We are not our circumstances

We are not our circumstances. For me, that’s a really hard concept to grasp and let sink in. My perspective over the past few months has been jaded honestly by transition and divorce. And life after divorce, it can be summed up in two words — it sucks, okay three words, it really sucks. I don’t mean those words to be negative, but real and raw. I’m mindful of the joy that has existed within the overwhelming feelings, but I’m trying to stay true to the actual feelings divorce has caused. Feelings I haven’t been able to separate myself from and I have put myself right in the middle of my circumstances, not knowing I was defining my identity by them this whole time.

I was married my entire adult life up until this past year of my life. Seven years of marriage, of doing life with another person, making plans for the future, being able to rest in the fact that you don’t have to face life’s chaos alone. And it all ended. See previous post for more on this story.

Feelings of grief, devastation, questioning my identity and choices and analyzing every single mistake. Evaluating my responsibility in everything and ultimately feeling like a failure. ON REPEAT, day after day. These feelings fully encompassed me and made me start believing that I was those feelings. That I was my present circumstance. I still find myself believing that some days.

Going through divorce sent my anxiety and my lifelong struggle with OCD into a downward spiral. The biggest issue was, I didn’t know I was experiencing such deep grief and feelings of loss until almost a year after the initial separation occurred, this past January. It caught up with me and it can be completely overwhelming some days.

I write this as I’m in the process of healing and definitely do not have life figured out right now. Quite the opposite, but I write these words as a sort of catharsis.

I ended up quitting my job which I worked really hard to move up at for almost three years and where I could support others and was promised growth. It was a hard decision and made me feel like I failed even more, but I felt like it was time to fully take care of myself, to focus on myself without the busy weeks I encountered at my company. It has been a rough past couple of months to say the least, but incredibly necessary to my humanity.

I have felt like I’ve lost pieces of myself for the past eight years, and like I’ve been trying to pick up those pieces this past year, except I keep dropping the pieces and losing them to circumstances, anxiety, and feelings of loss. It can be a vicious cycle. And yet again, the thought likes to present itself that I am my circumstances. But how untrue that is.

I recently came to this realization, that I may just need to let go of a lot of those pieces. Those pieces of self-doubt, blame, feelings of failure, of wanting so desperately for life to feel good and happy. Ones I thought I needed to be a part of me or my life, that actually never fit or made sense. Kind of like they were never supposed to be a part my life in the first place, but I picked them up thinking they could fit somehow, that they should be things I felt or thought.

Slowly I’ve started to realize that God has given me brand new pieces, but that they are all still mixed up and I’ve wanted to avoid even looking at them or trying to put them together, and have wanted to instead skip ahead to see how my life will turn out (which creates a lot of what ifs and increased anxiety btw).

The best analogy I can give for this thought was when I was visiting my family recently and my mom decided we should put together a puzzle, a 1,000 piece puzzle — okay mom, I see you. She laid out all the pieces and started to group them by color and outside edge pieces. As she was doing this, I of course reached for the box with the picture on it to see what it was. And boom, the thought occurred. Looking at the picture is not going to help me put together the puzzle any faster and it kind of takes the fun out of it. Looking at the picture actually overwhelmed me and reminded me of how many pieces were laying there in front of me.

I then started to compare it to my life, like I do with everything, that God had given me all the pieces and even started to put them into different sections for me, but doesn’t want me to look at the end picture yet. Because he knows it would probably overwhelm me and that I would probably not want to have some of those pieces essential for my growth and learning. That I would have to trust that the end result is something beautiful, and just focus on putting one piece together at a time. WHOA, I thought, I’m so bad at that. Like extremely bad at that, but I’m working on self compassion so here we are. I want to see everything ahead of time, analyze it and be perfect at putting it all together. Life absolutely does not work that way, and it has been a defeating yet relieving feeling to know I’m not going to have it figured out all at one time. Still the perfectionist mindset that has been engrained and programmed into my brain (working on that too) wants to have it all figured out and wants so desperately to keep it all together and to make others think I have it all together. It’s a daily fight, but I’m learning how to let go of that perfectionist mentality, giving myself grace through mistakes and working just to learn. Learning just to put piece by piece together.

And then, another thought occurred just as my mom was continuing to put the pieces in sections...I don’t have to put this together by myself, another whoa moment. If you’re reading this and experienced a divorce or any kind of loss, it can feel like you’re in it alone. I have definitely thought that and have had to be reminded that I’m not alone. Support is out there, whether it’s family, friends, support groups, therapy, etc. — Find your people and they will love you through your life and help you put the pieces together. They will help you to slow down and not judge yourself for everything you feel or don’t feel. They’ll let you be you whatever circumstance you find yourself in.

Ultimately I’m choosing to embrace the thought that I can’t see the end result, the end picture. I have to focus on one piece of my life at a time. I have to feel one day at a time, even if it feels sucky or even if I don’t feel anything at all. That I don’t have to hurry up and get over grief, feelings of loss, and definitely shouldn’t be defining myself by it all. Rather, I should be taking care of myself, finding out what I like and enjoy in life, and giving myself a high five at the end of each day, just for making it through another day. The biggest lesson — I am not my circumstances.

Yes, life after divorce and hardship sucks, but it doesn’t mean life is over and that beautiful things can’t simultaneously exist. I think puzzles kind of suck, but I always love putting them together with others and the satisfaction they bring once complete.

You may want to see the end result right away like me, but instead try to take a different approach and free yourself from trying to have it all figured out at one time. Don’t define yourself by your circumstances. It’ll open up more space for being loving and compassionate toward yourself and others, and will give you the freedom to really explore aspects about your own personality that you might not of even known about.

We are lovely & brave, and most importantly we are not are circumstances.

xo Joni