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Guest Post: Change Your Space, Change Your Outlook!

After a breakup one of the best things to do is to get in touch with yourself and remove the reminders of your relationship to be able to move on.  Getting a fresh start may not be easy, but will make you feel better.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Bedroom

Your bedroom is not only the place where you recharge every day. It can hold a lot of memories, good or bad, of the former relationship. The biggest step is to get in there and freshen it up! Clear out any reminders and move things around. Maybe switch your bed from one side of the room to the other. Get some new bedding. Add a beautiful picture. Pick out a new air freshener that is calming, like lavender. You will be amazed at how much it can impact your vibe!

The Rest of House

The rest of the house may not need too much, but I would encourage you to pay attention to any rooms that hold memories for you and apply some of the bedroom tips to those areas.  Did you always brush your teeth next to each other in the bathroom?  Get new towels and a new shower curtain. Move some things around. Paint. Clean from top to bottom. The key for the home is to reclaim your space. Make it your own again.

Your Self

There are so many ways to refresh yourself after going through a breakup. Tired and rundown? Plan a spa day. Did you hold onto the same style of hair and makeup because they liked it?  Get that cute cut. Experiment with your look. Join a gym. Take that Zumba class.  Get a killer new outfit. Treat yourself well. You get the idea.

Your Well Being

Get out of town! No, really…take a weekend trip! Getting away can bring clarity and peace, especially if the clips are playing over and over in your mind. Spend time with your friends. Make a list of things you would like to try. Maybe a painting party, or hiking, whatever calls to you. Then get out there and do some of them!

When you are not “we” anymore, it’s so important to become you again. Because you are awesome. 

Beth Lynch is a dedicated, solution-focused Breakup Coach whose mission and passion is to get you through the painful aftermath of your breakup or divorce and on the road to recovery so you can start to live the life you deserve. You can reach her at www.beyondtheblindside.com

 

 

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Guest Post: 4 Tips for Raising Confident & Well-Adjusted Children as a Single Parent

When parents are faced with the difficult decision of remaining married or filing for divorce,
children are often the main reason they tell themselves they can’t or shouldn’t do it. As a
certified life coach and parent educator, I assure parents that children won’t be lifelong victims of divorce because their parents didn’t stay married.

More often than not, children are more adversely affected by parents that choose to remain in a relationship where unhealthy behavior is modeled rather than being raised by one parent.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that is quick to judge and blame just about everything on
single parents and broken homes.

I’m here to tell you that the number of parents in a home isn’t what makes a family. One parent
and one child make a family just as much as two, three, or four parents do. Regardless of how
many parents are in a family, the most important factor in raising confident and well-adjusted
children is your parenting style. (Take this free quiz to discover your parenting style).

My job is to help parents become aware of their parenting style and its effects on children, and
transform the complex parenting process. The energy which parents bring to the relationship
with their children is far more important than staying in a relationship that sucks the wind right
out of their sails.

While some parents believe they can put on a good show to mask their guilt or pain, children will eventually sense it. So how do parents make sure that they don’t see their divorce as a negative event and rather as an opportunity to evolve? Here are four tips to help you become a more attuned and successful single parent.

BUILD A SUPPORT NETWORK

It’s hard enough to raise children with a partner, let alone facing the challenges of flying solo.
When a parent is under-supported and overburdened, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I can’t
stress enough how important it is to build a network of caring individuals around you and your
child. Developing strong adult relationships will help you lean on adults for emotional support
instead of your children.

There are many options to help you feel even more supported in your new role. For example, a
certified parent coach can support you by guiding you and empowering you with effective
parenting tools. Also, a licensed therapist can help you work through deeper emotions. There
are hundreds of divorce and parenting groups everywhere. A simple google search will offer
many options. Whatever you chose, please know you don’t have to feel alone or do any of it
alone.

MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

Ongoing conflicts often have a negative effect on children and can leave them feeling
disconnected, stressed, and bitter. If you happen to have a difficult relationship with your ex, the first step is to stop contributing to the conflict. It takes two people to argue, but only one to stop.

Kids don’t want to feel like they have to choose which parent is good, right, or better. They yearn to have good feelings toward both parents and not have to pick a favorite.

Our energy is transferable and children are extremely sensitive to picking it up. Anxiety is
contagious and so is being calm. If divorced parents carry a sense of guilt with them, children
will sense it and unconsciously begin to behave in accordance to their parents’ energy. For
example, if a single parent feels guilty about the dissolution of the marriage or their ability to
provide financially, kids will either begin to act out or become responsible for their parents’
emotions.

If you’re dealing with the emotional aftermath of a child, it’s crucial to manage your emotions so you can create an environment in which your child will feel safe to open up and express his or her feelings. Sometimes, children may not know how to deal with their emotions and their
reactions or behaviors may trigger you. It’s important to remember that they’re not blaming you.

They’re simply looking to you for help to make sense of what happened and how to move on.

SET UP REGULAR FAMILY MEETINGS WITH THE KIDS

Spend uninterrupted quality time with your children. Even if it’s 20 minutes a week, get to know the important people in their life. Create routines and rituals with your family. For example, every Friday night is reserved for a movie and ice cream. Perhaps, Saturdays are reserved for a lazy day in bed or playing games.

Whatever your rituals are, it’s important to have an expected routine because they provide a
tremendous amount of support for kids after a break or loss in the family. Routines also provide kids with a sense of security and a sense of family togetherness (see also Family Meetings - Spending 20 Minutes a Week Can Change Your Family).

MAKE ROOM FOR KIDS TO BE NEEDED

Some parents feel guilty as a result of divorce and overcompensate with “things.” Some parents don’t give children enough responsibilities and aren’t expected to meet the ones they have. But a single parent can say, “Hey, we’re a team now, just you and me, and we can share the responsibilities.” Give children enough opportunities to feel needed so they can feel valued.
For example, you can ask them to help clean the kitchen table and you’ll wash the dishes. Next
time, switch. Or you can involve them in the laundry process by asking them to collect and bring down their laundry and help you fold a few sheets.

In the end, thank them, honor them and truly let them know how helpful they have been. Work
toward creating a relationship that encourages cooperation, good judgment, and trust. When our relationship is strong and healthy, misbehavior doesn’t happen as often.


Monica Boeru is a Certified Life Coach and Parent Educator. Through her work, she helps parents transform the complex parenting process and their parenting style through private coaching, online courses, and support groups. For more information, you can visit her website www.monicaboeru.com or connect with her on Facebook at The Parent-Teen Whisperer.

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Guest Post: We're still living together after our breakup!

In today’s world, more and more often couples are finding themselves having to live together after their breakup or divorce due to financial or legal complications. This can be an absolute emotional nightmare!! Especially if you are still in love with your ex.

How can you handle the awkward situations that are sure to arise while trying to live as roommates instead of as a couple? Do you ignore each other? What happens if they start dating and flaunt it in front of you? Can you really do this?

Ending a relationship and carrying on living together is hard! It can be hard enough to move to the next level as it is. However, if you find this necessary, you can start the process by beginning to operate as separate units. 

At first, you may try to carry on like nothing had happened. Cooking dinner as before or texting to see when they are going to be home. But by doing this, you are putting out confusing messages – why act like you are still together when you just told them that’s what you don’t want? This is actually stopping the healing process from getting underway.

You don’t have the same rights as you did when you were together.

You don’t need to know where they are; in fact, it’s best if you don’t.

You don’t get to talk to them the same way. They don’t have to fix you a drink, pick up your stuff, or even care what you are thinking. And you need to respect that.

As hard as it can be, you need to try to set your agreement up as a typical roommate situation. You need to think of this relationship now as if you were renting a room out to a stranger.

Here are some things you can do to make it easier on both of you:

  • Set clear boundaries for finances and behavior. Who will be responsible for what household expenses? Who will be responsible for what household chores?
  • Don’t force small talk just because you are in the same room together.
  • Don’t cook together. It creates an atmosphere of false intimacy and expectations. Make separate spaces in the fridge and cupboards for groceries. 
  • Don’t drink together – this just leads to fights or makeup sex, neither of which is a good idea. It is always going to end badly.
  • Sleep in different rooms! Make sure you give each other space by spending more time in your room or a spare room.
  • Discuss how you will deal with having friends over.  What times or days?
  • Oh yeah – on dating others - this should go without saying…but don’t bring them home! This can be devastating to the person that is having more difficulty moving on, not to mention awkward for your date. Sure, it’s considerate to let them know that you are dating, but don’t go into detail. And don’t ask questions you really don’t want the answer to! If you are being picked up for a date, meet your date a few houses up the street. Don’t have them show up at the door.
  • Spend more time with friends and family.  Stay overnight with them as much as possible to help relieve the stress of seeing your ex every day. Spend more time outdoors doing things you enjoy. Learn to do for you.
  •  Respect each other’s privacy. Treat the bathroom as if you are living with a stranger, make sure you lock the door so as not to accidentally create an awkward moment.
  • Set a move out date as soon as possible.

It’s ok to remain friends, but it will be hard! Remember that you are different people now on different paths – separate paths. If you want to remain friends, you will need to forge a brand new type of relationship. But it is doable. After all, you do have a history and what friend knows you better?

Beth Lynch is a dedicated, solution-focused Breakup Coach whose mission and passion is to get you through the painful aftermath of your breakup or divorce and on the road to recovery so you can start to live the life you deserve. You can reach her at www.beyondtheblindside.com

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My new book is out!

The DIY Divorce Manual is for separating couples in BC who have completed a comprehensive, professionally-prepared Separation Agreement and who would like guidance navigating the court system to obtain their divorce order.

I've created a detailed, step-by-step manual, complete with instructions, sample forms, links to fillable templates, checklists, timelines and frequently asked questions.

If the DIY Divorce Manual were electronic, you'd call it "plug and play". If it were human, it would be holding your hand! Not everyone can afford to hire a lawyer to complete their paperwork and now there's an option for DIY-ers.

https://www.modernseparations.com/divorce/

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Guest Post: Mindfulness and Divorce - What's the big idea?

Aurora Johannson

You want me to try mindfulness --- NOW?

Separating is like filing by a smörgåsbord in which you were never interested, full of foods that seem all to disagree with you, with apparently no end in sight, and you can't just take on a little salad and say “I'm fine thanks. I had a big lunch earlier.”  No one really plans on divorce. I use the terms divorce and separation interchangeably because people doing either are really at the same all-you'd-never-want-to-eat buffet. So, why on earth would someone want to pile yet another obligation on an already overflowing plate? The answer is choice.

Many seem to find themselves divorcing, as though separation really has found them. They just happened upon it unfortunately. However, this is far from the whole story. Everything in a person's life, separating or not, has led them to this particular point in time with all of its blessings and curses. Even those who find themselves blind-sided by an unworthy adversary they had once considered their best friend, if truly aware, can think of choices they made which led them to this eventuality.

What's a gal or guy to do about it? Improve your vision, improve your choices. Hindsight is 20/20. What if you could have seen, or let yourself see then what you can see now clearly? What if you could do something now to see more clearly now so that you can make better decisions for now and the future? Right now you are making momentous decisions that will impact your life and the lives of your family long into the future. You want your hindsight of the future to match your current clear vision, to see 20/20 right now.

Most people would choose, if they could, to make these important decisions using their highest intelligence, their pre-frontal cortex part of their brain where the higher-level reasoning happens. Unfortunately, separating people are triggered into fight,flight or freeze mode again and again by the conflict and apparent chaos of their rapidly changing lives. The part of one's brain that operates in this mode is the limbic system. That's the part of your brain that will get you the heck out of Dodge when there's a cougar in front of you, when there's a physical emergency. When the limbic system is activated, the pre-frontal cortex becomes much less active. It gets out of the way of your animal instincts to save you. That means no higher level thinking when you are triggered. It is a double whammy for anyone divorcing. These seem like unfair odds. If only there was something you could do to improve those odds...

To be mindful is to practice being as aware as possible in the present moment.

Through this practice we cultivate our abilities to appreciate all that is happening in and around ourselves now rather than being embroiled in worries about the future or regrets about the past. Some would say we spend the majority of our time away from the present moment, zoned out. The practice of mindfulness is an invitation to zone in. Mindfully we can see that our thoughts are not ourselves. We have thoughts. We can cling to them or watch them arise and then pass by. Through practice we learn to enjoy the beautiful moments mindfully as they too arise and then pass by. Practicing mindfulness can help a person to see one's self exactly as one is, good and flawed, positive and negative, effective and ineffective. This self-knowledge can only enhance the effectiveness of one's decision-making.

Ready to give mindfulness a shot?

HINT: You really do not have anything to lose. It is non-invasive, you do it yourself so you can stop when you like, it has been around for thousands of years so it has been well bench-tested, and now science even backs up its benefits.  (Ask Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn about his Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction Program “MBSR”: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/about-us/people/2-meet-our-faculty/kabat-zinn-profile/ ).

Alright, it could be good for me. I'm still skeptical, but I'll do anything if you'll just stop using the world mindfulness. What do I do other than crossing my legs and saying Ommmmmm?

 1.    Find a way in, and get started.

Here are a few ideas for where to begin:

  • apps: there are many. Some are free. The people at Insight Timer have done a nice job of making it free and easy.
  • A local group
  • a friend who has been irritatingly slipping the word “mindfulness” into every conversation hoping you'll ask him about it
  • your local yoga centre
  • a local counselor who practices mindfulness or who teaches MBSR classes
  • an online community
  • a book (hard copy or audio). Check on-line, at your library or in the self-help or Buddhism section of your bookstore. (While the concept of mindfulness was first introduced in eastern philosophies, it need not be secular or even spiritual for you. It is all based on your own awareness and needs.)
  • Try this exercise adapted from the teachings of Henry Yampolsky, founder of the Living Peace Institute: "I am here now." Find a spot where you can sit uninterrupted for a few minutes. Assume a comfortable, dignified posture. Sit on a chair, the floor or even in the driver's seat of your parked car. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Begin by noticing your breath. Follow your breathing for a few inhalations and exhalations without trying to change it. Then, on the next in breath, note “I”. On the next out breath, note “am”. On the next in breath, note “here”. On the next out breath, note “now”. Repeat until the timer sounds. When you notice you are distracted, bring your attention back to continue the exercise and congratulate yourself that you noticed mindfully when your mind had wandered. This noticing is the essence of mindful awareness.

2.    Practice.

Choose to try one of the above methods and dedicate yourself to giving it an honest go, say 6 weeks. See if it makes a positive difference for you or those around you. If one method is not working for you, drop it and try another. Do keep at it for at least 6 weeks. Even when mindfulness practices such as meditation feel like they're not working, like you are are too distracted to be receiving benefit, they are. Each drop in the bucket adds up eventually to a full bucket.

3.    Get support when you need it.

If in practicing your mindful awareness you come across something particularly upsetting, don't go it alone. Find a counselor you like or a support person you trust to support you.

4.    Repeat.

Even if you are only beginning with a minute or 2 of mindfulness practice a day, you will soon see changes in how you see things and in your awareness at other times when you are not doing your daily practice.

Bonus

You do not ever have to cross your legs or say anything strange to practice mindfulness. You can do it sitting, laying down, or even walking. Be comfy. This is about you learning about you and what works best and doesn't for you.

What can I expect?

The more you practice mindfulness, the more aware you will become. The more aware you become, the more you will recognize which of your thoughts and emotions are really running the show. You will see more and more of the big picture that is your life. You'll be able to make choices that are more likely to bring you more peace, to control the one thing you have any control over – you.

You may also find a community you didn't even know was there for you. Mindful people tend to be like those people with dogs who find other people with dogs and then have a good old time chatting about dogs. You might just find yourself enjoying your life at a time when you did not think that was even possible.


Aurora Johannsen is a mediator, family lawyer and avid meditator in Kelowna, BC. She enjoys helping people transform through conflict and make use of its potent opportunity for growth. 

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Guest Post: 6 Steps for Getting Unstuck During Your Separation

I had a counselling client called Sally* (name changed to protect privacy) who found herself in the middle of a separation that had been coming for a while.  Sally, however, hadn’t really prepared for being separated – no one ever really does.  Once she had moved out of the family home that she had shared with her now estranged husband, she found herself adrift, floating, not 100% sure what she wanted or even how to figure out the best way to know what to do next.

I see this scenario quite often in my work with clients.  When individuals are in a marriage they generally commit their whole self (emotionally, mentally, physically, resource-wise) to the marriage and to the family.  When they find themselves in an irreparable breakdown of the marriage they often feel a bit lost and stuck; not really knowing where to turn, who to turn to, what advice to listen to or how plan for the next stage of life.  If you find yourself in this situation, I’m here to give you six doable steps on how to get unstuck and how to move on to living your best life.

Both men and women can feel stuck when it comes to a separation or divorce.  When we find ourselves at the end of a marriage and faced with the prospect of what comes next, it can feel daunting and debilitating.  We sometimes feel a sense of relief, as some of the pressures (and unhappiness) have reduced but often we just feel plain stuck, unsure of what is the next right move for ourselves and our future.

Firstly, let me tell you if you have found yourself in this situation, feeling stuck, you are not alone.  Indeed, you are very normal.  This is a very normal, human emotion that crops up when something that has been a major part of our lives is no more.  We often have a hard time extracting ourselves from our role of wife or husband and from being defined as part of a family unit that no longer exists as it once did.  Don’t get me wrong, the family unit still exists, just in a different structure which often-times finds us without our support crew that we had previously relied upon – our partner.

Right! So, what do you do if you find yourself stuck and unsure of your next move? Check out the following suggestions for getting unstuck.

1.          Give yourself time and space

This may sound like trite advice and too simple. But in the first instance you want to give yourself time and space.  This is not a time to charge head-on to your next decision, your next stage, your next major life event.  This is a time to treasure yourself, honour your soul, give yourself massive amounts of self-care and allow yourself to just be.  There are so many emotions that fly around when you are separating or divorcing.  There are so many things to be done.  Yes, of course, do as many of those things as you need to do to get by, but then, just be.  What does this look like?  It includes having quiet “me” time as much as possible.  I recognize this can be hard, especially if you have kids, but it’s in this quiet space that you allow yourself to breathe and to figure out who you really want to be now.  This quiet space allows you to begin to redefine what your life can be like.  It allows you time to review your situation, your past experiences in your marriage and to begin to determine how you want to show up in the world again.

2.             Start doings things for YOU

Once you have allowed yourself time and space, the next step is to start doing things for YOU.  When we are in a marriage, especially if that marriage has been breaking down over some time as is often the case, we may lose our identity.  We stop doing the things we used to love.  Often, we have become so unhappy doing what we feel is right or what we feel will make the other person happy, that we have forgotten to nurture our own interests. Getting out there and doing stuff that you enjoy really will put a smile on your face and make your heart sing.  This is part of your journey of healing. Start doing things just for you.  Lots of them, over and over again. This will start to bring the magic and purpose back into your life.

3.                It’s time to start planning

Once you have started to give yourself time and space and started to do things you once loved it’s time to start planning.  In my own experience, I found this to be the hardest part when I was going through my own separation and waiting for my divorce.  Sometimes even just the waiting for the divorce can make you feel stuck and like you can’t move on.  I’m here to tell you that you can.  It’s in the planning for your next stage of life that you start to take baby steps towards moving on and feeling like you can live again.  Please note, this does take time.  Everyone is on their own unique journey when it comes to the breakdown of a relationship and parting of ways with a partner.  It’s best to give yourself permission to experience this just exactly as you need to and in whatever time it takes.

How do you go about planning what’s next?  Again, set yourself some quiet time.  Take a break from your day-to-day existence.  Maybe have someone look after the kids for you.  You may choose to do this at home or maybe take yourself to a nice place – somewhere outdoors in nature that speaks to you or a warm, inviting café etc.  Bring along a notebook and pen.  Get comfortable.  Now close your eyes for a few moments, take some big deep breaths in and out, visualize your heart and all that it holds, connect to your inner self (your inner self that knows the real you!).  Just sit there for a moment.  Now open your eyes, write this question at the top of the page: “What do I want to do next?”  Pick up the pen and just start writing.  Do not censor yourself, don’t stop to consider if what you are writing is correct or if you can actually do it.  Just write.  Write everything that comes to mind.  Even those ideas that seem outrageous or that you have always wanted to do but been fearful of.  Include those ideas that you feel would probably take a million bucks to do and that just seem impossible.  Write them all down.  Dream the biggest dream for your life and what you want next.  This may take a while.  Allow yourself enough time to get it all out.  Then once you are done, pack your writing away.  Leave it for a few days.  Allow those ideas to germinate and to just exist.  When you are ready, set aside some more time to review what you wrote.

4.                Dream big!!!

Now remember, the writing that I’ve just asked you to do is about dreaming big.  Some of those ideas will be such great, unique and inspiring ideas that you are meant to do and achieve sometime in your lifetime.  However, they may be ideas that are longer term and not going to be reached tomorrow.  Some of your ideas may be as simple as finding a good place to live, managing your finances better during this transition stage or connecting with old friends again.  Take three things that really speak to you for the short term and rewrite those on a card or small piece of paper.  Place the card or piece of paper next to your bed, on the fridge or stick it up on the mirror in your bathroom where you get ready each day.  I want you to look at those top three things every day.  Read them as many times as you can.  Each time you do so, feel what it would be like to be successful at those three things and what it would feel like to be doing or having those three things.

5.             Breakdown your top three into smaller steps

When you have some more time, take your top three things you want to do and write each one down on a separate piece of paper.  Underneath each idea write down all the steps involved in what you need to do to make these things a reality.  For example, if you chose find a good place to live, your steps under this might include: researching different areas to live, will you rent or purchase a home, will you live with anyone else or alone (with the kids)?  It may include reviewing your income and deciding what amount of money you can spend on housing during this transition phase.  It could include reviewing available properties online and starting to make a short list of the ones you’d like to see.  You may consider speaking to an expert who can help with your property search such as a real estate agent or property manager. It may include speaking to a finance officer to see what your financial situation is.  It may even include some tough choices on what you need to sacrifice in the short term for the long-term gain of finding a good place to live.  Please don’t be daunted by any of these steps.  Remember this is all about the planning phase.  You don’t need to be making any decisions at this point… yet!

6.             Decide on a way forward – what is your next right move?

Now you know the smaller steps involved in achieving your top three things you want to do next.  Next decide on what your way forward is.  You may choose to speak to a close friend or family member to review your options.  It’s always good to get support, keeping in mind that this is YOUR new life, not theirs.  Take their good advice and leave the rest.  This actually applies for the whole time you are in your separation/divorce period.  There will be well-meaning people out there who want to chime in with every opinion under the sun.  If you are strong enough, and quite frankly if you have the time, by all means listen but only ever take on what feels right for you and leave the rest behind!!

Congratulations! You’re now unstuck.

You are doing productive activities towards living your best life.  Keep repeating these processes until you feel like you’re in the groove and moving towards the dream life you deserve.  It may be hard to see while going through a separation or divorce, but you have the ability to make your life anything that you want it to be.  Trust yourself, you’ll do great, I know!


Heidi Anderson is a Coach and Counsellor who supports her clients in their journeys to living a full life. Her specialty is helping people to identify and overcome their roadblocks. For more information about Heidi, check out her website at http://www.maheno.com.au.

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Guest Post: How We Chose Our Son's Happiness

Divorce. Divorce sucks. Divorce with kids sucks even more. Let’s face it, if you divorce your spouse and you don’t have any DNA evidence of your union, you will likely walk away and never see that person again—heck you may not even tell any new prospects you were ever married before! But, when little humans are involved, no such thing is possible. Not only do you have to see each other again, but you also have to communicate with each other and, hopefully, co-parent for many years.

I could go into a long diatribe about the importance of choosing your life partner and spouse wisely, or about carefully planning procreation decisions, or even warn you against marrying young, but alas, for most of us it is a done deal and we can’t un-ring the bell—nor would we if given the choice. So, in the face of a broken union and heart, with little eyes looking into yours, little hands grasping the hands of the two people who make up their world, and little hearts struggling to understand, how can we move forward?

I was in this exact place 12 years ago. I met my future ex-husband when I was 17, married at 21, became a mom at 23, and divorced at 24. It was a whirlwind marriage and divorce, and it ended as abruptly as it started. I was lost, sad, angry, lonely, confused, very young, and completely ill-equipped to handle all the changes that were to come. Don’t get me wrong; I was 100% sure my marriage needed to end, I had zero doubts about exiting the relationship but taking my leave from my marriage was not equivalent to moving on from my ex-husband. Nope, we had a baby—a newborn baby to be exact—and it was time to figure out how we would structure a life as a family but not under one roof.

The first few years were rough—and that is an understatement.  We fought, competed, went to court, insulted, tracked every text and email as evidence of wrongdoing, documented every scratch, bruise, and bump, went back to court, all in a continuous cycle. We were filled with hate and resentment and made sure we were each fully aware of it. But then it hit us one day as we walked to our cars after a long day in court, that we weren’t married anymore but were still behaving as if we were . . . But without ANY of the benefits. Wait! We are divorced! We solved our problems by separating and now we can let go of what was, what didn’t happen, what did happen that shouldn’t have, what could have been, what was said, what wasn’t said. It didn’t matter anymore! We had moved on and left it all in the past. All we had left to connect us was a beautiful little boy who we both loved more than life itself. Nothing more.

That afternoon everything changed. We amicably resolved our issues and custody schedule outside of court. We agreed to love our son and treat each other with respect. We no longer rehashed the mistakes and woes of our marriage. When we looked at each other, we chose to see our son instead of our failed union. And I emphasize choice because that’s what it was, a choice: a choice to live and behave differently for the sake of our son’s future and well-being.

I am not naïve or insensitive to the fact that this is all easier said than done. Some marriages end in unresolved heartbreak but, may I suggest, why allow the sadness, anger, and frustration of a bad marriage to continue when you are no longer in it? Those emotions, whether they are spoken or not, will and do affect your children. They know how you feel and either learn to feel the way you do about the other parent, defend the other parent—which is hurtful and even more infuriating to you—or, more damaging, you leave a mark on a little soul who can’t help but love both his or her parents.

Once my ex-husband and I made different choices, something amazing happened: our son blossomed. He became happier and more secure than he had ever been. We encouraged him to love and enjoy his time regardless of where he was. We signed off on the ownership of being the favorite and most liked parent. And, guess what? I was happier! I started finding solid ground again. I started loving my life again. And, most surprising, I gained a friend: my ex-husband. Yes, you read that right! He became a friend. I re-discovered the things I liked about him when I met him. He was not the perfect husband for me but he was a friend and a good person. I was in a place where I had the clarity to see that.

For the last ten years, my ex-husband has hung my Christmas lights, fixed my car, and helped install new appliances. We have swapped weekends and holidays, shared holiday meals, and hosted joint birthday parties. And my son is the beneficiary of this redefined family. He has the freedom to love each of us, to enjoy his time at both houses, and to hold zero responsibility for our failed marriage or our feelings. He can be a kid with a mom and dad who love him and respect each other.

Getting to this place is not easy. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have had to do. But the choice I had to make was to prioritize my son’s happiness over the residual feelings from a failed and heartbreaking marriage. I had to give my son a chance. A chance to go into the world without having to shoulder my emotions, feelings, and resentment. His little heart can’t and shouldn’t be burdened by his parents’ adult decisions and mistakes. If you find yourself wanting to wring your ex’s neck: stop and choose your child. Choose their happiness.


Liz Thompson is a corporately trained, internationally educated, successful entrepreneur while enduring life’s most difficult moments. She consciously exited corporate America to help raise her blended family and start her business to help others bring their stories to life. You can find Liz at http://www.housestyleediting.com/

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Guest Post: From Abusive Relationship to Healthy Co-Parenting

Guest Post by: Jennie Lee Hourston

“Yeah – well you damn well better be!” December 27th, 2003. Those were the words that would change my life forever. I met my ex-husband (let’s call him Aiden) in 1997. I was with him for 7 years in total. We married in 2001 and I left in 2004. There were years of emotional, physical, financial and verbal abuse. Despite counselling (court ordered), when we fought, I didn’t feel safe. That particular night, I told him that I was afraid of him. He looked me right in the eye and said “yeah – well you damn well better be.” That was when I decided to leave. I thought if I had to fear the man who was supposed to love and protect me most in the world, there was no point in staying and things would never be better. Most of all, I had 2 children (an 8 year old boy and 2 year old girl) that meant everything to me. I didn’t want my son to grow up feeling he could treat women like that or my baby girl to be treated and suffer the way I had by her future husband.

The process of leaving and getting settled in my own place was not easy. The first year was more difficult than I could have imagined. Aiden and I were still having blow-ups like we did when we lived together. The one that changed it all was in 2005. Police were called and he was removed by 2 officers from my front lawn. The kids were screaming and crying. He called me later that evening to apologize to me. I said “I can’t do this anymore. I loved you enough to marry you and now we can’t stand to be around each other. Look what this is doing to our kids.” Together we decided that we would put our differences aside, find it somewhere in our hearts to forgive the pain we both felt that had been laid upon us in order to move forward. Not just for the children, but for ourselves. It was not easy because we were both jilted and felt grief, rejection, failure, regret and pain. We both agreed - how could we possibly have any kind of happiness if we were so busy trying to make each other miserable and stuck in the past?

 It started with baby steps and it wasn’t easy. We would pick up and drop off the kids at a coffee shop in a busy plaza. There was very little communication between us. Little by little, Aiden and I learned to trust each other again. We would discuss school events and I would invite him to school concerts, the kids’ activities and special occasions. Then pick up and drop off would occur at our homes. If he dropped the kids off, I pick them up and vice-versa. We would exchange Christmas presents and he would stay to watch the kids open their gifts and once or twice, even had dinner at my mum’s house with us. We built a friendship that is hard for some people to understand and I am very grateful that we did. My kids know that they have a mom and a dad who love them and will do what is best for them. We talk about and celebrate their accomplishments and help them through the challenges as best we can. The experiences I had with him when we were married does not define who he is as a father or the man he is today. He has been there for them (and for me) in ways I never thought possible. My current boyfriend completely understands and accepts all of it. Aiden lives with his girlfriend and her 2 sons and they have been a huge part of my kid’s life. She is very loving and has always treated my kids as if they were her own. Knowing that my kids love her and her kids so much is a comfort to me – they are extended family.

To anyone going through a horrible divorce or separation, my advice is to have a conversation about what you want for your kids and for your own future. Do you want to have some peace and happiness again? When a marriage falls apart, that does not mean the family ends. It just changes. You decide if it changes for the better – for all parties involved.


Jennie Lee is passionate in improving all areas of the body, mind and spirit. Through Reiki, Axiatonal Re-Alignment and energy coaching, she helps clear blocks that hold you back from living the life you desire. We all have an Energy force in and around us made up of emotional, mental and spiritual particles. Reiki sends positive energy to eliminate blocks that cause illness, stress, and negative thoughts. Ready to take control and let your highest spiritual, emotional and physical being take charge? Receive a consult as my gift to you at jenhourston@gmail.com.


Guests posts are a new feature we are providing to give our clients a view into the experiences and expertise of others in the area of separation and divorce. If you are interested in contributing, please email us at cv@modernseparations.com with your ideas!

Sincerely,

Christina

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7 Tips for Starting a Healthy Separation

I am pleased to have my article published as a guest post on Our Family Wizard:

Most people have heard horror stories about divorce and would like to avoid such experiences themselves. The adversarial divorce usually involves massive legal expenses, high levels of stress, and prolonged conflict which ends up harming the children. The good news is that there are ways of managing separation that will help your family transition from a one-household family to a two-household family without destroying the functionality of your family relationships and your family savings.

Some of the steps you will need to take to get started on a healthy separation may seem counter-intuitive to you. However, there are specific strategic advantages for each one. Keep in mind that de-escalation of conflict needs to be an ongoing priority.

1. Treat your partner as you would treat a business partner.

Be courteous. Answer emails, text messages and phone calls. Don’t badmouth him or her to friends, family, co-workers, and especially not on social media or to your children. Do what you say you’re going to do. Communicate important information. Provide requested documentation in a timely manner. Do not treat the other person as the enemy. Model desirable conduct. Demonstrate that you can be trusted and that you do not want to participate in a race to the bottom in terms of your behavior. These are basics of any decent relationship but are frequently overlooked or disregarded during separation.

You will have to continue to work together on the resolution of all of the issues arising out of the breakdown of your relationship, and if you have children, you will have to continue to work together and co-exist as parents of shared children for years to come (including attending birthday parties, graduations, weddings, and so forth). It can be helpful to consider how you’d like to see your relationship years down the road – for example, you probably don’t want your children to have to worry about how to plan a wedding with both of you in attendance. Don’t do anything now in the heat of the moment that will create tension and unpleasantness for years to come.

Separation can be an overwhelming time of intense mixed emotions, including sadness, guilt, denial, relief, anger and fear, to name only a few. Although it can be tempting in a moment of disagreement to let your anger flow, it will generally be better in the long-term for your family if you take a deep breath, work hard on maintaining your patience (sorting out the details of separation usually takes longer than people hope and expect), and give both you and your partner time to understand the shifting needs of your family as you move from being a one-household family to a two-household family. Handling your emotions in a constructive and respectful way is an important component of moving ahead on the path towards amicable divorce.

2. Don’t make any significant changes.

If you have been paying for all of the family bills, continue to pay all of the bills until you and your partner have reached an agreement for how expenses will be handled going forward. Neither of you should withdraw or spend significant sums of money without the consent of the other – in most cases, this is not the time to buy a new vehicle or take a trip to Las Vegas! Some people find comfort in making arrangements with their financial institution to require both of their signatures for withdrawals from savings and investment accounts until they have divided their accounts.

If there is no safety concern, do not move out with the children. The children are entitled to a stable environment and shouldn’t be moved around more than necessary. Wait to move until you have worked out a parenting plan. However, safety is the first priority and you should obtain legal advice immediately if you believe that you need assistance with moving yourself and your children to a safe location.

3. Discuss the various options for pathways to amicable divorce.

A little individual reading and research can be helpful before discussing your dispute resolution options. Familiarize yourself with mediation, mediation/ arbitration, and collaborative law, and then discuss the options so that you are on the same page in terms of pros and cons. Discuss which option seems appropriate given the level of complexity of your issues and the state of your ability to communicate with each other at the present time.

You may find that one person has no particular preference while the other person is drawn to a certain process option. It may or may not be difficult initially to agree on a process. Take the path of least resistance and choose a process that you could each “live with” as a test-run. You can then work on choosing the appropriate professional(s). The processes are voluntary so either of you could choose to end the initial process if you feel that it is not working well for you.

4. Choose your Family Mediator and/or Lawyers.

Regardless of which dispute resolution process you choose and even if you don’t hire a lawyer to represent you throughout the process, you should get independent legal advice from a family law lawyer at some point in the process, whether it is at the beginning, partway through negotiations, and/or before signing the draft Separation Agreement.

Ask around for recommendations. Ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members for feedback regarding specific family law lawyers. You should find out what they liked about certain lawyers and what they didn’t like – this is important because it may be that the other person’s goals were quite different from yours and that the recommendation would be poorly suited to your situation.

Don’t forget that lawyers are not one uniform kind of person, even within a certain area of law – some are peacemakers at heart while others enjoy the thrill of debate and banter; some are diplomatic and some take pride in their reputation for being a bulldog; some are more focused on the big picture of reaching overall resolution while others are focused on advocating for a win on every legal issue. Some might say that these are all strategies that can be employed by any lawyer depending on the situation, rather than being characteristics. Regardless, in my opinion, it is the rare individual who does an excellent job with both styles of dispute resolution. An amicable problem-solver and a tenacious litigator have very different skill sets, experiences, outlooks, and instincts. Most lawyers will have a dominant strength in one or the other style. Lawyers who also do a lot of work as mediators will often have a more resolution-oriented style.

There is no right and wrong in terms of style and each style has merits in certain circumstances. The key is to choose the right style to help you reach your goals in your circumstances. If you and your partner are both basically reasonable people who disagree about some issues, you will probably benefit from a mediator or lawyer who will work towards a resolution with you in a diplomatic and respectful way without involving court processes. In this case, you will do well to research the professionals in your area who are trained in mediation or collaborative law. If you are in a relationship with someone who is a bully, an abuser, and/or has a serious personality disorder, mental health issue or substance use problem that prevents him or her from engaging in rational discussion, you may do better with a family law litigator who takes an aggressive court-based approach.

Lastly, given that we’re human, there’s no getting around that some professionals are more knowledgeable, better organized, more emotionally-intelligent, and/or better communicators than others̶  attributes that don’t necessarily have anything to do with a person’s years of experience or hourly rate. Try to find out about these types of characteristics as well.

Make your choice based on a trusted recommendation and some of your own research.

5. See a Counselor and/or Doctor.

Separation can be devastating for families, whether or not there are children involved. There are many issues that arise with which a lawyer can’t help because they are not legal issues. Our society has become overly focused on the law with respect to the breakdown of a family but the law is not equipped to provide all of the assistance that most families need. Serious emotional issues can arise for the separating couple and for the children, during the deterioration of the relationship and upon separation. These issues will not resolve themselves.

There are many different approaches to counseling so research the options to decide which will work best for you and your family. Many people don’t want to be involved in the stereotype of counseling: flaky discussions reflecting back on their childhood. There are now future-focused, pragmatic, behavior-based methods that can help with specifics, for example, appropriate communication for co-parenting or handling feelings when the other person re-partners.

Unresolved emotional issues very frequently interfere with the resolution of legal issues. It can lead to one or both people causing long delays by refusing to engage in discussion, getting stuck on a particular issue, and/or creating conflict in situations that should objectively be fairly uncomplicated.

In addition, even if you and your partner are doing your best in good faith to move towards an agreement, it may be that you experience a significant amount of stress and anxiety during the process due to the many unknowns in your future. Gathering and exchanging the necessary documentation and negotiating the terms of an agreement can take longer than people hope and expect. Unfortunately, when you are working towards an agreement, you need to move at the pace of the slower person. One person will always be further ahead than the other in the grief cycle relating to the breakdown of the relationship and therefore will have to wait for the other person to become mentally ready to finalize the details of the separation by agreement. The very nature of an agreement is that you need the other person to agree with you, which cannot be forced. If you are the person who is ready to move on and waiting for the other person to come around, you may need to deal with your anxiety with the help of a counselor or medical professional. There’s no remedy in law for anxiety.

If you have children, there is no question that your children have been affected by your separation. They may seem fine. They may be acting out. Either way, allow them to express their emotions and get some professional assistance with the best way to help your children move forward.

6. Wait to start a new relationship.

This suggestion is not based on moral considerations; it is a strategic issue. More often than not, a new boyfriend or girlfriend on the scene is massively disruptive to the negotiation process underway for the Separation Agreement.

Regardless of which person ended the relationship, a new relationship can cause surprisingly intense emotions for the “replaced” partner. This often translates into complications such as some manner of a financial backlash, parenting altercations, and general escalation of disagreements.

Depending on the nature of the new relationship, it can have bearing on whether and how much spousal support may be payable. The new partner may also become a factor in the parenting arrangements for the children (for example, the new partner will be under scrutiny to determine whether his or her presence around the children is in their best interests).

If you can manage to wait to start a new relationship until your Separation Agreement has been finalized, you will avoid one possible hot button issue that commonly derails originally amicable discussions.

7. Start your dispute resolution process sooner rather than later.

I have found that the longer uncertainty continues, the more likely it is that communication will deteriorate and tension will escalate. Change is difficult for most people and particularly so when they are not in full control of the outcome. You can reduce the fear and anxiety that arise for most people during separation by dealing with your issues promptly. Don’t encourage your partner’s imagination to wander into worst-case scenarios by dragging your heels on starting the resolution process. 

Summary

Separation will be challenging but, if you follow most of these 7 tips, you will give yourself the best chance of achieving a healthy and efficient resolution. It will be hard work and it will likely take all of your willpower but your future self will thank you for your effort.

Christina Vinters, J.D., Family Law Mediator, “ex” Divorce Lawyer, and Author of Pathways to Amicable Divorce: Directions for the Beginning of Separation

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Parenting for Resilience in a Changing World

In our constantly changing world, people need to know not only how to master riding the waves of change themselves but also how to prepare their children for future success. How can we teach our children how to cope with uncertainty and frequent shifts in our culture, economy, professional lives, and more?

Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl have written a fascinating book which dives into the culture of a particular country - Denmark - found to have the happiest people on earth by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) almost every year since 1973. The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know about Raising Confident, Capable Kids provides insight into a parenting culture that is palpably distinct from what we see in North America these days, where helicopter parenting, over-scheduling, gold medals for participation, and anxiety in adults and children are rampant.

The authors use the word "PARENT" as an acronym to organize their core concepts:

P: Play

The authors tell us that free play is crucial for learning resilience - it teaches children to deal with stress and to be less anxious. The ability to "bounce back" and regulate emotions is key to success in adulthood. Play helps develop things like socialization, autonomy, cohesion, democracy, and self-esteem, which the Danes believe develops a strong internal compass to guide people through life. Of note, it is "free play", not directed play, which builds these skills. As such, Danes try not to interfere unless absolutely necessary and opt rather to give space and trust for children to develop self-reliance and authentic self-esteem (as a result of mastery). The authors encourage play without electronics, with art, with groups of mixed ages, as well as alone.

A: Authenticity

Danes value humility and authenticity. They believe that we shouldn't only focus on the good but also discuss upsetting events and tragedies as this builds greater empathy for others and gratitude for the simple things in our lives. The authors state: "If we teach our children to recognize and accept their authentic feelings, good or bad, and act in a way that's consistent with their values, the challenges and rough patches in life won't topple them."  As parents, this means that we also need to model emotional honesty; our kids see how we feel anger, joy, frustration, etc. and how we express our feelings to the world. Accepting feelings, rather than numbing and burying them, helps develop overall self-acceptance and life satisfaction. Nurturing humility, the authors say, means focusing praise on the task and effort, and not on the intrinsic value of the person. This encourages hard work and doesn't tie a child's self-esteem to the success of any particular project or outcome.

R: Reframing

Reframing is a way of using language to create a perception shift; finding the silver lining in any situation. The authors state that being a master reframer is a cornerstone of resilience and that Danes are master reframers, or what psychologists call "realistic optimists". They do not fake happiness and they don't pretend that negative aspects don't exist but they choose to focus on the positive. They filter out unnecessary negative information. Focusing on less negative aspects helps reduce anxiety and increase well-being. For example, on a freezing cold day, a Dane may say something like "glad I'm not on holiday" rather than complaining about the weather. The authors encourage us to use reframing with our children to separate problems from the person, and to refrain from labelling children based on any particular challenges. It is also helpful when discussing our children's perceptions of people or events to help them focus on the positive.

E: Empathy

Empathy connects us to other people and it is key for getting along in the world. Danes formally teach children in school how to recognize different emotions and they deliberately mix children of different ages and abilities together for their mutual benefit. Some tips provided by the authors for helping children develop empathy: notice and identify emotions, read a lot, be open.

N: No Ultimatums

Danes parent in a very democratic way. They establish rules and guidelines that children are expected to follow and allow for discussion about their expectations. They see children as intrinsically good and react in accordance with that belief. They take the position that they need to be respectful of their children in order to be respected by their children (note: not feared). As such, there is more emphasis placed on how to avoid problems than how to punish. Giving an ultimatum is the ultimate way to set up a power struggle and paint yourself into a corner; once uttered, an ultimatum must be followed through on or the parent risks losing credibility and this is what the Danes believe leads to unnecessary spanking and other physicality. The authors state that not one study in over two decades' worth of research has found any positive outcome of spanking. Instead, spanking has been associated with the following in children: depression, low self-esteem, lying, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use. In the face of challenges from our children, the authors suggest that we: breathe, remain calm, use humour, and offer a way out -  calm begets calm.

T: Togetherness and "Hygge"

Pronounced "hooga", hygge means "to cozy around together" - what a great concept! It involves lighting candles, playing games, eating nice meals, having cake and tea, having fun and generally enjoying each other's company. Danes make it a priority to work together in team effort to create the environment of togetherness and to make this experience a priority in life. This is one of the ways that Danes stay connected to friends and family and is considered by many to be the true purpose of life. The benefit of the group is seen as a higher priority than any individual preference and this yields a spirit of teamwork and cooperation in many aspects of life. 

The above concepts are the keys to Danish parenting which have yielded the happiest people on earth for several generations. Some of the ideas might seem like common sense while others might feel surprising. I encourage you to experiment with some of these concepts and see which ones can be implemented in your family life. You might see some astonishing changes over time in how your children relate to you and to their world!

Wishing you much cozy time with your family,

Christina

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Thoughts from Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chodron

Many life changes are brought about by something that feels like failure in the moment. The end of one phase can be incredibly traumatic and terrifying. And yet, these periods of transition open us up to infinite possibility.

Pema Chodron's book Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advise for Leaning into the Unknown gives us a positive lens through which to see our failures, big and small.

Seth Godin says in his Foreword that Pema Chodron helps us see that failure is part of success and that both are essential elements in forward motion. We often think that our purpose in life is "to get all the frogs in a bowl and keep them there [but] as soon as we get a few frogs in the bowl, they jump out, and we have to start all over again." He says that life is an "infinite game" and that although we yearn to find stability, "to go forward is to give up on getting all the frogs in the bowl".

Pema Chodron advises that we get good at "welcoming the unwelcome". Failure feels very raw and there are two common ways of dealing with the rawness: 1) We can blame the failure on somebody else or some external factor. We move away from the rawness by placing blame elsewhere. 2) We feel bad about ourselves and label ourselves "a failure". Clearly, neither of these responses is healthy or productive.

She encourages the reader to get curious about the failure, to dig deep into what happened and what is truly going on for you. James Joyce called mistakes "the portals of discovery" and she expands on this notion to say that "mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things".

She says that if we can accept and harness the feelings of vulnerability and rawness, turn away from the instinct to numb those feelings, that from that space can come out "best human qualities of bravery, kindness, the ability the really care about each other, the ability to reach out to each other." The act of acceptance is painful and uncomfortable but she advises us to "lean in to the sharp points" and "let the regret pierce you to the heart, and then you can lay it aside so that you don't have to carry it with you for the rest of your life..."

Failing better means using failure as a period of personal discovery and development. It means that "failure becomes a rich and fertile ground instead of just another slap in the face."

The old cliche of "when one door closes, another one opens" invites a passive participation in the world, a perspective of things happening to you. I like Pema Chodron's view of using those hard, door-closing moments for learning, growing and actively re-directing your life to one of those infinite possibilities that await your engagement.

Christina

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Interview: Family Law Mediation and Pathways to Amicable Divorce

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by American divorce blogger/author/mediator Tara Eisenhard about my family law mediation practice and my book, Pathways to Amicable Divorce: Directions for the Beginning of Separation

We shared an engaging discussion about how my book came into being, my motivations, what my family law mediation practice looks like, and the benefits of mediation in general.

I hope this interview will help people become a little more familiar with the process and benefits of family law mediation.

Please feel free to get in touch if you think that mediation might suit your situation. Also, please share this video with your friends and family who are going through the process of separation as they might find the video and/or the book valuable. Thanks!

Christina Vinters

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Reducing the Trauma of Separation

My article "Reducing the Trauma of Separation" is out in the new Spring 2016 issue of the Okanagan Health & Wellness Magazine!

It's a quick read to help separating couples frame their goals and choose the best strategies for achieving those goals - in most cases the best strategies will focus on de-escalation of conflict and consensual dispute resolution, including collaborative law and family law mediation, also known as divorce mediation.

https://issuu.com/ohwmagazine/docs/ohw_magazine_spr_2016/1

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Book Review: Living Forward by Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy

Living Forward provides a great framework for clarifying and implementing your values, priorities and goals to create your ideal life.

The book starts with the following quote: "The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you're not going to stay where you are." -J.P. Morgan

This is a simple but fundamental point. The book then sets out a system for heightening your sense of what's truly possible and developing a plan for how to get to that better destination of living life with purpose and intention.

I love the book's message that we are in control of our lives and we have more control than many of us actively acknowledge.

Hyatt and Harkavy state that drifting through life happens when people are unaware, distracted, overwhelmed, or deceived by their own beliefs. To further complicate matters, when we are passively drifting we lose perspective, lose opportunities, and expend a lot of time and money without making progress towards any goals.

We need to be fully aware of our own unique goals for each part of our lives: intellectual, spiritual, relational, physical, vocational, and avocational. As the authors state: "there is no point keeping up with the Joneses if they're going someplace you don't want to go."

Once you are clear about your goals and your priorities, you will be able to properly assess each opportunity that arises to determine how and whether it fits into your life plan.

The authors say creating a life plan is about "breaking free of your limiting beliefs, tapping into your deepest desires, and standing in the realm of possibility" - how great is that? I think that everyone could benefit from a periodic overview of how their life is lining up with their goals, expectations, values, hopes and priorities. I appreciate the reminder that we don't need to settle for what is and can take steps towards whatever better future we can imagine for ourselves.

The key takeaway is summed up by a quote from Andy Warhol: "they always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."

This book is a relatively quick and inspiring read, and provides solid suggestions for taking action.

What's your life plan? Let me know if you found this book helpful!

Christina

 

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Are cultural assumptions sending you in the wrong direction?

We have a lot of assumptions and norms embedded in our culture (as do all cultures) that warrant examination when they are having a direct impact on our lives. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize that we are making assumptions but it can be really valuable to take a step back and try to look at challenges with fresh eyes.

In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept called "shoshin", meaning "beginner's mind" which refers to the idea of approaching a subject with an open mind and without preconceptions. Stripping away assumptions about requirements, limitations, and necessary consequences can open up some truly surprising solutions.

In the realm of divorce, we have built up these stereotypes of the dreaded ex and the divorce battle which are now strongly embedded in North American popular culture. When people are experiencing the trauma of the breakdown of their primary relationship, their energy is often being sapped by various extremely strong emotions, including fear, anger, grief, and anxiety. In this vulnerable state, people seem particularly prone to embrace these harmful stories that we have developed about what divorce looks like. Basically, in a weakened state, it is really difficult to 1) recognize assumptions, and 2) counteract them.

We need to change the divorce story. A huge percentage of people experience a separation/divorce at least once in their lifetime, and many experience two or three. People deserve to have access to healthy problem-solving that will allow them to transition through family challenges in a way that doesn't destroy family relationships, crush children, and clean out the savings. People should assume that this is possible!

In an effort to apply a fresh lens to the topic of divorce, I have recently released a book titled Pathways to Amicable Divorce: Directions for the Beginning of Separation. It is presently available for free download as a launch promotion until May 29th. Check it out at www.vintersmediation.com/resources

The beginner's mind is so helpful for looking at challenges of all sorts. Don't like your commute? Feeling limited by your job? Feel your relationship could be better? Consider what the ideal situation would look like, without applying judgment as to why it wouldn't work or couldn't happen. Once you know in a deep way the kind of experience you'd like to have, you'll be in a position to start brainstorming about how to get there. Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki writes in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind that "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few."

Christina

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Ch ch changes!

Change is hard. There's no two ways about it. Whether you are moving, changing jobs, re-configuring your family, trying to eat healthier, or any number of possible changes that can happen in one's life, change is highly stressful for most people.

Part of that stress arises from the unknown. There are likely going to be aspects to the change that were unexpected no matter how much planning has been done. For example, in the case of a move, even if you choose a safe neighbourhood, with a great school, and lots of amenities within walking distance, you might end up with a cranky neighbour. Since we don't know yet what we don't know, we often have vague worries and general anxiety about upcoming changes.

Another part of the stress is due to the inherent uncertainty of change - you just don't know ahead of time how the known change is going to pan out. Will you like it? Will you be able to do it? Will you be accepted? Will you thrive? Will the experience turn out in practice as good as it sounded in theory?

Change requires us to make adjustments to often well-developed habits. We have to create new routines to implement in place of the old ones in order to adopt the change and for the new situation to feel like the new normal. This is why smokers substitute gum when they are trying to quit - so they have a go-to replacement. If there are too many decisions to be made, this adds stress to our day but developing new routines and habits streamlines that decision-making and sets us up for success. Essentially, we need a new auto-pilot for many of the aspects of our new situation. If you are changing jobs, you'll need to develop new routines for how you get to work, how you schedule your workday, what you do at lunchtime, etc. Too many small decisions are taxing, which is why Steve Jobs famously wore a black turtleneck shirt everyday - to free up his brain capacity for more important issues. Once these initial routines are implemented, the new situation becomes much more manageable.

Lastly, change usually involves a loss of something. Even if the change is driven by you and eagerly anticipated, there will likely be some feeling of mourning regarding the loss or perhaps the loss of the potential/ the idea of what could have been. This can be a surprising and confusing feeling but it is normal.

Understanding the source of the stress is a necessary first step to be able to get a handle on it. Thereafter, some people thrive on detailed planning; some on meditation and faith; some on professional advice and guidance. I personally read every book and listen to every podcast that I can find on the subject that happens to be consuming my thoughts. It's crucial to find the balance that meets your needs in the face of our constantly changing world so that you can embrace change as it inevitably arises.

Christina

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Welcome!

Welcome to the first blog post of Pivot & Transcend!

I intend to use this space to post weekly thoughts on the general themes of family life (the joys and difficulties for families of all sizes and configurations), the challenges of various kinds of relationships, and self-development in a fairly broad sense. I do a lot of reading and plan to mix in topical book reviews periodically as well.

I am a lawyer-turned-mediator with a degree in sociology, interested in contributing to the health and well-being of families. I have spent the last several years lawyering, reading, travelling, learning about what drives us as human beings, and how to implement creative solutions in many facets of life. I'm also a happy wife and relatively zen parent of two teenage boys.

I'd love it if you'd follow along on my continued journey.

Christina

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