Have a positive attitude. Being positive is tough when you are in a painful situation. But it is necessary. Positivity keeps bitterness from growing in your heart. You deserve a good life and you will have it, as long as you stay positive and keep the weed of bitterness out of the garden of your heart. I was determined to learn from the old bitter women that I know. I didn’t want to be old and miserable, with no friends and kids that hated me. Staying focused on being positive helped me to heal and not be bitter.
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, author Troya Bishop.
Troya is a 43 y/o educator, entrepreneur, and author. She is dating again and excited about it, after being single for 10 years. After a 3-year courtship and 8-year marriage, the painful divorce she endured taught her compassion and how to live life with purpose.
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?
Of course! I’m originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama…ROLL TIDE! I grew up in a middle-income community with parents who were both in salaried careers, so life was comfortable and fun. My parents divorced when I was 8 and my sister was 11. It was tough, but our lives did not change much from an economic standpoint. We were still comfortable. The tough part was seeing both of my parents being ripped apart emotionally, and not having the words to express how I felt or help them as they struggled through it. My sister and I lived with my mom after the divorce and saw her mental health declining. We felt helpless but turned to faith and academics to pour our focus into.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always loved kids, so being an educator was a natural fit for me. Growing up in church, we served the community and I loved it! The ideal of a life of service is dear to me and both my 501c3 and my LLC are rooted in service to the community. As I continued my education and did research for my doctorate degree, things came full circle and I knew I would always be a teacher in some capacity. My life feels really full, so I love it!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me since starting my 501c3, Parental Empowerment Institute, is being invited to the White House twice in 2016. President Obama’s administration invited us to participate in the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, for young men of color. I was invited back a second time to attend the United State of Women Conference, when I was nominated as a, “Changemaker”. Both were a shock and a real honor. It’s still one of the highlights of my life so far!
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?
Wow! There have been sooooooooo many mistakes that I have learned from. I’m not sure if they were funny. Yeah, I don’t know about that one.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Yes, my favorite life lesson quote is in the signature of my personal email and has been since I heard it in 2009. It changed my life. I am a HUGE Joyce Meyer fan. It had been 6 months since my divorce was final and just a few days since my ex moved out. (Yes, I had to MAKE him move! He was comfortable). I was a wreck. I was feeling pitiful. She was preaching a powerful sermon about getting up after a painful experience and moving on. She said, “You can be powerful, or you can be pitiful. But you can’t be both.” It was in the moment during that sermon, that I knew I would have to make some choices that would lead to the powerful person I knew God created me to be. I’ve been living by that mantra and trying to make powerful choices everyday. It’s harder than it seems. But it’s worth the struggle.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I recently filmed an online course for my books. Again, I’m a teacher by trade and a mommy at heart, so I’m always thinking of ways we can connect with our children and meet the needs they have. I pray that the online course will do that.
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?
My ex and I separated for a year and got back together. When he moved back in, he said he wanted to support me going back to school and finishing the book I was writing. He encouraged me NOT to renew my teaching contract since we didn’t have a lot of debt and our cars were both paid off. I agreed. The very next month, he filed for divorce.
I was hurt but also thought that it was best since we were not getting along at all. We did not use attorneys for our divorce. We had a very comfortable middle-income lifestyle but didn’t have much to split. We used a court-appointed mediator, and it was tough but amicable at first. After the first few years, he stopped paying child support. I had to decide if I wanted to go through the courts to force him to pay or to continue to struggle financially. I had already started my 501c3 and was getting food stamps to help supplement my income. I was angry that he was not keeping up with his financial obligation to our child, but I chose not to file through the courts for child support. I did not mention to my daughter that he did not pay child support until she asked me about it when she was much older. Looking back, I think those are the BEST decisions I made. I think my child is better for it.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
I think the most common mistake that people make is sharing too much information with their children and not being mindful to say good things about the other parent. To avoid that, use the “THINK Method”, when you speak to your child about the other parent, with the main goal always being the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of your children. The THINK Method is considering if what you are saying is: T- thoughtful, H-helpful, I — informative, N- necessary, or K-kind. If you use that method, a LOT of harmful information won’t be shared. A child only needs to know that they are loved by both parents. Nothing more.Nothing less. Keep it simple, and your children will thrive!
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?
The positive that comes out of it, is that you get to teach your children that change comes, but life goes on. You can teach them that shifting is not always your choice, but you get to choose HOW you go through the shift. Giving your children that foundation of choosing a positive attitude and outlook on life is a skill they will always be able to use. It is powerful. I remember my daughter had a sleepover when she turned 13. As girls do, they were talking LOUD, and I heard them comparing each others parents and relationships. They all agreed that my daughter’s father and I had the best relationship. How ironic. We were the only parents that were divorced, but also the ones the kids agreed were the happiest and most fun to be around. It taught me that living an authentic life and being cordial is valuable. Children can see straight through bull**it, even when parents are staying together for their children. It made me appreciate all of the sacrifices and millions of times when I was biting my tongue when I wanted to curse him out! Again, my #1 goal is to make sure that my daughter is mentally, emotionally and physically well. That proud moment let me know that I was doing a great job as her mommy and that we were co-parenting well.
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? Think of the FUN you can have! Don’t focus on meeting, “the one”, or the things that can go wrong. Date from a perspective of self-care. Have a drink, share some laughs, and make a new friend. If more comes from it, great. If nothing comes from it, great. You have spent time sharing with another person and caring for yourself. No time lost. Perspective is everything!
What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?
Be open to changing YOURSELF. Often, when someone asks a divorcee why a relationship ended, they will say it was because the other person was “crazy” or something like that. We have to own the fact that we attract certain people in our lives. We maintain relationships with certain people. If YOU attracted “crazy” and YOU married “crazy”, and YOU cried when “crazy” filed for divorce, maybe YOU need to consider changing. The change that we want to see in our relationships begins with self-examination. We need to examine our choices and then make changes based on our self-evaluation.
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?
5 — Find a friend or family member to travel with. Going on trips after my divorce really gave me the mental space to examine my life and my choices. It helped me clear my mind and focus on healing. Having someone to confide in is important. Sharing trips and stories can keep your spirit lifted and help you heal. It is also emotionally healthy for your children to see you enjoying life after divorce. It also makes your ex mad! Lol! I took a trip to Vegas after my divorce. We went jet skiing at Lake Meade and ate great food! That trip made me feel ALIVE again, after feeling dead in my heart and soul for a while.
4 — Stay physically active. Movement of some sort is crucial in staying healthy and feeling better. Many people go through a depression of some sort after divorce. Exercise helps shake it off and keep you looking great and feeling great. Working out to my favorite songs always made me feel better, especially at those times when I slipped into a dark place emotionally.
3 — Lean in, to a higher power. Divorce is painful, and having a source of power and comfort you can lean on outside of yourself is necessary. Your higher power can pull you through those dark times. Pray, fast, meditate and of course, cry if you need to. Writing in a journal and keeping a record of prayers requested and prayers answered also helps you to stay positive and hopeful. I used a journal to keep prayers. When one got answered, no matter how small, I wrote it down. Being able to reflect on payers that were answered helped me have hope.
2 — Have a positive attitude. Being positive is tough when you are in a painful situation. But it is necessary. Positivity keeps bitterness from growing in your heart. You deserve a good life and you will have it, as long as you stay positive and keep the weed of bitterness out of the garden of your heart. I was determined to learn from the old bitter women that I know. I didn’t want to be old and miserable, with no friends and kids that hated me. Staying focused on being positive helped me to heal and not be bitter.
1 — Be committed to your overall well-being. Get therapy. Try to find a therapist that has a background and experiences similar to yours, so they can best relate to your situation. Your mental and emotional health are important and should be taken seriously. I started therapy a few months after my divorce and really wanted someone I could relate to. I asked for an African American female, close to my age (I was 32 at the time). The place I went was free and short-staffed. The young lady booking the appointments explained to me that I may not get exactly what I requested in my therapist, but she would do her best to match me with someone close to what I requested. She called the next day and said my counselor’s name was, “Toshiba”. I was relieved. When I arrived at my appointment and went in the room I was assigned, I was anxious but ready to get started. I felt reassured there would be no judgmental attitude from my counselor because I knew I would be meeting someone who looked like me, and hopefully had similar experiences. To my surprise, a little old man that looked like Mr. Miaggi from the, “Karate Kid”, movie walked in. He said, “Hi. I’m Toshiba, but they call me Toshi.” I was so surprised; all I could do was LAUGH! He explained to me that he was from Japan, and Toshiba was a popular name there. It was a great way to break the ice. Although I didn’t get the counselor I wanted, I got who I needed, as well as much-needed advice to deal with the anger and rage I was feeling. It may take you a while to find the perfect counselor but get into therapy as soon as you can. You and your children deserve to heal and have a great life.
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? As I mentioned earlier, I really value going to therapy and having a higher power to draw strength from.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
There is a workbook series called, “Divorce Care”. They have a website (divorcecare.org) and give great information about healing and moving forward after a divorce. Resources are also provided for locations to free divorce care classes in your area. They also have corresponding classes for children. My daughter and I went through their course. I highly recommend it.
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 would definitely begin a movement for positivity. Positive mindsets, positive attitudes, and expectations for positive things to come in life. That would be my movement.
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 🙂
Just ONE? Lol! I would love to have breakfast with Joyce Meyer, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, TD Jakes, Arianna Huffington, Hillary Clinton and Barack or Michelle Obama. I admire and respect them all for very different reasons.
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!