Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Tête-à-tête About The "D" Word

Here's a part of divorce I didn't really think about when I started this chapter in life: how willing people are to share their opinion of my decisions. I mean, I guess, yes, I knew people would have opinions, and I even realized I might lose a few "friends" in the process, but I didn't anticipate the  subtle shaming that would come with my decisions.

Let me back up a bit.

When the decision was made to part ways, I sought a full-time job. I am so very fortunate and forever grateful that I had a career in higher education to fall back on. I was able to obtain a job in the Denver area that I enjoy, supports me adequately, offers me great benefits, and surrounds me with smart and fun coworkers.

Fortunately, because I had dabbled in the writing world prior to moving, I knew a number of wonderfully talented writing folks in the Denver area. Phew! Connections! I "just happened" to guest write, every couple months, on the blog of one of these fun writers and had even profiled his book on my blog, without ever having met him. When I moved here, he offered his friendship and support as I made the transition, and like a good love story, the friendship slowly and patiently blossomed.

A year and a half later, he's now the carrots to my peas and we share living quarters. Sigh. I'm content-- for the first time in a long, long time, my heart is a peace. I laugh easily. I no longer feel alone or lonely. I like my career. I get to teach. I can make ends meet and even save a little. I like where I live. I'm making friends. I've even renewed and found peace with my faith and found a wonderful place to worship and connect. And I get to live with someone who I adore! I love a happy ending.

Then it happens. Like nails on a chalkboard, someone offers their well-meaning ideas about my life. I've honed my responses in hopes of cutting short the conversation I can predict will ensue:

...No, I'm not married, and for now that's not the direction we want to go. 
...No, he's not particularly into church but we have more open conversations about our beliefs than I've ever had, and he supports me fully.
...No, I didn't "date around" and try men on like shoes. 
...Yes, we've had to work hard at aspects of our relationship, unlearning habits, and I'm so very thankful he's the kind of man who will do that and still love me. 
...No, I don't think God has abandoned me. 

I even had one "friend" from Facebook (you know how those friendships go-- so many are not really friends but acquaintances of the past) send me a private message wanting to know why my ex and I broke up-- no thoughts of our well-being or inquiries about how we're doing-- just the dirt. Yuk. Needless to say, I cleaned out my friends' list shortly after that.

Worst-- and saddest--of all comments was from someone I formerly knew who told my daughter she thought "I just needed to come home, where I belong".  While I find the other comments tedious and a product of personal perspective, and perhaps even well-meaning, this one made me angry. Her father and I never put the kids in the middle; why would someone else do that?

It's easy to say, "Don't worry about what they're only accountable to's your life...they won't have to answer for your decisions." I get all that. My cerebral processor understands.

But the heart struggles. I think what people may not understand--and certainly I didn't know pre-divorce-- is how little protective skin is left on the heart after a divorce. The healing takes a long time. These perhaps well-intended, but shaming remarks are already questions haunting me and ones I've wrestled with in my heart, and with God. So they are like well-aimed arrows that zing to the core of my own self-doubt.

I really don't want this to turn into a defensive rant, and I realize it's bordering on that. What I really wanted was to let anyone who may have gone through a divorce, be contemplating a divorce, or in the midst of the muck of one, know what I wish I had known: people might turn on you and use the very handle you are clinging to as a wordy weapon to try to convict you. It will happen. So many times it comes from a place of their own hurt or background-- maybe they are a child of divorce or in a painful relationship. I think sometimes it comes from a rigid place of legalism disguised as religion, or from their own convictions (they have a right to those, even if we don't agree!).

I'm not sure I have a lot of answers, and certainly thinking I can prevent those kinds of insensitive backlashes is foolish. But here is my list of...

Top Ten Post-Divorce Lessons  
  1. Make healthy connections and new friends who aren't so curious about your past or determined to straighten out your future. 
  2. Cling to the friends who love you, no matter your decisions.
  3. Nurture your interests and hobbies to remind yourself of your uniqueness and gifts. 
  4. Be open to hearing the wisdom of others, even if it stings a bit; we all need to grow and learn. 
  5. But keep taking the steps that are right for you
  6. Trust the process. It is a process--sometimes harsh--but the personal growth and self-discovery are invaluable.
  7. Let it grow compassion and insight in you--you just may be the healing balm another heart desperately needs.
  8. Try to avoid resentment and anger. 
  9. And remember, you're not alone. 
  10. Most importantly: Cling to what you believe and talk privately to the One who feeds your soul and heart; let that Source guide you.

In the meantime, if you need a virtual hug or listening ear, send me an email. I'll read without judgment. I promise. I'll even celebrate with you as you travel a road to healing and wholeness.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Feeling Blue

Can we talk colors? Four, to be exact.

I teach a course at a community college designed to introduce students to the wide world of college. The content includes college success skills and a bit of career counseling, among other topics. One of the assessments we use to help students learn more about their personalities and how it may relate to potential careers is the True Colors Test. Now for you personality assessment junkies (and who isn't?), this instrument uses the principles of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on the theories of Karl Jung's personality types. I won't bore you with it all, but essentially Karl Jung believed that there were "temperaments" or types of personalities. Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs (a mother and daughter team during the 50's-- not really the most supportive decade for women so let's give them a rousing round of kudos) developed an instrument that refined the theory into 16 types of personalities. The True Colors Test is an offshoot of this that simplifies the "types" by eliminating a few categories (introvert/extrovert). Still with me? It doesn't really matter. Keep reading.

As part of my training to teach this section of the course, I had to participate in a True Colors workshop. Sign me up. I totally geek out on this kind of stuff. I was really hoping to learn something about myself I didn't know. Alas, at 52, it seems there isn't much about myself I don't know. My results were predictable.

You can take the test here-- it's the same version I took. It will explain the results which boil down to four colors:

Okay, now to get to the point of this post. I want to be an orange. Oranges are Tiggers! They are fun, fun, fun. They are spontaneous and bold. They are active and optimistic. Oranges are the life of the party. They "bring excitement to society"! I want to be this person!

I am not.

I'm a blue. I knew it when I was taking the darn assessment. I was going to be the nurturer. I would need harmony. I would be a heart-follower. I would be forever in search of myself. Sigh. Not that there's anything wrong with this. I mean, yes, we blues are likable; we're peace-makers; yeah, yeah, yeah. All warm and fuzzy-like.  I want to be dashing and exciting.

But I suppose there's some good that comes out of this. I'm adaptable. This has come in handy over the last couple of years. I need opportunities to be creative and seek that out (however, I'm not bold or orange enough to let my creative light shine too much).

Oh, but good heavens, the drawback is I'm forever introspective and in search of myself.  I can get lost in the dusty caverns of my mind, which is sometimes not the best place to hang out. Trust me. To make matters worse, my second highest color is gold. We are the conventional backbone of society and adhere to structure and schedules well. We are values and order. Seriously? This is the opposite of exciting and spontaneous. I feel boring. And safe. I am forever the people-pleaser and rule-follower. Just... SIGH.

But here's the good news. Taking this little inventory and knowing thyself isn't a life sentence. We can learn to let our lessor colors shine a bit. So I'm going to work on actively putting a little spit n' polish on my orange. I'll never be a complete convert; I doubt I'll ever "thrive on crisis". But I am going to actively be more aware of being in the moment, being a little less concerned and uptight about what others think. The Squeeze is a great partner in this effort. Although I don't think he's an orange either, he does bring me a great deal of fun and gently encourages me (sometimes not so gently) to not be so worried about convention or what others think. He takes chances and lets his creative light shine. Yes, this is living!

I know I can never shake who I am, nor do I want to. Shakespeare had a good point: to thine own self be true. And let's be honest, I don't really have a choice because to quote another famous character: I yam what I yam. And that's OK.

But let this serve as a warning, dear blog readers: I might let a little bit of audacious and stunning orange show up from time to time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Starting Over

I think I must be crazy. What was I thinking to leave a perfectly stable life with a nice house and nice life? At fifty, no less! I guess I wanted more. Nice isn't bad; it just doesn't feel vital. You don't hear passion or living fully or thriving in "nice". You hear good enough, mediocre, surviving.

I don't think I would have had the courage to move out and on if it hadn't been for a couple of hard years wearing down my resistance and fight. To recap the two years I now refer to as My Life As A Country Song-- and to catch you up-- my son had cancer, my "baby" graduated from high school, I was lonely, the dog died, and my body betrayed me with a potentially life-threatening, big-assed words disease. Let the music twang.  I was done.

I won't go tabloid on you about why I left: I refuse to be one of those those people who publicly bashes their ex. (A side tangent: how can people do that in social media? Publicly? With potential friends, family, and kids reading their words? Have we lost a sense of decency? Kindness? Privacy? Tangent end.) The fight to hang on and save a marriage was gone from me. Sometimes your heart just has to wave the white flag and realize the other side walked away from the battle long ago. It's over. Make your choices.

So I did.

That was two years ago, and that's where this blog picks up.  I sometimes feel very alone in this new life, my path obscured by a dense fog of unknowing, stumbling, wondering what the heck I'm doing-- faking it as I go along. But I can't be the only one determined to find joy, and redefine the person I really envision myself to be. There must be others out there like me, who want to be able to laugh, ponder, and see the humor and be okay with the fright in moving forward with absolutely no recognizable map. I can't be alone in my crazy...can I?

So that's how I move forward with this blog. A conversation of like-minds. So let's talk. Let's dance. And let's be a little less alone.