I’m sitting out here at the almost-6-month mark. It’s been quite a journey, and my life is basically unrecognizable from what it used to be– mentally, emotionally and physically. I’m crossing a landscape of intense feelings I never knew existed before. It’s weird. It’s good. It’s hard. It’s my life.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been on a voracious knowledge-seeking quest (hence my Hermione nickname). I haven’t been able to read fiction hardly at all– I’ve been absorbing self-help and relationship books at a fast pace. Because of the intensity of my situation, I’ve been on a steep learning curve and I’m racing to keep up. I want to know everything NOW— which sounds a bit desperate, and maybe it is, but it’s been fueling huge growth for me.
The relationship between Bob and me is continuing to change and grow. It can never go back to what it was before, and that’s good. In many ways, we were stifled in our marriage, and it took this blowout for me to wake up and see it. I wasn’t really happy, not with our relationship or with myself. Even though this whole process has been terribly, sometimes unbearably, painful, there are many great and hopeful things coming out of it. To name a few– I’ve lost 50 lbs so far, my eating disorder is no longer crippling me, my physical pain has diminished, my activity has increased, I’m feeling a whole world of feelings that I used to numb, I’ve opened myself up to people and have received tons of support, and I’m finally able to connect with and be my authentic self now– the one I’d buried under all this shit for so many years.
And things have been pretty wonderful between Bob and me, too. Yes, despite the difficulties, there were many good things about our relationship during our marriage and we put a lot of work into it, which is why we’ve been able to make so many changes so quickly. The parts that weren’t great have improved remarkably– we are more open, honest and vulnerable with each other. We’re examining old patterns that kept us stuck and speaking up about them and working them through. There’s deeper communication going on now. We’re “dating” or whatever you want to call it, and more changes are coming in our future, with their own issues and challenges to deal with. Our path is not an easy one, but the potential for rewards is great.
One thing I’ve had some struggles with is Doubt. I’m gathering info and making some emotionally-laden choices, and I question myself about what I’m doing. There’s angst, there’s uncertainty, and I’m looking closely at my motives. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? I can bend myself into a pretzel over choices.
I’ve also felt the heavy weight of others doubting me. As I’ve talked with people, I’ve been questioned by a few friends and professionals about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Is it good for me? What are my motives? Am I acting out of irrational feelings?
All this doubt can turn me in circles, leaving me more anxious than I was.
However, lately as I take a deep breath and settle down into the center of me, I’ve been coming to a new realization. I’m looking at myself and my processes over the last few months, all the work I’ve done and the knowledge I’ve acquired. I see some real strength in myself, bravery too. And even in this time of uncertainty, I’m finding a calm sureness in myself.
Divorce Lesson #10: Learning to Trust Myself
Feelings. As a child growing up in an emotionally-charged difficult household, I learned that feelings weren’t safe. At around age 11, I started in with an eating disorder to manage it all– from sadness, happiness and anger to feeling bad about myself. I lost track of my emotional landscape for a long time. One moment stands out for me as a teenager: I went to see Terms of Endearment with my cousin, and she and everyone else in the theater was sobbing over the sad story. I sat there dry-eyed, unable to feel. I didn’t even know how.
When the divorce first came up, I lost my appetite and my eating disorder, blown away by the raw hurricane of grief. Without food– my old coping mechanism– now I had no buffer between me and all the feelings. I’ve written before about what I went through those first few months, so I won’t repeat here. I’ll just say that now, being in touch with my feelings is a whole new world.
Part of my journey lately has been to actively work on processing my emotions and my experiences– past stuff that keeps haunting me and present stuff that feeds on that. I’ve just had this sense that I don’t want to be stuck anymore in my l life– weighed down by old obstacles and beliefs, too afraid of feelings to move forward. I’m going with my gut instinct to find ways to help me do this. Here’s some of what I’ve been doing:
–Sitting in front of a candle and mentally poking my finger into painful childhood memories and feelings. I opened myself to the floodgates of grief, really getting in touch with the scared and overwhelmed little girl I was. Lots of weeping.
—Finding the letters written to me by an old boyfriend and reading them again. I’ve carried deep wounds from that for a long time. It was an emotionally abusive relationship and he cheated on me– all this during a very vulnerable time for me. And this old stuff did have an impact on how I related to Bob; it made things harder for us both. I examined the core issues that relationship unearthed for me. Weeping!
–Doing some psycho-drama work with a wonderful friend who is an energy worker. This involved us re-enacting a scene from my childhood, with each of us taking turns being little-girl me and my mother. I felt like I was that child again, and it was raw and cathartic. We also did some work with a doll, me holding her, cuddling her, saying to little-me what she needed to hear. Weeping!
—Writing in my journal almost every day, posing hard questions to myself about my life, my issues, and the choices I’ve been making. I give myself the space to examine what’s going on for me, explore my doubts, feel what comes up for me. Often weeping.
—I created a ritual to help me mourn the loss of my marriage. Not surprisingly, I’ve had a huge pile of feelings about this loss, despite our continuing relationship. First, I decided to wear black for a week, as a reminder to myself, a symbol of mygrief. That felt heavy and appropriate. Next, I decided I wanted to burn something. I had recently found the garter my mother-in-law had made me for our wedding. It was still pretty and lacy, but the elastic no longer functioned. I cut off the engraved medallion to save, tucked the garter into its tissue paper wraps and closed the box. I wrote some phrases on paper that highlighted things I was giving upand losing in not being married. Then I bundled up for January and went out to the firepit and lit a fire, burning it all. It was hard, I cried, but it felt cathartic. Here’s a slideshow I made of the ritual.
These are just a few of the experiments I’ve been trying in processing my feelings. None of this has been easy, but giving myself a little push to wade through the deep stuff has resulted in a lot of shifting going on for me. And when I think about the doubts coming my way– from myself or others– I’ve realized that I really can trust myself. I’ve been willing to do hard work, I’m willing to question, and then I’m making the best decisions I can out of that self-knowledge. I have my own process in figuring things out for myself, and I can trust that process. That doesn’t mean my decisions are rock-solid, that I won’t have to re-evaluate and change as I go, but I’ve really come to respect myself in all this.
I’m also realizing that this is indeed a process for me, and it will take time for me to get where I want to go. I do want to be differentiated and independent, I do want to get to places on this journey that I can’t quite envision yet. But I don’t have to get there by tomorrow, I don’t have to be fully evolved next week. I can trust the process and take my time, and be utterly kind and compassionate to myself along the way.
F%&# you, Doubts!
So I’m not going to be tossed away by doubts anymore– mine or others. This is not to say that I’ll stop questioning myself, but I’m going to give up the angst and flagellation around it (at least I’ll try to; I’ll give myself permission to). I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last 6 months. I’m tough and I’m vulnerable. I can face the challenges ahead. I can ask for help. And at last, I know I can trust myself.
Catch up on any previous Lessons you’ve missed:
Divorce Lesson #1: Stay in the Present Moment
Divorce Lesson #2: Love Is All Around
Divorce Lesson #3: The Freedom in Hopelessness
Divorce Lesson #4: Do It Your Own Way
Divorce Lesson #5: Thanksgiving– Changing It Up
Divorce Lesson #6: Don’t Pre-Suffer (or Post-Suffer, Either)
Divorce Lesson #7: Re-(Blank)-ing Myself
Divorce Lesson #8: The Elevator Speech
Divorce Lesson #9: The Great Relationship Tool
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(Photos by Bob Alberti and Ayanna Muata, during a fabulous photo shoot they did of me last November.)