Almost five years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was baking cookies so my kids could put them on a plate for Santa Claus. The house was full of the smell of chocolate and sugar, but there was also a lot of tension, because my then-husband and I were in the midst of intense marital struggle that was leading to an end point. But it was Christmas, a time of year I’ve always loved. And I was determined to have a tender heart and make it a nice time for my children. My youngest was only 5-months-old; it would be her first Christmas.
In mid-afternoon there was a knock on the door from the postman. He handed me a letter that was certified and said he needed my signature. I knew what it was—divorce papers. My heart started to pound; my abdomen went cold. Christmas Eve? Seriously? I thought as I signed my name.
But then I went back to the kitchen, looked the papers over quickly, and rearranged my understanding.
Christmas Eve, yes. This is a gift.
Weeks before I received the divorce papers, I had been wondering how I was going to do it myself. I knew I wasn’t in love with my husband anymore. I had tried and tried to fulfill my vows, to keep our marriage afloat, but I got to the end of my rope. Not only that, I had grown. I was not the same woman who said her vows at 24, and a lot had happened in my life, in both our lives. I was committed to continuing to grow. I didn’t know if I could do that within the framework of that marriage. No, scratch that. I knew I couldn’t do it within the framework of that marriage.
And yet I loved my kids, and I didn’t want anything to intrude upon what I had hoped would be a perfect life for them. Besides that, I had no job. Divorce was a financial matter, and finances were not in order. My assumption was that if we decided to divorce, there would have to be a thoughtful, measured approach about how to do that in light of our financial circumstances and our children’s best interests.
But I was not in control. That is not how things happened.
But can I tell you something?
I still view my divorce as an enormous gift, as perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me.
Because what I got out of the divorce was me. I didn’t know who me was for a long time. I thought I did, of course. But I had a lot of surface definitions for myself, a lot of labels. The true me lived under all of that, and she is still in process. (She may always be.)
And despite stress, despite challenges, I am happy. You can still be happy in the midst of pain. And you can experience joy when life feels like it’s crumbling all around you.
Because happiness is knowing yourself. A deep-down knowing. A spending time with. A love.
And happiness is having a relationship with the divine. If you don’t, all your happiness is just flimsy. As Paramahansa Yogananda says, “The ideal of every human life should be to be good, to be happy, and to find God. You will never be happy unless you find God.”
In the last five years, the gifts I have been given are ones that challenge me to determine what matters to me, how I want to operate in the world, independent of any partner’s influence or perceptions. The gifts I have been given are the chance to know myself, to listen to my body, to develop an inherent trust in my own capacity so I can make better choices going forward. This does not mean I berate myself for the decisions I made in the past, or what I perceive to be missteps along my way. It just means I remain open and willing to step into growth, toward wholeness, over and over again.
We don’t have a lot of power to singularly fix all the ills of the world. We are not Gods. But what we do have is the power to come into ourselves, to know ourselves, to grow closer to the source of Love and Being. And when we do, miracles happen.
Accepting whatever comes to us each day as some sort of divine gift—whether we know what to do with it right away, whether we think it’s ugly and would love to send it back, whether we want to hold onto it for later use—is a way through the rocky terrain of being alive.
Because we can’t change what happens around us, or what has happened in the past. We are not God. But we can create each moment anew, from a place of deep, awakened consciousness.
If you don’t have a relationship with that Presence now, take a yell at it. Start turning to it, in good times and bad. That’s at least a start. And if you ever want something more, a more profound experience, the Presence of Love and Goodness is always around you. Ready to work with you and within. Always.
A love like that sets you free. A love like that makes you happy.
A love like that makes each day full of gratitude.