I used to be very critical of myself, thinking things like “you failed” or “you’re not good enough”. Combine these crushing thoughts with body-shaming and a declining relationship, and it’s easy to say that I was a disaster. During that downward spiral in my life, I was desperate to be happy. . . even obsessed with the idea. I grew up believing in love and “happily ever after”, and assumed that my life would naturally include a wonderful relationship, fulfilling work, great friends, and the joy of raising children when I was “grown up”. Finding myself in a life unlike anything I’d ever hoped for was heartbreaking. I tried to plan happiness, feel happy despite the circumstances, and even attempted to control situations or outcomes to create happiness. But no matter how hard I tried, I was left wanting. Obviously all of this was very toxic, but when you’re lost in unhappiness there often isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, or enough hope to see a way out.
I am thankful for the opportunity to experience life after such extreme unhappiness; thanks to this second chance, I appreciate and love and dream and hope more fully than ever before. But that didn’t come over night, and I learned that “time doesn’t heal all wounds” like people say. I discovered as days turned into months that it’s far too easy (and maybe even natural) to be defined by your circumstance and hurt, and to let it create truths about yourself and life that aren’t actually real. The fear of the past repeating itself was so powerful that I didn’t believe positive feelings or thoughts of happiness. For a while I simply survived, viewing myself as broken. It took a long time to start trusting myself, and to listen to my heart over the opinion of others. While I was motivated to create a new normal for myself and children, it was overwhelming to think of life as anything beyond functional.
Just like cancer requires a treatment plan, recovering from hurt and loss requires an action-plan. I discovered that as long as I was focusing on the hardships of my life and allowing anger to live in my heart, I was stuck. For me, the things necessary to start healing were:
I needed to embrace my new life, acknowledge the situation for everything that was out of my control and for everything that I contributed, and then forgive MYSELF. I stood in front of the mirror, looking myself in the eyes, and said “I forgive you” over and over as hot tears burned my cheeks, and realized in that moment that I blamed myself for things I had no control over. I was torturing myself over a situation I couldn’t changed, and as a result I wasn’t actually living.
I also forgave my ex-husband. He’s the father of my sweet boys and I’m so thankful for them. I spent nearly a decade with him, and there are memories worth remembering. I learned very valuable things about myself in the decline of our relationship, and I’m very thankful for the ways that recovering from our divorce changed me. A mentor of mine related my transformation to the “refiners fire” and a “phoenix rising from the ashes”. I have been blessed beyond measure by losing my past life, because I was willing to embrace my recovery journey.
With a heart ready to hope, dream, try and grow, I started reading and listening to stories of women who transformed their lives. Each was an example of challenges overcome, a passion for more, and a will to change… and with a similar fire burning inside of me, I took bits and pieces of each inspiring example and adopted them. I truly felt called to do something wonderful with my second chance in life, so I set goals, created a goal-tracker, celebrated my little wins, and learned to not second-guess my commitment to an action whenever I missed a day. I started with this set of challenges:
- daily walking
- drinking extra water
- daily gratitude
- giving-up an unhealthy item (soda)
- dedicated me time
My life was forever changed! In the process of doing simple actions day after day, for myself and because I wanted to, I created and achieved bigger goals (like starting this blog and running a 5k). The way I show up in life and believe in myself is unlike anything I could have imagined a few years ago. I was worried about taking time away from my children (mom guilt is a real and ever present battle) but quickly discovered greater energy and drive for creating memories and enjoying life with my family. I’m confident now that life will continue to improve and grow in unrealized and exciting ways, because I’m mindful and live with intention. Throughout this multi-year journey I fell in love with myself and my life. I’m happy, and I don’t need to think about it, or worry about it, or wish for it. I’m simply happy.
This is my current set of daily/weekly goals:
As you can see, some items have been missed. When I first started tracking my goals it was devastating to me when I missed a day, and I would immediately question the value or need for the action in my life, thinking “maybe I’m too busy?” or “maybe it doesn’t have that much worth after all?”, because no matter how well I did going forward, it would never be perfect. I believe the difference between those who hope and dream without ever realizing their potential, and those who exceed expectations over and over again, is their perspective on the “day after perfect”. There are two choices: you either choose to keep going or find a reason to give up.
I recently experienced the ending of another relationship, and the loss hit me hard. First of all, dating as a single parent is an investment of precious time and energy, and a huge leap of faith. I gave my all with hope that better communication, boundaries, openness, and honesty would mean success, and in many ways I was right. I opened my heart, learned more about myself, and was courageous to try dating again. Ending the relationship was a loss, but not a failure, and that distinction is important. This experience healed past hurts, and left me with more hope than sadness. Everything I experience is part of this wonderful, complicated, unpredictable journey I’m on, and my heart is better for the love that was temporarily shared.
We all have hopes and dreams, and we all have past experiences that will either hold us back or function as motivation to launch us into action. It’s your choice, and I wish on your behalf that you let your guard down and believe in your potential.
You are worthy of experiencing your greatness!