I believe that every woman can thrive even after you’ve been rocked off your foundation by a major life event. Like divorce, for instance. Being divorced does not define you—unless you let it.
This story tells about two of the events in my life that could have, and almost did, derail me from my career and life. What I learned from these experiences has helped me better manage myself through loss, career change, layoff, care-giving, retirement and creating a new career.
Through my divorces (two of them), I discovered that I lost sight of who I was, what I valued most and who I wanted to be. I took care of everyone else first. I compromised. I let myself be defined.
I know firsthand how hard life transitions can be—including divorce—and especially when you’re a professional woman in the workforce or the CEO of your own entrepreneurial venture. When your world is turned upside down, it’s hard to make sense of anything. Even the simplest decisions are hard. Showing up every day is even harder. I have been where you are today.
I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.
My first marriage wasn’t very long (5 years) and we got married too young and for the wrong reasons (in hindsight). Still—I didn’t deserve to be cheated on. The betrayal I felt was all-consuming for a while. The humiliation kept me isolated for a long time. Then the numbness set in and I just didn’t care about much, especially about taking care of myself.
I lived in New York City at the time. Manhattan. A scary place for a 20-something, small-town girl who was on her own now. The only thing that kept me sane was my career. I figured out that if I pretended at work that everything was okay I could create a tougher exterior than I really had—a suit of armor of sorts. It helped me manage through the day without falling apart. So I learned to put on my “mask” every time I left the apartment, whether it was to work or to visit family or friends. I didn’t let anyone in for a long time.
I learned later that I never dealt with the emotions I felt, or my grief.
I spent a couple of years living like this actually, and then I met my second husband. He swept me off my feet. Treated me like a Queen. I was sure I got it right this time. And it was right—for a while.
There were some signs along the way but, I was determined not to be that woman who was divorced twice. So I worked hard at keeping this marriage together—to the point where I lost myself. I couldn’t separate his opinions from my opinions, his thoughts from my thoughts. I started making choices to appease him, none of which were choices I would have made had I been listening to my own Inner Wisdom, or checking in with my own values.
Again, I threw myself into my career to avoid the pain at home. My career flourished as a result, while his languished. He lost a couple of jobs and it played on his male ego mightily that I was the “breadwinner.” My job required traveling and he hated that. He would do his best to make me feel guilty for leaving him. I fell into the trap.
I should have given up long before I did but my pride wouldn’t allow it. I stayed in that marriage 5 years longer than I should have (in hindsight — 14 years total).
I felt like damaged goods by the time my second marriage came to an end. He became abusive—verbally at first, then physically. The last straw came when he faced me with my favorite chef’s knife in his hand. The fear paralyzed me for what seemed like an eternity. I’ve never screamed so loudly in my life. I guess I scared him too, because he dropped the knife and dropped to his knees.
At that moment, I found my voice.
I had no choice anymore. As much as I tried to “fix” it, we were beyond repair. Then why did I feel so devastated? Like that knife really did rip my guts out.
I was going through it again. The humiliation. The fear. The panic attacks. Feeling like my heart was going to burst, it was beating so hard. I finally called my best friend who is a nurse. With her stethoscope in hand, she assured me my heart was physically fine — but emotionally broken — again. She suggested I reach out for professional help.
Why? I got through the last one just fine! I’ll just dust off that suit of armor and find my special mask that shows I’m okay — no one needs to know. I had a very responsible management position and my staff depended on me and my management team had faith in me. I couldn’t let them down. I can do this. Of course I can do this. I know I can do this.
Well, I tried that for a couple of weeks but, there were cracks in the armor this time. And, my mask showed my sadness instead of my stability. I knew it was time. I reached out for help.
The Power of Support
I had no idea how talking with someone who understands the grief and pain could help so quickly. As I shared the stories, my choices and decisions came out in the open and I saw the absurdity of my actions. By the way, some of these were old stories and old wounds back from my first marriage. What? How could that be? I already moved on long ago, right?
Some of the questions that came up for me were disturbing and heart-wrenching. How could I give up so much of me? Why did I think it was okay to sacrifice myself so fully for a relationship that was a one-way street? Twice! How blind could I be? And for so long? I beat myself up pretty good at first.
Then I learned how to change the way I looked at things. And I learned how to forgive myself. This is one of the best lessons on the face of the planet—forgive yourself. I learned to cut myself a break. I realized that I was just doing the best I could with where I was at the time. This is a lesson I still depend on today—for myself and my clients!
The Gift of Transformation
Getting back in touch with my most precious values was the start of my transformation. Reaching deeply within to understand who I truly am and becoming comfortable again in my own skin was a critical step. Designing my vision for the future became my roadmap. Infusing all that with my passions brought it to life.
I felt as if a light was turned on—and it was coming from inside of me!
We don’t have to do this divorce stuff alone. We can learn to change the patterns and habits so we don’t repeat the same old stories. We can stop going through the motions and live our lives by purposeful design. By choice, not by chance.
My transformation continues to this day with the loving help of mentors and coaches, and I have spent the last 20+ years giving back with my own mentoring and coaching. For a long time it was within my corporate experience; today I dedicate my next career to helping professional women recover from their divorce. I love to inspire women to find their own light within.
The wit and the wisdom that comes from the lessons I’ve learned on the journeys through my own life transitions — divorce, career changes, caring for aging parents and a major relocation, to name a few — allow me to help other women face their divorce and do it easier than I did.
I have been a professional woman through all these major life changes and I know how tough it can be to just “show up” every day.
If you see yourself in any part of my story, know that you’re not alone!
I believe …
… in a world that honors each one of us for our uniqueness.
… in following our dreams.
… we can create what we imagine.
And, I believe when women are well everyone around us benefits.
I can help you to be well again, to listen to your own inner wisdom and trust what you feel. I can help you rediscover who you are meant to be so everyone around you benefits from your brilliant light.
If you’ve thought, even for a moment, that you want to make some changes but you’re not quite sure where to start, I invite you to reach out. Let’s have a chat. Let’s explore the possibilities for you.
Click here to request a Complimentary Discovery Session. Think about how much you can gain by taking a small step and having a chat with someone who cares about helping you become well, so you can THRIVE for life.
I look forward to hearing from you.