Two years ago, our world was turned upside down. One moment I was a single mother, master of my universe, and the next moment shattered with the news that my narcissistic ex (also my son’s father) was planning on moving to the United States and seek custody of my child.
Coming from a divorced family myself, I knew the importance of co-parenting and equal visitation, so I started reading up on how to best proceed. Long story short, what transpired over the course of the next two years was the opposite of what I had expected (a walk-away) and played out worse than I could have ever imagined or even be prepared for (financially or emotionally). The litigation seemed like an endless hurricane, spinning me in and spitting me out only to suck me back in and nauseate me to a point of exhaustion. At the end of the battle, I felt like a limp, lifeless thing looking, begging, desperately for my last breathe of life (that story shall be saved for another time).
I think that experience trained my mind to expect the worst, assume the worst. It was the only way to survive the litigation. It was the only way to stay on top of things in order to protect myself and my son. Or so I thought…
Towards the end of litigation, after receiving daily emails (for two years!) of hate, false accusations, verbal and emotional harassment, threats, and stalking, I was reminded that my thoughts and energy behind them are what create my reality. Maybe those emails were as bad as they were because I was expecting them to be. And I responded to them as “the worst email ever.” If I can’t change him, perhaps I could change my experience? Although this sounds like talk from woo-woo land, the idea is actually quite practical and effective if you use it to your advantage. Trust me! You don’t have to believe in any kind of religion or partake in any kind of spiritual practice. Just try it. Change those thoughts into positive, uplifting, empowering, and encouraging ones, and stand back and watch that magic happen.
I was listening to a motivational video the other day that illuminated this exact statement:
“You don’t get in life what you want, you get in life what you are. And the good news is that we can always become more by working to better ourselves.”
As far-fetched as it sounded, even if I thought I was doing everything right, maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe…just maybe… I had to change myself. As humans, especially living in the US, we have complete power to become the person we want to be. There are literally NO limitations to that power. If we can be whoever we want to be, then that is equivalent to “we can have whatever we want, as long as we become that first.”
Did I want peace? Yes. Then I had to become peace. Did I want resolution? Yes. Did I want the possibility of one day peacefully co-parenting with what I felt to be an impossible hopeless person? Yes. And there was only one way I was going to get that. By digging deep, keeping an open mind and heart to find what it was inside of me that was preventing me from getting what I wanted. In other words, what I was lacking. It’s hard because I didn’t know what to look for and didn’t know what I would find. But when you dig deep enough in your soul, you will find it was there all along.
With that I decided that even though day after day I was used to the humiliating and hurtful emails, I would put my mind and heart in a peaceful state before I opened the emails. I would read them not looking at what was said, but what the intent was. I started looking for ways to respond so that I came off as completely open, peaceful, and cooperative. If I was still upset by the content, I would have to wait until I could read it without the emotional upset. Yet while I responded, had to use my brain and resources to maintain my assertiveness and wise judgement on what was not negotiable (and relay that kindly). I can tell you from experience that there is an extremely fine line between being assertive and being peaceful, and I have yet to master that art of communication.
What happened after this change on my part was that I was starting to receive somewhat peaceful, negotiable emails. I started receiving emails that did not make me feel anxious, insecure, or frustrated. And because I had taken a moment to put myself at peace, and to not expect the worst, what I got in return was not “the worst”. Granted, it wasn’t the best, and we still struggle with so many issues, but the feelings I get from it (positive, empowering, encouraging) also help me respond to the emails in the same way.
When we respond in or set the stage for anger, we are only perpetuating such a cycle. When we expect the other one to take the first initiative in changing this cycle, we are again, perpetuating this cycle. The first step is always the hardest, but if you take that first step, that will put you at least one step ahead of the rest.
This story is going to take a bit of a turn, but I don’t see these opportunities in only my dealings with my co-parent, but I see them everywhere I go. With friends, family, and even at work.
The other day I got an email from my boss out of nowhere. The content was that of, “I need to chat with you about something. Can we meet at 2?” Apparently, even if I practice optimism my first thought was negative. Oh my gosh, what could it be? Am I in trouble? What did I do? Was it that time I came in late? Was it that time I took a longer lunch?
I remembered the quote “You get what you are” and reminded myself that I am a hard worker, I was the only one with 100% positive customer feedback. I was recognized multiple times for my efforts in the past year. I had a pretty bonus and raise. It couldn’t be that bad… But if it was, I would be ok, because I am surrounded with people that love me and support me unconditionally.
Two-o-clock comes around and my boss enters my office, closes the door, and I start fidgeting with my fingers. I felt a little nervous, but what she came to talk about was a small promotion.
That was proof in itself. Why assume the worst? If we knew how powerful our thoughts are, we would make every effort to never have a negative thought again.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with negative emotions, but there is something wrong with negative thoughts, and there is absolutely no reason why we have to worry about or assume the worst, especially if we have the power to make it an opportunity for something great.
You have all that power inside you. It’s your choice to use it or not.