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Christine R. Andola: “Plug into your support system”

Plug into your support system. The longer you were married, the harder it may be to find those people who love you for you, but they’re out there. I can remember crying on the phone to my sister during my second divorce that no one loved me. I must be unlovable. She pointed out to […]

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Plug into your support system. The longer you were married, the harder it may be to find those people who love you for you, but they’re out there. I can remember crying on the phone to my sister during my second divorce that no one loved me. I must be unlovable. She pointed out to me that her calling every day and listening to me cry was an act of love. Our aunt who took me in that fateful night and kept me for several months thereafter was also on my love-team. My ex-sister-in-law who talked my ex-husband into letting her remove all of my clothing and personal effects from the house (without him throwing a temper-tantrum) loves me. For that matter, anyone who held me while I ugly-cried with snot running down my face was definitely expressing love.


As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Andola.

Christine R. Andola, a spunky woman in her forties, is a freelance writer and native of Central New York who has been published in several regional and online magazines. She covers food, health, business and more. To find out about her first book, “Who Knew?: Lessons from My First 40 Years,” please visit her website: www.ChristineRAndola.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I had an ideal suburban childhood. My mother was a teacher; my father was an educational administrator. They loved each other and were best friends. They used to get up early and have coffee together every morning. On weekends, that was when they would plan projects around the house or family outings. They were like giddy children when they were planning a trip or a party together. Sometimes the neighbors would comment about the fact that they still held hands when they went for a walk.

(Hard to believe that I didn’t learn enough from growing up with my parents to sustain a marriage myself.)

We visited my grandparents at least once a month. I had a close relationship with all four of my grandparents, although they were very different. My father’s parents were almost a full generation older than my mother’s, and they lived on opposite sides of the tracks. I enjoyed them all, though. I got a lot of attention because I was the first and only grandchild for four years. My father’s parents spoiled me with gifts; I had my own skis before I turned four, a pedal car before I could walk and a full set of play kitchen appliances. My mother’s parents spoiled me with experiences; they took me on day trips to Howe Caverns, Story Land and The North Pole.

My mother established her dominance in our house. She used to say when you are at grandma’s you do things her way, but when you’re home, you follow our rules. She did a good job of getting along with both of my grandmothers and hiding any friction they caused. My grandmothers, however, did not get along with each other and did not try too hard to hide it.

When it came to my sisters, my parents used to say that they didn’t give us the same things, but they gave us what we needed. They recognized that we were each different and needed different types of love and support. We were not raised to be competitive with one another. Instead, we were taught to support each other, and I think those lessons really stuck.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been a good writer; it was just one of those things I took for granted. Looking back, it is a skill I inherited from my mother. As I discovered her writings tucked away in files after her death, I realized how much she was like me, or I like her. She seemed to be the source of much of my resourcefulness, the can-do attitude, and part of my romantic ideals, although when she was alive I believed we were very different from one another.

One day I was tired of reading poor-quality stories in the local weekly newspaper and I dared to call the editor. At the end of our conversation, he issued me a challenge of sorts. He basically said, if you think you can do better, give it a try. I was too proud not to take him up on the job offer, so I jumped in.

As a stringer, I covered school board and town board meetings at a time when our volunteer fire department went on strike and privatized and my sister-in-law was president of the school board. My stories often made the front page, and I received compliments from the fire chiefs about my knowledge of the situation. I developed walk-in privileges with the mayor and his wife befriended me. It felt like a job well done, but I was passed over for the editor’s job because the publisher felt I was too involved in local politics to be objective.

The next time I earned money for writing was in my thirties when I was trying to find extra money to pay the property taxes on the house to which my husband-at-the-time and I had recently added a giant addition. Back then, content mills were not a thing. I got a contract writing tiny how-to articles for a mom-and-mom agency. I eventually worked out a system for myself where I could whip off my ten weekly articles, complete with references, on Saturday. In six months, I was proud to present the tax money to my husband, although it was met with chagrin rather than congratulations.

Several years later, I was crying to my father because I had no real professional aspirations. I had moved to a rather small job market to be with a man with whom I was in love, and I felt pressured to try to match his financial contribution to our shared household. My father suggested writing, and I ran with that. I started writing for two local magazines, then I added web content for small businesses, and eventually blogs and longer-form content through an online agency.

I loved meeting new business owners, researching new food ingredients and learning new subjects. No matter how outside my comfort zone the topic was, I learned it and articulated it for a general audience, from plastic surgery to brain science. In between assignments, I enjoyed working on my own projects, and finally decided to finish one.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Interviewing business owners for a local magazine was always interesting. I met a Canadian man whose company was producing dentures using 3D printing in a new facility in the U.S. market. I got to tour the shop floor at Volvo where they had just started manufacturing natural gas buses. And I facilitated an interesting discussion among town leaders about a local drug problem.

The most interesting experience I would say was meeting a woman who read my book. I was doing a book signing event, one of the few I did when the book was first published. These events were sparsely attended, mostly by friends and relatives. A young woman came in, introduced herself to me and started gushing about my book. She read the book and was so moved that she had to come to this event to meet me. The fact that my book had a profound effect on one person made all the effort worthwhile for me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started writing, I didn’t find mistakes funny. I was still very defensive about my talent, or rather I wasn’t sure it was a talent. I was still in that part of my life where I just wanted to be right all the time. When I made a mistake, I tried to hide it.

By the time I published my book, “Who Knew? Lessons From My First 40 Years,” I was beginning to see the humor in my errors. I hired a photographer I knew (a boudoir photographer) to shoot my publicity photos. When the day came, I knew I’d be nervous, so I invited another friend to join us in the studio.

After my hair and makeup were done, I had to leave the room. I just didn’t look like myself and was beginning to think this was a very bad idea. My supportive friend followed me to the ladies’ room. She managed to hold it together through my crazy assessments of my made-up face and assure me the makeup was beautiful. She convinced me to give it a try; we could always change it if I didn’t like the photos.

When the shoot got started, I was very stiff. I had ideas about how this day would go, but I wasn’t feeling it. The photographer was very patient, trying to get me to smile for real and not look so terrified. Finally, the tears came. I felt like I was letting everyone down, but I couldn’t hold them back any longer. I was afraid I was wasting everyone’s time. That’s when the wine came out. Turns out Caitlyn uses her photography skills to empower her female subjects.

She asked me what I was feeling, what my biggest fear was. We figured out that I had put too much pressure on this photo shoot. I felt like I had to get it exactly right the first time so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I was expecting too much from myself, as usual.

After some wine and chat, the photoshoot resumed, and we all had a great time. We started laughing, trying different poses, different settings and props, wardrobe changes…It was great. I finally felt like the star of the show. When Caitlyn sent me the photos I chose, she included some odd ones she took when I wasn’t ready. They are funny and remind me not to take it all too seriously. One of those outtakes ended up on the cover of my book.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I have two sisters and growing up we developed a motto, “Use your beauty for good, not evil.” It was originally spoken with a sarcastic twist during some crazy dating debacle. We always had an unspoken rule that none of us would ever go out with the other’s ex-boyfriend. That was just part of our solidarity. Boys would try, though, and it always made us laugh.

This one time, I broke up with a summer fling when I realized he just wasn’t smart enough for me, even just for the summer. The next day he called my house and asked for my sister. Of course, she didn’t take his call. She was more intelligent than I was and was even less inclined to suffer fools. Another time, a boy my sister had been “friends” with for several years (while she not so secretly pined for him) asked her if I was available. I made sure to snub him so hard his pride probably still hurts. No one was going to break my sister’s heart and then rub it in.

My youngest sister was really my dating hero, though. She was in love with this boy and it was getting very serious. He was visiting from out of town and staying at our house when she caught him in a lie. Granted, it was a big lie, but he was still in love with her. She cut him off cold-turkey and let my other sister throw him out of our house. She never spoke to him after that. I admired her strength and adherence to her own values.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

I am not proud to say, I’ve been through two divorces. They were both very different.

The first one was not contentious. We talked a lot but kept coming back to the same topic. I was just not happy and not willing to live a mediocre life. I needed more attention from him in every way, and he seemed unable to give me that.

There was a lot of crying but no yelling. During the breakup, I moved into the guest room and we continued to live rather separate lives. I can remember him holding me sometimes while I sobbed. We packed up our joint possessions together, separating our wedding china evenly. I cried that day for all the future events, family dinners and dinner parties that would never happen.

We sold our house and each bought houses in the same town. We shared a moving truck. I was very sick the night before the move and cried to my grandma on the phone. The day of the move I had a meltdown over a rug that threatened to jeopardize the sale of our house. He had to step in and negotiate with the buyer. He was always the more level-headed of the two of us.

He came to my new house to visit when my grandma was in town. He also painted my kitchen. I don’t remember how that came about, but I remember he insisted I not pay him for it. We went out to dinner a couple of times in the months following the separation. I still enjoyed his company, but I saw him becoming someone I wasn’t attracted to. Presumably, he was becoming himself, and I wondered if I had kept him from growing into himself sooner.

What I learned about myself was that I needed to learn more about myself. Part of that divorce, a divorce I insisted on, was based on the fact that I had no direction in my life. I kind of jumped on his train instead of creating a life for myself. I was too young to get married because I didn’t know what I wanted from my life. I knew I wanted to be married, or at least I wanted a wedding, but I didn’t think even one day beyond that.

I was divorced before I was 30, and feeling pretty sorry for myself, so I jumped into a second marriage before healing my life. I thought I was fixing my life by getting back on track, but at the same time, I married a man I should have broken up with after the second date.

My second divorce was a doozie! I spent about a month entertaining thoughts of divorce in my mind before I said anything to anyone. When I finally decided that’s what I wanted, I walked around with that in my head for a while not knowing how I would tell him. Finally, one evening after work while he was droning on and on about his involvement in local politics, I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore.”

For what seemed like an eternity after that we went back and forth, some days being kind to one another, some days lashing out. We took a day trip in the convertible and enjoyed long conversations we should have had earlier. By the end of the day, he was exasperated and getting mean. We rode this emotional rollercoaster for a long time.

I moved out one night when his children and son-in-law chose to pick a fight with me in my own home. After calling 911, I packed a suitcase and drove away. I never spent another night under that roof again. He offered to have me come back and live in the guest room until I found a house of my own, but I knew better than to move backward.

He harassed me by phone and text, sometimes starting the conversation on a positive note to lure me in. He threatened to set fire to my furniture before I could move it out of the house. He went through my files and destroyed any evidence of money borrowed from my father, so he would not have to pay me anything in the divorce.

Moving day was classic. I enlisted a friend and her husband, who were coincidentally married in our house, to help me with the move. It was just a few miles, so we ended up making a couple of trips. The husbands sat together while my friend and I managed the movers. They remained calm for most of the day, but moving day is always longer and more stressful than you’d like it to be.

I went to the new house to direct the movers with the first load, and I got a call that my husband was not going to let me take the new freezer he bought for me. I wasn’t really sure why he did that, anyway, since one of the two we already had was mine, and I was prepared to take it with me. My friend had to talk him off the ledge and negotiate to let me take the old freezer instead. I told her I couldn’t even speak to him and I waited outside.

One thing I learned about myself in that experience is that when I met that man, I had the lowest self-esteem of any upright human. The way he treated me when we were dating would have caused a normal person to walk away in disgust. Instead, I somehow saw it as a challenge. I knew it would be a hard life, but I wanted to prove to someone that I could do it.

He also taught me about my own values. I value cleanliness, for example. I can never again live with a slob. It doesn’t matter who does the cleaning. What matters is that we both place the same value on cleanliness.

He also taught me how important the truth is to me. He was a liar, and a good one. He lied about things that didn’t even matter. He lied and manipulated everyone around him to his advantage. Just before we got married, he said, “I can’t wait to have kids with you.” Then, we spent years of our marriage fighting over it. I believe the big winners to be the unborn children.

I learned not to change who I am or compromise my values. It took me a while to get back to being me, telling the truth, saying no to clutter, and taking responsibility for my life. I went through a phase of blaming him for stealing my thirties from me. When I finally stopped blaming and started taking responsibility, I felt better, more in control of my life.

I made a bad decision marrying that man. Then, I spent almost ten years trying to make it right. In the end, I had to accept that it wasn’t ever going to be right. We just didn’t belong together. He loved me in his own way but not in the way I needed him to.

It took time, but I healed. I’m no longer uncomfortable going back to that town. I even ran into him there the night he announced his engagement to another woman. I was genuinely happy for him that he was moving on with his life. Of course, I was scared for her, but she’s not my problem. I gave her ample warning and some insider advice to get her through. She thinks he’s the love of her life, and maybe he is.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

MISPLACED BLAME

I think blame is the most destructive mistake people make during a divorce. Blaming your partner for ending the marriage, ruining your life or damaging your relationship with your family is an easy position to take. Anger doesn’t make the end of a marriage hurt any less and blaming someone else does not relieve your own culpability.

Instead, try to remember that you once loved this person. The two of you made decisions together that brought you to this point in your relationship. You both made mistakes that took you off the path to wedded bliss. No one intended to fail at marriage, but you just didn’t have the right combination of stuff to make it work. Take responsibility for your part in the failure of the marriage and try to move on gracefully. Taking responsibility means you have some control over your life, and you do!

TOO MUCH ANGER

Another mistake is holding a grudge too long. When I met my second husband he had been divorced for about six years from a twenty-year marriage that produced five children. (I know, I should have said good-bye and moved to the other side of the bar.) He couldn’t even speak his ex-wife’s name for the first several months we dated. He just referred to her as his ex and had nothing good to say about her. If I took what he said at face value I would believe that she was the spawn of Satan sent to ruin his life, his career, his reputation and any chance he had for happiness.

Divorce makes people angry, and usually for good reason. Anger is a powerful emotion that should be handled responsibly. Feel the anger, but don’t misplace it. Acknowledge your anger, but don’t carry it like a cross. Express it when and where appropriate, and then let it go. The letting go part is key!

RUSHING BACK IN

I think one mistake we make after any big life event is to rush into something else. We all want to put those tough experiences behind us, forget they ever happened, and get onto the happier parts of life. Then, we just end up rushing around, running away from bad experiences and landing in others (witness my second marriage.)

I’ve learned it’s important to stop and figure out what happened. Do the post-mortem with yourself. Understand what you did wrong and figure out how you can avoid doing it again. I always told myself that there are plenty of mistakes to make in life, no point in making the same ones twice.

FEELING UNWORTHY

After my first divorce, I was reluctant to go out again. The divorce left me feeling old (I was in my late twenties) and dried up. I let the fact that I experienced a lack of intimacy in my marriage ruin my self-esteem. Before marriage, I felt sexy and attractive. I knew I turned heads when I entered the room. After, my ego was shaken and bruised. I was reticent to tell anyone I met that I was divorced. I was ashamed that I could not hold the attention of my husband (that’s how I saw it.)

It took me years to understand how a failed marriage affected me. It made me distrust myself and dislike my personality. It’s important to mourn the loss of a marriage, but you have to know when to stop. No matter how bad the marriage was or what terrible behaviors you displayed that may have contributed to the breakup, you are still a good person, worthy of love and affection.

Forgive yourself. You didn’t mess up your life. You’re living your life, and life is messy. You may have great romantic notions about the perfect life, but no one is living that one — no one!

GIVING UP ON HAPPINESS

Everyone seeks happiness, of course, especially after a divorce. Most divorced people lived with a lot of sadness and pain before they even started the separation process. Marriages don’t end in one day. It takes months (if you’re lucky) or years (if you’re stubborn) to finally give up and admit it’s time to call it. We start our divorced life thinking maybe we don’t deserve happiness, or maybe we forgot what it feels like. A big divorce mistake is giving up on happiness.

I recently learned about incremental happiness from a wonderful man who fell into my path at just the right time. He was recovered from a thirty-year marriage that took years to end (a stubborn one but I like to call him tenacious.) He taught me that you have to find incremental happiness each day on your way to the big score. You can’t wait until you achieve your happiness goals: the right job, the right house, the right love. You have to figure out what makes you happy, plan your path to happiness, but then celebrate the tiniest milestones along the way.

It’s okay to be happy before you achieve your goals. Your life is not perfect, but some part of it is better than it was yesterday. Celebrate that and smile!

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

It sounds funny admitting that divorce can be a positive experience, but I believe it’s true. In my case, divorce freed me from an unhappy life I no longer wanted to live. My second divorce gave me the freedom to embrace myself and grow emotionally.

During those long, awful conversations I had with my second husband after I announced my intention to divorce him, he asked me 101 times who I was leaving him for. My answer was always the same, but I don’t think he ever heard me. I was leaving him for me. I wanted to spend time with myself and develop a better relationship.

When I had dinner with my first husband after our divorce, I realized I didn’t know him anymore. He was becoming himself, someone I wasn’t particularly fond of. We agreed that although it was not our desired outcome, divorcing was the best thing for both of us. We were free to go on and live the lives we wanted (or try to).

I was so young when I married him that I used to cry in the early days of our marriage when I realized I would never have a first date again. (About a million first dates later, I now wish the first dates were truly behind me.) The initial romantic discovery between us was magical, but he quickly turned into his father.

Years later after seeing August Wilson’s “Fences” on stage, I thought of my first husband and all the other tortured male souls I knew and wondered what our society does to men. We expect them to adhere to certain conventions that are probably against their nature and we don’t even let them cry about it.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

I recently met a brave soul who restored my faith in the human ability to heal from the breakup of a long marriage. My experience, unfortunately, up to this point taught me that men seldom feel their feelings, therefore, they never get over them. I’ve been in relationships where I had to pay for the bad deeds of the woman who came before me. No wonder those relationships failed.

This wonderful man who crossed my path recently had done the hard work of mourning his marriage. He was not bitter or angry anymore. He was happy, and he taught me how to be happy, too. He also shared his experiences with me, so I could learn about internet dating — the way of the pandemic!

When we met, he was executing a system he developed for himself of evaluating dating profiles, moving them through the messaging phase, and going on a first date with anyone who got to that point. As we would laugh about later, I was number 54. Before our first date, he would text me about his dates almost every night. I learned that he set up a list of criteria for himself. He figured out what made him happy and refined his list with each dating experience.

He taught me the basics:

  • a profile with no photo or very little information should be avoided
  • photos of sunsets or expensive cars are just an attempt to manipulate
  • bikini photos are looking for a booty call
  • check the background of photos for details that don’t fit
  • very poor grammar in messaging is likely a scam
  • if anything about a person’s profile doesn’t fit your criteria, swipe left and move on
  • people who do not respond to messages in a timely fashion either are too busy or not serious
  • when you think you like someone, get in the same room with them before you decide

Dating is what you make of it. It doesn’t have to be scary and awful. In dating, like in life, you will get back the energy you put out. Listen to the conversation objectively. Someone who trashes the ex probably isn’t over them, yet. You don’t want to be that person; you don’t want to be with that person.

My greatest advice to people just back into the dating scene is to remember to say no. It’s okay to not accept any details or behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable. Just because your marriage didn’t work out, doesn’t mean you have to settle for the next situation that comes along. This is your chance to be the new, wiser you and find the person who makes your heart sing.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

Ah, change. It’s such a scary concept but necessary for growth. Divorce causes us to change our perspective on life and ourselves — or it should.

One of the least emotionally intuitive men I ever dated told me something one day that made it all seem very simple. Actually, he made a lot of things seem very simple by refusing to acknowledge any emotional component, but this one I think is healthy. He was also divorced twice and looking for a way to reach a different outcome in his relationships.

He told me that he knew if he kept doing things the same way, they were going to result in the same outcome. Simple but brilliant! Unfortunately, what I needed from him was the emotional component he lacked, so we ended the same way all our other relationships did — I left; he was surprised.

I carried that concept forward and used it to my advantage a few relationships later. While I was with him, I was scared into silence. He was not mean or a yeller. He just had a disapproving look and was an expert at the silent treatment. I’m a communicator, as you can see, but I let him shut me up. As I healed from our breakup I realized that was something I had to change. Turns out, it is the things that are hard to say that most need to be said. Subsequent partners have allowed me to practice better communication, although it was hard and somewhat awkward at first.

You have to identify for yourself what needs to change, but be sure, there is definitely something.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

FORGIVE YOURSELF

I was startled after my first divorce…more likely I was shocked by my first marriage that it wasn’t perfect. It was far from perfect, but I couldn’t figure out why. We were a beautiful match. Strangers came up to us at parties and said we looked as if we were very much in love. We had fun together; we had china service for twelve; we had matching wedding rings and luggage.

I couldn’t make it perfect because I didn’t know what that would look like. I failed my family by becoming the first divorced person in two generations. My mother pre-deceased my marriage, so I couldn’t apologize to her. I took on a boatload of guilt which held me frozen for too long.

Divorce happens (I know, Mom, but it’s the truth.) You have to forgive yourself in order to move on. You are not a failure; you just didn’t make this one work. There were some circumstances beyond your control (like a whole other human who would not be manipulated by you.) It’s okay. You’re okay.

MAKE A PLAN

When the crying is over, it’s time to make a plan for your life. You are not half a couple; you are a whole human. Decide what you want your life to look like. It may seem trite, but you can do anything you set your mind to. Take steps to get that dream job or start saving for the summer home on the water. Get a vehicle with towing capacity, so you can buy the boat you always wanted. Your life is not over. Actually, in many ways, it is just beginning.

DO THE HARD WORK

Everyone says they can do hard things until they realize what those hard things are. In this case, it is to heal your emotional wellbeing. It’s not going to be easy; it never is. You have to dig in and figure out what is going on in your heart. It’s time to do a self-assessment: who are you, who do you want to be, what outdated concepts are you holding onto, how can you improve your ability to relate to other humans in an intimate way.

If you’re mouthing, “I’m fine,” right now under your breath, you’re not. Get out your journal and start writing. Call an intuitive friend and set up a weekly wine (whine) date. Get in to see your therapist. Find a new therapist. Do what it takes to discover the little demons lurking in the corners of your mind because they are the ones that will derail your life every time.

STAY STRONG

Another cliché that happens to work for divorce recovery. In this case, it means stick to your plan. It’s very easy when you are still in pain or just beginning to recover to fall back into familiar ways. You’re used to being married, so a new relationship would seem like the right solution to fill the void. I guarantee you, however, if you jump back into the fray, you’re going to find yourself in another failed relationship.

This particular piece of advice comes from my what-not-to-do file. After my first divorce, I was in a hurry to put my life back together in a way I recognized. My peers were all married and starting their families. I felt left out and broken, so I went for the quick fix. Ten years later I realized I was in an unhealthy marriage with a man with whom I never should have accepted a second date. My thirties were behind me, but I was no further ahead in life.

Actually, I made the same mistake in both marriages. I jumped into a marriage to make my life complete instead of first working to be a whole human all by myself. After the second marriage, I made a mental list of qualities I would never again accept in a partner. With another almost ten year relationship behind me, I remade that list. The problem I have is sticking to the plan.

FIND YOUR OWN HAPPINESS

You may not believe you can be happy without your ex-spouse or without your next spouse, but I’m going to tell you that you absolutely can. In fact, it is your responsibility as a whole human to find your own happiness. It will make your next relationship better, and who isn’t striving for better?

Remember when you were a kid and you dreamed of being an architect? It may be too late to change your career path but think about what you loved about building. When was the last time you rode a bicycle or skated in the park, or did any of those things you used to enjoy? Your memory is a good place to look for your happiness. All of those someday dreams, like some day I want to see the Pacific Ocean, ride a motorcycle, or learn to play guitar, are clues to your happiness.

It’s so easy in a relationship to get caught up in what makes the other person happy and forget your own preferences. You suddenly become a carb-eating, denim-wearing, Chicago Blackhawks fan. You forgot how to smile and dance and sing out loud. This is your chance to remember what makes you happy and start doing it again.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

Start by acknowledging the pain. Fact: divorce hurts. No matter the circumstances, it leaves us feeling the sting of failure, the emptiness of loss, and the uncertainty of a boat bobbing on the waves. Let yourself feel without judgment.

Plug into your support system. The longer you were married, the harder it may be to find those people who love you for you, but they’re out there. I can remember crying on the phone to my sister during my second divorce that no one loved me. I must be unlovable. She pointed out to me that her calling every day and listening to me cry was an act of love. Our aunt who took me in that fateful night and kept me for several months thereafter was also on my love-team. My ex-sister-in-law who talked my ex-husband into letting her remove all of my clothing and personal effects from the house (without him throwing a temper-tantrum) loves me. For that matter, anyone who held me while I ugly-cried with snot running down my face was definitely expressing love.

Most importantly, turn this pain into progress. My mother’s college roommate told me a story I’ve never forgotten. She said that when my mother was upset, she used to go into her bedroom and set a timer. She would cry as if her heart were breaking until the timer went off. After that, she’d wash her hands and face and they’d go out.

Take the time to do a post-mortem on the marriage for yourself. What went wrong, when, and why? What did you like about the relationship? What do you wish you could have changed? This is your chance to start over and get it right (or better). Decide what you want to change about your life and set out doing that.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

The first one that comes to mind is “Permission to Land: Searching for Love, Home, and Belonging” by Marci Brockman. It not only chronicles her own failed marriage and divorce but her parents’ bitter divorce battle, as well. Marci offers details of the journey through healing, dating, and eventual marital success.

I met Marci when we were in college, and we’ve been friends ever since. When I read her book, I was surprised to see the similarities between her journey and mine. I’m starting to understand that women of a certain age have a common perspective in life. Women of divorce, and I know many, also experience similar bonds.

I’d also recommend the companion podcast, “Permission to Heal.” Marci is a natural interviewer on this topic that is so close to her heart. She talks with guests who have their own healing stories about divorce, childhood trauma, addiction, abuse. They talk through the different thought patterns that hold us back from healing and techniques they’ve used to break free. I’ve found some golden nugget of wisdom in each episode.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to see a worldwide movement toward happiness — everyday, garden variety happiness. While the stigma around mental illness is starting to melt away, we have a long way to go in educating people about their personal responsibilities toward their own happiness.

I don’t mean to suggest that mental illness is anyone’s fault or that it is not a serious medical condition. But I believe our modern society creates a layer of suffering that is unnecessary and could be avoided in many cases. So many people think they have no power over the stress in their lives, and it is that stress that pushes their minds beyond what their bodies are capable of sustaining.

Rather than value a busy schedule as a status symbol, or measure a person’s success in monetary terms, we need to get back to basics. I use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to explain to managers why their employees are not engaged at work. My mantra is, “food, clothing, and shelter.” Until those needs are met, we are not capable of higher-level thinking. An employee cannot begin to engage with his work when he doesn’t know the terms of his lunch break or where to hang his coat.

I think we need to turn this logic upside-down to determine our happiness threshold. It’s okay to be happy once those basic needs are met. And maybe the converse is true as well: you cannot be unhappy because it’s too windy to take your yacht off the dock on Saturday. You don’t have to be unhappy when your workaholic office mate gets promoted.

It may seem a bit simplistic, but when you unpack happiness, that’s all it is. I want people everywhere to understand that they can be happy, right now, with just the things they have right now, in just the circumstances they find themselves in at this very moment. If people would just understand the simplicity of happiness, they could take their lives back. They could stop stretching their brains out of shape trying to do the impossible and then being stressed out if they ever achieve their goals.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

If I could have lunch with anyone in the world, it would be Arianna Huffington. When I read her position on the value of naps, I knew we were kindred spirits. Then, I saw her speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in 2012 and felt an even greater kinship.

She spoke about failures as being the stepping stones to success, as her mother taught her. She was also quick to point out several of her own failures because she said that when you achieve success, people tend to forget about your failures. Such a stilted perspective on success, that it comes without failure, makes it seem even more impossible to achieve.

The ideas that Arianna promotes, about redefining success, focusing on self-care, and recognizing the value of quality human interactions, resonate with me. Those similarities of thought along with her sense of humor, humility and style would make Arianna my perfect choice for a lunch companion.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!

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