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People generally don’t like change. We resist it, even though we know it’s inevitable. Someone once said we’re all a little bit insane. That’s sort of a dramatic way of getting your attention, but you do have to admit that we all do irrational things. We know that change is inevitable. We know that it will come into our lives, and yet we resist it. We resist change because we believe it will be painful or we’re afraid it’s going to be painful. But resisting it is, in itself, painful. So we resist the unknown because it might be painful. To avoid something that might be painful, we create a situation that is painful. That is a little nuts. It all boils down to the fact that we’re afraid of the unknown. As discussed in the previous chapter, most of our actions are based on fear or love.
So the other title I thought about giving this chapter was, “Have Courage (You Have No Choice)”.
We know change is coming into each and every one of our lives, constantly. And we’re good at telling other people not to fear change, but we still fear it. Divorce was certainly a huge change and it caused all kinds of fear of the unknown. But how do we overcome that fear? Let’s talk about specific steps you can take to overcome the fear of change.
You could start with a little faith. There really is a higher power. You really are here to learn and to grow.
Maybe that sounds all well and good but it’s a little too abstract and New Age for you. So let’s talk about the practical side of how all this works and say it as increasing your faith. No doubt, there are many examples in your life of something painful or unknown that you went through that turned out to be a positive thing for you.
If you don’t want to look at it from the spiritual point of view, at least we’ll look at if from the practical perspective. So the first question I would ask you in this chapter is “Who is important in your life now that you didn’t know ten years ago?” If you truly could stop change from happening, you wouldn’t know that person because they never would have come into your life.
Take Courageous Risks
I can think of many examples of taking courageous risks in my life. I left a nice safe job with a good salary to start my own business. Most people in my industry are afraid to do that even though they’re not that happy in the jobs they have. Leaving a job that’s safe and secure causes a certain amount of upset in your life, a certain amount of insecurity. Remember the earlier saying, “On the other side of pain is joy?”
I struck out into the unknown, which meant finding new office space, finding new employees, answering a bunch of questions, literally dealing with the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing. The result is that I now have a thriving business working with people I like and I trust. But there’s only one way to get there. I had to let go of the past, go through the turmoil of the unknown, and have faith that things would work out.
Maybe one of the things that gave me confidence that it would work out was going through my divorce. Talk about big changes and big opportunities!
I felt as if I was a failure. Everyone in my family had a successful marriage. All of my college roommates had successful marriages. I was the one failure. I would have done almost anything to save my marriage. Lived a lie, or so I thought. My wife concluded that our marriage was over well before I did, so I resisted the change. Talk about pain! Talk about stormy seas! I went from being a young professional in suburbia with the picture-perfect family to being a single dad who had to try to figure out how to raise two girls on his own and keep his business running. At first, I didn’t see the opportunity. But what an incredible opportunity it became.
I’m not blaming her. Remember this book is not about blame, but about what an incredible opportunity our divorce became. Because we were two fundamentally different people, we weren’t happy together and we could never be happy together. That meant if we had stayed together, our children would have grown up in an unhappy household. There is no doubt in my mind that can be more harmful than growing up in a divorced household. Remember the example of the old man and the two girls in the previous chapter?
So my children did go through trauma and pain, but it passed, and they adjusted to the fact that Mom and Dad had separate houses. And they grew up in a house with me that no longer had strife and tension. What a difference that made! It changed everything for all of us. You don’t see that while you’re struggling through a divorce, but in hindsight, it was perfectly clear. Because of who we were and how fundamentally different we were from each other, the break up, in the long run, was the best thing for my children.
Create a Stable Environment
The first thing I did after I got a divorce was to set up a stable home for my children. They lived with me, but they spent every other weekend with their mom. I began to date, and for two years I just dated for fun. (That’s probably another whole book.) But then, believe it or not, I got tired of dating for fun, and I decided to go out and find a good woman.
I remember very clearly sitting in the bleachers watching one of my daughters cheer for a Peewee football game. My parents had come up for the game and I remember telling my mom that I knew what I wanted.
I wanted to find the girl with the biggest heart. Six months later, I met her. Call it faith, call it coincidence, call it God. But I repeat, you’ve got to have faith.
Earlier, I mentioned that my ex-wife and I were fundamentally different, that we really couldn’t be happy. We were incapable of creating a happy home because we were so different. Now, I had met a woman who was fundamentally similar to me. She had the same values, the same outlook on life. We enjoy each other’s company; we enrich one another’s life. I would like to think I was a good role model for her two sons and I know, without a doubt, she was a wonderful influence on my two young daughters. We’ve been together now for over thirteen years. No matter what happens to us, I know that for once in my life, I knew real love. I have a true partner.
Be the Best You Can Be
Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Make a commitment now to simply be the best that you can be. The great thing about that is there is no end to it. You never reach your potential. You just keep getting better and better. You keep evolving to a higher plane.
To really be a great parent and give your children the tools that they’ll need to be successful in life, have the strength and courage to always do the right thing where your children are concerned.
Look Back from the End to Move Forward
One last tip: Imagine you’re about 85 years-old and your time here is just about done. You’re in good health, but you don’t have a whole lot of energy left and spend most of your day sitting on the back porch, watching the world. Image it’s a beautiful day and you’re looking back reviewing your life. What do you see? Do you have regrets? Would you live your life differently? Well, now is your chance. Go out and live it the way you would want to.
One of my favorite movies is Braveheart. Most guys know the story; it’s a guy movie. If you don’t know the story, Mel Gibson is the star playing the title role of William Wallace, a real historical figure who led the Scotsmen against the English when England was the oppressive landlord of Scotland.
The movie takes place several hundred years ago and Mel Gibson’s character is the head of all the rebellious Scotsmen whose goal is simple – they want freedom. In the end, the English win and Mel Gibson’s character is put to death after having fought many brave battles. Shortly before he is put to death, a woman who loves him is in tears because he is about to die, and he says, “All men die, but few really live.” Of course, he really lived as he had lived for a higher purpose (freedom) and he had led men into battle for a noble cause.
Fortunately, you and I don’t have to fight people with swords to really live.
But he didn’t really live because he chopped someone’s head off in battle. He really lived because he served a higher purpose. He served for a noble purpose. He overcame his fear. He really lived because he did what was right, what was necessary in the face of fear.
On the Other Side of Pain is Joy
I share these stories from my life because I hope they’ll help you. It’s one thing to have faith. Its one thing to say change is good. But I think we learn from concrete examples. I’m sure you have examples like that in your life. And I’m sure there are literally a million people out there who have gone through divorces and successfully raised their children.
You may feel alone and scared, but you’re never alone. God is always with you and if you learn to be still, you will hear His voice guiding you. You may not understand why things have turned out the way they have. But they haven’t turned out at all. Everything is still evolving. You just can’t see the end of the road; none of us can. But believe me, on the other side of pain is joy.
Really Live Your Higher Purpose
You’ve got a higher purpose, too. Now go out there and really live it.
This article has been edited and excerpted from the book Getting Over It: Wisdom for Divorced Parents with permission by MacKenzie Publishing, LLC, copyright © 2010, Len Stauffenger is a nationally certified attorney who understands and practices transformational energy. He is a catalyst for healing and responsible for helping countless individuals achieve success in their lives. For more information visit www.WisdomForDivorcedParents.com