Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
When Drew Barrymore announced her divorce from Will Kopelman, after being married for nearly four years, she shared a rich insight. “Divorce might make one feel like a failure, but eventually you start to find grace in the idea that life goes on.” How does life move forward? You put one foot in front of the other – and that’s just the succinct, life-altering, advice the famed actress received from her personal coach.
Put one foot in front of the other.
Remember when you were about one year old or so and you were learning to walk, one foot in front of the other? No, of course you don’t remember that…but you do accept the fact that you did learn to walk, right? And that’s just what moving forward through the divorce process requires – accepting the reality of your situation, accepting the fact that to move beyond where you are, you will be taking those important, understandably tough, steps to reach a new and better place in your life. One step at a time.
The joy, the happiness, the smiles that your steps brought you and your family when you began putting one foot in front of the other will continue to be there during the emotionally challenging experience of divorce. How? Pick something daily that puts that smile on your face. Maybe it’s simply a focused, goal oriented, purposeful walk alone or with your children, friends, other family members. As you walk, remind yourself that in the act of walking you are intentionally living with the enlivening mantra of “one foot in front of the other.” It worked when you were just starting out in life…and now as you start out again in life, it will continue to serve you well.
Speaking of those days when you were stumbling as you took your first steps, there were adults around to pick you up, kiss your “boo boo” and encourage you to keep going. There still are those around who’ll do that kindness for you. If not, then be sure you support and nurture the child that’s in you. That little one is within us all and whether it’s a reminiscent song, childhood pictures, looking at a child’s book that helps you recall encouraging times, mindfully use these – or other thoughts – to remind you to compassionately care for yourself.
Everyone falls when they begin learning to walk…even long after, we still slip and fall. Making yourself angry, keeping yourself tethered to anger, fear, about a fall is harmful to you and can be harmful to your children as well. Ask for help if you aren’t stepping away from anger, sorrow, despair, and anxiety. Name your emotion and you’ll begin to tame your emotion, but it may take some help. It’s not a crutch or a cane, it’s simply a chance to find empowerment and encouragement to continue stepping forward. Rest if you must, but never quit.
Finally, while you don’t ordinarily think about putting one step in front of another while you are walking, during emotionally challenging times, be aware, present, with no judgment of your steps for about a minute or so during the day. Remember that as you take those steps you are moving forward, not backward, on a journey closer to a better time of life.