“Once you’ve had your life burn down, it takes time to be a phoenix.” So says Sharon Stone in the Feb/Mar 2012 issue of AARP Magazine. (Okay, we’ll leave aside the discomfort I feel both reading this magazine and seeing Sharon Stone on its cover!). At the darkest moments, divorce or health issues or loss of a parent–all issues Stone dealt with over the past decade–these life transitions can make it seem like where once a life existed, now only ashes remain. A life burned down.
Developing patience in children has been a topic this week with the release of a book on French parenting, Bringing Up Bébé. But I have worked with clients who become impatient with themselves, their spouses and family and friends. They want the pain to end and the divorce process to be closed. They want their spouse to accept the end of the relationship (and sometimes want acceptance of new relationships) and they want life back to normal. All understandable longings.
But I’ve also worked with clients who lean into the transition and the pain associated with it. Who take long walks and spend time alone journaling and meditating and thinking about what’s happening now in their lives and how they want to intentionally shape the future. Who allow for what this day brings and look for the lesson they can learn from it. Who are brave enough to spend time with a good therapist to explore the meaning of this life transition and how it came to be. Who resist the appeal of blaming and finding fault with another. Who understand that the spouse they have been so hurt by, or with whom they are so angry, is also going through a challenging adjustment.
It is these “patient people” who eventually rise like the proverbial phoenix. Who seem deeply content ultimately. Who’ve been able to extend grace and forgiveness to themselves, their spouses, children and friends. Who have a certain freedom that comes from having arisen from the ashes, sprouting wings, and knowing the feeling of flying again.
How do you choose to be one of these people? How do you avoid becoming the bitter, miserable “ex” that no one really wants to be around? I think it first comes by defining the end-game. Where do you want to be two years from now? Do you want a civil, relatively stress-free relationship with your former spouse? Do you want to actually learn and grow from this major life transition? Then surround yourself by people who will support those goals. Ask friends and family to help you make this a good divorce. Choose professionals (therapists, lawyers, financial specialists) who are skilled in problem-solving and understand that there’s a future life you’re shaping for yourself and your children. Read books that support the emergence of that phoenix you can be, arising from the fire stronger, more beautiful, more alive than you thought possible. Because it is possible–with a little patience.
Wishing you wisdom,
Deborah Bennett Berecz