While some view life as a journey, others view it as a race. Either way, for most people, life seems to move steadily forward as our lives evolve. However, sometimes, events in our lives can make it feel as though we have been dragged right back to the starting line again.
Divorce is one such event that can not only make us feel like we have been dragged backwards in our lives but it can also ignite a deep-rooted need to come out of the situation on top.
Since my marriage ended, I often find myself feeling angry and disappointed that after all the years that I shared with my husband, I now feel very much back at the start line of life. In an instant, my husband walked out of my life, taking with him my marriage, our future together, my identity and my security.
Sometimes it feels like I was living unaware that I was attached to an invisible bungee cord, naively believing that I was moving forward in life, my husband by my side. When he left me it was like a bolt out of the blue and in an instant that hidden bungee cord, the one that had been stretching and stretching, suddenly and violently snapped me back to the start again. Ouch!
This feeling that I have been propelled back to the start only seems to become heightened when I think about my husband’s life from here on, the next part of his life, that I will play no part in. When I think of him moving on, getting remarried or having a family it creates a deep sense of anxiety and sadness within me. It’s painful and it just feels so cruel and unjust.
Everyone seems to tell me that my husband will one day realise that he has made the biggest mistake of his life. It is so hard to agree with them when faced with my husband’s cold nonchalance and the fact that he is living with the person he left me for, moving his life forward with her.
In response, I sometimes feel this pressure within, a hurried sense of panic to try to get my life back on track, to regain order.
Just lately, I have noticed that I have slowly and subconsciously, entered a race that perhaps I didn’t willingly or knowingly sign up for. I’ve become more and more aware of it with each thought about the mess my life has become, with each cruel reminder that my husband is with another and with an understanding that time is moving on.
When my husband first left me, among all the shock and hurt, oddly, I also felt this indistinguishable fire that was ignited within me. I felt a drive that I’ve never experienced so strongly. A defiant conviction that I would survive, that I would fulfil my dreams, that he would see me become a success (in what I didn’t know). It engulfed me.
What I have come to realise is that this positive drive for survival, can also slowly become an overwhelming need to win some invisible race with your ex partner for ‘end game’ happiness. It can feel all the more unjust and frustrating when they have dragged you back to the start line but have also stolen the head start.
It makes me wonder what it is that fuels the inner need to compete and what we are actually racing for. Maybe it’s a race to prove that we can thrive without their love or maybe it’s a race to find happiness in the face of such hurt and betrayal.
There are both positive and negative aspects to this drive to thrive and need to come out on top.
In a positive way this drive can motivate you to be strong and to overcome the turbulent change in your life. It can be that power that pulls you up from the pit you’re in and helps you to your feet again. It can help you build up your self esteem and realise your dreams again.
The negative aspect of this drive is that it may encourage you to become inpatient to rush clarity back into your life at a time when so much feels uncertain. You may take strides forward before you are really ready to do so. You might begin relationships much quicker than you were really ready to or may try and act like life is so much better than it actually is to give this illusion to others, including your ex.
I know there was a point in the early days of my separation where I became very preoccupied with my husband seeing proof that I was doing just fine without him. For me, this meant going to different places and buying things, tickets or meals, knowing full well that he would see the payments on our statements and that he would then have a glimpse into my new life without him. The irony was that I was doing all of this at a time when I was suffering from panic attacks if I left the home and was barely able to function at the time. The need to prove myself to him was putting me in situations I wasn’t ready to deal with and I was suffering as a result.
Personally, because I was made to feel so powerless, humiliated and insignificant, I also became overly preocupied with the need to become significant, a success. With this came a great deal of pressure at a time when I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. I still want to achieve all of my goals but I now understand that I must first rebuild my life and not run before I can walk. You can become extra hard on yourself at a time when you should in fact be extra gentle. You can see yourself as less than you are and rush to put pressure on yourself to become more.
On the flip side, an ex partner who chose to leave for another, might find themselves accelerating their life too. Whether that be quickly moving on and cementing things with their new partner, before they are truly ready to or filling their lives with new ‘fun’ things and distractions. They may find themselves working very hard to prove to themselves and to others that they have done the right thing in ending their relationship.
Ultimately, this invisible race feels like it should have a winner and a loser and we all want to be the winner, right?
The reality is that we can get so caught up in the ‘winning’ that we lose something along the way, our healing. Skipping the healing process and rushing ahead to win some invisible race can be like rushing to build a house on quick sand. It is ultimately unstable and whatever sits upon it easily sinks.
When we allow ourselves the opportunity to fully heal, we are giving ourselves the chance to reinforce and strengthen our souls, to heal open wounds and build a foundation from which we can go into our future. Anything new we then wish to welcome into our lives will be built upon more solid, stable ground.
When we opt out of this ‘race’ we stop channeling energy into them and what they are doing and we turn our focus back to ourselves. We find ourselves again. We learn what we are really made of, what makes us tick, what ignites a spark and what we truly want from life.
We owe it to ourselves to take each step at our own pace, for us alone.
We might have been discarded of, left behind, hurt, made to feel not worthy but we are so so very worthy. Worthy of healing, worthy of time and worthy of peace.
We are worth more than the race.
I am determined to stop viewing life as a race that I now have to catch up with and to remember instead, that it truly is a journey and each part counts, each part is shaping me. God has my destination in His hands and for now I need to rest in that.
No racing, no competiting, I have decided that my journey will be about actively seeking out true happiness and joy in my life. It will not be driven by a need to prove anything to anyone else, because this journey is mine alone.