Exactly three weeks ago today I received the papers for my second divorce. However, I have chosen not to see this as "another failed marriage." My spouse and I jointly made the decision to separate. We also made a joint decision that the number one priority through our divorce process would be our daughter. To us, that meant we agreed to take our time to work together through the process, to seek agreement rather than fighting, to compromise when we couldn't agree, to communicate and co-parent well, and to work only with a mediator, no attorneys. From the beginning of our process, we have been amicable. We are friendly. We make great co-parents. We are unique and lucky in that, I know. Many people have told me how uncommon an amicable divorce is. I'm proud of how we handled the process and I'm grateful for our partnership.
It has been nearly a year-and-a-half since we first decided to separate, which means I have had the luxury of that same amount of time for deep self-inquiry and self-examination to explore my role in our story. I have examined my own behavior in our marriage - what I did or didn't do that led to its ending. I have contemplated my old habits and patterns, my stories and limiting self-beliefs, and the walls I had built against love that created distance in our marriage. I have faced my fears (and trust me, there were many!), processed my emotions, and cultivated the courage I needed along each step of the way.
Our process was probably "easier" than what others experience because of our amicability, but that doesn't mean it was easy. Along the way, I left myself feel my full range of emotions, I allowed quiet personal time when I was struggling, and I focused on healing and nurturing myself. As I leaned into my healing, I also stepped into my strength and independence and focused on building the new. As I look back over the last year-and-a-half, I am truly amazed at how much my life has changed. And I feel truly blessed and grateful for how far I have come and where I am today.
As I said, I have chosen not to see this as a failed marriage. It's an ending, yes. But with the ending also comes a new beginning, one full of possibility. The mission I held for myself through the process included learning the lessons I needed to learn, rediscovering who I am, what I want, and what I enjoy, and rebuilding my life around those things.
Wellbeing is related to, but extends beyond “happiness.” Focusing on our wellbeing is a pathway to living an optimal, connected, and fulfilling life. There are three core, interrelated elements of wellbeing that are foundational to our ability to grow into our best self and live our best life: personal wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing, and relational wellbeing. These elements are fundamental because the core of who we are - personally, spiritually, and relationally – influences how we relate to and interact with ourselves, others, and the world. Investing in our wellbeing includes prioritizing our self-care and focusing on our own personal and spiritual growth. Nourishing our body, our heart, and our spirit gives us the fuel we need to fully engage in all other areas of our life.
Often the place to look first relates to our personal wellbeing and how well we are caring for ourselves. Sometimes we need to examine what is not working in our life so we can understand what we *do* want. As we then make change in that direction, we ultimately will find peace, harmony and ease. Making a commitment to consciously focus on our wellbeing can guide us toward healthy stress-management techniques, and sources of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation when we need it the most. Investing in our wellbeing includes prioritizing our self-care, physical health, intellectual heath, and emotional health, as well as focusing on our own personal and spiritual growth. It also involves treating ourselves with compassion and kindness, and choosing to forgive and love ourselves.
When we care for ourselves in this way, we receive the energy and fuel we need in order to care for and fulfill our commitments and obligations to others. If we expend too much energy focusing only on our external relationships and are not also caring for our needs or focusing on our own self-care, we won’t have energy to be fully present in our relationships with others over the long term. Similarly, when we neglect our physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs, we may have a difficult time devoting energy to or finding meaning in our work. Nourishing our body, heart, and spirit gives us the fuel we need to fully engage in all other areas of our life.
For most of us, our work and professional life consumes most of our time, attention, and energy. But we all deserve and need to take care of our personal and spiritual wellbeing, too. We need to nourish our body and nurture our soul so we don’t become depleted. Our spiritual path invites and encourages us to search for a deeper meaning and purpose for our life. What I’ve come to believe is that we have multiple levels of purpose that guide us through life.
The various levels of purpose are intertwined and connected. No one else can tell us what our purpose is – it’s up to each one of us to discover that for ourselves. No matter what our purpose is, imperative to the process is ACTION. Each choice we make and each step we take gets us one step closer to understanding why we are here and how we are meant to serve.
The quality of our relationship with those people is impacted by how well we are taking care of our self. If we are feeling depleted, it is hard to be fully present with the ones we love. So the first place to start on our personal growth journey is often exploring our personal and spiritual wellbeing first, before we look to this area of relational wellbeing. But personal relationships are important. The amount of joy and fulfillment we feel in our life is impacted by the quality of our relationships with other people. We are relational beings and are wired to connect with others. Even those of us who enjoy our solitude need to connect with people sometimes.
Time is a gift that most of us take for granted. We get so caught up in the busyness of our daily lives that we may not realize how much time we’re spending on activities that don't really matter all that much and how little time we are spending with the people who matter most to us. Our priorities are reflected not by what we say, but by what we do. In other words, we might say that spending time with family or friends is one of our top priorities - but are we showing that in action? How much quality time are we spending with our loved ones? And the time we are spending with them - is it of good quality? Meaning, are we actively engaging in dialogue or shared activities, or are we sitting next to each other scrolling through our phones or watching television? Do we make a difference in the lives of others, and are we receiving the support we need from those around us? It's important to reflect on the status of our relationships and to made adjustments where needed.
I’m a recovering over-achiever, people pleaser, perfectionist, and workaholic. I used to always be pushing and striving, trying to meet everyone else’s expectations. Rather than focusing on my wellbeing, I neglected myself. And the time I did take for self-care just made me feel guilty – there were other things I should be doing... I’m too busy. I've always known I need to take better care of myself, but I've not always been good at doing it. I was overly focused on everything I needed to do - for everyone else - that I left no time or energy for what I needed to do for myself. And at times, I've felt incredibly guilty for doing what I needed to do for me.
Our society emphasizes achievement and results. We put a lot of focus on activity and spend our time and energy on actions that lead to specific, quantifiable outcomes. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with setting ambitious goals and driving for results. But when we focus too much on goals and results, and we don’t allow enough time to rest, refresh, and recuperate, we’ll burn out. We carry fear-based thoughts about letting others down or not being accepted, and when we feel like we have let someone down, we carry guilt around that. But we can't let these expectations get in the way of taking care of ourselves because then we will not have enough energy to take care of others. Yes, we do play a role in helping others fulfill their needs. We have made commitments to family, friends, work, and others. But this does not mean that we need to put our needs below the needs of others or neglect our needs altogether. Other people will always have expectations of us and will always need something from us. That's just the way life works. But we can fulfill the needs of others - AND fulfill our own needs, too.
When we are busy “doing” all the time, we miss cues that our body, heart, and soul are sending us about what we need. We then react from auto-pilot, repeating unhelpful behaviors and making unloving choices. There will always be things to do. But we need quiet time and space in our days where we can be more present and pay attention to the what's going on around and within us.
The practice of deep self-inquiry is important, because within our heart is where we will discover our unique path to self-care, self-nurturing, self-healing, and self-love. Our heart is the core of our being and regulates our emotions. How we choose to respond to those emotions impacts the quality of our life. Our heart is also where true personal transformation takes place. We don’t instantly change just because we've decided to do so (although wouldn't that be nice?!). Our brain operates in the realm of facts and logic and supports us in creating plans, to-do lists and checklists. Those tactics aren't usually helpful when it comes to personal transformation.... we can't "checklist" our way to self-love.
We need to *feel* the need for change within and allow our heart to open so we can explore what's lodged there. Our first clue that change is needed is often feeling emotional anguish or experiencing chaos in our life. These are signs that we are living against our truth and are being beckoned forward; it's a calling that comes deep from within. Our mind clutters our desires and plans with doubt, uncertainty, and fear while our heart just *knows* what is right. The truth of our heart is simple and pure. The challenge is that we can't always hear the voice of our heart.
Deep self-exploration can be terrifying. We may be afraid of what we'll discover about our self and then... we will actually need to change something! Deep self-exploration and self-discovery is a longer, slower process than the quick-fix "self-improvement" projects most of us tend to pursue. It is slow and sometimes painful work. We need to choose to leave behind old patterns and unloving habits and create a new path for ourselves. As we commit to the process of self-reflection, we grow in self-understanding. We see each situation and emotional challenge as opportunities for us to learn more about our self and to evolve into the best version of our self. This requires us to pay more attention to our internal experience and habitual patterns and to be curious about what is beneath our choices and actions. It's helpful to approach these moments with openness, curiosity, and a spirit of inquiry.