The Ghost Light

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Superstition has long been part of the theatre world. While it’s bad luck for an actor to whistle backstage, it’s good luck to wish them to “break a leg.” And no one dares utter the name “Macbeth” lest they summon a curse on the entire production.

There is yet another supernatural narrative: the ghost light. This lone, bare-bulb lamp is left burning all night in theatres believed to be inhabited by the souls of dead performers, production or building maintenance staff so that the ghosts don’t get mischievous while the theatre is empty. The ghost light’s mythical glow is said to allow spirits to perform onstage in the wee hours, appeasing them and preventing any negative energy from haunting the venue.

This reminds me of the ghosts of the past that haunt us after divorce and what we can do to keep their unwelcome existence at bay.

In the week leading up to my daughter’s recent college graduation, I began having nightly dreams about my ex-husband as a result of feeling anxious about encountering him at the convocation. In some of the dreams, we are still married although something feels “off” about the situation, likely disillusionment simmering just below the surface; in others, I am churning with fury and raw humiliation, openly confrontational about his betrayal and the grief it caused.

While the ghosts of marriage past do not make appearances as often as they once did, they are nevertheless still lurking in my psyche. I found that blogger D.A. Wolf experiences a very similar kind of haunting, as she writes on Divorce Whirlwind:

“The ghost of my ex has reared his (fill-in-the-blank) head once again. Not so much in my conscious daily life, but surprisingly frequently of late – like a shadowy presence trying to steal my happiness – in my dreams,” she writes.

“We delight in scaring ourselves with traditional tales of haunted spaces or, for that matter, haunted hearts. But ghosts in real life – especially when they’re alive – are far less entertaining than a two-hour film or a series of hair-raising stories. Ghosts in real life pop up when we least expect. They frighten us from their shadows. They remind us of harm that was done. To my annoyance, they dare to make their presence felt when I am asleep, and my consciousness puts up fewer barriers to fear.”

One good thing about the bad dreams is that they do not occur as often as they once did, but when they do, I am able to link them to feelings of anxiety or inadequacy in my waking life. It certainly helps to brush them off more quickly.

I don’t think of my ex very much. Our divorce was settled years ago and since our children have reached early adulthood, we have had very little interaction. Personal distance has allowed me to let go of a certain degree of anger and move on. Of course, some things still come up now and then – a memory surfaces or his name is mentioned in passing – but even those moments don’t stab me in the heart the way they used to.

In fact, it didn’t occur to me until three days after it passed that it was just the sixth anniversary of D-Day. The date didn’t loom darkly as it had in previous years, nor did I sink into self-pity on the occasion itself. It simply came and went like any other weekday and I didn’t bat an eye. Yep, I’m pretty proud of myself.

Some subscribe to the idea that only time helps pain to subside, but I think it has to be more purposeful than that. It just might be about what we do to keep our protective ghost light burning. It’s very much within our control to keep our stage lit to chase the apparitions away, and when that light isn’t on, we give whatever creeps in the shadows of our mind permission to haunt.

My ghost light is love. I have a great deal of love flowing through my life, and it powers every aspect of who I am. Whenever possible, I choose to have a positive attitude. I look for the best in people and always try to be kind to others as well as to myself (it’s hard but I’m getting there). Love fuels the pride I have in caring for my family, my home and my business. Love even reminds me to stop now and then to take stock of everything I have to be grateful for – including my divorce.

Yes, I am grateful even for that painful experience because it not only woke me up, it brought new and unexpected gifts into my life. It helped me to discover how resilient and resourceful I am. It brought me greater peace, greater happiness and most importantly, greater love. How can I not be thankful?

The more I focus on all of the good, the stronger I become. I choose to bask in that kind of radiance and keep my ghost light burning day and night, knowing that it is only light that can chase away the darkness.

Find Your Tribe #1: Sharon

I’m excited to introduce a new series called “Find Your Tribe” – a reflection of the amazing people we meet and who resonate with us following divorce. We find a deep connection and sense of acceptance among those who have lived similar emotional experiences as us. By sharing our stories and learning from one another, we are able to heal, grow and be inspired to become better versions of ourselves.

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I’d like you to meet Sharon, who instantly became one of my favorite people the first time I met her. Sharon is a business owner, IT consultant, Integral Master Coach™, brilliant artist and an all-around inspiring, dynamic lady who embodies the words “feisty” and “fierce.” I truly admire her beautiful heart, resilient spirit and the empowering way Sharon chooses to live her life. I think you will too.     

Can you please share a little bit about your situation?

I’m in the process of divorcing my second husband, who is a really nice guy, but who never really challenged me. He is supportive, but what I really need is someone who can inspire and shake me up from time to time. We were two very different people who met when we both needed some company and we really enjoyed each other for several years. Yet, at least for me, it wasn’t very passionate. I mean I loved him and cared about him, but I felt I was living life doing my own thing alongside someone without any of his own friends or interests. For the past five years, I have been telling him, “You really need a hobby,” and he’d say, “You are my hobby.” That put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. Ultimately, we shared some good times, travelling and having fun together, but there never really was a deep emotional connection between us. Or more accurately, for me.

In what ways is your second divorce different from your first?

My first husband and I had a really incredible love affair. Our relationship resulted in the birth of our daughter and we still have a deep connection mainly because of her. The marriage ended because I found out he was having an affair. Two months later, I moved out of the house and soon after, learned his girlfriend was pregnant. I was devastated and heartbroken and suddenly found myself a single mom to a four-year-old. Emotionally, I wasn’t prepared to deal with the end of my first marriage.

This time around, I knew in my heart that things just weren’t right for me, so my decision feels almost peaceful, though I realize and acknowledge the heartache I caused leaving my second husband.

There are people I know who believed I was lucky to live the life I had – and I really was. I still am. But there’s just no “juice” in that relationship for me. To stay with someone another 30 years just to live a comfortable life makes no sense. I also couldn’t live a lie and look my now 26-year-old daughter in the eye. She knows her mom and knows this relationship wasn’t right for me. I want to show her that love relationships need to be healthy and that people need to be true to themselves.

What has divorce taught you about yourself?

I’ve learned a deeper level of kindness, not only for my partners, but for myself. I’ve also learned that some people change while others, even if they know it’s the one thing that will help you stay together, don’t have the capability, capacity or desire to do so. Some people evolve and some get left behind and I no longer feel responsible for driving and sustaining another person’s happiness or social connections.

I’ve realized that I have been deeply loved in my life, but only when I started to connect to self-love did I really “know” what I am all about at the core and what type of partner will feed that.

Where are you at this point in your life?

I think I’m at a place of transition as there’s really a major shift happening. I feel more honest with myself. I feel lighter. I’m also feeling embodied in self-realization: this is who I am and these are the things I want to do. From now on, I can pick what to do with my time and choose who I spend that time with. As I get older, I realize that my sensibilities and the list of things I refuse to compromise on gets shorter but becomes more critical. In the past two and a half months, I’ve had three people in my life pass away. It sounds so cliché, but life really is short, and that’s why I want to wake up every morning and feel that my heart is full. There’s a lot of people and situations you cannot change, but you can choose your attitude and choose how you get through them.

Fill in the blanks: “Divorce has made me less ____ and more _____.”

Divorce has made me less bitchy (laughs) and also less manic, as I reached a point where I was trying to keep myself busy to avoid emotional or physical interaction in my marriage. And I would say that divorce has made me more grounded and certainly, more peaceful.

Do you think you’ll ever get married again?

I’m not in that head space yet. While I’m not putting my energy into finding a new relationship in the immediate future, I am looking forward to building more connections with people, including men, but not necessarily in the romantic sense.

What do you do to lift your spirits when you’re feeling sad or alone?

It’s funny, but I think for the first time, I’m embracing the solitude. Even when I spent time alone before, I always felt this tug of obligation that I should be doing something with my husband instead. This cloud was always hovering. But now when I come home, I feel more relaxed. Don’t get me wrong, solitude has its downsides too, but what keeps me going is the tenderness of the people who really care about me. I honestly did not realize how big and sincere of a fan club I had, and I’m really buoyed and energized by them. It’s almost like they’re holding me up in some way. Even when I’m by myself, I feel them and know they’ve always got my back.

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

I’m in the process of opening a new studio with an office for my coaching clients as well as an inspiring art space where I can paint and create and invite my friends to do the same. I’m looking forward to having a warm, welcoming space where people can feel safe and comfortable to express themselves in ways they’re not accustomed to. I have some travel plans in the year ahead, too – a road trip with my daughter as well as some getaways with friends to Florida, New York and Cancun for a yoga retreat.

But I think the thing I’m looking forward to most is the unknown and to the possibility of things. I have no idea what’s around the corner. I’m one of these people who doesn’t fear change or surprises. There really are no guarantees so you have to keep moving forward.

What three pieces of advice would you give to others going through divorce?

One: Make space and time to rest and just “be” in the emotions that you’re experiencing because they’re all valid. You need an opportunity to connect to them and own them.

Two: Relationships are hard; we all do our best every day, but sometimes things still fall apart. Don’t blame yourself. A lot of people fall into the “woe is me” trap, but that doesn’t help anyone. You’ve got to move forward. You’ve got to get up in the morning, wash your face, have a cup of coffee and get on with your day. At the same time, if you need to cry, even in front of your kids, that’s okay too. They will see that you’re human and that life isn’t always easy. There’s an authenticity that comes from being true to yourself and to your feelings.

Three: Lastly, I’d say be kind to yourself. It’s one of the hardest things for us to do, but it’s so important to remember that you are enough and that you are worthy.