For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.
Sometimes that action is so severe, so extreme, that the "opposite and equal reaction" is mind boggling.
I've been divorced for nearly three years. The repercussions have been vast and awful. I don't suggest divorce as an option to ANYBODY because of how dark and painful it makes life. I honestly don't care how "right" or "biblically OK" it is. In my case there was no hate or animosity. I had not handled my mental, emotional, nor physical health properly when I knew things were not happening right. I had not asked for help. Then suddenly, it was too late to ask for help. (Yes. Three and a half years later I still feel like it was too late. Even with all my regrets. I still feel like it was too late.) I thought a divorce would give me an emotionally clean slate. I knew it wouldn't make life "better," but I believed "different" was all I needed to heal and find my feet again.
I'm sure some day I'll write about all my concerns in coming to the decision to follow through on the divorce. But for the peace of mind of my children, I'm not going to give the details publicly that led to my decision. I'm a "sharer." I grew up believing that everything I learned and experienced was somehow to be conveyed so that others could better make their own decisions based off the info I provided. So, I'm sure someday I will even write publicly about the details. But CERTAINLY not before my children know the cause and affects.
Therefore, this writing is not about the details of my divorce. I'm deeply sorry for the pain it causes you to know of this disappointing part of my life. But I want to write about the very purposeful, daily "opposite and equal reactions" I had to do in order to bring some sanity and healing into my life.
I have learned through this experience that the more extreme the tragedy, the more extreme our reaction must be. Our reactions cannot be "knee-jerk reactions." They can't be uncontrolled outbursts that send everyone in our community spinning. The initial action will send more than enough people spinning. Getting balance back into life will not magically "happen" one day. The "equal and opposite reaction" to balance out the turmoil must be planned and very purposeful. And it must also match the impact of the initial action.
I had always been a naturally happy person. I grew up sheltered (which I think is HEALTHY for a child. We need MORE sheltering.) I grew up with cheering parents. I grew up in a close-knit, church community. I'm still friends with the exact same people I was in first grade with; from teachers to children. So, I was exactly as a person who grew up in that environment was SUPPOSED to be; happy, healthy, & productive.
Before the divorce I had already experienced panic attacks, depression, illness; all the typical things associated with the spirit of a person being wounded, and indeed crushed. But I didn't realize what it all was associated with. So, I assumed this "clean slate" was going to fix all that. It did not because I wasn't writing anything NEW on the slate.
The natural result of tragedy brings some very legitimate actions and behaviors; such as crying, feeling angry, getting protective of our wounds, etc. But what happens more often than not, is that these behaviors that were at first triggered by healthy emotional drives becomes nothing more than a HABIT. The crying, the negative, depressive thinking that grief causes becomes destructive habits that we carry out even after the tragedy is behind us. For each person, for each situation, the "behind me" time period will vary. So I can't say, "After a year you need to dry it up and not feel emotional pain any more." I don't know what a "healthy time frame" is. We'll leave that to the professionals. I just know what I've seen and experienced. In my case, good things were occurring all around me, but my "happy response" had been deadened. And I needed to get it cranked back up!
About a year and a half after my divorce; praying daily for death to take me, disconnect from friends and family, an utter barrenness of my former creativity, incessant sadness, negative thinking, etc. I ran across a book at my library called, "Happy For No Reason." It was an informative book. But the information about "smiling" stood out like a neon light. I had, of course, been praying throughout all this time. In fact, I was praying more often, for longer periods, and in much deeper ways than ever. DURING prayer I had relief. But as soon as I was done praying, I would be back to "basket case" status again. So I started a regime to live by for when I stood up from prayer.
My new disciplines were extreme to everyone around me. They were even extreme to me! I had NEVER needed to PLAN to smile before in my life! Joy and loud laughter was "just what we did" growing up! Creativity was written in every strain of my DNA! Leadership was natural, especially leading people into fun and a light ambiance. But sadly, no more. And it was downright awful to me to actually have to PLAN to smile.
And because interaction with God is, I feel, so vital to our health and well-being, I had to include all the spiritual elements in this "Happy Exercise" as well.
I had started losing weight and was well aware of the repetitive disciplines required to lose weight and exercise. I had experienced the results of reusing the same muscles repetitively and how it made the workout easier and easier. So I believed my brain could be "built" in the same way. As a matter of fact, I was aware of how dendrites worked within the brain, so I KNEW I could teach my brain new tricks, new habits.
In my simple layman's terms, dendrites are what causes habits. For every action you make a dendrite is made. And every time you repeat that action more dendrites are made. Those dendrites begin to group up with the earlier dendrite you made. The grouping gets bigger and stronger. This is how balance is built in a baby learning to walk. This is how language is learned. This is how habits are made. When you cease the action, the dendrites deteriorate, therefore you lose the habit.
So based on my experience with repetitive exercise, my little understanding of dendrites, I created my "Happy Exercise." I set alarms to go off every hour, from 9am to 2pm, my office hours.
When the "Happy Exercise" alarm went off the first thing I did was smile. I just smiled. Whether I was in a meeting, sitting at my desk, reading, whatever I was doing, I just smiled.
The next thing I did was stand and do something active. At first it was a walk. But I began to work in an office, so instead I closed and locked my office door and did some toning and strength poses.
I also read scripture and prayed. And I would very deliberately close my eyes and think of at least one thing I was thankful for.
Depending on the day, I could relax and take my time in this process. Other days I had to go quickly through the routine.
I still do this every hour, every day. And it's made a HUGE difference! I don't feel giddy when I do it. As a matter of fact, I still feel that funk sometimes, but when my alarm goes off I MAKE MYSELF go through the routine, and I'm always better because of it. I was correct about it becoming a "needed" habit. If the office is in an extra busy season, getting ready for a conference, or something out of the ordinary, and I push off my "Happy Exercise," I'm as bad as a drug addict trying to find a fix! OK. Maybe not "as bad," but it's definitely missed by my mind, body and spirit. I've said a couple times that I was going to change it to every-other-hour since I'm doing so much better. But so far I can't. I love it too much!
It was an extreme action to take, but I was in an extremely bad state of mind. An "opposite and equal" reaction was required. Extremity required extremity.
So, whether your dealing with divorce, or death, or chronic physical pain. The list of tragedies we each find ourselves in is far too long. But my encouragement to you is that you not forget that you MUST take control of WHAT YOU CAN! You can't control that somebody you loved died, but you CAN control what you eat during that period of mourning. You can't control getting cancer, but you CAN control what your watch, or read while you receive treatment. You can't control somebody hurting and rejecting you, but you CAN control your own behavior. You can't control A LOT of things, but I have found you CAN control how often you smile.
You may find peace & faith in praying these scriptures I pray and claim for myself;
Here's a video of me demonstrating how easy it is to JUST SMILE! =)