Who's writing your story? You know, the story about who you are. The story about your partner, your children, your family, your friends. What story are you telling about your career? What story are you telling yourself about the situations you are currently facing and how you are handling them? Are you choosing to stick with this story because it is far more comfortable than the unknown? Are you choosing to hold on to your current story because you feel stuck? Are you really stuck?
Holding onto stories is what keeps us trapped in unhappy, unhealthy relationships and lifestyles. Refusing to let go of those stories is how we convince ourselves to stay with people and in places we have outgrown. Stories are how we trick ourselves into believing we are happy even when our most basic emotional needs aren’t being met.
But stories are just that, they are stories. They are the prose of protection that we fabricate to make sense of our lives but if we are the author of our story and we are writing the script that also means we have the power to change the narrative and rewrite the story to be one that is completely different and much more fulfilling.
Whenever I have to make a difficult life decision I ask myself one simple question. “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” It's not original, you’ve probably heard it before but here’s the thing. It works. For me, the answer is typically immediate, authentic and obvious.
I got tired of allowing fear to be the author in my life. The stories I was telling myself were all under the guidance of fear. Fear had convinced me that it was safer to stay living in the certainty of a bad situation rather than seek out the uncertainty of a new one, but the biggest problem with letting fear write my story was that it completely stripped me of my freedom. When we live in fear, we aren’t free to make our own decisions and when we make decisions based on fear, most of the time, those decisions don’t look anything like what we would decide if we felt truly free to decide.
For years I wrestled with the decision to stay in my marriage or get divorced and despite the truth that my marriage was suffocating my spirit, it was still scary to think about leaving it behind. Even though there had been abuse, deception and other serious issues that just about anyone in their right mind would tell you to walk away from, there was still security in knowing what struggles I was facing and safety in knowing what I could expect. I was afraid of not being able to manage my career and my daughters’ needs. I was afraid of what my family and friends would think. I was afraid of how my ex would react. I was afraid of people I don’t even know and who don’t even matter judging me. I was afraid I’d never find love again. But worst of all, I was afraid that my children would never forgive me.
But here’s the funny thing about all those fears, in the end, none of them are actually part of my story. What I discovered is that fear isn’t about what will happen, it's just about what might happen and in most cases, fear is just fiction. What I discovered was that despite how very real my fears felt, none of the worst case scenario conclusions I had come up with actually became my reality. Sure, my ex was quite unhappy with my choice to walk away but to my surprise my family and friends were beyond supportive and our daughters’, well, let’s just say they don’t blame me, in fact, to my surprise, they told me a number of times that they are proud of me and how I handled it. And those people, the ones I don’t even know, well, let’s just say I finally realized that their opinions don’t matter and even if they are judging me, it has no impact on my life.
I wish I could say I am fearless but I’m not. I ust made a decision to do it afraid. There is no crystal ball that would have shown me what my life would look like post-divorce. I just had to make the decision based on faith. Faith that I can make it. Faith that I would figure it out. Faith that the people who love me would stand by me and the people who love my girls would always put them first, no matter what they thought of my decision. Faith that I would find a way to forgive myself, to heal myself, to love myself and someday, maybe, with some time, fall in love again. The story I used to tell myself was that getting divorced would mean I had failed. Looking in the rear view mirror, I see that couldn't possibly be more untrue. How could discovering my courage, resilience and strength be a failure?
I learned so much about myself in the process. I learned to stand up for myself in a way that I could be proud of. I discovered I can hold it together and do something incredibly hard with a well defined strategy. I made every decision with tremendous emotional intelligence and I detached with integrity. I found out that I am far more spiritually aligned than I could have ever imagined. I unearthed my self love, my ability to trust myself completely and to step into my personal power. I learned that there is a light inside me that can shine on the darkest days and that I have the tenacity to overcome any obstacle put in my path.
As somebody who identifies as a recovering perfectionist, it took true courage to admit that my marriage wasn’t working. It took tremendous bravery to decide to strike out on my own. It took fortitude to stop believing the stories I was telling myself and a warrior spirit to be willing to write a new one. It has taken some resilience to start over and time to gain momentum. It took grit and real guts to admit that what I was doing wasn't working and to want something different for myself and for my kids. It required authenticity and true vulnerability for me to admit that I was a really big part of the problem, that I didn’t like who I had become and to do the work necessary to become a better version of myself.
Letting go of my marriage required me to get real about my story and in letting go of that story, I gained the opportunity to write a new one but, what has been the most exciting part of this chapter has been discovering a whole new me that I didn’t even know existed. See, there was nothing easy or fearless about choosing to change course but when I finally accepted that what I was doing wasn’t working and that I had to do something different, it felt liberating, empowering and refreshing to love myself enough to let go and choose courage to be the author of my next chapter.