A New Year – A New Normal

by Kim Johnson

January always signals the beginning of a new year. With it comes the idea of a new start.  Out with the old and in with the new. But when you are in the middle of a divorce, having a fresh beginning can seem way out of reach. The pain, uncertainty, frustration, anger, and any other emotions you feel are like chains holding you inside a swirling vortex of chaos.

The Key

Everything associated with going through a divorce is fluid. You already know that life won’t be as you knew it when you were married. Maybe you’ve lost your sense of security or the normalcy you found comfortable. There might be a move to a new location, a new job needed, and determining what’s best for your children can be challenging. Dealing with all the change and loss can be grueling. But there is one thing within your control that can make or break how you survive. The magic key? Accepting the reality of your situation. You can decide to accept what’s happening and make positive changes to move forward. Or you can continue to be dominated by the disorder of your divorce. Making the choice to get off the merry-go-round can help you stop circling the drain and begin to move in a new direction.

The Path to A New Normal

Acknowledging the truth of your circumstance, acceptance, can change the course of your life. This can sound very simple, but many times it is not. Often during a divorce, the anger and frustration comes from the fact you didn’t want it in the first place. On the other hand, maybe you wanted the divorce, but are still mad about the reasons that brought you to that decision. No one gets married believing it will end in divorce down the line. And it’s that struggle which keeps you wrestling with the reality. The energy spent on anger, disappointment and pain is exhausting and you can continue to focus on things you cannot change.

There are many things you don’t control when you go through a divorce. One of the biggest is your ex-spouse’s decisions and how your case proceeds through the legal process. However, this doesn’t take away the power you have over yourself and your choices. Instead of looking at the situation and giving up by saying, “I can’t do this,” you can take control and ask, “What can I change in me to make this better?”  Attitude is the difference. Once you decide and make a change in your approach, you will stop the kneejerk reactions. Instead, you will be able to respond differently, which will affect your circumstances in a positive way.

The Truth About Acceptance

Understanding what acceptance is and what it is not, is important. Simply put, you embrace the reality of your life with a willingness to experience things as they are instead of trying to make them something they will never be. This does not mean, however, that you are supporting and encouraging what is happening. There is a difference.

Acceptance does not mean giving in or giving up. Instead, by choosing to accept the truth, you give yourself permission to: be as you are, feel what you feel, or experience what you’ve experienced without creating unproductive shame or anxiety. The pain might still be there, but some of the suffering will be alleviated. Acceptance is absolutely not passive. It’s realizing your time and effort are best applied elsewhere. This allows you to move on instead of being perpetually stuck in a quagmire of “should haves” and “would haves”.

How to Practice Acceptance

While it is easy to have a general sense of what it means to “accept” something, it is also easy to let resistance become your default reaction to difficult circumstances. Here are some suggestions to help you work toward actively embracing the negatives as they occur.

  • Focus on the positives. Look around and notice the small things, as well as the big things. Many times, the ones we take for granted can be what makes us feel abundant.
  • Be content. Given the hard truths about experiencing divorce does not mean you can’t desire a change in what is happening. It does mean, however, that you can learn to be satisfied with what you have in the present.
  • Forgive yourself if you’re hanging on to guilt. Know that the past is over and there’s nothing you can do about it. And if you don’t let go of it, together with all the burden it carries, you’ll never be free to truly experience new things.
  • Don’t avoid reality. Everyone has a problem they’d love to ignore and finding destructive ways to cope is easy. But, even if you don’t want to deal with an issue just yet, you can still learn to be okay with it just being there. It is way healthier for your mind and soul.
  • Be present. Being in a rush and thinking about yesterday (usually with regrets) or worrying about tomorrow is the norm. So, work to slow down, take a deep breath, and notice what’s going on in the moment. Just see it, feel it, listen to it, and let it be. The peace and calmness you find may surprise you.

A Biblical Perspective on Acceptance

A good Scripture reference for learning to accept your situation is Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Even though divorce was not a part of your plan for your life, this verse tells us God will work things together for your good.  That definitely begs an answer to, “How can this situation be worked for my good?” It’s a valid question. Yet this verse doesn’t say each and every separate painful part of your life by itself is good.

The words “all things” is the key. The difference isn’t looking at each situation by itself. Losing your job, breaking your leg, or wrecking your car are not good things. But when God weaves everything that happens together with every other part of your life, he will create what he knows is ultimately good for you. For instance, what if breaking your leg takes you to a new job or brings a new friendship? What if you find your dream job by losing another job? Look at the circumstances from a bigger perspective.

Think of it like a great recipe. The ingredients don’t taste good eaten by themselves. They must be mixed for the flavor to be yummy. Sometimes you must wait until it’s finished baking for the taste to be just right. It’s all the components together that make it what it is in the end.

Here and Now

Your life may not be what you want at this moment. However, it doesn’t mean it never will be. That’s the benefit of being in a place of acceptance. You can choose to change anger into assent, allow frustration to become contentment and pain can grow into peace. And by practicing your choice to take responsibility for the things you can change and then making those changes, you will soon see your life in a different light.

Celebrate the beginning of this new year by determining to move forward. A new normal awaits and it can be better than you hope.

“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.”            Kathleen Casey Theisen