Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Funhouse

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We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are.
- Anais Nin

My ex-husband and met because I misunderstood his hand gesture as a wave. I thought he was waving at me, and so I waved back. Starting with this mistaken wave our relationship snowballed like a Comedy of Errors, and I laugh when I remember that the birth of our love burst forth because of the power of my misperception.

In relationships, misperception is incredibly common. It's so hard to see the reality of another, and words will never fully translate what your partner is feeling.

Your partner was your mirror -- a reflection of you -- and your relationships are like walking into the funhouse of your mind. In each love encounter, you dare to step in front of the mirror of YOU. Sometimes you laugh in surprise, shrink in shame, or run away in fear, but all these mirrors are pointing you in one direction -- a path to nowhere, a home that is both an ending and a beginning.

May you meet all these mirrors with a loving heart and good humor so as to embrace the unexpected twists and turns.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Tips for Coping with Depression & Loneliness after a Breakup or Divorce

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Disclaimer

I am not a licensed therapist or doctor. The information shared in this post is based on my own personal experience of depression. I offer these suggestions as a friend. However, if you feel you are suffering from serious depression, as one soul to another, may you find the courage to ask for help from therapists or doctors so as to alleviate your suffering. Even if you feel you don't have the financial resources or know where to begin, just start asking for help and believe the help you need will come.

Depression

In my 20s I suffered from crippling depression. After a long struggle with denial, I found the courage to ask for help from friends, family, therapists, and doctors. I used whatever tools were available to me to heal and come out of the darkest periods of my life. I was lucky enough to receive the best of care, and there isn't one moment I regret from my experience of therapy. I am more loving, alive, and open because of this experience.

Nevertheless, I'm an artist. I'm a sensitive soul. Like other introspective people, I have moods that have come and go. However, thanks to all the healing work I did in my 20s these periodic moments of depression and sadness pass and fade more quickly now.

This list of my top ten ways that I have learned to cope with sadness, depression, grief, and loneliness are not solutions to a problem. They are not methods for healing what is at the root of my depression rather they tools that keep me in the flow of life while I am mending the bit of my soul that may be struggling with loss, shame, or regret.

I have used all these things throughout my life and in particular after having experienced a traumatic breakup of a relationship and most recently during my divorce.

While you are healing from the loss of your precious relationship, may you find a bit of comfort in these things that serve as reminders that you are alive and loved.

Bike or Walk

One of the best assignments a therapist gave me was to go for a bike ride. When you're angry or feeling hurt, emotions can get trapped inside your body. Doing vigorous exercise forces you to breathe deeply and helps release emotions. Biking feels a bit like a novelty so it's also inherently fun. However, if you're not into biking, then walking is something that is easily accessible, can be done anywhere, in all types of weather, and throughout your day. If you feel social, go to the park to be around other people and animals. This type of aerobic exercise naturally raises the level of dopamine in your brain and feelings of contentment.

Practice Gratitude

Thank the stuff in your life that may be triggering your depression. Thank the relationship that didn't go the way you expected. Thank the job that didn't work out and the boss that didn't understand you. Thank the experience of having less money then you wanted at this stage in your life. Thank your kids for creating havoc in your life. Have gratitude for all the uncomfortable things that didn't go the way you wanted and try see that they are there to teach you so much more than what you desired.

Cultivate Comedy

Digest funny movies, TV shows, theater, or books. They don't have to meaningful. Sometimes they can be just slapstick and silly. After my divorce, I watched every season of Wings on Netflix and even though it wasn't the best comedy TV show there was something in the humor and characters that made me laugh and kept me grounded.

Create a Routine

If you are experiencing the kind of depression where you struggle to get out of bed, go to work, keep the house clean, etc. Try creating a simple routine. Commit to three things such as when you will get up in the morning, when you will go to bed, and that you will eat three healthy meals a day.

Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Eating well is truly important when you're going through a rough period in your life. Shopping in the fruit and vegetable aisle is such an uplifting experience. Everything is alive and fresh. The colors and smells are vibrant and engaging. Spend time getting to know the people that work in this section of your grocery store or your local farmers market. I have this secret belief that people who work with fruits and vegetables are generally pretty happy people and have a lot of joy to share.

Dance

Go out dancing, find opportunities to take dance classes, or dance at home alone in your pajamas. Whatever feels right for you. Take an opportunity to listen to music and move your body. We are made up of vibrations -- waves of energy -- and the more you dance in your life the more you tune into your natural beauty. Click here to find some suggestions for community dancing.

Seek Beauty

Every day look for something beautiful in your life to admire: a tree, animal, painting, delicious food, face of a friend, or rocks on the beach. Whatever you see, look for its beauty.

Play Games

Laughter and games go together. I'm not talking about gambling where you are trying to win and beat people as a primary objective, but rather seek out games for the pure enjoyment of having fun and being with people: soccer, freezbe golf, tennis, cards, board games, crossword puzzles, etc.

Volunteer Your Time 

Look for an organization where you can volunteer your time helping others. We need each other and we need to feel as if we are able to contribute to the well being of others. Seeing yourself as a helpful part of the whole can keep you engaged in life.

Practice Loving Kindness Meditation or Prayer

Developing compassion for yourself and others is HUGE! Integrating a regular prayer or loving kindness meditation into your daily routine is helpful for getting out of your head and all your troubling thoughts so as to get you focused on the essential things in life. For how to do a loving kind meditation click here.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Inexpensive Divorces: Do It Yourself Divorce Without Lawyers

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YES, a do it yourself divorce minus lawyers is possible in some states!

My husband and I did our own divorce without lawyers, mediation, or a trial. It was cheaper than getting married and the process was over in a couple of weeks. The paperwork is actually not that complicated. So don't let the forms scare you. I remember filling out the forms thinking, "The most complicated thing I have to write down is our names and addresses over and over again." Also, we were able to have our paperwork reviewed by court staff free of charge before it was filed. If anything had been amiss, they would let us know ahead of time so we could correct it.

The first place to inquire is your local county courthouse family law division. If your state allows you to complete and file your own divorce paperwork more than likely family court will also have how-to instructions and offer some kind of review or procedural assistance. They will not offer legal advice.

It's in the best interests of the court to see your divorce settled without going to trial because this costs the government time and money, so more than likely they want to help make it easy and painless.

More importantly, if you start hiring lawyers, realize that they are paid by how much time it takes to perform this service for you. The more time they spend on your divorce, the more money they will accrue. So ask yourself, do you think a lawyer benefits more from you and your spouse being cooperative or uncooperative?

Bottom line the more you and your spouse are able to collaborate on your divorce, the less money you will spend on lawyers and court costs. This leaves more money leftover for caring for your children and rebuilding your life after divorce.

To see what dissolution of marriage forms might look like, download the online forms for Oregon by clicking here. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the packet that applies to you.

Before you proceed with a do it yourself (DIY) divorce consider your situation by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Are you and your spouse in agreement regarding division of property, custody issues, and financial support?
  2. Do you have all the information regarding your family's assets and debts? Are these issues simple?
  3. Are you emotionally comfortable with negotiating custody issues with your spouse?
  4. Do you have the time to do adequate research on divorce in your state?
  5. Do you have the personality that can fill out forms and make sure all the details are covered?
  6. Do you have the temperament that will allow you to work through the paperwork with your spouse during a very emotional time?
  7. Do you understand the tax implications of a divorce?
  8. Do you or your spouse have a lot of unresolved anger that could lead to deceptive behavior (e.g., hiding assets, manipulating the kids, etc.)?

A DIY divorce is a good option if you and your spouse are able to cooperate, you have the time to understand the legal process, and your financial and custody issues are fairly simple. If this doesn't sound like your situation, you're probably better off finding a lawyer and looking into mediation.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

3 Ways for How to Live Alone After a Breakup or Divorce




A contra dance is like an amusement park ride we make for ourselves. 
- Unknown

If you were in a relationship for a long time and recently broke up or got divorced you may be experiencing anxiety about being on your own. I married well into my 30s and experienced a long period of time being single, so when I got divorced it was a relatively easy being alone again.

However, I do remember in my late 20s when everyone was pairing up into couples and having kids, where socializing as a single felt extremely uncomfortable. During that time, I made a promise to never let my singleness stop me from doing things I love like going out to dinner, seeing a movie, or traveling. At first, it was awkward to make this leap into a culture that seems to validate doing things as a couple; however, the more I pursued adventures by myself the more comfortable I felt.

Here are some tips I've gathered along the way for making this transition from being in a couple to learning to do things alone. Above all, if you ever feel awkward, out of place, or like the third wheel use it as an opportunity to see yourself as an observer. Become a detective of life and get to know the people and environment that surrounds you. In this way, you may feel more connected and less out of place.

Dine Out Alone

Being able to sit at a dinner table for two in a restaurant all by yourself and eat a meal without a book or interacting with social networking devices surrounded by sea of couples and families might take a little practice. However, I'm guessing the fear behind being completely alone at a table without any distractions might stimulate issues of self-worth. What will people think of me?

The truth is people are probably not thinking anything about you. In fact, they're probably not taking much notice of you at all. So in many ways you can be like a fly on a wall, observing life around you and absorbing all of it. Dining out alone gives you the opportunity to practice being an observer and a witness of life.

Nevertheless, you may need to build a scaffold to make your way to this realization so here are a few tips for dining out alone.

Bring something to read like a book or magazine. Sometimes I've brought a small journal or sketchpad to jot down ideas and drawings that come to me while I'm in a new place.

Look for a restaurant where you can sit and order food at a bar. A lot of people who are single eat at the bar of a restaurant and you can often strike up an interesting conversation with these friendly folks.

Another great place to have a meal alone is at a sushi bar because it's more communal -- singles and couples sit at the bar because everyone is being entertained and delighted by the chefs. Look for other kinds of restaurants like this such as a Japanese Steakhouse. Seek out places where people sit communally around a table or are served family style. When I lived in Wisconsin, the Friday night Fish Frys at the local church was a fun place to eat with a community of people. Find clubs or organizations that serve pancake breakfasts, spaghetti suppers, or special meals which connect a community of people.

Travel Alone

I've always enjoyed traveling alone because it feels as if I'm on a secret adventure. Also, I meet the most fascinating people when I travel alone because there are so many other people out there traveling alone too!

However, in the beginning if you are reluctant to travel alone, you might enjoy staying at a hostel or bed and breakfast where you can connect with other people. Also, you might choose to go on excursion trips where you travel with a group of people on a tour, volunteer to do work, or take on some kind of adventure like learning to scuba dive. Educational trips can help you feel safer and more at ease while being on your own.

Join Group Activities

One of the best ways to feel more comfortable about being single is finding activities where it isn't necessary to be in a couple. You'd be surprised how many things are out there that don't require you to be paired up.

One of the best social gatherings I've experienced is contra dancing. Both couples and singles show up to this lively dance and switch partners throughout the whole evening. It's a tradition to not dance with the same person after every dance. Also, because the patterns of the dances naturally build community by changing partners in the movements, by the end of the night you will have probably danced with all the men and women in the room no matter your gender. It's great fun and you never feel left out. See the video at the top of this post for why people like to contra dance and what it looks like. Usually you can find a local contra or folk dancing organization in your area.

Here are some other suggestions for group activities. Many special interest groups can be found through Meetup.com, churches, and community centers.

  • Hiking Groups
  • Biking Groups
  • Tribal Bellydance Classes
  • Drumming Circles
  • Game Groups (board games, cards, bingo)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Singing Groups
  • Charity Organizations
  • Church
  • Recreational Sports Leagues (softball, soccer, basketbal, etc.)
  • Classes (cooking, gardening, fly fishing, art, wine tasting, etc.)
  • Single Parent Organizations

If you are experiencing a breakup, separation, or divorce, you may choose to download my FREE ebook Divorce Care Package, which offers tools and ideas for helping you through the process of letting go of a love relationship.

To have me facilitate a workshop or retreat on mending after the loss of love, check out my Web site here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Deal with Emotional Eating After a Breakup or Divorce

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Comfort Food Recipes


When something traumatic like the breakup of relationship or divorce happens, I usually turn to food for healing.

In the past, I have hurt myself by overeating, consuming sugar or fatty foods, or drinking alcohol, so now I'm cautious how I use food as way to cope with suffering.

Nevertheless, I do believe that food can be used as interesting tool for building awareness around how we feel about our bodies and souls. Especially when you're experiencing pain, for it seems only natural to want to eat foods that bring not only nourishment but also emotional comfort.

I try to acknowledge when I am using food as a substitute for love, nurture, and assurance not as a way to feel guilty but rather to create awareness about what I believe is lacking in my life. My book Love, Mindfulness & Food was a tool I developed to help deal with my emotional eating.

After my divorce, I experienced a month where I cooked Shepherd's pie for dinner almost every night. This was the food my body and soul craved, and I decided to follow my instincts. I didn't beat myself up for doing this crazy thing, but rather while I cooked and ate each Shepherd's pie, I acknowledged how much sadness, fear, and grief I was feeling. I saw this food as an outward expression of me trying to love, care for, and nurture myself. When I ate it, I felt like I was being hugged, and I knew I was using food as a symbol for safety and reassurance. I didn't eat my Shepherd pies mindlessly rather I acknowledged the needs this food was fulfilling and what other things I might have to work on in myself to actually feel loved rather than continually use my strategy of emotional eating.

Everyone has their own favorite comfort food, which usually has childhood memories of being nurtured attached to it. Perhaps a mother or grandmother made you something special when you were sick or a particular family meal helps you remember being loved. I believe consciously cooking and eating comfort food after a breakup or divorce can be a healthy tool for learning how to care for yourself while rebuilding your life.

For comfort food recipes check out my Pinterest board. More importantly, to learn how to deal with your emotional eating by uncovering the feelings and needs hidden beneath the food you eat download my free ebook Love, Mindfulness & Food or purchase a hard copy at Lulu.com