she is “leery” of what she might find. I laughed! She is making it sound just miserable. She shared this announcement with as much enthusiasm as a woman who says she has just scheduled her mammogram and annual visit to the gynecologist for the same day.
I am excited for her. I know several people who have met amazing partners through online dating and can count more than a handful of couples who are now married after meeting online. Why not take advantage of technology? We use match services and networking sites to find everything these days — employees, employers, nannies, contractors, hair stylists, dog groomers and everything in between. Why shouldn’t we use online dating to find some great dates, potential partners, and future spouses (if things go well!)?
After announcing her intention to join the online dating revolution (let’s be real … this isn’t a revolution: Internet dating has been around for a while!), our conversation quickly turned to what in the world she was going to write for her profile.
She was grappling with what I think so many online daters grapple with: Just how do you take your life, your personality, your passions, your interests, your fears, your habits, your pet peeves, your dreams, your hopes, and your goals, and string all of that into a series of words, written in black and white, that will hopefully be intriguing enough to someone else to have them reach out to you to learn more? Perhaps even more importantly in the world of online dating, she wondered what pictures she should!
My friend is very humble. She’s beautiful inside and out. She has a great job. A great family. A great faith. She’s athletic, kind, empathetic. She has a heart of gold. She’s fun and funny. She loves college football. She is independent. Oh great … now this is starting to sound like the start of a tacky dating profile for her.
And that leads to what we have planned!
As she asked me what she should write in her profile, we decided it would be fun to have a profile-writing party for her! We decided we would invite a few friends over (add another friend named Kendall-Jackson) and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create what we hope will be the perfect profile for her. After all, who better to provide some “insight to the world” on who she is than her friends. Who better to help her find the right words to navigate that balance between being “too arrogant and too boring” than her friends? Who better to help her walk that tightrope between “too much, too little and just right” than her friends?
As I already mentioned, we know there are many success stories that come from online dating. We also know there are plenty of creepy stories that come from online dating. Our goal is to increase the odds of meeting a few good men (I guess in theory it only takes one!), and do all we can to screen out the creepers (although I hear that is inevitable).
As we finished planning our little profile party, I smiled as I stole a line from Jerry Seinfeld. I told her, “What is a date, really, but a job interview that lasts all night?” (I modified it to say, “that lasts though lunch or dinner!”). I told her to have fun with it … and I know that we are going to have fun at our profile-writing party!
Our party is planned for three weeks from now (it’s hard getting everyone’s schedule synced!). That’s where you come in. I know many of you have used online dating and here’s my question for you: What has worked? What hasn’t? Any clichés we should avoid? Thanks!
Thrilled to write for CupidsPulse.com for the first time! The EX Words!
I recall speaking to a divorce support group a few years ago. Whenever someone referenced their EX-husband or EX-wife, each person was careful to use the phrase “my former husband” or “my former wife.” This wasn’t just something that one person used but rather everyone in the group. I thought it was interesting. After all, using the term “EX-husband” seems pretty common. When I asked what this was all about, I was informed that they believed that EX- implied a negative connotation, and they preferred to approach the word a bit more positively. OK! To each his and her own!
But I would like to stand up for EX- words and suggest that there are a number of EX-traordinary EX-words that should be fully embraced post-divorce. One can wallow in EX-cuses and get stuck in the EX-crement of what they just went through, or one can focus EX-clusively on moving forward and on the EX-citement and EX-cesses that this new life will bring!
Whether your divorce was your idea or not, it is now a part of your story and part of the journey that defines your life. Someone made an EX-it, which EX-empted you from EX-tending your commitment to your marriage. I speak with countless people who are stuck in the EX-istence of “what was” as opposed to eagerly anticipating the EX-pectation “what will be.” One of my favorite quotes that got me through my divorce was, “I can’t control what happens to me. I can only control how I react to it.” I love it when I encounter others who hold a similar attitude. No one is EX-empt from divorce. To those who say, “It will never happen to me” (like I did), you may find yourself in shock one day. Divorce EX-tends to all corners of our society and EX-cludes no one.
(I’m having fun writing this piece, so EX-cuse me while I keep going!)
To those people who are stuck EX-amining their unplanned lives collapsing around them, I say this: No EX-cuses! Inhale, then EX-hale. Now, pick up the pieces and become an EX-ample of how to move forward successfully after hitting a bump in the road. No one can do this EX-cept for you. Let the world EX-plode around you with new opportunities. EX-press your emotions. Don’t let your ability to love or to be loved go EX-tinct.
Having a failed marriage and becoming a divorcee at age 40 was not part of my EX-pectation for my life. That being said, it did become my EX-istence and part of my story. I was one of those people who opted for life to go on positively. I met an EX-traordinary man. I am EX-tremely grateful that he came into my life and the lives of my kids. It’s nice to be confident in the EX-clusivity of our marriage. We have a common passion and bond around our EX-tra-curricular activities and have EX-plored the world together. We have EX-panded each other’s horizons. I feel EX-alted and respected by him, and in EX-change, I try to honor him in the same way. The bottom line is that this relationship and marriage EX-ceeds anything I ever imagined before.
Mae West said, “All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” EX-actly!! My point is this: whether you call someone your EX- or your former-, make peace with that part of your past and move forward. Take advantage of your second chance, and make it EX-traordinary. I think I’ve EX-acerbated my point. There are some fabulous EX- words. Use them. Live them. Celebrate them. Just think: what a great way to celebrate getting rid of one EX by introducing several new and more powerful ones!
By the way, I also met a woman once who didn’t use the term “EX-husband” or “former husband.” Instead, she had me laughing when she started taking about her “wasband.” I thought I misunderstood. Then she clarified and EX-claimed, “The man who was my husband is now lovingly referred to as my ‘wasband.’” Love it! I thought that was EX-tremely clever.
My latest for eHarmony.com about stepping outside of your comfort zone! Comfort Zone
Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. ~Brian Tracy
I recently returned from a long weekend in Utah where I hiked, rappelled into a slot canyon, and climbed back out again. This is not normal for me. I’m not used to hiking up mountains and standing on the edge of sheer drops where one misstep could lead to a quick drop hundreds of feet down to the ground (yes, my guide smiled and responded when I asked her about liability; she reminded me that I did sign a piece of paper waiving all of my rights should something happen to me!).
It was amazing. The scenery was breathtaking. The adventure fueled me. I came back refreshed and renewed, and vowed I would do things like this more often. It could be because I spent a few days outside – fresh air, amazing views, lots of laughter with great friends (and I didn’t have to worry about fixing dinner for 4 nights!). I’m sure all of that was part of it.
But, I strongly believe that it had a great deal more to do with the fact that I completely stepped outside of my comfort zone, got my adrenaline flowing, dealt with a little bit of fear and nervousness (OK, a lot of fear and nervousness), and did something I had never done before.
There is something about challenging yourself, and doing something a bit different that gives you confidence, an edge, and a sense of accomplishment that does wonders for your personal growth. There is something about overcoming some nerves that builds confidence. Something about trying something new and being really clumsy in the beginning, but soon figuring it out, that makes you proud of yourself. I can’t describe this feeling, but it’s a comfort (more like a strength!) in knowing that you stepped outside of your comfort zone.
Here is my challenge to you: challenge yourself! Do something different. Do something you have never done before that gets your adrenaline flowing just a bit (or a lot). Do something which makes you a tiny bit nervous. For some (crazy!) people, this could be jumping out of an airplane, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. For others, it might be joining a new club or group where you don’t know anyone. It might be going on a singles trip. It might be trying a new restaurant – alone. It might be taking a road trip to visit an old friend. It might be taking up a new sport (even though you feel your body is going to protest loudly!).
The point is to do something – something different and outside of your normal routine! If something is “easy” or “safe” or your own “status quo,” then that would be a good place to try to switch things up!
Some people hear this message, and just ask, “Why?” Why would I want to do something that makes me nervous? Why would I want to do anything different than my normal routine? Why would I want to upset my apple cart and step outside my comfort zone? Seriously? WHY NOT!?
Life is an adventure. I listen to so many people, especially middle-aged friends, both those who are married or who are divorced and dating, who tell me they are bored of the same-old, same-old. They are often looking for someone else to bring excitement into their dull lives. That’s what I call missed expectations. If you are bored, or your life needs a little bit of excitement, create it yourself. YOU are the one who will grow from these experiences and the growth is pretty cool because it is growth in learning something totally new, experiencing something completely different, and gaining additional confidence as you open more doors.
Ashton Kutcher said it another way: “I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.” Comfort is totally overrated! Go be uncomfortable!
What about you? What have you done lately to step outside of your comfort zone? Were you feeling a little nervous or anxious in the beginning? Were you feeling victorious and confident at the end?
My latest post for eHarmony.com … Being There For Friends
Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest…it’s about who came, and never left your side…”
I am a fan of reading Harvey Mackay’s column in the Atlanta Business Chronicle each week. I think he offers really practical insights on a variety of topics. I find myself nodding my head in affirmation as I read his advice or his commentary each week.
A few weeks ago, he wrote a column entitled, “What I’d do if I had my life to live over…” I expected a bit of what I will call the “normal” things to be on a list like this. Things like, “I would have studied abroad. My parents were right when they told me that travel is a great teacher,” and “I would have interviewed my parents and grandparents and learned more about our family history and genealogy.” Great advice, for sure!
But, what really stuck out for me was the number one thing he put on his list of 11 items. It said, “I would have been more available whenever a friend was in trouble or was going through a tough time due to divorce,” … (and then added, “or financial trouble, job loss, or even DUI.”)
Wow! I was so impressed that when Harvey wrote about being available to friends in need that the first thing he called out were friends who were going through divorce. I think we naturally think about other situations where our friends would need us, such as dealing with the death of a parent, or job loss (as he did mention!). To put the first focus on friends going though divorce was impactful to me.
I suspect this made his list because he has personal experience dealing with friends going through divorce. Presumably, he feels he wasn’t “available enough” for them in order for that comment to make his list.
If I have said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I would not have gotten through my divorce without my amazing friends rallying around me. My friends each filled their own unique niche in keeping me positive and getting me through the emotional and physical toll of divorce. Some made me laugh; some cried with me; some knew how to help (whether with the never-ending yard work, or by watching my kids for a few hours so I could have some alone time); some sent me cards each week as the months wore on just to let me know they were thinking about me, or whisked me off to Starbucks for a coffee and some girl talk.
One friend who I met at camp when I was in 8th grade (and then have only seen less than ten times since because we live in different parts of the country) sent me the most wonderful care package. It arrived on a day when I really, really, really needed a pick-me-up. You know how some days in the divorce process are particularly painful and ugly? I arrived home from that day to open the mailbox and find a great and totally unexpected package.
This care package had a variety of items in it, each with a note about why it was in the box: a coffee cup “because I would love to sit and talk with you over a nice cup of coffee,” a tube of hand lotion “because I would hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be all right,” a package of tissues “because I would help to wipe the tears away when you are sad,” and my favorite item (which bought a huge smile to my face) was a bottle of flashy bright red nail polish “because even in our saddest and darkest moments, there is nothing like some bright red toe nails to brighten our spirits!”
What have I learned from all of this? I compare it to when a loved one passes away. People are very concerned and responsive at first, but as the weeks wear on, people get back to their own lives, and tend to forget the person grieving. Those “firsts” of everything that happen can be really tough, and it’s nice to know people, your friends, still remember and care for you.
It’s the same with divorce. When a pending divorce is first announced, people respond. But as the months wear on, people tend to go back to their own lives, forgetting that the ugly divorce process is likely taking it’s toll on the individual. I try to stay connected with people not just in the beginning, but throughout the divorce process, and even afterwards. And, just as my friends did for me, I try to find my “niche” as a friend, and determine what each person needs from me at that point in time. Do they need a listening ear? A dose of humor? An adventure to take their mind off divorce? A person to sit quietly with them? A card? A coffee? A bottle of bright red nail polish? As Harvey said, it’s all about “being more available” to your friends who need you.
What about you? Are you making yourself available for friends going through divorce and other tough situations in life? Are you there for them, not just in the beginning, but as the months draw on as well?
Here’s my latest post for LAFamily.com … Happy & Joyful
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
There’s something about this word “happy.” Since going through my own divorce several years, I find that people define happiness differently. If you had asked me prior to my divorce if I was happy, you would have heard a resounding, “yes!” from me. Yes, I was “happy.” Sure, I wasn’t “happy” going through my divorce, but now years later, I am “happier” than ever. I’m “truly happy”
Happiness feels different to me now. Substantially different. It’s a different emotion — one that is more centered, more deeply rooted, more content, more knowing, more comfortable. That begs the question, “Was I really not happy before? Did I just think I was?” If I try to explain this to people, I try to say that happiness feels like an emotion that sits on the surface, whereas what I feel now is much deeper, and I use the word “joy” to describe it.
I love the quote I started with above which says that when what you think, say and do are all in harmony, then that is when happiness occurs. Maybe after divorce our lives are shook up enough to be truly focused on what we want out of life. Maybe after divorce, we become clearer about ensuring that our thoughts, words and actions are in alignment. Maybe after divorce, our priorities get realigned and new doors open for us that we never thought possible.
I’ve had this same conversation with many other divorced men and women. It surprised me at first to find how many people could relate to what I was trying to verbalize: “I thought I was happy then, but based on how joyful I am now, how could that have been true happiness?” Was I faking happiness? Was I settling? If I had a dollar for every person who has said to me that they thought they would never be happy again during or after their divorce, and who are now happier than they have ever been, I could buy a new car! I hear, “I wouldn’t wish a divorce on my worst enemy … it’s painful … but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
There have been plenty of studies on happiness, and what makes people happy. A lot of it is attitude. People choose to be happy. They choose to see the glass as half-full, and life as an opportunity (challenges and all!). They don’t allow others to bring them down. They certainly don’t hinge their own happiness on a series of “whens” … meaning they aren’t saying, “I will finally be happy when I’m skinny, rich, well-traveled, driving a new car, owning a new wardrobe, wearing a bigger ring, sitting in the corner office, … divorced … married … remarried, etc.”
Perhaps for many people, “happy” is expected, and it’s become an auto-response. We expect people to be happy. People know we expect them to be happy. So, we decide we are happy, when really we are crying out inside because we know our thoughts, words, and actions are not in alignment. And, when we do find ourselves living that life of alignment it’s like a brilliant light exploding in front of us and suddenly we understand that we are SO much more than happy. Perhaps “joyful” is the word that comes to mind and “full of joy” becomes the feeling that we have! Absolutely stuffed with joy … stuffed like the feeling after we eat, and overeat, at a delicious Italian restaurant. We have taken happiness to a whole new level! And, we understand that there is so much more to happiness.
Happy, and I would argue, joyful people, know when it’s time to create that harmony between thinking, saying and doing! They know when it’s time to drop the negativity and move forward. They know then it’s time to adopt a new attitude and begin to see life as a series of opportunities, as opposed to being a victim of life’s circumstances.
What do you think? Is there a difference between happiness and joyfulness? Has “happy” become expected? How are you intentionally being happy AND joyful?