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How a Two Word Mindset Shift Transformed My Burdens into Gifts

How switching my thinking from 'have to' to 'get to' helped me through my pandemic divorce.

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This year, during the pandemic, I got to get a divorce.

That’s right. I got to get a divorce.

No, the divorce was not planned. I never wrote, “Get a divorce during a pandemic” in my planner. And initially, I did not think of the divorce in optimistic terms.

When my then-husband called me from the airport to say he wasn’t coming home, it didn’t feel like a gift. When the World Health Organization flagged the novel coronavirus outbreak as a ‘public health emergency of international concern,’ it did not feel like a gift. And the fact that these two events happened on the same day most certainly did not feel like a gift.

Instead of looking for the silver linings, my mind jumped into list making mode with all the things I had to do. I have to tell the kids. I have to gather my financial information. I have to call a lawyer. I have to get the house appraised. I have to buy canned food and disinfectant. I have to make sure all the prescriptions are filled. 

The have tos were overwhelming.

Shifting the Have Tos to Get Tos

I remembered that Regina Brett’s book of essays, God Never Blinks, was helpful to me during previous times of stress, so I picked it up again. In her first essay, she tells the story of a man she met at chemotherapy who framed everything in terms of “get to.” He doesn’t have to go to work. He gets to go to work. He doesn’t have to get groceries. He gets to get groceries. He applies this same thinking to everything.

Brett’s words acted as a lifeline. If I was going to make it through divorce in a pandemic, my thinking had to shift. Perhaps I didn’t have to get a divorce during a pandemic. Perhaps I got to get a divorce during a pandemic.

It seemed unlikely, but it was worth giving it a shot.

Altering My Perspective

Shifting my thinking from have to to get to did not come automatically. At first, it felt like I was deceiving myself. Yay, I get to call a lawyer! Yeah, right.

But there was some truth in that statement. Calling a lawyer means you have the means to hire a lawyer and the freedom to make the call. There are women in countries with no rights at all in divorce. There are women here for whom lawyer’s fees are out of reach. So yes, I get to call a lawyer.

The  small shift in language helped me transform my burdens into gifts.

Deepening My Gratitude

While divorce in a pandemic isn’t fun, the pandemic lockdown transformed the most mundane activities into get tos. I get to get out and get groceries! I get to have my tooth fixed at the dentist! I get to take the dog to get him groomed! If the grocery store has disinfectant wipes in stock, I practically let out a cheer. I didn’t have to stay home, I got to stay home and was thankful I could pivot my business to offer my services online. 

Even the public masking wasn’t a bad thing, since it sheltered me from intrusive questions of gossipy neighbors at the supermarket. They simply didn’t recognize me to ask about the divorce.

This mindset shift has done more for my happiness and peace than I ever could have imagined. It’s more than a silly mind trick, it’s alchemy for the soul.

I get to wear a mask to keep myself and others safe.

I get to finalize my divorce to live the life meant for me.

I get to learn to serve my clients remotely.

Those two tiny words make such a difference.

What do you get to do today?

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