“Just give her some advice on how to move forward”, my pastor pleaded with me. He seemed to be so impressed with my accomplishments that he encouraged me to help out another member of the congregation seeking guidance. A pastor’s request can leave us feeling obligated, but what did I know about how to encourage a divorced housewife to find a new direction?
Yes, I’m divorced and yes I’ve chosen a whole new journey in my life. I’ve overcome quite a bit, taken some risks, and come out with a new purpose-driven attitude; and I’ve been successful at re-creating myself.
But who am I, and how do I encourage someone else? How would I encourage them to re-create themselves?
All I can do is help them to see what worked for me.
So here are a few things I would say.
Work through the hard the stuff first
Life is never easy and we all have hard stuff we have to deal with. For some of us, the hard stuff can be debilitating if we let it be.
I had a wonderful marriage, wrapped up in a secretive world of sexual abuse. Getting out of the marriage was much easier than dealing with the effects of the trauma and confusion afterwards.
Luckily God gave me an attitude and fortitude to insist that I would not accept a life where post-traumatic stress, nightmares, flashbacks and obsessive compulsive disorder ruled me.
Get professional help; work through what you need to work through. The journey might be long, the work will be tough. You will have setbacks.
People will not understand. You may lose friends and your family support may be less than you’d expect. Work through it anyway. Keep working through it; keep practicing; keep talking; and refuse to give in.
The sun does shine again. God will bring the right people and circumstances into your path.
The days will get easier and the work will make the flashbacks occur less often and the nightmares begin to fade. The OCD will become manageable and your life will begin to include happiness more and more.
If you choose not to work through the hard stuff or maybe you’re just not sure you can, it might be easy to find a distraction, like throwing yourself into work, or choosing a destructive path.
Just know this, the work will need to be done eventually and if you do it first, everything else you do in your life becomes more meaningful sooner.
Choose to live aimlessly but with a purpose of discovery
When I first got divorced, one of my first therapists kept pushing me to get an education. “You should go into Human Resources”, she said, “They make a lot of money”. Lots of people were telling me go to school or advance my career.
I didn’t want to just throw myself into something without knowing what I wanted, so I waited. I tried new things. I joined social groups, charitable organizations, and met new people.
I didn’t feel like I had much of a path. I felt pretty aimless, but what I realize now, is this: Getting outside of my normal routine and trying new things gave God the opportunity to put good people in my life.
I’ve met some incredible people who’ve lifted me up and gave me hope, fascinating people that have done a lot with their lives, been to interesting places and done exemplary things.
I’ve tried to surround myself with people who have achieved, people who’ve overcome and some who are just simply good people. I found that God has a way of putting the right person in your path at just the right time you need them.
All these people were helping me on my path of discovery.
Some people know without a doubt what their passion is, what direction they want to head and what they want to achieve in life. That doesn’t happen for all of us, where we see our purpose and passion so vividly.
I had to learn to listen and pay attention.
Listen and pay attention to the repeating themes
All throughout my life I had this repeating dream. In my dream I was in school and everyone around me was graduating and moving on. Younger students kept arriving getting through school and moving on. I seemed to always be the oldest student and never seemed to be able to finish school. I never understood my dream.
I married young- 19 years old, had two children and started a long career in banking. I didn’t go to college right out of high school, like some of my friends. Banking gave me a great education though and I never seemed to miss college. But the dreams continued and I never gave them much thought.
After 25 years in banking, the economy turned tough in 2008, as we all know. I kept thinking it was finally time for me to go to college and get a degree. Some of banking friends encouraged me to get an accounting degree and bring my banking career to the next step. I tried it. I hated accounting. It was boring; and so I quickly dropped out.
Two years later as the economy was worsening and the credit union I worked for began closing branches, I finally decided I had to take the plunge. I dropped out of banking and took a big risk by going to school full time. There I was in my dream, an older student among a world of twenty year olds.
It took less than 18 months of school and I discovered something that I really always knew about myself. I took a creative writing course and fell in love with words again.
I had earned a journalism scholarship when I was in high school, my senior year. My yearbook staff program director and English teacher had awarded this scholarship to me.
I never used that journalism scholarship.
In high school I was the yearbook staff editor. I was the English department student assistant, editing and grading student’s term papers.
Words have always been important to me.
My mother always chastised me for correcting her and my father’s grammatical mistakes when they spoke. I can’t tell you how many times I got sent to my room for that.
I hate listening to commercials or TV commentators who use their words inappropriately or pronounce them incorrectly.
I love to read and I pay attention to good authors and how good authors influence me as a reader.
I have always written passages from things I read. I reconstruct sentences to see if they might have a different impact when restructured.
I was one of those mothers who insisted to my children “use your words correctly.”
I hated that my mother-in-law made up silly words when she spoke to my kids. It’s not a “sangwich” please say “sandwich” when speaking to my children.
These are the themes that have stuck with me, no matter what I do in life, in what setting, professional or casual, and no matter how young or old I am.
I quickly found a technical communication degree that I could put my passion for writing and communication into practice to make a great living.
Now I have a job writing for a large financial firm. God led me through an aimless path of discovery with a new purpose to communicate to wide audiences. He instilled that theme in me from a very early age.
What is the repeating theme he instilled in you?
Listen and pay attention.
His voice will get stronger throughout your aimless path of discovery.