Lean Into The Learning Around You
Are you going through something really big like a divorce or an important life challenge? I am a big believer in looking for your learning. Inherent in that learning are opportunities for gratefulness. It is a lifeskill that if you don’t already have, divorce could be a time to start. After all, divorce is such a tumultuous and difficult a time. Instead of just watching the hard stuff come at you, look for the opportunities
for growth and inspiration.
A Nasty Divorce
My friend Beth just finished with a nasty divorce. It dragged on for years. Her husband had tricked her into signing stuff she didn’t know she was agreeing to before the divorce, they had fights over custody… You know the drill. Yucky shenanigans all the way around.
Beth is a lovely woman-giving and smart. She is a good friend and mother. In addition, she was a good wife too. So, her husband planning for the divorce and springing it on her one day without even a warning was traumatic and dreadful. On top of that surprise, she had built a company on her own without any help with the kids or with the running of their household. Because of the divorce, she had to sign a big piece of that company over to him. (That is an incredibly painful task for anyone!)
One day Beth was stuck in divorce court because there had to be one person there to finalize the deal. Just like in her marriage, her soon to be ex tricked her into her being there by herself (once again!) to shoulder the burden of handling everything. She was overwhelmed, feeling aggrieved and furious, as she sat there in the courtroom waiting with her lawyer for the judge to call her up.
Being forced to sit there and wait, a miraculous thing happened. She got to witness someone else going through their own divorce difficulty. Another woman was sharing her case. Her name was Gina. According to Beth, Gina was a forty something African American woman who stood by herself to present her divorce case to the judge.
Gina didn’t have an attorney with her, it was obvious she couldn’t afford one. Gina told the judge about her chronically disabled 4 year-old son, and described how she had to care for him and secure services for him without any support from the father. Then, Gina talked about how she had to work part time at a job that paid her almost nothing (minimum wage doesn’t go very far for a single person, much less a family). Gina described how her soon to be ex-husband doesn’t pay her a dime. He is a trucker, and wants nothing to do with their handicapped child. Beth described Gina’s hands shaking as she told the judge about her situation.
My friend Beth was in awe of this woman. She had almost no resources, limited support, and she was standing up there bravely pleading her case by herself. Beth couldn’t believe the strength, perseverance, self respect and dignity with which this woman was handling herself. Beth thought to her own circumstances and was immediately grateful.
After Gina spoke, Beth said she decided out of nowhere to hug this woman. She did and Gina broke down. Gina cried and shook and held onto the support and encouragement of a stranger. Interestingly, my friend told me that she had never done that before but that it had powerfully affected her. She felt stronger and happier immediately.
When Beth’s court case came up, Beth said she felt this enormous peace and wasn’t sad in the least. Beth feels so grateful for the opportunity to see Gina and to learn from her. She feels that her meeting with Gina was a life saver and has been using that experience to practice gratefulness and courage ever since.
Lean On Those Around You
Anytime you look around you, you can find inspiration and meaning. In fact, when things are the hardest or the most difficult is when the learning can be the most powerful. Girlfriends and the support of your soul sisters can make a huge difference. Research shows that hanging out and getting support from girlfriends in friendship is a powerful antidote to stress.
I am so glad that Beth and Gina were able to turn to each other, even as strangers in this time of need. Are you going through a difficult life situation right now? Have you ever had the experience that Beth had, where when you stopped and powerful learning occurred? Please share.
Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com.