There is a scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love when Julia Roberts is explaining to her best friend that she is about to go on a year long journey to find out who she really is.
She went through a divorce and quickly jumped into the arms of another man, which only provided momentary satisfaction.
She is realizing that a “person” is not going to be her answer. She needs to find herself.
Her words resonated with my heart as I travel on a similar journey to find myself: “I need to change … I used to have this appetite for food, for life, and it is just gone. I want to go someplace where I can just marvel at something.
Since I was 15, I’ve either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy. I have not given myself just two weeks of a breather to deal with myself.”
Going through a marriage break up is not for the faint of heart. I get why people stay in “status quo” situations, because in many ways it is just “easier”. Going through a break down of a marriage is emotional on so many levels, but if you can rise up from the ashes beauty can ensue.
I know everyone’s experience when going through a divorce is different, but in the last several months since my marriage ended I have noticed several distinct phases of emotion:
Sadness and Disbelief
This is the stage where we are just heartbroken. The world feels like it has been turned upside down. We cry almost every night and often throughout the day. If we have children, we will likely look at them and feel like we have failed them in some way. We worry about how they will turn out knowing they will not be raised in a home with a mom and a dad. This stage is exhausting.
In this stage we start to see clearly and wonder how we stayed in an unhealthy situation for so long.
Once I realized that I was no longer going to be in a toxic situation and that it really was over I felt a huge amount of relief and peace. I felt like I could take control of my life back and start to plan for a healthier future.
I call this the “dancing” stage. In this phase, we will feel euphoric and ecstatic at the hope of “new beginnings” and a new life. We may feel like the world is your oyster. We are compelled to laugh, dance, and have some of the fun you may have missed out on for so many years.
Now, this last stage is the one where we really have to be careful….I call it the
‘F*ck, I may never find someone I love again!’
It is in this stage that we have to become so authentic with ourselves so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes twice even when it is so tempting because we might be afraid of being alone.
I just came into the “freedom” stage several weeks ago. I have been having a great time going out for dinner with friends, going dancing, laughing and just being alive! It has been amazing. A couple weeks into my freedom stage I noticed some emotions creeping up that I was not expecting.
All of sudden I was comparing myself to others that were out, feeling like I had to be a certain type to be wanted. Insecurity was rearing its ugly head and trying to crush down all the victories I had achieved in the freedom stage. Although I had found myself in so many ways, I was starting to “lose myself” once again as I worried about finding love again.
It’s as though there is a constant battle within us fighting for our authenticity. When we think we need a person to complete us, we are in danger of losing our authentic selves. I still hope I find “true, lasting love” one day, but it’s going to happen because they love my authentic self not because I become someone I’m not because I’m afraid of being alone.
Although divorce always starts off with emotional devastation, it can be a chance to build a life that we wished we always had if we stay true to who we are and what we desire in this life. It may not be possible for all of us to book a year-long trip to Italy, India and Bali, like Elizabeth Gilbert did, but we can go on our own Eat, Pray, Love journey if we make it a priority in our journey of self discovery.
Here are some suggestions that can keep us from slipping back into old, negative, thinking patterns:
1. Get moving
Hands down, this has been some of the best therapy that has kept me sane and boosted my spirits. Committing to exercise regularly will boost serotonin levels and give the added benefit of being healthy.
2. Let ourselves dream again
Remember when we were about to leave high school and would dream about the things we wanted to do and be? I believe we are always meant to be dreaming and working to make our dreams come true. Spend some time just thinking and dreaming about what we would like the rest of our lives to look like.
3. Laugh with friends
I have some great friends, and they are funny! Every time we hang out, we are sure to make each other giggle. Laughter is so important in this journey of self discovery.
4. Open the heart to love, but do it with caution
The time is going to come when we open your heart to love again, and we may have the impulse to throw ourselves feet first into it…but don’t, that may have been what got us in trouble the first time. There’s nothing wrong with being open to the notion of love, but try keeping a little guard over the heart while still on the journey of self discovery.
There is a wise quotation of Stephen Chbosky that says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” In this vulnerable, new season of life after a break up, we need to make sure we figure out what we deserve, so that we never settle for anything less than pure, authentic, love.
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