The holidays are almost here! In between decking the halls, cozying up with the Hallmark Channel, and delighting in the tastes, sounds, and smells of all your favorite treats and traditions, you might be thinking about what you want to give everyone on your list. Maybe you’ve even thought about what you hope to get from someone who has you on their list. And maybe you’re not thinking much about anything beyond the struggle you’re in, the worry you’re carrying, or the pain you’re feeling. You certainly wouldn’t be alone; merry and bright doesn’t describe everyone’s spirit at this time of year.
At this time six years ago I’d been separated from my (now) ex-husband for a few months and we’d decided to divorce. It was an extremely difficult time. For anyone who has been there, you know that pain. I was not myself and the holidays were hard. I didn’t really know which way was up, but I did know I needed to take a break from my work to catch my breath and recalibrate. Taking that time was the best gift I could have given myself. Three years after the divorce was finalized I decided that I was going to leave Houston and move closer to family. I’d been marinating on the idea of making a big change for a long time, but didn’t feel able/ready to go until I realized I no longer needed the comfort of what I’d been holding onto. I can’t say there was one singular event or thought that led me to that clarity; more likely, it was the result of time, presence, and process working their wonder and, then, finding courage to not just think about wanting something different, but to actually go for it.
Not too long after I’d made my decision, I attended a presentation on self-compassion. The room was already full when I arrived so I grabbed one of the few remaining seats that, unbeknownst to me, was behind someone with whom I’d had a professional relationship, but hadn’t seen nor spoken to in about two years. She and I reconnected at the break and shared a conversation that illuminated the gratitude in our hearts for one another’s being and closed yet another chapter in my Houston story.
I felt grateful.
An hour or so later the presentation ended and I decided to run a quick errand. When I finished what I needed to do I glanced in a store window and saw a woman I immediately recognized, but didn’t quite know how or why until it clicked that it was my ex-husband’s new wife. He was there with her, too, and they appeared to be shopping for a couch. I didn’t feel a surge of anything one might think they’d feel in a moment like that (sadness, anger, relief, hurt), but I do remember my immediate thought: “We never bought a couch together. I can’t wait to buy a couch with someone.” And with that, I continued on my way.
I felt hopeful.
Two weeks later I was driving home from the airport late at night. As I got closer into the city I couldn’t help but notice a sign (literally, a billboard) that shown as bright as a giant headlight against the black sky. On it was my ex-husband’s face, super-sized to fill the space. He was lit up like a disco ball dangling over the city. His presence – there but not there – was familiar and, in that moment, a larger than life reminder that Houston was his home, but no longer mine.
I felt peace.
Depending on what you believe, there could be many reasons to explain why this sequence of events happened just after I’d decided to reconfigure my life. This is the one that resonates most with me:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” (Goethe)
The story I’m sharing here is for anyone standing on the precipice of change and wondering why they feel stuck. The uncertainty I felt about leaving was only registering as uncertainty because I hadn’t decided to be certain. In other words, staying in limbo only guarantees more limbo. If you want something to be different, commit to making it so. That’s where the true magic in every season lies.