Dear Old Dad…How to Survive a Turbulent Childhood

IMG_5841My father passed away when I was ten years old, and to say he wasn’t a perfect parent would be an understatement.  He was both drug and sex addicted, and was rarely at home.  When he was around though, he could be really fun and spontaneous; washing everybody in the neighborhoods hair in the kitchen sink, letting us soap our own windows on Devil’s Night, and putting my sister on top of the refrigerator when she stepped on a nail and then proceeding to soak her foot in cottage cheese.

And then there was the other side…

He could be incredibly volatile; screaming at us in the back seat of the car to “shut the bleep up” while he took a hit off of a joint (with the windows up), ordering my brother to go upstairs to get the belt out of his closet so he could whoop my brother (that had to be the longest walk ever), and losing his mind because after scrambling some eggs, he decided to get creative and flip the eggs in the air, and they went all over the floor (I’m not sure he thought that one out).  His behavior was erratic and we walked on egg shells whenever he was around.  He scared the heck out of me, and to this day I have PTSD-like symptoms when I’m around somebody who exhibits excessive mood swings.

He was far from perfect, but today I can say with confidence that he did his best. 

Now, it took me a very long time to buy into this “he did his best” concept.  It felt like a cop-out at first. “Why couldn’t he do better?” I would think to myself.  “He had to know better.”  “He had to know he was hurting us, and himself.”  “He had to know the drugs and his decisions were tearing our family apart.”  But in truth, he was a broken man who didn’t know how to do better or he would have.  His parents never taught him how to love, and when my dad was a very young boy his mother gave him and his siblings the responsibility of watching over their even younger brother, who sadly got hit by a car and died on their watch.  His mother blamed them, and there was tremendous guilt and shame in the family after he died.  It was clear that my father never found a way to forgive himself.

I felt a huge weight lift off of me once I understood where my father was coming from and why he acted the way he did.  I felt even better once I was able to forgive him because I knew in my heart he did his best.  And yet, I still felt a lot of anger and sadness around it, so of course, I had no place left to look but inside.

What were the stories I was still holding on to in relation to my dad? 

What were my expectations when it came to my dad?  (Expectations are something that often cause me suffering, so I knew there was something related to expectation at the bottom of this).

I’ve never met a perfect parent.  I certainly am not, my kids would be the first to tell you, but I can say for certain that I am 100% committed to showing my kids that they are loved. Unfortunately, my father was not quite as committed.   As a result, most of my life, I longed for the type of love I thought the perfect father would provide.  I longed to be loved by a father with great strength, who spent his days committed to his family and who would do just about anything to protect them.  I longed for a father who would give sage advice, who would show me I was loved, who would walk me down the aisle at my wedding, who would look at me with pride in his eyes the way father’s do when they’re watching their children, and most of all, who would show me that I’m worthy. 

I continued to experience anger and sadness until I was willing to look at these stories to see how they were holding these feelings securely inside of me.  What I came away with, after doing some digging, was that it was my job to love me, to know my worth, to be proud of myself, to trust in my own instincts and to know what’s best for me.  This was revolutionary!  But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that nobody else could possibly know what is best for me or give me what my own intuition naturally provides.  And once I took responsibility for my own life, I found great strength in becoming that provider and protector of myself and my family. 

One final step…I still wasn’t there.

Like my father, I still needed to forgive myself.  I needed forgive myself for believing the stories I told myself.  I needed to forgive myself for waiting around for somebody else to rescue me and guide me, when I already had all of the tools I needed to do that for myself.  I needed to forgive myself for believing that all fathers are perfect, all knowing and loving beings.  Most of all, I needed to forgive myself for believing that my father should have put his family first before his addictions and pain.  That was just not the reality – because he didn’t. 

Once I peeked under the hood of my stories, pinpointed my unrealistic expectations, forgave myself for my false beliefs, saw my father for who he really was and forgave my father, I felt free.  Ironically, this path lead me to be more forgiving of myself as a parent, because like my father, I am doing my best. 

Get your Ugly Face on!! #22

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

Get your Ugly Face on!!

Feelings come up and we ignore them, push them down, smile and pretend like everything is A-Okay because everybody around us “appears” so happy, except they aren’t.  I recall vividly stuffing my feelings down as early as 5 years old with my drug of choice; cake batter. The following 35 years or so I spent eating as a means of avoiding feelings. I became an expert at numbing myself the minute I started to feel “badly”; cookie dough, brownie batter, hmmmm…I’m sensing a theme.

I remember Byron Katie, an amazing teacher of mine, saying that feelings come up to say goodbye. It is so true! I think crying gets a bad rap. Crying is one of our greatest, and most underused tools we have to help us heal our grief and grow to our potential. I think many of us, me included at times, think something terrible is going to happen if we cry, like our head is going to explode or we are going to break down, never to return to normal, but in fact, it’s the exact opposite. It is the one thing that can bring us back to “normal”. I haven’t done the research yet, but I am pretty sure nobody has ever died from crying. If we take the time to nurture ourselves, and find a quiet spot to go every time we needed to cry and just let that shit out, we would feel so much better!

I ptheholidayrefer to be alone when I’m crying, making crazy ugly faces, boogers coming out of my nose, mascara running down my face, and frankly people get uncomfortable when they see others cry.  If I’m watching a chick flick while my kids are at home they have a radar for the exact moment I’m about to cry, and they call me on it every time!  It really takes the fun out of it. Sometimes I know I need a good cry so I’ll purposely turn on a chick flick to get the tears to start flowing.  The Holiday is my 100% guaranteed, I’m going to cry for sure, movie. Music is another amazing tool for helping me to cry if I’m feeling stressed and I can’t cry.  MacKenzie Bourg from American Idol is my top choice for music these days. Something about his voice is so beautiful it just gets the tears rollin’.

Crying actually feels good, similar to that of laughing, especially when you’re finished and your face goes back to normal.  I noticed this after I lost my daughter.  I cried as much and as often as I could because I noticed that the more I got out, the better I started to feel in between the sad days. The way I see it is “the closest distance between two points is a straight line”, point A is the loss, point B is feeling better, crying is the straight liScreen Shot 2016-05-23 at 11.57.37 AMne (avoiding feelings is Mount Everest).

Sometimes I cry for other reasons like because I’m proud of somebody, or because I’m really feeling grateful about something, or because a Hallmark commercial comes on. In any case, it all feels pretty good if I let it come up and take its natural course.

Life has its challenges, and in spite of that, we walk around being strong, with a stiff upper lip, dusting our pants off and getting back up, and singing “I will Survive”. But sometimes, we just need a good cry. We need to really feel whatever is going on inside of us and let it all come out. Our bodies carry the stress inside and its giving us signals all the time to do something about it, and we ignore it. Until, if you’re like me, you wake up one morning with breast cancer, and then you think “Shit, I should have listened to my body and let that shit out!”

Ooooommmmmm… #7

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

Oooooommmmmm…

When I was ten years old, I vividly remember coming down the stairs to leave for the dentist office before school when my mom told us that our dad died. I don’t recall crying or even really feeling anything in particular. My dad was not exactly “present” in our lives, physically or mentally.

Despite the hippie upbringing, when my dad died we really didn’t talk about it. It was business as usual; back to school, play with friends, etc. We definitely didn’t go to therapy. It was 1975 and sweeping things under the rug seemed to be modus operandi. We did however go to TM, Transcendental Meditation, we were hippies after all. We learned how to mediate and even got our very own secret “Mantra” – a word one focuses on while meditating. To this day my siblings and I laugh about how we have never told anybody our secret mantra, joking about how we all probably have the same one. Maybe that’s only funny to us though.

While the whole “meditation thing” seemed really weird when I was ten years old, and definitely didn’t replace much needed therapy, but I am grateful today because I have a regular meditation practice that I can’t imagine living without. Meditation along with yoga keeps me sane, most of the time. It’s my happy hour, my anti-depressant, my unconditional love for me. It allows me to slow the thoughts down and choose my reactions. I notice when I don’t have time to meditate or do yoga for a while, it becomes challenging to tame the monkey mind, and I see the crazy mind coming my way; overreacting, believing the stories, making assumptions, etc.

Meditation simply makes me feel good, better than any drug I’ve taken, and I’ve taken a few in my day. My kids ask me why I don’t drink or take drugs, and the truth is because nothing makes me feel as good as yoga and meditation.

Should a Couple Stay Together for the Sake of the Children

Should people stay married for the sake of their children? I asked myself that very question when I was considering leaving my ex, Eric. Deciding to get divorced is never an easy decision to make. I agonized over it for 2 years before making a final decision as did many of my friends in their relationships. It is such a hard decision to make especially when you have children. There is so much more at stake when kids are involved.

So, being the logical person that I tend to be, I sat down and thought about what made sense to me. I looked at our relationship which went from good friends and lovers to two angry, depressed people running a household together as if it were a business. I thought about the atmosphere in my house and I noticed that the air was quite thick, there was very little civil conversation going on and my ex and I spent a whole lot of time clenching our jaws when we were there together. We argued a lot over the little things and we screamed at each often. After careful consideration and contemplation, I decided that I needed to get my kids out of that toxic environment.

Not every couple that gets divorced has built up enough resentment to create this toxic atmosphere, but many have. I have had the unfortunate occasion to have been approached by at least 25 or 30 married men (no kidding) looking to have an affair. I’m quite interested in how people think and behave, as well as relationships and how they work, so I always asked “Why?” The story was always the same! We got married, had kids, the wife got tired because she was caring for small children, handling the household details and often working. The husband was exhausted because he was working long hours providing for the family. The sex life decreased significantly and the resentment built on both sides. The more resentment, the less the husband would help around the house, the more tired the wife grew and the less frequent the sex would become. The friendship they built went out the window. Eventually, the men in my scenario found other people to meet their sexual needs and didn’t even consider trying to “fix” things with their wives as an option. It is uncanny how similar their stories were.

I also asked why they didn’t leave the relationships if they were so unhappy. Every single one of them said that they wanted to stay together “for the sake of the children.” It really got me to thinking, is this truly the best thing for these kids?

I am no psychologist, but I have done my own informal “research” and I have come to the conclusion that it is not necessarily the best thing for the kids. I know you are fuming right now, but hear me out.

What are we teaching our children when we stay in a loveless, sexless marriage where there is minimal communication? From what I can tell, we are teaching them to settle for less than what makes them truly happy, and folks LIFE IS SHORT! We are teaching them that a hostile environment is the norm for a marriage and that is what they should expect. We are teaching them to expect very little from marriage and relationships. It is very likely that our children will one day have relationships just like ours despite doing everything in their power not to. We followed in our parent’s footsteps even when we tried not to, didn’t we? We are modeling the behavior of two hostile adults that chose ignoring a problem, suffering through it and pretending to be happy versus talking and working it out, or splitting up and being two happy separate people. Our kids don’t have a chance for a successful relationship; they haven’t learned how to communicate with the opposite sex successfully.

Our kids know everything! Don’t think your kids don’t know how unhappy you are because you will only be fooling yourself and doing them a disservice. I know several couples that have chosen to stay together for the sake of their children and they continue to scream as their main source of communication. Kids follow our actions, NOT our words. The adults scream, their kids scream, the kids even scream at their parents. It’s a horrible environment to visit; I can only imagine what it is like to live there.

I can’t say for sure what is right for every situation, but I do know that most of my friends and I all have all had civil divorces after not so civil marriages and we have what appear to be happy, well-adjusted children. At the very least, it’s worth your reconsideration, isn’t it? It beats the alternative.

My Cinderella Story Gone Wrong

Cinderella is one of the leading causes of divorce. If you don’t believe me, read on…

Most women grow up with Disney’s version of a storybook romance fueling their desire to fall in love, get married, have children and live happily ever after. Once we are a little older we continue on our path with movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman and The Holiday keeping our fantasies alive. We almost have no chance; we are pumped with romance not only in movies, but in novels, magazines and of course societal pressure to get married before we become old maids. What’s a girl to do? 

We finally meet a guy that seems worthy of our love and we get married. We plan a big wedding and get lost in the excitement of it all. Unfortunately, nobody really tells you that marriage takes a lot of work and dedication, they simply congratulate you.

I was no different. I bought into the whole handsome prince taking me away on his white horse nonsense and I liked it. It’s exciting to think about actually. I met my prince and he was a good guy. I had a ball planning my wedding. I got so busy planning my wedding that I forgot to pay attention to my relationship.

Several years and a few kids into my marriage I decided I wasn’t happy because my ex wasn’t the prince I thought he was going to be. In other words, he didn’t sweep me off my feet each day, tell me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me, buy me lots of big expensive gifts, fly me all over the world showing me all that life had to offer and oh yea, he didn’t help me with all of the extensive details required in running a household and raising little kids. Most of all, he didn’t “make me happy” like the prince is supposed to do.  Or so I thought…Looking back he was a great prince and he did buy me nice things, take me away on nice vacations and buy me a very  nice home to raise out kids in.  I didn’t see it though because I was so buried in my story that I couldn’t see my reality.

I saw those princesses dancing around and singing when they thought about the man they loved and I wasn’t singing or dancing. In fact, I was kind of depressed. I built up years of resentment that made matters even worse.

What I didn’t realize until a year or two after I got divorced was that I was the one who was supposed to “make me happy.” Go figure. All those years I blamed him for not making me happy and it wasn’t even his job. This is a common misconception in relationships on both sides, actually. We so often look outside of ourselves for happiness and in reality; the only person who can make us happy is ourselves. Unfortunately, it is often after the divorce that many people learn this lesson, if ever.

The man in cases like these is often shocked and surprised by the fact that his wife is going to leave him. He thought everything was going along fine. The house was clean, dinner was on the table and he had the house, the wife, the dog and 2.3 kids. He had no idea he was even playing the role of the prince, let alone what the job requirements were. How was he supposed to do the right thing when he didn’t know what that meant? He went off to work each day, working hard to provide for his family like every young man is taught to do. He is told by the men in his life that if he worked hard to get ahead and provide for his family everything would be great.

While I was married I lost my identity and my individuality. I got so busy trying to be the perfect wife and mother that I forgot to take care of me. I forgot what I stood for and what made me who I was. I spent the last 5 years figuring out what makes me happy and becoming the responsible party for making me happy. I urge you to take time after your divorce to “find yourself.” Figure out what makes you happy. Many women lose themselves in relationships and forget what is important to them. Do some exploring and figure out what you really want in a relationship before you get into another one? There is no point in getting into another relationship and making the same mistakes you made in the first one. What’s the hurry? Take some time for yourself and get to know yourself again. I’m willing to bet that you will like the person you find. The time it takes will be worth it because it will shape your future-don’t repeat the past.

Finding Peace…

“Those who think that the world is a dark place are blind to the light that might illuminate their lives. Those who see the light of the world view the dark spots as merely potential light.” Wayne W. Dyer

When you look around the world today you’ll notice people seem to be really stuck, feeling as if they just aren’t sure how to get unstuck. They are living in fear of their future and the world they live in, and they are living in the past, not sure how to let it go. It takes time and practice, and what better way to spend your time than to spend it finding your peace of mind. Here are four key ingredients that will help get you moving out of paralysis and into your present.

In order for change to take place in your life though you need to be open to seeing things from a new perspective. As simple as that sounds, our egos can really give us a hard time when we want to make a change. So be kind, thank your ego for trying to help out and let it know that you won’t be needing it at this time.

RESPONSIBILITY

The first thing we need to be aware of is that every single thing in our lives is our responsibility. This is hard to swallow for us because we look back at our lives and think “how can I be responsibility for somebody hurting me or for the negative atmosphere at my job, etc.” The fact is we are responsible for the way others treat us and for everything in our lives. Once you accept this and internalize it, life will begin to shift for you.

Nobody can treat us anyway unless we let them. Think of any situation in your life; a bad relationship, a difficult child, an unsatisfying job, etc. Take a good look at the situation and see what you bring to the table. Are you doing your best at your job? Are you looking for more satisfying work? Are you kind to the person you are in a bad relationship with? Do you treat the people in your life the way you wish to be treated? Are you a good example for the child in your life? Be honest. Go deep inside and see what your contribution is. And then, stop it. Be the change. Don’t wait for the other person or the situation to change. Only you can change it. Stay in your business and work on you and the world around you will begin to open up and feel lighter and brighter. When you take the blame away from the world outside and take responsibility (not blame) for it, then and only then, can the situation change and heal. And then you can move forward out of the blame and into the peace where you belong.

If you are in a relationship that isn’t working and you aren’t feeling valued, how is that the other person’s fault? You are the person staying in the relationship. You most likely are not handcuffed to the other person and have the choice to stay or leave. So whose responsibility is it for your unhappiness? Yours.

If you are at a job that is stressful or unsatisfying, it’s easy to say “My boss is a jerk, it’s his fault,” or “My co-workers don’t work as hard as I do so I have to pick up their slack and work overtime,” or “The environment is toxic at my office.” You can blame for days and you will never feel better inside. It’s your choice to stay. It’s your choice to react to the environment. It’s your choice to contribute to the environment. Most importantly, it’s your choice to see it as negative. I’m not sure of the exact quote, but Dr. Wayne Dyer always says “If you see the universe as a friendly, you will be right. If you see the universe as hostile, you will be right.” So know that how you choose to see the world is entirely up to you. I have seen it from both perspectives in my life and I can tell you first hand that knowing that we live in a friendly universe has taught me to see the good in everything.

If you are truly honest with yourself, you will find your part in every situation. Once you recognize your part you will be free to let go of the blame you give to others and work towards forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS

Now that you see your part in any given situation, you can be open to forgive the person or situation you have been blaming. Blame is one of the two things that is causing the stress and anxiety, and you will want to kiss it goodbye forever. Your beliefs about how the world should be and how people should act are the second thing causing feelings of stress inside of you. Your actions are your business, their actions are theirs. Stay in your business. It’s time to forgive and let it go.

Every person in every situation is doing the best they know how in every moment. If they could do better, they would. People only know what they know until they know more. So their actions and behavior are limited to their knowledge, understanding and beliefs that they have in their lives; just like you. If somebody is hitting you, for example, it’s very likely because somebody taught them to respond that way when they are angry, and they haven’t learned an alternative way to communicate their frustrations yet. It’s unfortunate, yes, but this is all they know. If they knew how to sit down and have a nice verbal conversation over a cup of green tea, they would.

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
Wayne W. Dyer

So here is where you come in. You can choose to stay in the abusive relationship or leave. Your choice, your responsibility. I know it’s not easy; I’ve been in situations that were difficult to leave. I wasn’t able to see the beauty and light on the other side of the decision so I had to take a leap of faith and know that it was going to work itself out. I had to know that I was going to grow as a person for having made the decision. I had to face my fears head on. And every time I have, I have felt the weight on my shoulders lighten. I have felt more fulfilled and at peace.

We do not have any power over how people act towards us, that’s their business. We only have power over how we react to them. We can spend our lives trying to change others, hitting our heads against a brick wall, or we can change ourselves and watch the stress wash away from us like the waves on the sand. We accomplish this by forgiving them.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who has done you wrong; it has to do with you. When we have anger inside towards a person or a situation, it doesn’t hurt them. They don’t feel your pain. Your pain radiates inside of you, causing depression, disease, stress and anxiety. The purpose of forgiveness is to get that out of you. Know that the other person did the best they knew how and send them love and pray that they will gain wisdom to do better the next time.

Take responsibility for your part and then forgive yourself too, for you did the best you knew how in that moment as well. Set it free. Holding onto it and reliving it does not serve you. Forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving the other person.

THE GIFT IN EVERY SITUATION

Every moment, every situation and every person that enters our lives is a gift. The people who come into our lives give us ‘the gift’ of showing us what we still need to work on to grow and to find the freedom we are searching for. Rather than being angry with them, consider thanking them for helping you to move closer to finding the peace in your heart.

We are faced with people who frustrate us and push our buttons. We react and blame them for being the way they are. Here is where you have to be open to changing your perspective. Let’s say for example that a husband and wife are arguing and the husband is thinking how his wife is selfish and if she were only more giving in the relationship he would be happy. What if his wife quietly held up a sign that said, “Baby, I love you, and today you need to work on being more giving in our relationship. If you do, you will be happier.” That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Instead, she acts selfishly and shows him by being his mirror. She is acting out for him what he needs to learn about himself.

Anytime somebody acts in a way that pushes your buttons, your first thought could be “Hmmm, what am I supposed to be learning here?” Give yourself a moment to breathe and contemplate that. Ask yourself “What about the way the other person is acting is getting to me and then where can I see that in myself?“ People often struggle with this part I’ve noticed because they choose not to dig deep and be honest with themselves. Consider this though, if somebody is stealing money from you, you may say I have never stolen anything from anybody in my life. But have you stolen anybody’s time, energy, thoughts, excitement, joy? Have you stolen your own joy by being negative saying things like “it won’t last?” Think outside the box, it’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples mirror. As soon as you see it though the anxiety will begin to fade away, and you will begin to feel calm and at peace. It’s pretty cool.

FAITH

I will never forget the moment I chose to have faith in my life. I spent roughly thirty years (age 11-41) as an angry young lady, blaming anybody and everything for my life and how unhappy I was. I was speaking to my teacher, Moshe, and he said to me “Karen, you have lived forty years your way, and it hasn’t worked for you. What do you have to lose by having faith?” This was a pivotal moment for me. Two sentences changed my life forever. I never considered that there was an alternative to “my way.” I decided to give it a try and started telling myself that I believed, just to test it out. I’m pretty analytical girl so I needed proof. But I said it like I believed it, even though I didn’t yet. As a result, I saw beautiful gradual change taking place in my life.

Eight years later and continually working on having full faith, I can honestly say my life has never been better. I have more peace in my heart than ever before. I live by the belief that God, the Universe, Source, whatever you chose to call it, has a much bigger, better plan than I could ever imagine. I no longer have the need or desire to make those calls. I know that I am in good hands and I focus my time and energy on being the best possible source of love and light for the world. We cannot expect one world leader, or group, to change our world. We have to be able to change ourselves if we want to see a change in our world.

There is a lot of guidance available out there to get you out of your “mind maze” so that you can get unstuck and start to move forward into peace and fulfillment. Every person resonates with their own unique blend of spirituality, wisdom and/or religion, so don’t be afraid to explore and find what fits you. There isn’t a one size fits all, it’s unique to each of us. Get out there and explore. You will know in your gut if something feels right and if it doesn’t, ask for guidance and keep looking. It is available to all of us.

Ten Strategies for Keeping your Cool During Divorce

1. Eat Healthy: This a stressful time and it is easy to reach for unhealthy, comfort foods. I’m living proof that this isn’t a good idea. This is a time that you need to maximize your good days. If you are eating large amounts of sugar and fried foods or drinking a lot of caffeine, there is a good chance your moods will swing like a chandelier. This will guarantee less good days. One day you’ll want to date again, and you will want to look your best when that day comes!

2. Exercise Regularly: You will likely have more free time to yourself as a result of your separation. Use this time to get into an exercise program. Exercise promotes endorphins which tend to lift our spirits naturally. I prefer yoga. It works my entire body and calms my mind. No matter how stressed I may feel going in, I always leave feeling relaxed.

3. Meditate: You have a lot to consider right now and your mind may feel like it’s racing even more than normal. Meditation is a great way to quiet your mind and, as a result, you’ll make better decisions and feel more relaxed. If you are unsure how to meditate there are websites such as www.tm.org that can direct you. Anybody can do it and it’s well worth your time.

4. Avoid Excessive Alcohol: I have no idea how much alcohol is excessive for you, but you do if you are honest with yourself. If you are drinking more than you know you should then stop it! Alcohol is a natural depressant. The last thing you need at a time like this is to feel more down than you do. And by all means, DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE WITH YOUR KIDS IN THE CAR! I know this sounds ridiculous to bring this up, but I know of many people who do this on a regular basis.

5. Avoid Excessive Drugs: You know what you are taking and whether it is good for you or not, it’s not my job to tell you what to take. Just keep this in mind: drugs cause mood fluctuations which result in irrational decisions that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. And don’t forget, your kids know everything you’re doing-really!

6. Breathe: Before you make any decisions or answer any questions posed by either your lawyer or your ex, TAKE 10 LONG, SLOW DEEP BREATHS IN AND OUT. Think about what the best thing is for all involved and if there is a compromise you might suggest if you don’t agree with something.

7. Take the High Road: Nothing is EVER gained by revenge! You never win with vengeance as your motive. Keep in mind that we are all human beings that continually make mistakes and learn from them; nobody gets to skip being human, not even you. Don’t forget, forgiving isn’t about the other person, it’s about you and getting the negativity out of you.

8. Volunteer Your Time: When we are helping somebody else, we get out of our heads where our problems live. You automatically feel better once you start helping others. It’s a win-win.

9. Interview Several Lawyers: Find a lawyer that shares your values. If you hire someone who wants to “bury your ex” and you want a quick, amicable divorce, this could be a very long road for you. It’s best to be on the same page as your attorney. Keep in mind, anybody that thinks “burying your ex” is a good idea probably has your bank account as their motivator.

10. Respect yourself, your kids and your ex-spouse: Don’t play games! Get in and get out quickly. Be amicable and fair and don’t be afraid to compromise. Nobody wins when you and your spouse spend time in court fighting, except for your lawyers and they are typically quite happy. Replace any anger you get from your ex with love. You’d be surprised how quickly people can turn around when you aren’t fighting back. Mama always said “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”