Marriage...Interrupted, Part 4: Let Go, Let God

I recently saw a post on Instagram with four simple words.

Let go. Let God.

Despite the simplicity of these words, they resonated deeply with me. If I was asked to summarize the process of separation and divorce, these words are what I would choose. The essence of my experience, and what has made things somewhat "easier," has been letting go and letting God.

I've let go of thoughts and feelings that serve no purpose, and hold on for dear life to what I've learned.

The "Let God" process started quite a while ago, when I was confused about what was happening to our relationship and prayed for guidance. It continues to this day, and is an integral part of my spirituality. While I have days where I worry about my future to a point of wanting to draft out a Plan A to Z type of document with alternate scenarios to "if I don't get re-married by the age of BLANK", most of my days are spent content with allowing signs to crop up and fate to play out. 

The letting go process, to be honest, only started for me over the winter break. The extensive amount of traveling I did in the fall allowed me to escape the reality in Calgary and become immersed in work and life on the road. At that point, I was not ready to let go...and I couldn't. We were in the separation phase and although deep down, I knew there would be no reconciliation, I had to wait for the three months to end. I couldn't really let go until I was sure we were no longer Islamically bonded.

But after the separation, another emotion set in: anger. I think it took around a month for it to dissipate. As nasty as people think this emotion can be during divorce, it's actually incredibly healthy and to be expected when you're grieving the loss of a relationship. As long as it's not outwardly directed towards any person and harm is not caused, anger is not only healthy but required. I'm glad I went through that stage because I'm not typically angry on a regular basis. This phase taught me solid anger management strategies and I at least know what works for me, cognitively and physically.

With the blessing of two weeks off during the break (and no travel plans to escape, HA!), I knew that I had to use this time for myself. Now that I was Islamically not bound to my former spouse, and knew that divorce was the path we're taking, I had to use this time wisely as a means to find myself again. And by this, I didn't mean going back to the person I was before I got married. Not that there was anything "wrong" with who I was at that time, but I'm sure everyone understands that regardless of adverse life events, we all change over time.

There was a lot of letting go that had to be done...the leftovers from prior clothing and belongings pick ups that I had to organize for another pickup; the jewelry and wedding gifts that had to be given back; the wedding ring that went back into its box and to its rightful owner; the thousand-plus photos that had to be deleted; the USB stick with wedding photos that was smashed under a hammer (not out of anger, but more for protection and identity reasons); the photo albums and picture frames that were emptied; and of course, the "unfriending" and "unfollowing" process that occurred on social media. These were all aspects of letting go...and I knew that it was the right time because I felt calm during this process. I wasn't angry, upset, hurt, or bitter - I was calm and very much matter of fact. It felt logical and necessary.

And then one day, I stepped into my apartment and realized that I couldn't stand how it looked. I hadn't yet changed anything around and the decoration and set up was suddenly driving me crazy. This isn't me, I thought to myself, this used to be us. Within a few minutes, I had removed all the artwork off the walls; decor items were taken off bookshelves and piled in a corner; magnets collected from vacations were taken off the fridge; cushions were flung into a pile; and so on. Everything that was a reminder was stacked into a corner and I was left with a blank slate. I immediately started to feel better. Not only was the decor clutter cut down, but the apartment felt larger and full of...possibility. I then realized how much the space was weighing heavily on my shoulders. Sure, this apartment was where I came to at the end of each day, but it didn't feel like home.

But after many trips to Ikea and Home Sense, it does now! :)

There were other forms of letting go that occurred. I'm blessed that things have been very much "drama free", but there was a situation recently that angered me incredibly, since boundaries between families were crossed. And I sat with that anger, vented to a friend, listened to their advice, and let it go that same night...all within a span of around an hour. I don't think that could have been possible a month or two ago, but I believe that the other letting go I had done helped me in this situation. Another person's actions are out of my control anyway and I wasn't about to lose sleep or stress myself out by thinking about it in circular patterns.

I am sure there'll be other situations that'll come up where I will have to let go. For example, people who haven't seen me in a while asking how married life is or (more annoyingly) if I'm expecting or plan to in the near future. I feel incredibly bad for their awkward reaction when I tell them "I'm divorced" and try to reassure them that I'm not offended by their question...but maybe not so much for the baby asking people!

I've come to realize that you can't have healthy transitions in life without letting go, especially with respect to ending relationships. At some point, you either hold onto what you had or what could have been, causing grief or anger; or you let go of what was, don't overly react to what happens, and let God handle the future. While this all seems easier said than done, and I admit to this process taking a LOT of time and intentional patient effort, it does work.

And so, in no particular order, here are a few strategies that worked for me to let go:

1. Stop checking up on your former spouse on social media. I've never once had an urge to do this during any stage of our separation, and I don't do it now that we're no longer connected on social media in any way. However, if you're tempted to do this, either deactivate your accounts for a while or block that person. The stalking behaviour does nothing at all to help with your emotional recovery. What they do with their life after separation ends is really none of your concern, and vice versa.

2. Choose your battles wisely. I had quite a few things that I had bought for "us" taken from the apartment during our separation. Part of me wanted to make a list of these things and request that they be returned. But then I realized that in the grand scheme of things, does getting back material objects really matter right now? Not really. However, when the situation mentioned above happened and I was notified by text message, I did not take that lightly. I sent back a very firm text message stating how a line had been crossed and reiterating that I would appreciate us not interfering in each other's families. This definitely held greater importance to me rather than asking for my Magic Bullet back.

3. Your divorce can't be the only thing you think or talk about. You really need to prevent this life event from being the sole factor that defines who you are at this point in time. I don't talk about my divorce to even my closest friends all the time. If they ask how I am, I'll maybe provide an update if I feel like it, but mostly, I know they can tell how I'm feeling by the fact that I'm engaging in conversations and activities with them that have nothing to do with my divorce. If you're constantly lamenting this experience and talking about it all the time, that's not healthy. Perhaps during the initial stages, yes, but not at this stage of the game. If you are, I really recommend seeking counselling at this stage, especially if these thought patterns are interfering with healthy functioning, including loss of sleep, appetite, motivation, energy, etc. 

4. You need to not only let go of the past, but also stop worrying about the future. I'm currently working on this one! The "what ifs" start to creep in and don't seem to stop. What if I don't get remarried? What if I live alone for the rest of my life?! What if I don't have marriage or motherhood in my future? What if my career becomes the sole path that Allah wants me to take? And so on. Sure, they're legitimate questions, but I really waste my present time if I'm hyper-focused on the future. As my mom always says, we don't even know what tomorrow will bring and we worry about the distant future. True that.

5. Let go of any advice others give that doesn't sit well with you. Again, I have been blessed with amazing support and a smooth process thus far, Alhamdulillah. However, there are times when acquaintances (who don't know me that well) try to give me hope for the future by stating that physical appearance and a successful career are in my favour. Even typing this out makes me cringe. I am sure people's intentions are good by making this statement, regardless of it being one of the many common consoling post-divorce statements that women are told with the hopes that it somehow makes her feel better. But it doesn't do a darn thing for me and only shows me that those who said it don't really know who I am. I've had to let go of how I feel after hearing these comments, and try not to hold grudges against those who said it. I know they meant well. But seriously...to those reading this, please take heed and don't repeat those words to anyone UNLESS you know that it's meaningful to them. Thank you :)

I am pretty sure that as time goes on, letting go will become easier; and letting God will always continue to be at the centre of my healing. Apart from the solid support of friends, letting go can be facilitated by seeing a counsellor on a regular basis, reading books about healing from broken relationships, journaling, self-care, physical activity, prayer and spiritual practice, and much more. Try to focus your time and energy on the present - not the past and not the future. Find joy in the simple things in life, be grateful for what you do have, and be thankful that you're alive.

Because while your broken heart may be healing, it's at least still beating.

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