I went to the library today and walked out with two full arms of books on divorce. My son mockingly asked, “Did you leave any other books on the shelf, or are you convinced that you are the only person who is getting a divorce in this town?”
The books are now tossed on my bed like the plethora of gifts minutes after the unwrapping frenzy on Christmas morning. These books have many similarities to the spectacle on that one morning a year. Some books are still only half-open waiting to get some full attention, some were glanced at and immediately dismissed, and some haven’t been touched. What can I say? I like to have options when it comes to my reading material. If one book does not make me feel like there is a gem of truth in the first glance, I put it down and start another one. If that one doesn’t do it for me, I may flip to the middle of another and take the self-assessment test. This technique called “figuring out what you need when and how you need it in the midst of chaos” pretty much is a metaphor for, oh, I don’t know, all of my life right now.
When I left my family home of over 15 years with a bag of clothes and a few pairs of shoes, not only did my wardrobe suffer, but my ability to make any sort of logical decision was also completely gone. I felt like the Hand of Life picked up the little egg I was living in, cracked it open over the bowl of confusion and desperation, and decided “what the hell” throw it in, shells and all, just to make sure it is as uncomfortable as fucking possible.
One of the books, Making Divorce Work, by Mercer and Wennechuk offers a bunch of practical, thoughtful activities that really can help put a process around the mess to see it in some sort of order. One of the first activities is to make a divorce mission statement. You might think that you have already know the mission: get a divorce. But the authors take it in a different direction by having the reader thoughtfully consider the mission for how you would like your divorce to end. Once this divorce is over, what do you want to be able to look back and say was true about your divorce process? This is what you are doing now; you are getting a divorce. What do you want to focus on that will bring about the long-term results that you desire?
According to the authors, taking time to thoughtfully craft your mission and goals will “keep you on track, which will reduce stress and suffering” through the divorce process. Crafting a thoughtful mission statement “points you in the direction of living in a way that you know will make you proud of yourself.”
I am sharing my first-round draft of my divorce mission here as I follow this first step:
When I look back at my marriage of over 16 years:
I want to have the ability to see the positive outcomes that those years afforded to me and my children. I want to focus on the time that was spent in love and laughter, celebrating our beautiful children, and viewing the struggles as only the catalyst that pushed me to determine what I really had inside of me as a person with potential.
When I look back over the divorce:
My children had every opportunity to be emotionally well-adjusted and develop a healthy acceptance of the divorce and are continually reminded by both parents that this is not their fault.
I was kind, patient and open through the entire process.
My responses and discussions were marked with respect and kindness.
All conversations will be from the perspective of “what is the best for the children.”
We did not have to go to court to settle the divorce, but we were mature and open to working together.
We made financial decisions that are in the best interests of the children.
We spend quality (un-distracted) time together as a family of three.
I will continually try to understand the children’s feeling about divorce, moving, living arrangements and be available to talk to them about their feelings when they are ready, not when I feel like it.
This was the best I could do today considering that my daughter went to therapy and admits she is angry and blames me for the divorce, my son wants to move out and live with his dad, and my ex wants me to pay him part of my paycheck so that he can have equal opportunity to have “fun time” with the kids. Does that last sentence discount everything I just did with the mission statement? If so, I guess I am going to have to start all over again….tomorrow!