Thank you WOW! Women on Writing for introducing me to the amazingly talented Cami Ostman who recently published a very interested anthology. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...First, let's read Cami's guest post:
Remaking Yourself After Divorce
Nothing can knock you off your foundation like a divorce. When people stand in front of their beloved on their wedding day and promise to love and honor forever, they don't have impending plans to separate down the road—but they know that divorce is a possibility.
For me, when I got married at twenty-three (a virgin who had saved herself for God's right man), I not only committed to doing the best I could by my marriage, but I also believed that to leave it would be a sin, an affront against the Almighty One who was in charge of my eternal soul and who had ordained marriage so that each man could have a helpmate. Coming to a decision to leave my marriage meant changing my understanding of God first. Thus, when I divorced my first husband, I had to divorce God in a sense, too.
By the time I was in a headspace that would allow me to leave an unhappy relationship (to a kind man, I hasten to say—I want to be clear that the need to leave was mine), I had unpacked a trunk full of narratives about who God wanted me to be and had thrown out most of what I'd found inside of that trunk. But since I'd based my entire self-image on Someone Else's agenda and oriented my identity around marriage, my story about me was blank, waiting to be rewritten.
Most people, when they divorce, may not face such a dramatic and total re-writing of self, but everyone has to revise their identity to some degree. So how does a person remake, recover, and revise after a divorce? I was lucky in that I'd been working as a marriage and family therapist for a few years before I went through my own divorce and had had the benefit of watching many clients sort through this question—some effectively, some not so much. Here's what I learned and what ultimately helped me move forward:
1. Gather around you a group of flexible friends that has the capacity to watch you change. They should be people who are not invested in you staying the same or being who you've always been. Some of my friends couldn't do that, and at least two of them shunned me. But I had about four good friends who took a "wait and see" stance, who showed up to support me in my grief and let me make statements about myself ("I think I'm someone who likes to take big risks!") which ultimately ended up to NOT be true. These people are a safety net. They give a very precious gift: stability. They stand still while you bounce around. They don't buy into everything you say, but they DO let you say it without countering it because they understand that you don't have your sea legs yet. If you are in the midst of a divorce and you don't have such friends, please do yourself a favor and find a good therapist who can play this role for you.
2. Have faith. I know this may sound odd coming from someone who lost her faith during her divorce, but I only lost my faith in SOME things. I developed a great deal of faith in one or two others. For example, I learned to trust time. Almost nothing you fear is true about yourself in the midst of divorce (I'm useless/I'll be alone forever/I must be terrible for leaving) will last forever. Indeed, some fears last a very, very long time and need a great deal of attention to overcome, but they still won't stick around forever. Whenever possible, remember this. And move forward as if it is true.
I also learned to trust experimentation. Try a new color on your wall. Cut off your hair. Go dancing. Small acts—doing things you wouldn't "normally" do—give you information about yourself and stretch you just a bit. Your experiments don't have to be drastic. Try ignoring when your ex-spouse pushes your buttons if that's different from your usual response. Then notice how it feels. Does it make you feel more powerful and in charge? Or less? Take that information in and decide what to do with it. What I've noticed when watching clients go through divorce is that the more paralyzed they are by their devastation, the more likely they are to get themselves into another relationship pickle again—soon. Fear invites us to look for something familiar, while undertaking small, self-exploring experiments opens up space for new behaviors and a new self-image to emerge.
3. Finally, be gentle. Remaking yourself is a messy process. In the midst of divorce you are confused. Your family is confused. Things will be messy as you try on the new you. Forgive yourself and others for bumbling through this year or two. It took me two full years to feel comfortable in my own skin. A common rule of thumb is that for every year you were married, you'll need a month to recuperate from a divorce. I was only married to my ex-husband for eleven years, but I'd been with God for two decades. When we get divorced, we're changing more than our marital status, so be gracious with yourself if re-inventing yourself is taking longer than you thought it would.
These are my brief reflections, and I know that every journey is a little different. For those of you facing the difficult time divorce presents, may you breathe your way through and trust that you will make it, emerging on the other side as a more mature, more evolved version of you.
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And now...a little more about Cami's book:
Book Hashtag: #SLWExtreme
Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of
extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox
Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have
compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying
ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all
experienced and rejected extreme religions.
Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic,
Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing
contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories
in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their
lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their
faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny
so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure—why so
many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that’s beautiful
about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult
but also bittersweet.
About the Authors of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions
Cami Ostman is an author, editor, life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist with publications in her field. She blogs at 7marathons7continents.com and on the psychologytoday.com blogger team. She has appeared in several publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Adventures Northwest, the Mudgee Guardian in Australia, and La Prensa in Chile. Cami is a runner and a dog lover who lives in Bellingham, Washington.
As a writer, editor, and researcher, Susan has worked on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism and religion. Susan's interest in these subjects led her to become an editor for several non-fiction titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel's Bag.