Navigating the Rough Spots
You think you’re OK and something comes up… How do you handle it?
Things you thought were settled are still there, and you thought they were done.
Rough patches are part of life for everyone.
In a healthy marriage, two people go through those experiences together. If one person has a rough day, the other shows up for their beloved, supports them however they need to be supported. If a financial hiccup happens, there’s both another wage earner and someone to hash out the plan to recover. When one gets sick, the other can take over and let their partner in crime rest and recuperate. Kids have to be in two places on opposite sides of town at the same time? No problem! Divide and conquer.
Divorce changes this whole scenario. Rough patches present challenges, and they tend to come often when there’s only one car, one income, one enforcer-doctor-cook-maid-et cetera. No sugar-coating it. It’s just what it is, and sometimes that can be stressful. I am so used to being a one-woman show that this is my typical operational situation. I expect to be busy with my kids and getting all of the adult things done because it’s my life. I find the bright side in the process of doing those things to a level some consider annoying, but it works for me and provides my kids with an adult model of responsibility and capability. Sometimes it annoys them too, but I believe they will thank me someday. (Or not, but they will be able to change lightbulbs, laugh at roadragers, and hopefully figure out a workable solution when they face a challenge.)
I also know when to call in the cavalry. I am not too proud to ask for help, advice, directions, or feedback, and I do it often. I fully realize that I will make mistakes, but I sincerely want to continually learn about myself, my shortcomings, and how I can make improvements.
Because the worst thing in the world to me is not trying.
I made the decision well before our divorce was final that I would have as positive a relationship as possible with the person I’d promised to stick with forever. We have two incredible kids deserving of our best efforts not only to parent them well but to work together in supporting them. That decision led to so much goodness in the lives of my kids. Birthdays are not awkward. Holidays are not dreaded occasions. And I believe that their graduations, weddings, and all the other milestones to come will follow suit because, of all the things we couldn’t manage together, we are madly in love with our children. And we choose for things to be as easy as possible.
That’s not to say it’s all glitter and sunshine. We manage two different houses with completely different dynamics. Their dad remarried and added a step-mother and two step-children to their family. Here, it’s just me and the dog. Sometimes we don’t see things the same way or manage situations with identical perspectives. When those times come, the old frustrations volunteer and I am tempted to jump right in and rehash the past. Sometimes my frustration gets the best of me because I’m a human being, but most of the time I remember that–more than anything–I do not want to fight. Nobody wins. And worse, the biggest losers end up being my kids. That is the very last thing I want to see, so I work very hard and purposefully to find the high road, walk it, and choose my words very carefully. Most of the time saying nothing proves to be the best bet, but not always. Sometimes we have to have hard conversations, so we have them. We just agree to put on our big kid pants and find a solution that supports our child.
Other hiccups volunteer and usually when it’s the worst timing.
When the random catastrophe happens, I find that I have to be gentle with myself. Owning my part in a miscommunication or other situation that goes sideways says more about one’s character that all the good deeds and cheeriness of the good days combined. When I make a mistake, I work to understand my part, where I went wrong, and I genuinely apologize. Part of being a person guarantees the experience of screwing up–with and without intention. If I remember that and try to understand how and why something went awry, I gifted myself with the opportunity to grow and to be part of making it right again. When I live this way, I can walk with my head up knowing I have done my best to correct my mistakes. One they’re out there, there’s no taking them back so making it as right as possible seems like something I can live with.
When I know my flaws, I have the opportunity to change those flaws. Some things I don’t love about my personality simply exist in my DNA. I constantly work to improve those things about myself, but I also remember that I need to give myself the grace to be an imperfect person. When my feelings are really hurt or I feel attacked unjustly, I am most likely not in the space to execute my best self. The plan to act one way in response doesn’t always play out as imagined or intended. Being alone in those times makes me feel a little bit more divorced than usual. I just have to remember that my marital status doesn’t change my humanity.
So then what?
In owning my faults, I also need to own my gifts. If I activate the pieces of my personality I like as a means to overcome the aspects of my makeup I’d rather remove, I feed the good wolf, so to speak. The one I feed grows stronger–thanks to Matthew McConaughey’s analogy that I’m sure he borrowed from someone else. Surviving the rough patches boils down to doing the work and training when the way is easy and the burden is light. If I consistently work to be more of the person I want to become, then I find those positive, healthy habits more easy to access and activate when the storms come. So hope for sunshine but carry an umbrella because the flowers don’t bloom without the thunderstorms.
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