I remember the first time it happened. It was the first Christmas following my divorce. “It” grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let go. It started with opening a holiday newsletter from a friend of mine. She, her husband and two kids just moved to a small town north of Houston and on paper have the “perfect” life.Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad for my friend but reading all her positive news really made me start “wishing.” I wished I wasn’t divorced. I wished I could just pick up and move. I wished I had made better decisions.
Then came the “wanting.” I wanted to just move to a small town. I wanted to have a “normal” family instead of a stepfamily. I wanted to have her perfect life.
From there the “lack” settled into my bones. That’s what I mean by grabbing hold.
Jealousy turns to sadness
When my wishing turns to feelings of wanting and lacking—when the jealousy creeps in—that’s when the sadness hits. I felt so bad about myself, my life and my choices, that I became downright depressed.
All the wishing, wanting and lacking take me from happy to depressed so quickly. Sometimes it can happen in seconds. It’s a pretty vicious cycle because then I feel guilty for actually being sad.
You can’t bury the sadness
I’ve lived through a divorce. I have been coaching and counseling others before, during, and after divorce for years, and I want to be very clear about this: It is important to honor feelings of sadness and lack. You can’t shove them away. Acknowledge them. Accept them. But do not wallow in them.
Turn your focus to gratitude
Wishing, wanting and lacking strikes fast, especially during the holidays. You know what I am talking about. It can take you by surprise and knock you off your feet.
me. Gratitude is the answer. The thing
is, you must practice gratitude.
In 1997, before I divorced, I read the book Simple Abundance[JF1] . It talks about being grateful for the simplest of things, for example, sheets on your bed, food in your stomach, flowers, trees and other small things we take for granted. It resonated with me, and the philosophy has gotten me through some dark times.
When I reach lacking, I first tell myself it is okay to have those feelings. Then I make a list of five things for which I am grateful, either in my head or on paper. First, I list my children, my family, and before you know it, I have a lot more than five. I can even count things like laughing, dancing, the sunshine, my favorite pair of shoes, good sleep and so on.
Suddenly, I am no longer lacking. I can see the good things in my life again. My life is pretty great. However, I do have to intentionally look for the good things sometimes, so that I see them again.
Stop believing other people have it better than you do
That grass that always looks greener on the other side isn’t. It is never greener. That’s right. Never. We spend a lot of time looking at everyone else around us (the wishing and wanting), but perfect families or lives don’t exist. All people have stuff in their lives that you wouldn’t want in yours. People have problems you would never want to deal with.
For me, it hit home the year that a college classmate of mine lost her husband and three children in a car wreck. So tragic, and there I was complaining about my life. My single parent life with two children and job stress and other problems. Complaining because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing with my life. When faced with what my friend was going through, my life looked really good. I had my kids, my life, my future and all those other things on my gratitude list that make me happy.
That’s what I wish for you. To see your grass as green and stop wanting someone else’s.
Today’s Goal: Begin a gratitude journal. Whether it’s on your computer or a paper journal, sit down and write your first entry. List at least five simple things for which you are grateful. Then from here on, start your day by writing a gratitude list.