Some chance encounters might not be completely accidental. Sometimes the stars align and we meet people who show us something we hadn't even thought of before. I met someone on a plane last week who did just that.
He asked me what I did for a living and I said, without hesitation, "I am an author and blogger and I write on the topic of healing after nonconsensual divorce." What?! I do? (It is still hard for me to believe.) He was intrigued. "Nonconsensual divorce? Where one party does not want it?" "Yes," I said, bracing for the usual, "If someone doesn't want to be married to you, why would you want to be married to them?" response. I didn't get it this time- sometimes we get what we need in spite of ourselves and our expecations. Sometimes.
The story he told me was heartening. I'm sharing it here for all of those who think that their ex is a subhuman who screwed them over without a shred of remorse.
This gentleman did not expect to get a divorce. He and his wife owned a business and a home on the east coast; he wanted to move away from the area and his wife didn't. Their children were grown. He did move away to test the waters, but came back on occasion to attend to the business and the marriage. The wife still didn't want to move, and they divorced.
He told me that the divorce went more his way than hers financially. He was friends with the attorneys and he felt that helped his case a bit. Now for the heartening part. He is sorry about that. Some twenty years later, he is sorry about that, and he helps when he can. He feels that it is in his children's best interest to make sure that their mother is financially solvent and also part of their lives.
For a variety of reasons, the children are somewhat estranged from their mother so he also encourages them to cultivate a relationship with her, even to the point of inviting her on family vacations and paying for her trips to visit the kids. He has moved on with his life, yet genuinely desires to make financial amends and do the right thing. His story is evidence that people and situations do change. I liked him very much. People who open up and own their whole story are rare.
Or perhaps I liked him so much because he was similarly moved by my tale. I told him that I protested the idea of divorce many times in the last few years of my marriage, and the things that he'd shared were a real blessing to me. He then became the first male stranger to "get me," and his assessment was beautifully stated: "You wanted to stay married because you felt it was the right thing to do. You had unconditional love. You tried and you can feel good about that." Yes. That is it. Finally someone got it. There doesn't have to be some fancy, 100 page reason. I was just trying to do what I thought was right for my kids and my marriage; and I did try and I do feel good about it. Thank you Mr. Man On Plane for understanding!
As we flew on (and on- it was a long flight...) I reflected on the conference I'd just attended. The women there were amazing and the sessions inspired me to live with new purpose. I looked out the window at the Gulf of Mexico stretching out below and the thought came to me: limitless. We are all filled with infinite potential, why do we forget so easily?
What limited expectations do we place on others? It isn't everyday that you meet an ex husband who is genuinely sorry for getting the lion's share. I'm not a bird watcher, but perhaps that was about the equivalent of spotting the elusive ivory billed woodpecker.
The takeaway is that people do change. In the case of an ex spouse, we can either assume they are still the same "jerk they always were," (just kidding) or we might realize that they are growing, changing and evolving the same way we are and bless them where they're at, wherever that may be. I know I'm not the same person I was when I married, much less when I divorced. We are all at different places on our path, and judging another for anything I think they're lacking just isn't the best use of my time.
Staying in a loop of negative expectations about someone or something just invites more of the same to manifest into our present moment. I repeat: Staying in a loo... oh. Moving on.
This concept doesn't only apply to the people who have gone out of our lives. Are there currently people in your life from whom you expect the worst? Have you ever felt like you made significant changes, or even taken baby steps towards a goal and your efforts went unrecognized by people who are important to you? It doesn't feel very good. We likely do the same thing and don't even realize it, responding to people in accordance with the ingrained patterns we've come to expect, not according to what they might need or want in the present moment.
Is there someone you could look at in terms of the present moment and see them as they really are right now? Using beginner's mind isn't only for Zen masters; it can become the most beautiful gift you ever give someone.
It is even more beautiful to give that gift to ourselves. Telling someone else they should remove their label of guilt and shame is usually easier than removing our own self imposed ones. I made a financial mistake the other day and overdrew my checking account. That is something that has not happened for years, however, part of the "story" around my divorce has to do with my ability to handle money. I obviously carried more shame around this issue than I'd recognized; you would have thought the world was coming to an end. I was ugly crying, beating myself up for how stupid I was and how I was certain to end up homeless and penniless. When I finally came to my senses and realized the story wasn't real, I was able to release it and accept a new truth. I am good at handling money, but I made a mistake and transferred money to the wrong account. That's it? No big deal, that can happen to anyone.
If you feel like your life has become one big rerun of beating yourself up for the same old thing over and over, it could be because you EXPECT the same old thing over and over. Please challenge stories you tell yourself about your limits, inabilities, failures, shortcomings, bad habits and beliefs about others. Here are two ways:
What are your expectations around a situation? For example, say you want to let go of some weight. You've done it before, then gained more back. This has happened more than once, so you are a total failure in this area, right? Allow yourself to flip the expectation around and envision what the opposite outcome looks like.
Recognize when you are prejudging a situation/person/whatever. Ask yourself what the other potential variations look like and accept that any outcome is possible. What would unconditional love look like?
The universe is a big place with no limits, and we tend to live in just one little corner. Expand yourself outward by challenging your current beliefs about what is possible and you may meet a lot of new people that you already know, including yourself.