Relative Evolutions - Evolve, Don't Dissolve
Feb 8, 2016 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

Valentine’s Day is Looming. Do You Care?

In less than a week, it will be Valentine’s Day. Tis the season for roses, chocolates, stuffed animals, wine, champagne, poetry, candles, bubble baths, dinner reservations and selfie-happy social couples… Blah.

I’m not a fan of romance. At least, not the prescribed consumer-based type of materialism that’s pushed this time of year. I’m a campfire-over-candlelight type of girl, but I wasn’t always.

As a child, I bought into the hype of Valentine’s Day. I longed for the day when some handsome prince would give me a heart-shaped box of milk chocolate truffles. Beyond that, I forget the details of the fantasy, but the idea was that I wanted to be loved.

As a teenager, I was often part of a couple on February 14, and I was happy to receive some of the gifts my younger self had craved. But one year I found myself irritated with my boyfriend because his sweet gesture of affection didn’t compare with the giant teddy bears and flower deliveries bestowed upon some of the other girls at school.

That was the first time I questioned my feelings and expectations related to a relationship.  Thankfully I recognized the difference between love and presents. I adjusted my standards and moved on.

Then came the year when I was alone on Valentine’s Day. When I thought about the day, I felt left out and lonely. That year, my friends and I staged a mini-rebellion as we dressed in black and went out to dinner as a group.  We proved to ourselves that we could have fun, even if we went home alone.

Looking back now, I can see that my struggles with Valentine’s Day were rooted in my own lack of self-love. If I’d loved myself as a child, I wouldn’t have needed the Fantasy Prince and his delectable truffles. If I’d loved myself as a teenager I wouldn’t have judged my relationship based on the comparison of gifts between couples. And if I’d loved myself as a single person, I wouldn’t have felt the holiday looming ahead. I wouldn’t have wanted to rebel… I wouldn’t have cared at all.

These days I feel pretty indifferent about Valentine’s Day. I’ve learned that gifts don’t denote the depth of affection, and my worth isn’t tied to my relationship status.  I’ve also learned to notice how these types of triggers can lead to critical self-discovery.

If you’re dreading February 14, ask yourself why. Spend some time with your feelings, reflect on your past and assess your current needs. Do you need a little more self-love in your life? Is it time you buy yourself a heart-shaped box of choclates?

I love Me

Self Love is the Best Love

Feb 2, 2016 - divorce    2 Comments

The Sweet Spot (in Yoga and Divorce)

GaneshSaturday morning, my yoga teacher kicked off our class with a discussion about Ganesh, the Hindu god with the elephant head. Ganesh is the God of New Beginnings (which is why I have a statue of him in my office), but my teacher honed in on a different aspect of Ganesh:  his love of sweets.

“His trunk points to the bowl of sweets in his hand,” she told us. “Ganesh reminds us to search for the sweetness in life, to find that Sweet Spot.”

I wondered if she would give us candy at the end of class, but I was wrong. Instead, my oh-so-creative instructor found a way to equate “sweetness” with two very challenging poses (“sweet” or “sweat”??), which we worked toward throughout the class.

“Do the Ankle Dance!” She exclaimed while her students wiggled in Standing Split. I grabbed my own ankle and felt a multitude of miniscule adjustments happening in my body.

“The only way to find your balance is to lose it,” she suggested. “That’s how you know when you’ve hit the Sweet Spot.”

I know yoga is supposed to be about staying in the moment, but in that moment (as well as many that followed), my mind went into overdrive, comparing life (and divorce!) to yoga.

I considered the couples who uncoupled at the beginning of the year. For them, January was likely a time spent out-of-balance. Now that we’ve entered a new month, those people are likely feeling a little more confident in some areas. Metaphorically, they might feel comfortable letting go of their blocks and grasping their ankles in Standing Split. They’re reaching for the Sweet Spot, and in the process they are acquainting themselves with the Ankle Dance.

To an outsider, it might appear that Stability has been achieved. But for those of us in the depths of the pose, we know it’s an illusion. We know about the continuous adjustments taking place beneath the surface. We know the quiet struggle, the muttered profanities, the uneven breath.

We might look like we’re doing better, but we’re shaking and sweating. Still, we persist because we’ve made progress, and we’ve not yet attained the final goal.

With time and perseverance, the Sweet Spot gets sweeter. With practice, we learn the art of gaining strength through surrender. We accept the necessity of continuous adjustment and relax into the flow. We go deeper and grow taller. The pose is no longer a battle, but a building block, part of a grander design.

In life, we strive to find peace within ourselves. On the mat, we struggle against the laws of physics. In relationships, we struggle against others. In both cases, the recipe for success is the same:  show up, find the Sweet Spot, then relax and work through it, one miniscule adjustment at a time.

…and don’t forget to enjoy the sweetness.

Bird of Paradise

In case you were wondering… Standing Split was a stop on the way to Bird of Paradise.

Jan 26, 2016 - divorce    No Comments

Winter Storms and Divorce

Mr Maggie Snow

You could call the period following a divorce an “emotional winter”. I think it’s appropriate for several reasons:  the cold, the darkness, the difficulty in venturing outside. You might even say it’s hard to recognize those who were once familiar because they wear many layers and masks.

Winter is a difficult season for many, and this past weekend Winter Storm Jonas made sure I wouldn’t forget that. But Jonas brought more than strong winds and impassable roads. The storm (like a separation) brought gifts as well…

First (for many of us), there was the non-option of staying inside. The heavy snow fell for more than 24 hours, and there was nothing to do but get comfortable and stay cozy. For some, this meant curling up with a good book. For others, it was a chance to hang out with family members. Metaphorically, “go inside” refers to spending time in quiet meditation- a chance to breathe through each moment as it arises. During stormy times, you need to lay low and protect yourself.

Mr Maggie Sleep

There is a unique kind of peace and beauty. This kind of thing simply doesn’t happen during other seasons.

snowy field

Then came the hard work. As I type these words, many are still digging to escape their homes and small towns. A variety of tools can be used to get through the work:  anything from shovels to giant snow blowers. Some need to seek professional assistance. As the tasks continue, communication becomes important:  Where are the accidents? The blocked roads? Are your loved ones OK? And what’s the best source of information? The separation process comes with its own set of hard work, hurdles and communication challenges. Through them, we learn and grow. We get stronger. We get better.

Reminder:  It might be hard, but you’re not alone. If you look around during and after a winter storm, you’ll see lots of people in the same boat, sharing the same struggles and often helping each other through. The same goes for a divorce (although you might have to look a little harder).

And finally, there is triumph. During and after the snowfall, I spent about 8 hours wielding my trusty shovel. When my sidewalk was passable and my car was uncovered, I was free to move on from the experience.

Winter storms and divorce can both be brutal. They cause us to snuggle and snarl. They’re major events that leave lasting memories. But they always end, and when they do we’re free to clean up and move forward with our lives.

Rainbow

 

 

Jan 19, 2016 - divorce    2 Comments

Why Do I Love Divorce?

I love divorce

I love divorce

I’ve made the statement several times over the years:  “I love divorce!”

My words are typically met with raised eyebrows and nervous laughter. It’s not unusual for people to tell me how unusual they find my declaration to be. And inevitably, someone will ask me (through a pained expression), “Why?” There are a few reasons…

 

I love divorce because it’s been a positive factor in my life.  When my parents got divorced, my life improved.  When I got divorced, my life improved.  Neither of those divorces was excessively painful nor costly.

I love divorce because it’s a fascinating topic.  I became a student of divorce shortly after separating from my ex-husband. Since then, I’ve learned about various legal strategies, alternatives to legal strategies, negotiation tactics, the team players a couple can involve, well-adjusted families, separation ceremonies, parental alienation, emotional issues and personality disorders, effective (and non-effective) communication tactics, long-term effects of anger, attachments and expectations, the importance of self-care, The System, coparenting, grief, parenting plans and even marriage itself. (And I’m not finished learning)

I love divorce because it’s a solution to a problem.  Our culture treats divorce like it’s a problem. It’s not. Unhappy marriages are a problem. Infidelity is a problem. Abuse is a problem. Divorce is a (potential) solution.

I love divorce because it opens a new door to freedom and creativity.  Separation marks the end of one thing, but also the beginning of something else. Once a couple determines that divorce is the appropriate solution to their problem, they are free to re-create their relationship and individual lives as they see fit.

I love divorce because many people don’t.  I must admit, I’m a bit of a contrarian. I root for the underdog. I love a good cause.

And finally, mostly, to sum it up…

I love divorce because I believe in a better way.  I believe in a world where couples don’t remain miserably married because they’re ashamed of the alternative; one where children don’t live with warring parents. I believe in a world where families remain open-hearted as they evolve, and onlookers remain open-minded while offering appropriate support.  I believe in a world full of divorce ceremonies, divorce gift registries and divorce expos. Because I believe in a world where divorce is an accepted event, commemorated by family-focused rituals (not mud-slinging court battles).

What about you?  Do you share my love?  Or maybe my vision? There’s a growing number of us.

Jan 11, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Love Makes a Family

snail family

Some families aren’t even human

Recently, I was (finally) able to watch the HBO documentary A Family is a Family is a Family. I’m sorry it took so long. It really was a beautiful little film.

Through interviews and musical interludes, the movie displays and celebrates the connection enjoyed by people of various ages, colors, genders and legal affiliation. The message is clear:  it doesn’t matter what a family looks like; what matters is love.

Love makes a family.  Not biology.

Love makes a family.  Not country of origin.

Love makes a family.  Not the number of people.

Love makes a family.  Not gender or sexual orientation.

Love makes a family.  Not legal documentation.

Love makes a family.  Not a common address.

Although the piece didn’t address divorce specifically*, the wisdom within can (hopefully) assuage much of the guilt and shame so often endured by those who’ve chosen to live apart from a partner.

Personal Rant:  Divorce is about the dissolution of a marriage; not a family.  Why is that concept so difficult for our culture to embrace? Don’t we all have countless family members to whom we are not married?

As a child of divorce, I saw my parents’ relationship improve as a result of their separation. When my mom and dad entered new relationships, I benefitted as my family expanded in new ways.

As a divorced adult, I’ve cultivated a far more enjoyable relationship with my now-ex. I’ve learned and grown in a manner I wouldn’t have if I’d remained married. My family continues to evolve in new ways, and (for the most part) I’m grateful for this fluidity.

Regardless of the prescribed structure we grasped from black-and-white TV shows, each family is as unique as its members. And that’s OK, especially in the age of multi-colored, multi-cultural media.

 

*check out Don’t Divorce Us also from HBO

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