A few years ago, right around Thanksgiving, the relationship I was in ended very abruptly. I discovered a big deal-breaker between us that I was not able to handle, and he reacted very badly to my bringing it up. Physical threats were made, police were called, and the whole thing had to end right then and there.
It was a disaster – my friends now call it “the big crash and burn.” I was devastated, embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it coming, and genuinely confused about what exactly had led up to all this.
And yet, Monday arrived as usual, and the work week began as if nothing had happened. There were meetings to run, speeches to give, and clients to coach. And if I couldn’t keep up with that, I would soon run out of my now-single income. Gulp.
To make it through, I slipped into a rhythm of 2 separate modes. It turned out to be the best way to heal from a blow that I have found.
Mode #1. Self Care & Reflection
Mode #2. Excellence & Service
I knew that I was wounded, and healing. So, while I wasn’t at work, that’s ALL I did. I didn’t try to have fun, create, date, help a friend move, or bake cookies for holiday parties. I just focused on doing the basics medium-well: breathing, eating, sleeping, showers, a little walking.
This would probably look differently for each person, but for me, I spent a lot of hours on the couch, silently staring at a bookshelf for 2 months. I didn’t expect it to feel good, I just waited for it to stop feeling bad.
In the silence, I focused my attention on MY choices, not on him or others in the situation:
What had I done well, that I would repeat?
What had I not communicated well?
What had I chosen not to see?
What signs had I seen and chosen not to act on?
What do I need to forgive myself for?
and most of all:
What will I do differently going forward?
I took 100% responsibility for this situation. Not because the situation was my fault but because it was my responsibility to choose how to respond to the situation. Focusing on my response changed the self-reflection from a pity party or a hate fest into a transformation.
But, what about WORK?
If you are going through personal upheaval, just know that you will need to approach going back to work consciously. Don’t expect your home-life to stay at home on its own. Figure out how you will respond to the non-negotiable fact that you will be both healing and working in the same week.
For me, I used work to remember how powerful I am. Since I get to use my superpowers to support others in my job, I did just that. I remembered that a large part of me is really damn good at some things. I can speak, coach, lead a group, and listen any day, with one arm tied behind my back.
So that’s what I did.
And it’s funny, but it didn’t feel like I was “escaping” the pain, or that I had to “wall it off”. If anyone had asked me what was wrong, I would have told them I was going through a break up, or said “I’m having some really rocky holidays this year.”
But work really wasn’t about me. I found I was able to focus on those I served, and allow my natural talents to do the heavy lifting. Unexpectedly, the more difficult tasks of my work actually helped me focus MORE because they are hard for me, so I could put even more energy there, and focus less on my personal life.
About 4 months later, a client heard about the big crash and burn and she was in awe of how I had been “so professional to continue working during that sad time.” I told her, “It was a blessing to be with you rather than let it derail me. Work was a welcome break from the part of me feeling the sadness.”
I consider it a huge blessing when I can move between work, home, friends, and hobbies looking forward to each one. It doesn’t feel that way all the time. But when one area of life is seriously sucking, it is easier to appreciate the simple joys of another.
As for the end of my healing story, I consider those 2-3 months of healing to be one of the most powerful gifts I’ve ever given myself. Amazingly, when I was finally ready to date again, I kept up with my new habit of 100% personal responsibility. It changed everything with the next man I met, and we are now happily married!
This is Amanda’s 4th amazing guest post in a 10-week series! Look forward to more guest posts from Amanda!
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Amanda’s passion is working with women who find themselves in higher levels of leadership than they planned – needing to speak, negotiate, or sell. She shares tools to help them stay in Joy & Authenticity as they lead. You can find out more at Everyday-Light.com.