by Tami Sollo LCSW, Coordinator of the JCFS Divorce Specialty Center
In the world before the pandemic, I was planning a major life event. I had been planning and thinking about it for the better part of a year. I was immersed in thoughts about it.
Then March rolled in and before it was over the entire economy was shut down and we were stuck at home. At the beginning I did not want to believe that it would last long enough to affect my plans. I had kicked my organizational skills into high gear. I was on top of everything, and ready to go well ahead of time. Then the Stay at Home Order was extended, and I began to entertain the possibility that my plans were going to have to be adjusted. Suddenly my plans came to a screeching halt. It was going to take some serious self-exploration to find a way to let go of the space it had been occupying in my head for the past several months. I felt angry and cheated. How could the universe have been so cruel? It took several long conversations with myself before I was able to let it go. Eventually I realized that although I had no idea when or where it was going to happen, it was going to happen. It just was not going to look like I had imagined. I had to figure out a way to be comfortable with that. For a woman that really enjoys orderliness, it turned out to be an acquired skill.
It’s hard to believe six weeks have passed since the official Stay at Home Order was issued. In some ways it seems longer, but we have been tasked with having to figure out how to adapt to this new reality. Many of us have settled into a new norm. It has brought out aspects of our personalities that we could never have imagined. For those of you who are somewhere on the divorce continuum, the uncertainty that was intrinsic to divorce in the world before COVID-19, combined with our current obstacles, can be hard to handle. For some it is nearly impossible. Under the best of circumstances divorce is all about uncertainty. As a therapist working with families going through this process, I have had the opportunity to assist people to walk through their fear of the unknown and make choices that will result in a new, more fulfilling life. Take advantage of this time of isolation to work toward a new, improved relationship with yourself. Divorce is going to change your life, for better or worse, the only certain thing is that it will change. You can either accept that reality, or you can fight it. How well you can handle the loss of control will clearly determine how you will come out on the other side.
How do we let go of the need to control the outcome? I think it begins with understanding that the only thing you really can control is how you react to people and other stressors. Once you internalize that, others will not have power over you. Imagine you’re having an argument with your partner or ex. Most partners are experts in pushing your buttons. Imagine you held back for just a minute, took a few deep breaths, and thought about how to respond. When you take the time to think through your next move, you are ensuring that you will end up with a different result. It’s a lot like making a smoothie. Substitute banana for strawberry and your concoction will come out differently. You can use this same tool to have that long conversation with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling in this moment. This will shift your focus to the present, rather than living in the past or future. Our automatic responses are based in old, distorted thinking and rooted in vague, unintelligible messages.
Somewhere in-the-midst of any kind of healing lies acceptance. Most emotional pain comes from not accepting what is. We can spend our time enveloped in thoughts about the universe having a personal vendetta against us, or we can figure out a way to put on our walking shoes, put one foot in front of the other and take a step forward.
As always, stay safe and take good care!
You can email Tami Sollo with questions, comments, or if you just need someone to talk to.