I watched a terrible car accident right outside of my house on Christmas Eve. Three cars, all likely headed to family celebrations, too hurriedly tried to make it through the intersection at my corner and slammed into one another. In a cringe-worthy grinding of brakes, scraping metal, and the boom of a minivan tipping to its side the course of those peoples’ lives changed, at least for one day.
As the vehicles and debris came to a halt, the shrieking of frightened children was heard from within the van that was knocked over. My neighbor, who is a nurse, instinctively flew out her front door and right into the midst of the chaos to assess the situation. She quickly surveyed each victim and reported her findings to the emergency dispatcher over the phone. In the moments while she lunged from vehicle-to-vehicle like a super hero, time seemed to stand still. Everyone else was frozen in shock, not yet knowing how to respond.
Thankfully, most of us will not have to endure a life-threatening emergency quite like the one I witnessed, though many of us will encounter other life-altering events that will shake us awake and force us to review what’s happening in our lives and make tough decisions about what to do next. Divorce is one such event.
Whether or not we wanted the divorce we became a part of, the top to bottom life shake-up that we will feel, as a result, becomes a sort of wake-up call. The call to consciousness may be accompanied by sensations of heart racing panic as we look around to establish where and how everything we care about is (what a way to wake up!), but it can be one of the most effective opportunities that we’re ever given to take stock of what we have, who we are, and what we need.
Often, we are unconscious to the fact that things around us, including our marriage, may be gasping for breath. We become so caught up in day-to-day matters that we lose sight of what’s happening around us. We become complacent, we give up hope, or we forget how things used to be or should be. A divorce wake-up call can be brutal, but sometimes it’s the only way to gain our attention and make us take action!
Just like that phone call, alarm, or other unexpected noise that makes us jolt out of bed, our initial reaction might be complete panic, a wave of emotions, and disorientation. We can’t believe what’s happening, we don’t understand why, we don’t know what to do about it, and we fear the worst. After deep breaths and awake overtaking asleep, we begin to see things for what they really are, and we can begin to think clearly and take action.
Most of us will never invite such a startling call to our lives, in fact we usually try to avoid things that cause this much disruption and chaos. We would prefer to simply exist in our comfortable, though often dysfunctional bubbles. To answer the call means we are forced to face our problems head on and deal with them. We may not want to answer, but we can’t afford to ignore it or freeze in terror.
As we assess the damage before us, we wonder:
Where will I live?
Will I survive financially?
Do I know what I’m doing?
Will I be okay?
What about the kids?
It’s pretty terrifying to find ourselves in a new and unwanted situation, not knowing what to expect. The beautiful gift offered during those moments of panic is the motivation and need to evaluate our lives. If we find ourselves afraid of some of our answers, we now have direction to guide us to safety.
If we don’t feel confident in our ability to earn and support ourselves, this might be the time to go back to school, change jobs, or ask for a raise.
The beautiful gift offered during those moments of panic is the motivation and need to evaluate our lives.
If we sense that big changes are coming to where we live, this would be the best time to start researching the options, taking inventory of what we have, and planning through the changes instead of being swept away by them.
If we know we’re over our heads not knowing our rights, feeling bullied, or unsure of what to do next, we become aware that we need to talk to an expert (a lawyer, financial advisor, coach, or counselor) for guidance and develop supports for ourselves.
If the jolt to consciousness reveals to us that we are suffering from emotional, physical, or spiritual neglect, we can seize the opportunity to nourish ourselves and start taking better care of our wellbeing.
If we fear that we are not standing on the most steady ground and have doubts about our ability to survive through what’s ahead, the crisis we’ve been awakened to is the now or never window of time to batten down the hatches and hold on tight!
A divorce wake-up call is almost never wanted, but it may be just the call we need! The sheer adrenaline of a personal emergency deserves the credit for saving our lives; otherwise, we would continue to slumber in oblivion, unaware that our life is in peril. The moment we rouse is usually terrifying and overwhelming, but instinct carries us through and helps us to begin to more consciously engage in the events.
In the time that follows the call, our thoughts will be re-organized from “what is this?” and “I can’t!” to “I got this!” and “let’s go!” Why? Because we have to! Desire and denial are no longer options! If we want to survive and be the person we need to be for ourselves (and our children), we have no choice but to snap to attention and begin to mobilize. We can do it. We will do it. We will get through!
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