Mindful with Irene (22)

Irene thinks it is a good idea for everyone who is going through a divorce to go on mindfulness course.

There are many things in which I’m not as good as I’d like to be (well, that’s the perfectionist in me, I suppose), but there is one thing I am really really good at: being separated and divorced. And of that, I’m very proud. Because it is so unnecessary – all that fuss that I see around me and all the suffering the children go through. Okay, I understand that anyone who is angry really doesn’t feel that they deserve this, and I’m all too familiar with that feeling of wanting to lie in bed for weeks on end with the duvet pulled right up over your head. But still: Get over it. Stop wallowing in your sorrow, blame and desire for revenge, and quit your whining and complaining. Even if you find him a burden and your life really is not going as planned, my advice is: Take a good, long hard look at yourself, too. When a relationship goes wrong, is it because two people have messed up in some way. Can you honestly look at your own part in the grand scheme of things? Can you also – aside from the stupid, unfair and ridiculous stuff your partner did – dare to admit that you’re partly to blame? Can you see what a great father he actually is? Can you look at your children and be happy for them that they have done something fun with him? When it comes to your kids, can you just let all that anger and sadness drop by the wayside?

I recently discussed this with a friend who works with youth. She talked about all these bitter divorce cases that she’s busy working on, and we tried to imagine what she could do to get the quarreling parents to see that things have to change. We came to the conclusion that a mandatory mindfulness course would be a nice solution. In it, you learn so much about accepting things, letting go, looking at your own behavior and emotions from a distance, and many more things that you could use when going through a divorce. In the book A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness: Live in The Moment by Ernst Bohlmeijer and Monique Hulsbergen, there’s a lovely passage about change and acceptance.

“Change is possible only on the basis of acceptance. This sounds paradoxical, but that’s the way it is. Imagine you go for a walk in a vast area of natural beauty, and at some point you lose your way. There are a number of things you can do. You can lose your temper. You can give up. You can run off like a crazy in a given direction. You can shout at the top of your voice. In many cases, these activities won’t help. They’re a waste of energy and you risk getting even more badly lost. Your confidence tumbles.

Your best chance of surviving is if you take stock of your situation first: if you accept that you’re lost. This also means accepting your feelings of uncertainty, loneliness and anxiety, but not giving in to the temptation of responding immediately to these emotions. (…) That’s the way it is in life as well. In order to bring about change where it is wanted (if we are not leading the life we’d like to live and are capable of living), we first have to accept and experience the situation as it is.”

Nice food for thought that. Because sometimes you cannot change the situation. But you can change the way you deal with it.

Irene, together with Astrid, is the founder and creative director of Flow Magazine. She lives with her children (10 and 13, co-parenting) in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Each Friday, she writes about how various Mindfulness lessons apply in her daily life.