And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to blossom — Anaïs Nin
Like a caged bird that choses to sit on her perch munching stale seeds, instead of flying towards freedom, I stayed. Yes, I was miserable, but my bad marriage felt safe and familiar. So I clipped my wings to avoid exposing myself to something new. Hard to admit, I was a hypocrite. As a transformational coach, I help women find passion, purpose and go from stuck to satisfied. I write and speak about listening to your heart, seeking joy, and trusting the Universe, but I wasn’t following my bliss.
Last year I made a decision: I chose freedom and left my ex husband. For six months I have been courageously driving down divorce highway. Okay, more like weaving and zigzagging in a rainstorm with no map, a flat tire, and broken windshield wipers.
Divorce is the most stressful event I have ever experienced. It’s been contentious, complicated, difficult. While I want my marriage to be over, the finality of it, the financial consequences, and demands of my ex have stalled my quest.
To make maters worse my right retina detached three times in April making it impossible for me to function normally let alone read the reams of legal documents requiring my attention.
Last week, I bravely signed my Marital Settlement Agreement. What a strange way to end a 25 year relationship. The wording is so archaic “NOW COME the parties in the above-entitled case, ex (hereinafter referred to as “Husband”) and Ellen Albertson (hereinafter referred to as “Wife”) and hereby agree to the following terms… WHEREAS we married, there was born to the parties a minor child, irreconcilable differences, were separated and resumption of marital relations is not reasonable, we want to settle property rights…
In my case settling is a euphemism for being taken to the cleaners. My ex, who hasn’t held a job in years and doesn’t have an income, is getting the house, all of our savings and hefty payments from me over the next 3 years. Such is the cost of freedom.
The tears flow as I write this and listen to Cat Stevens singing Hard Headed Woman. I’m torn between wondering how I got here and why I didn’t leave sooner. There are so many questions and memories, so much love and raw pain.
Dr. Ellen, the empowered women’s life coach is excited to be free and starting a new chapter. Unencumbered by negativity and criticism, she can grow, glow and live her best life. Another part of me — the small, shadow side is terrified. Can I strike out on my own, be successful and take care of myself without my ex? What’s fascinating about my shadow is despite her fearful nature, she shows up with cortisol generating, fierce tenacity casting a shroud over my life that constricts my heart, upsets my stomach, and turns my rainbow psyche black.
The day before signing the settlement agreement shadow-girl showed up with a vengeance. I was exhausted, irritable, anxious, depressed. Imagine drinking five double espressos and having the worst case of PMS ever. I harnessed my self-compassion superpowers and got through the day by being kind to myself and giving myself what I needed — long walks, hugs from my new man Beau, and tub time with a glass of wine. Rather than pushing away the pain and sadness, I accepted what is and let my difficult emotions surface and then come and go.
The next morning shadow girl faded, and I woke up feeling empowered, excited to sign the paperwork that would end my marriage, FOREVER! Beau drove me to the lawyer’s office where I patiently (with my one good eye) reread the 17-page document that ended with SCHEDULE A, a list of the two dozen items I was getting — pots and pans, two beach towels, a printer, my Grandmother’s tea set… What wasn’t listed was freedom. Now nothing can stop me from having a fulfilling life and being my best, authentic self.
The work to be done each day and across a lifetime is to choose what will support your true, authentic self rather than your dutiful self. Each day you get to make decisions about leaving old, familiar worlds and exploring new territory. Ultimately you can choose one of three things to: 1) create new realities, 2) maintain current realities or 3) release and let go of realities that no longer serve you.
Instead of staying in a situation that’s not working, but feels safe and familiar, step outside your comfort zone. It’s spring, time to grow and glow! Make like your favorite flower and open-up to something new. Personally, I’d suggest being a rose. The rose is a complex flower that expresses promise, hope, and new beginnings. Plus, you’ll need the thorns for protection.
Set an intention to be your best self and make choices that support your highest good and enable you to transform. Just do it! Then water the new you with self-compassion and courage, fertilize with radical self-care and plant yourself near positive people who help you stay grounded and centered.
When you say yes to yourself and no to your false personas, be on the alert because your shadow girl sub selves (the People Pleaser, Self-saboteur, Inner Critic, Procrastinator, Perfectionist… who wants to avoid rejection, change, and danger) will show up. It’s not your fault. It’s neuroscience. Humans have a structure called the default mode network (DMN) that runs down the middle of our brains. The DMN’s job is to scan the past and future for threats to the self and keep you ruminating (literally chewing things over and over in your mind) so you don’t take action.
When shadow-girl shows up don’t push her away. Give her a voice. Notice what tone she uses and the difficult emotions she triggers — fear, frustration, anger, sadness, depression… When you name emotions, you tame them by moving them from the primitive to the evolved part of your brain. Next feel the emotions in your body. When you feel emotions you heal them. Finally allow difficult emotions to come and go. While you wait be patient and kind to your self. Know that this too shall pass. Breathe in faith and trust; breathe out fear.
No matter what expand and follow your heart, not your head. As Anais Nin says, Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
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