Seven years ago, on Christmas eve, my husband told me he wanted a divorce. We had been living together and married for 26 years. It was his second time divorcing.
Two weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that her husband of 16 years did the same… and much the same, very close to Christmas. She has three kids, one of whom she adopted from Ethiopia three years ago with her husband.
It is a particularly bitter act to tell your partner and mother of your children something so life changing and ground shaking on the eve of a family holiday.
Three years ago, I asked my ex husband why he’d chosen to let me know he wanted to part ways only 5 days before Christmas. “Elisabetta, there is no right day to tell your spouse you want a divorce”, he calmly explained. Perhaps to him, this is very much the case… so today, I accept what he thinks and feels.
I still remember those days leading up to that Christmas. My entire system in shock. Every Christmas that’s followed since, I’ve inadvertently experienced a feeling of numbness, which has gotten in the way of me enjoying the festive and family atmosphere. My daughter, Stella, says she doesn’t remember that Christmas Day around the tree. I know as a counsellor and coach that when we block something out from our consciousness, it’s usually because it’s too painful to face, deal with and/or remember.
For the last seven years, I found myself asking, “Why?!”. Watching my friend go through the same situation now, I wondered why and how someone so close to you could do something so hurtful and insensitive to you and themselves. The same news could have been offered up a mere ten days after Christmas. It would have had a totally different effect, meaning and shape.
After some reflection, I came to the conclusion that we human beings have a very vindictive streak when we’re unhappy inside. When we’re not happy within ourselves, we act vengefully towards the people we love most. More often than not, we remain totally blind to the fact that our actions are first and foremost vindictive towards ourselves. Revenge is after all, like a boomerang. It’s thrown, and always comes back to the person who launched it in the first place.
When we’re unhappy and we deny ourselves happiness for years at a time by minimising it, we build up layers of resentment inside. Those layers end up sitting in our unconscious mind and can wind up controlling us rather than us, them.
What we don’t know is that those negative layers of neglected unhappiness, end up becoming our biggest adversaries if left unconfronted and unresolved. They nurture our dark side. They remain hidden and one day, when they can no longer be contained, start bubbling with intense fervour. When this occurs, they have the power to destroy, hurt and kill not only the people around you but ourselves.
What happened 7 years ago, cannot be changed. It happened for a reason, of course. As everything in our lives does. Can we change the past? Of course, not. But we can remember and learn from it.
I resented my ex husband for what he did consciously or unconsciously seven years ago… especially to our daughter. I still perceive his sudden decision and execution of communicating the divorce as irresponsible. Of course, it is my personal observation but I do believe it’s based upon facts. I resented myself for resenting him and the situation. I resented myself for having allowed it all to happen by staying blind and playing the victim of that choice for months and years after.
Today I’m aware that it all had to happen this way. These seven years have helped me to integrate many lessons. It was necessary for me to feel that resentment and hate towards myself so that I make space for forgiveness… for myself first, and then for my ex husband and father of my daughter.
Eventually, after a lot of self exploration, it finally happened. It was by no means a quick fix, rather it was an arduous and painful journey. It felt like I was dying at times. Then, one day, very recently, I experienced a sort of ‘resurrection’. I felt like I was taking my first breath and coming back to life, but able to love life so much more than I had before.
Forgiveness and letting go is a process and has to be first applied to ourselves and our own actions, or lack thereof. We have to forgive ourselves for our blindness.
We cannot change other people’s decisions. We cannot rescue others from their own choices and vindictiveness. We can only observe what happens and know that the same self-destructive, vengeful nature is dwelling within us too. We simply choose not to use it, because we’re acting from a liberated and conscious space. We can be mindful enough to act in a more constructive way for all the parties involved.
We can be true to ourselves and still do our best to act responsibly by choosing not to hurt others and ourselves by surrendering power to our vindictive side, which is a part of our humanness. We do this by nurturing and remaining faithful and connected to our light.
Header image by Erwan Hesry