Waiting for someone to fix me didn't work until I realized I was the someone I was waiting for.
I didn't really start my divorce recovery until about a year after my divorce was final. It took that long before I stopped waiting for someone to show me the way.
I read lots of books, worked with a therapist (who thankfully was divorced and understood divorce recovery, joined a divorce support group, and talked with family and friends. Each of these helped, but I kept thinking that somehow one of these would fix me - that something or someone else could make me better.
But I was wrong - really wrong. All anything or anyone outside of me could provide were clues, hints, intimations - nothing so bold as "This is EXACTLY what you, Karen Finn, need to do to feel better, normal and happy again."
The hard truth was that I had to do the thinking, the planning, the learning, the experimenting and the work. I had to feel the pain and go through it. I couldn't heal by proxy.
It was all up to me because it was my life. No matter how much anyone loved and cared for me, they couldn't fix my life for me. It was my job, my responsibility and my life purpose to make my life one that I enjoyed and cherished. My divorce forced me into this realization.
For my life to be worth living - really worth living and savoring every second of - I would have to make it that way. It wasn't going to just happen.
I hesitantly decided I would have to step with both feet into my power if I was ever going to get over my divorce. After having not been my own advocate for the bulk of my life, I was scared and uncertain if I had any power at all to change things because they were just so bad.
I was a wiz at work, but not so much in my personal life. Looking back, I now understand the dichotomy.
At work, I was clear about what was expected of me at work and where I could go. I wasn't so clear about what I wanted in my life. Sure, I'd created personal goals before, but they never seemed real. There wasn't an external infrastructure already in place to make them real so they just never happened.
I came into my power slowly. I decided on small things about my life that I wanted to fix and then relied on experts to help guide me on how to get here as quickly as possible.
One of the first things I decided to fix was how I looked. I felt a bit unfashionable, but I wasn't sure why and, although I was thin, I was flabby. So I hired an image consultant and a personal trainer.
Working with Trudy, my image consultant, opened my eyes to the fact that I'd become frumpy. Very few of my clothes fit me, my haircut wasn't flattering, and I hadn't updated my makeup since I was a teenager! I had really let myself go over the years. Working with Trudy was a lot of fun because I discovered I was beautiful (at least to me).
Working with Manning, my trainer, wasn't quite as much fun. My workouts were hard, but the hardest part was when he confronted me about being anorexic and the work I did to breakthrough my habit of denying myself nutritious food to deal with my stress. Talk about getting real with myself, accepting responsibility and fixing a big problem! Although the work was hard, I can never thank Manning enough for telling me the truth about what it would take for me to achieve my goal of being physically fit.
Both of these experiences helped me realize I was making changes in my life that meant something to me. It didn't matter if they meant anything to anyone else because it wasn't my job to please them. It was my job to please me.
Not everything I tried worked the way I wanted it to. I definitely made some mistakes because I still trusted that others knew what was better for me.
When my best friend from junior high and high school suggested that moving might be a good idea, I listened closely to his opinion instead of asking myself if it was truly right for me. When Brad later invited me to live in his and his wife's guest house until I figured out my own living arrangements in town I interpreted it as them coming to my rescue. Yup, I stepped right back into wanting someone outside of me to fix my life.
Long story short, I quickly learned self-reliance and self-determination were not skills I had mastered yet.
But every single one of the successes and mistakes was mine. They were part of my learning to live my life. And they are pieces of my life that have shaped me into the person I am today.
I used to wonder what my life would be like if I hadn't gotten divorced. Would I have ever woken up to the fact that I'm the one in charge of me and creating my life as I want it? Maybe, but even if I had, I know it would have taken me a lot longer to get through. So, as painful and horrible as it was, I'm thankful for my divorce because it allowed me to start my ongoing discovery of me.
I'm Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
This article first appeared on Marriage.com.