One of the questions I typically ask when I interview women is,
“What do you regard as your most significant accomplishment since your divorce?”
I phrase it this way because I want to hear about an accomplishment that is meaningful to that person and that may be very different from what our society regards as an accomplishment. What’s hard for me may not be hard for you – an accomplishment is very personal.
Occasionally, at the end of an interview while we’re chatting , someone will turn the microphone around and ask me. Up and until now, I haven’t had a good answer and that felt strange, odd, wrong. I felt how could I not know and be writing this blog? Well … as Jolene from To Be Determined quoted so wisely, life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
A couple of things happened last week and all of a sudden I know what my journey has been about … (drum roll, please)….
Learning to honor my feelings.
So what happened last week that made me realize this? It was a traumatic week that centered on a high school drama with my daughter. I’m not going to give you all the gory details – I will tell you that it was not life-threatening but it was emotionally draining. Some friendships have been lost, some friendships strengthened and hopefully some important lessons have been learned.
When this first started to unfold, I decided I would not get involved. I’d wait and let my child handle it. That lasted about thirty-six hours. However, she wasn’t getting any information that would help her understand what had happened and things weren’t making sense, so I got involved. What I learned, left me dumbfounded. I know my daughter has played a part in this and she needs to be accountable for that but the actions of two other adults left me at a loss for words.
I tried to push it to the back of my mind – what’s done is done type of rationale. Then I read something that changed all that. It was my turn to drive the car pool so while I was waiting for the kids I picked up Hindsight: What You Need to Know Before You Drop Your Drawers by MaryAnne Comaroto which I’ll be reviewing soon. Within a few short minutes I’d read Comaroto’s recommendation to spend a few minutes each day listening to your feelings.
She explains that meditation is about quietening the mind but that hadn’t helped her. Instead, she wants you to listen to your body, to feel whatever is inside.
I had come to believe that feelings were a weakness and for wimpy, needy, overly feminine types, not for me. Until, of course, I realized that this stoic, in control, I-can-handle-it attitude was exactly what had cut me off from feeling at all.
That resonated with me. I paused and listened to my feelings. Within seconds, I felt this wave crashing over me, shaking me. I was not doing very well. I was fragile. I needed to cry. I was sad. I was hurt. I felt wronged.
That evening I told my daughter how I was really doing and shared with her what I had learned. She was as upset as I was but we needed to share this. She needed to know I loved her no matter what and I was with her through this. I remembered Debbie saying she’d learned she was not the keeper of her husband’s secrets – I didn’t have to keep this quiet, I didn’t have to be embarrassed by how someone else had treated us. I called a friend and we went out for a drink. It felt so good to talk it over, to verbalize what it was I feeling.
As I lay in bed the next morning, I checked my feelings again …. the fragility had gone, the weight had gone, the sadness was still there but there was calm and peace. I had learned to trust my intuition after my divorce – this was related but different – trusting my gut was a reactive technique. What Comaroto was advocating was proactive.
Later that day, it dawned on me. This was what my journey was about – leaving my corporate job, ending my marriage, going to graduate school, grieving over my father – I hadn’t seen it before but they were all connected. They were all about honoring MY feelings.
This weekend I met Susan for a celebratory birthday lunch. Susan shared her story a few months ago about being separated and waiting to divorce and during our phone interview, we discovered we were born just four days apart! And yes, she turned the microphone on me and this time I was ready with what for me is a significant accomplishment.