2014 was the worst year of my life. 2014 was the best year of my life. Strange, but true.
While enduring the process of separation and divorce this past year, I made some life-changing discoveries, and adjusted my perceptions of myself and how I relate to the world. In fact, it has completely altered who I am. I am embracing the uncertainty of life, realizing we’re all just figuring it out as we go along, and finding the beauty in the lows as well as the highs, hence best/worst year of my life. A watershed year. There will forever be before 2014 and after 2014.
Below are five life-changing realizations I made over the course of the past year. I learned them the hard way, but I pass them on to you with the hope that you can incorporate them into your being as well, no matter where you are in your life journey.
1. I am in control of my reaction to everything.
Up until now, I’ve behaved like I was a victim of my own reaction to any given situation. My reaction was almost always defensive, angry and overblown — but I just assumed that my natural impulse was what it was, and it never occurred to me to moderate or control it. For some reason it felt inauthentic to suppress anger or other intense emotions. This is how I feel and how I feel is how I feel so this is me “being real”and you need to deal with it and if you can’t you don’t really love me, was my delusional rationale.
I am no longer a helpless victim of my reactions. I control my response. When I feel intense emotion, I immediately step back from it and give it some time to settle — overnight, at least. Only after I’ve allowed whatever it is to live in a calm, open mind for a time, do I respond. By moderating my reaction, I save myself hours of easily avoidable drama and hurt feelings. I am now dealing calmly with situations that would’ve left me in a sobbing heap on the floor before. Stuff that would’ve likely spawned side arguments that digressed into nonsense and then ignited even more issues that probably would’ve turned my divorce from the amicable scenario it is now into some War of the Roses stuff with me swinging from chandeliers in a rage.
2 . Surrounding myself with strong women is key.
When I got married, the two of us immediately moved to Brooklyn from Utah and I left all my childhood friends behind. I made a couple friends in New York but I never spent as much time with them as I should have. Toward the end of our marriage, we moved out into the Pennsylvania countryside, and while I did try to make friends, it was not my tribe and so I was lonely. I actually think spending so much time together as a couple without real friends to rely on was one of many mistakes we made in our marriage. Now I am working hard to ditch the social anxiety that has haunted me throughout life and find women that uplift me and can set me straight when I start to wander down a dark path. Women that see through the B.S. I sometimes try to sell them and myself and call me out when I’m acting a fool. I’ve spent so much of the past ten years without awesome women in my life that I am determined to surround myself with amazing broads who know a thing or two about being badass. I’m talking about life friends — women I would travel with and who I will do anything for and would do anything for me until the end of time. I have those women a text or phone call away in Utah and New York, now it’s time to assemble my Pennsylvania crew. Surrounding yourself with intelligent, strong women is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself.
3. Other people are not medicine.
I have been attempting to plug the holes in my personality with other people throughout my entire life. I’ve had a negative monologue about myself running through my head for so long I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t anymore. But I need to stop seeking others to counterpoint the negativity and do it myself. Be my own best friend. Accept myself and fix myself, if I can. In the wake of my separation I could (and can) feel myself thrashing around uncomfortably in the silence of having no one there. Flailing mindlessly against the fear of wondering if I’ll end up old and alone. I am resisting the temptation to fill the fear and the hole with people. Sometimes the voices in my head are angry and loud and mostly negative; like enduring nonstop verbal abuse from someone who hates you. It can be hard to sit alone with them. But I’m learning. Learning to hush them or listen to them and yes, even have conversations with them.
4 . My self-worth isn’t reliant upon who I’m with.
This one is huge. I know, I know. “Love yourself first” is a cliche we’ve all heard a million times but I’m here to testify that once you realize you’re perfectly fine on your own, that you actually dig being alone, that you are not reliant on anyone else for happiness, your entire world changes.
Although I am loathe to admit this, it’s important to explain that while I’ve always considered myself a fairly confident person, I now realize it was all a lie. I based how I felt about myself on whether or not men liked me. The one guy that broke up with me in my twenties completely pulled the rug out from underneath me. I spiraled into a vortex of wondering what was wrong with me, why he didn’t like me, when, in reality, we just weren’t a good match and he said as much when breaking up with me. I just couldn’t accept that. But now, everything has changed. I like me or I’m starting to, anyway. I feel really good about who I am and who I”m becoming and even when I don’t, I realize I’m a work in progress and the fact that I’m working on it and I’m doing it for me is the important part.
If I’m interested in a man and he doesn’t respond — NEXT! It’s not about me, it’s about him. Or maybe it is about me but either way, I couldn’t possibly care less. Lack of interest from a man used to actually increase my interest in him — but now I see it as a clear sign to move on and not give that particular person a second thought. I’m only interested in people who are interested in me and those who aren’t can keep it moving. Relying on anyone else for happiness is a dangerous and ultimately lethal game. If you truly believe this — that you’re fine on your own and your well-being doesn’t depend on which man or woman loves you — your life will change. You will feel liberated to focus on yourself and children, if you have them, and do what you love without regard for the often weird tangle of B.S. that dating or being in a relationship brings. The world is set up to view coupledom as the ideal and singlehood as undesirable and it’s a lie. Each state of being has its advantages and drawbacks yet there are billions of frogs, hopping desperately from the safety of one relationship lily pad to the next. Screw that! Jump in the water, man! Strike out on your own and kiss as many frogs as you can with enjoying the ride being the goal, not finding a relationship.
5. Forget rules. I’m forging my own relationship path.
Speaking of the lie society sells us about coupledom as the ideal, while I’m not ruling out another marriage (even Clooney eventually came around so never say never) it isn’t something I’m looking for. Been there, done that. At this point in my life, a legal marriage isn’t necessary for me. I have kids and their dad is very active in their lives so I’m not looking for a dad or someone to “take care of” us, I’ve got that handled, thankyouverymuch. The person I’m looking for is someone who wants to experience life with me in a unique way. To be together without following society’s relationship rules. And I’m not even really “looking.” If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I fully plan to take on the world on my own and that notion is equally appealing. But if I do stumble into that special someone it won’t require marriage, living together or even monogamy. I want us to figure out what works best for us and those most important to us and isn’t that an exciting notion? To forge our own relationship rules based on what works best for our very specific set of circumstances? I think so. The future is what I make of it. I want to take risks and find the beauty and life lessons in the tougher moments. Life isn’t happening to me, I’m happening to it.
Image source: Monica Bielanko