A Divorce Journey: BLOG #3
By Lynn Kaplan: Certified Divorce Doula & Divorce Coach
BLOG #3 - RECEIVING (and GIVING) EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Going through my separation, I was often overwhelmed with anxiety. But one thing I figured out pretty quickly was that by connecting with others, I could almost instantly bring that anxiety down.
It’s amazing how powerful a cell phone can be, for such a small device. Living in Toronto, with all of my relatives far away in California, I spoke daily to family members, spending hours on the phone with my ever so patient mother. The cost of a long distance plan was well worth it.
My parents and siblings had always been such a huge part of my life. They knew everything going on with my children, as I knew about theirs. Hearing their voices and talking through anything and everything that happened each day truly helped keep me grounded.
Or I’d call a friend and just ask them to talk about what was going on in their lives, or to tell me some interesting news they had recently heard. My friends spent long hours on that little device talking me back to sanity. I made sure I didn't talk about my anxiety or my “stuff.” I knew if I could get “out of my head,” I could calm down and get back to life.
I also reached out to those nearby to join me in a quieter way. Rather than going to a loud, busy restaurant or out shopping, I begged them to come with me and my dogs for walks in the local ravines or along the beach. I knew I needed the raw calmness of nature.
We were urban dwellers, but we would scout out forests and rivers close to the city, bringing along a sandwich for lunch, or a picnic for an evening stroll. These “Walk & Talks,” filled with birdsong in the spring or the crunchiness of snow in winter, and even the mucky walks in raincoats and rubber boots through fall showers, drew out the deepest, most honest conversations.
I hunkered down into my community, building strong ties with the people physically closest to me, my neighbours and local storekeepers. My little dead end street was filled with front porches where I could always find a place to sit and find solace. My “then husband” had “dumped me (Blog #1) in April, just in time for Porch Season. I spent long spring and summer evenings in the company of many elderly neighbours, sipping ice tea. Their wisdom gave me hope.
As soon as I started to feel my own personal “symptoms” (unable to settle down, feeling like I couldn’t breathe, sweaty and uncomfortable in my own body), I learned that I needed to CONNECT.
Additionally, I did, and still do, a lot of walking in my neighbourhood. When the feelings of anxiety would start, I’d grab my coat and go for a walk. I’d pop into my local shops to pick up little things that we needed, such as bread or cheese or a few items for dinner. But the key was to chat with the shopkeepers; starting small conversations, asking them how they were doing that day.
We are social animals and we need human contact. Having these short conversations let me feel CONNECTED and part of a COMMUNITY, no longer alone. I could also see that when I took that extra minute or two to ask about others, my soul was filled with the smiles that came over their faces. Getting out of my head also meant making their days just a little bit better. A win-win situation.
Along my journey to find the emotional support that I so greatly needed, I also found the connections to help me within my synagogue. The joyous singing and prayers during our services gave me a place to release my tears, yet I was quickly revived at the shared meal afterwards. One of the challenges of being a single parent is just not having enough TIME. Nonetheless, I poured myself into joining a committee on starting a new synagogue. I was part of building something new for my community, while my children and I were embraced by a “chosen family”. Synagogues, churches, mosques, theatre groups, choirs, school committees; are all welcoming places. Taking the first step toward them can be so hard, but is well worth it in the end.
These past years of healing from all the support I found in so many different corners, has ingrained in me the need to give back at any opportunity that is presented. Even the smallest; helping the elderly gentleman figure out the parking meter, always opening shop doors for parents pushing strollers, knowing that the disheveled person sitting on the sidewalk can benefit more than me from the protein bar that's in my purse.
I now see these small acts of kindness coming naturally from my children; my 16-year-old son recently told me he gave his lunch money -- a $10 Tim Horton’s card -- to the homeless man he passes every day on the way to school; my 28-year-old daughter knew I would much prefer for Mother’s Day the donation she made in my honour for Refugee Mothers, which would provide women in need with diapers for their babies.
We all need to build a “village” to get us through hard times. Small steps, connecting with others even in minor ways, will get you on the path to healing. In reaching out, I found that I ended up giving so much back, filling both the emptiness in myself and the hearts of others.
If you are looking for a place to fulfill your interest, MeetUp.com has everything from Hiking Groups to Technology Talk Groups. I have many clients who have found community and support through this website.
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I was introduced to this book from a podcast with David Suzuki, Naturalist and Conservationist. It is one of my top 10 books of all time!!!! I so strongly believe that everyone should read it in order to understand what we need as human beings, as animals of this planet. It is also a guide on how to give your children the gift of nature, the gift of well-being.
My introduction to this book was via my Family Mediation mentor, Joyce Young, a very wise woman (now a retired mediator). It is a book that has stood up to the test of time and continues to help many to understand and shift unhealthy relationships. Why read it if you are already divorced from them?
1. If you have children - there will always be some sort of interaction and wouldn't it be nice if you felt more empowered when those moments occur?
2. Better understanding ourselves and how we interact and respond with others will only improve all our relationships, not just romantic, but with friends, family, children and colleagues.
I am quite interested in the science behind HOW the human brain works and HOW to shift our thinking into more positive outlooks. Dr. Brian Goldman has done a beautiful job on introducing us to how powerful kindness and empathy to others is in leading us to a more joyful life. It’s easy and free to implement once you understand the path.
I have been using this book for years to guide me to Nature Toronto. I would never be able to count the hours and memories I have had from following the urban trails laid out in this tiny gem of a book.
Another way to find trails, parks, and nature adventures in your area is to pull out a map of your neighbourhood and area within 45 minutes in all directions. Look for the green spaces, then zoom in to see if there are trails. Google the name of the trail to find out the entrances, directions, etc. Pack up a snack and a reusable water bottle, plus the right clothing for that weather and completely enjoy your nature time.
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All of these products will help you enjoy and be safe in getting out into nature in any weather. Don’t forget the sunscreen in winter and to bring along a snack and a reusable water bottle:)
Depending on how steady you feel on uneven paths, bringing a Walking Stick along can make you feel more confident on taking on the unbeaten paths.
Bump up that time outdoors with Walking Poles. I don’t use them myself as I like to “stroll”, but I have crossed paths with many who do use them and they have all told me they LOVE THEM!!!!
My absolute favourite days are ones that call for wearing rain boots. It takes me right back to the wonderment of childhood. I never miss a good puddle, nor am nervous about getting dirty when sloshing through mud on those rainy days, or the day after when it’s still quite mucky out there.
I truly do not know how anyone gets through icy winters without these. I have many pairs, ones in the house, ones in my car. Make sure to get ones that fit over your boots well, then no need to stay indoors on those horribly icy days. I feel so confident getting out there into the woods when I have my crampons on. I don’t fear slipping or falling. I’m always wearing them if there is a light snowfall with ice underneath. I honestly feel so powerful when I’m out there enjoying winter with all the right gear to be warm and safe.
Rain does not stop me; actually those are some of the best days out. Even on sunny days I bring along an easily packable raincoat or rain poncho just in case there is a thunderstorm. Be prepared.
Not much more to say other than always have a hat with you: protection from sun and rain. Of course in winter, warmth is essential.
As I love a day where rain boots are needed, I am just as happy on days that I get to pull out my rain pants. Don’t tuck them into your boots- wear them over the boots to keep the rain out of your shoes. Rainy, muddy, mucky- with this kind of gear you can enjoy all of it. I always keep a few old towels in my car so I can clean up before heading home:)