Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The power of your belief system

I like to disagree. It tests my belief system. It makes me think harder about a topic. It forces me to look at the other side. It reinforces my own opinion but also leaves room for me to change it, if appropriate.

I've been tested many times for many things, some things completely out of my control, such as the death of my spouse in 1989. I was young back then, and married again, of course, only to be tested again--big time--when that marriage ended in divorce in 2004, after 10 years of what I thought was holy matrimony. It was my only church wedding, and I'd put more stock in that one.

Alas, the dissolution began at the end of 2002, during the holidays. As you can imagine, the holidays are an awful time for families to split up or to begin the ending of a long-term marriage. It seems to happen frequenting during this time of year, however, and I've never quite understood that unfortunate truth. No matter. It's still a test whatever time of year it might occur.

During the beginning of mine, I did find myself debating my former spouse on almost everything. He told me he'd cheated on me. I told him he had to stop. He said we'd work it out. I asked him why he had to move out then. He said we could stay together if I could be friends with her. I told him he was crazy. It went on and on like that for several months. There was a part of me that asked the same question in the woman's magazine column, "Can this marriage be saved?"

Eventually, I hired a lawyer, and it was she, amazingly enough, who helped reign me in when my emotions wanted to veer off in a direction that could have only led to dread. She kept me on the right footing. I had a goal, and she helped me reach it. My goal was simple: I didn't want to come out of the loss a bitter woman. I just couldn't do that to myself, I told her. I told the same thing to my therapist, who said, "That's a good goal," and starting giving me regular hugs at the end of our sessions.

My goal meant I had a lot of soul searching to do. It meant I had to learn to let go of what he did and concentrate on what I was going to do. It meant I had to get in touch with a part of me that had been lost in the marriage--my spiritual side.

There were times when I thought to let go meant I was letting him off the hook, that I was saying he was right to behave the way he did. And then I became angry at myself for picking a guy who would behave so disrespectfully. It took a long time for me to realize his behavior had little to do with me, that my behavior was the one I needed to focus on, that letting go meant to free myself of blame and shame and judgment--that this wasn't productive for me in any way. I could let my higher power look out for me now.

There are times still today that I forget that. I need to be reminded. I wish this weren't so. I wish I were naturally a person who could just let things go. But some things, I hold onto. When I recognize that the disagreement I need to have is not with others but with myself, that's when I realize that I've been neglecting the growth of my spiritual side. That maybe I've gotten out of touch with what I really value. Maybe I haven't even considered it.

It's hard work to look inside yourself and admit you have flaws, to see that you can contradict yourself, that you don't have all the answers--and that some of the answers you did have led you to where you are now. If that "now" is not a good place to be, it's hard to face that you put yourself there. It's easy to resist taking personal responsibility.

That's why I applaud people who stand up for what they believe in. They may be right; they may be wrong. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that they do what they believe is right, and that, when tested, they still know where they stand.

I attended group counseling sessions during my divorce where I was told, "If you wind up getting divorced, the important thing is that you know that's what you want." Even my lawyer told me during our initial consultation, "Take these papers home with you. Think about it for as long as you need. When you decide it's time, then that's when you file. Don't do it because you feel you have to."

And I wasn't ready right then. She knew it. Initially, I wanted to keep my marriage intact. I hoped that I could. But that soul searching of mine led me to conclude not that I didn't have a choice in the matter, but that my choice was that I deserved a better life. My eyes had been opened, and I was now seeing clearly. The debate was over, and I'd taken my stand. I don't regret it. I'm not bitter. I met my goal.

That's the power of trusting your belief system.

Can you recall an event in your life where you felt forced to act in a way that went against your belief system? How did you handle it? What was the outcome? Go ahead and post your comments here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post.Will you post in future?