Happy Again by Eveline Jurry by Eveline Jurry - Read Online

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Happy Again - Eveline Jurry

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After

Introduction

It was the first week of January. My husband was on a ski trip with my two oldest kids, and I was coming home to a quiet house—a rare blessing. As I climbed my front steps, I slid and sprained my ankle. It didn’t hurt that much, and I wasn’t really upset about it; it was something I couldn’t change. But my best girlfriend, who I’d known since I was eight, was coming in from Spain the next day to visit for her holidays, and there was a lot that I wanted to do to prepare for her arrival. Now, I was forced to stop my preparations and rest my injured leg.

When my friend arrived, she immediately rolled up her sleeves and set to work taking care of me and my youngest daughter (who was only four at the time). She was terribly loving and sweet, and had enough energy for ten people. Don’t worry, Lien, she said. (Lien is my nickname.) I’ll run your life for a while until you are ready to be up and about again. Sit here by the fireplace and relax. Read some magazines. I’ll make you a cup of coffee.

After giving birth to three children, throwing parties like confetti, running my creative career, helping my husband with his own big career, and living through years of sleepless nights and endless to-do lists, I was ready for a break. I felt like I was in Wonderland in my own home, and it was incredibly soothing. But this enforced quiet time, combined with plenty of long talks with my friend, also gave me the space to find some serious insight into my own heart. What I saw was not a pretty picture.

I realized that I was no longer connected to myself—to the things I used to love about myself. On the outside, my life was perfect. On the inside, my heartbeat hardly had a sound. And I had no idea why.

On one level, I had known it for years. The twinkle in my eye was gone. I missed my vibrancy, my inner joy, the excitement I used to feel about my life. But we were so busy all the time that I was able to ignore the fact that I was on a road to a dark place.

For years, I’d tried to communicate on a deeper level with my husband, but I did not have the right tools. I am highly sensitive, and my experience of daily life is, at times, much deeper and more colorful than what might be considered normal. My husband, on the other hand, was very logical and straightforward, and I loved that about him. However, because of his own personality, he didn’t always understand how I felt about things, and I couldn’t show him in a way he could interpret—and somewhere along the line, as we both poured our energies into our family and our respective careers, we stopped trying. We both wanted to be happy, but slowly, without recognizing it, we grew away from one another.

I realized all of this for the first time while I rested my injured ankle. But admitting my unhappiness in my marriage and actually ending my marriage were two different things. As a glass-half-full kind of person, I had thoughts like, It’s not that bad. We have a good life. I can be okay here. But the truth was, I missed the deep connection I knew was possible—the inner glow and radiance that strength in partnership can boost. I wanted to feel like I could conquer the world with my partner at my side.

What I didn’t know at the time—and what took me years to learn—was that I had to love and connect to myself with exactly that kind of grace and bravery before I could receive that love from someone else.

I looked for help to sort out my feelings, and started working with a therapist not long after my friend returned to Spain. I tried to improve my ability to communicate with my husband, and our ability to communicate together, but after several months I realized that a milestone had been passed—probably years before—and we were too far gone to repair the unhappiness and bridge the distance that had grown between us.

Around this time, I remembered the positive model of separation I’d witnessed as a child. My parents and my grandparents were divorced, and all of them had been able to go through this process with grace while minimizing the effect of the separation on me and my siblings. At this point, all three of my kids were under the age of ten, and I was managing my creative career as well as my household, but I trusted it would all work out. After all, my whole family had mastered what I termed The Art of Positive Separation, and had thrived—why not me?

I was not prepared for the actual experience and work of a divorce. I knew how I wanted my separation to look, but I didn’t have the tools to make it happen in the way I envisioned. Turns out, witnessing family members in the process of positive separation and going through it myself in real time were two very different things! Focus and determination were my keywords, but the actual process was chaotic, nerve-wracking, and traumatic. Just a few days after the official decision was made, my entire life was different. The fact that it had been my choice didn’t make it easier. There was a huge stone of guilt in my stomach. I felt like I had failed as a wife and as a member of the great family we had created. More, I felt like the worst mom ever. I could hardly look my children in the eyes without wishing I could evaporate this whole situation. I also missed our friends, who were suddenly divided into mine and his, and I felt terrible that my actions had upset so many who had been loving and caring toward us as a family.

But in the midst of the emotional and logistical nightmare of separating our family, possessions, and time, the biggest question I had was:

Will I ever be happy again?

FINDING MY WAY BACK

Divorce. Breakup. These are plastic words; they mean nothing until they happen to you. Suddenly, the days are ticking away, and they feel endless. Life feels raw and uncertain. It hurts deep in your bones. You feel blocked, and scared, and reactionary. You feel lonely and weak.

I lost weight—too much weight—and as the pounds dropped off so did my strength and resilience. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t relax. My mind told me I’d made the right choice, but in my wounded heart I wondered if I’d ever find the kind of connection and joie de vivre that I’d envisioned while sitting in front of my cozy fire with my ankle propped on a pillow. I wasn’t whole. I hadn’t suddenly found me again. I wasn’t even certain I would survive this.

One day, a few weeks into the divorce process, I took a detour instead of biking straight home from our mediation meeting, I stopped at a cute little café in the center of Amsterdam, on the Prinsengracht Canal. I didn’t see the pretty blossoms on the trees outside. I didn’t see the glint of sunlight on the canal, or the boats cruising on the calm water. I felt like a big ball of aching emotion spinning in a void, all alone. I’d been avoiding people for months, processing the whole transition on my own, but now I just wanted someone to hold my hand and guide me through the mess my choice had made of my life—of all our lives. When I’d decided I wanted more from my life—when I decided that I wanted to be the happy, vibrant person I knew myself to be, and not a gray shadow of myself—this sucking, negative spiral was not what I had envisioned!

I wanted a different option. More, I wanted an instruction manual.

Sitting there, sipping my coffee, I had a vision. I saw myself on a big, fluffy bed, surrounded by pillows and cushions and fresh spring flowers. Like in one of those old children’s movies, that bed took flight, and I knew that it was flying me and my children into a happier, more comfortable future.

For the first time in a long while, I felt a little spark of hope, and it kept me going. I created a vision of what I wanted my life and my children’s lives to look like, and I held onto it as tightly as I could. Step by baby step, I cut down on the chaos and started moving forward. I did what I could, every day, and let go what I couldn’t control. Soon, the terrible inner ache started to subside. I started to smile again.

That day in the café, I’d wished for an instruction manual—a guide to navigating my breakup in a way that wouldn’t shatter me and my family. I wanted an Ikea-style how-to on the art of positive separation, complete with pictures, diagrams, and detailed step-by-step directions I could follow out of the darkness and into my new life. I wanted to master the process of separating in a positive, healthy way.

At the time, such a manual didn’t exist. But it does now—and you’re holding it in your hands.

This book is your step-by-step guide to a positive, empowering separation. It’s based not only on what I learned in my own divorce, but on the Method I created to help people like me—and you—climb out of the chaos and navigate their separations with greater confidence, hope, and love. In this book, I’ll share exactly what you need to know about your separation: how it works, what the potential pitfalls are, who you can call for help when you need it. I’ll also show you exactly how to find, and maintain, the positive attitude and self-care you need to rediscover your love for your life, spark that light in your eyes, and be happy again.

What Positive Separation Really Means

In order to create a positive separation (rather than a traumatic or harrowing one) you need to have the right perspective. You need to get up, roll up your sleeves, and face your new reality head-on. Then, you need to do what you can to nourish your body, manage your tumultuous emotions, complete your daily tasks, care for your family, and let the rest go.

In the Netherlands, we call this the Rotterdam attitude. The center of that city was bombed into rubble during World War II, its entire heart taken out. In the aftermath, there was only one solution if residents wanted the city to flourish again: rebuild, whatever it took. Today, Rotterdam has one of the largest and most bustling harbors in the world, and is the only truly modern city in the Netherlands, with lots of glass and skyscrapers—but its people still retain the dogged practicality and will to move forward that saved their city from abandonment and ruin.

My family is from Rotterdam. Perhaps that’s where I learned this attitude.

The truth is, separation is hard. (If all of this was easy, everyone would experience a positive separation!) When our partner is no longer there to blame, we have to look at ourselves. We have to put ourselves back together, step by step, just like the citizens of Rotterdam rebuilt their city from the ground up.

Trying to do this without help can feel a lot like trying to climb Mount Everest with no preparation, no base camp, no support team, and no Sherpa to guide you. If you don’t get what you need from the beginning, you’re likely to end up scarred, scared, and stranded.

When you separate from your partner—whether you initiated that separation or not—you have a big job to do. You need to keep your life going every day, and move it in a new and positive direction. You need to untangle your finances, your possessions, your friends, and your social life. You need to unravel your emotional ties, your family ties, your entangled hopes and dreams. You need to heal your broken heart, and find wholeness within yourself so you can rebuild your life and create a happy future.

This process shakes you to your very foundation—and while you’re falling into that deep hole, and boulders are raining down on your head, you still have to try to navigate the world like a grown-up and fulfill your responsibilities.

The day I had my vision in the café, I was at my lowest point, and I had to make a choice. I could either keep spinning down into the darkness, or I could put on my big-girl pants, identify what I really wanted from my new life, and create a future that was as bright and shiny as the one in my vision. I was just forty years old, still full of youth and beauty, and I had a full life ahead of me. I was not going to waste it on the drama of my separation. I was not going to be a victim of my life. And although I knew my choice to leave had hurt my children, I wasn’t going to let that choice trap all of us in an endless web of negativity.

But how would I shift myself from negativity to positivity? The only way I knew how to do it was to take little steps toward my vision every day.

I promised myself that from that day on, I would spend quality time with myself, my tea, and my notebook every week. I would list out the actions I could take in the week to come, and decide how I wanted to think, feel, and behave every single day. I would schedule positive actions in my calendar. I decided to call this time my Power Hour.

Setting up my Power Hour was my first big step toward taking back 100 percent responsibility for my life. From that moment on, I was committed. I knew I was resilient, and could conquer any storms that came my way—but only if I worked diligently on myself and my separation. If I wanted to shine for myself and my children, I needed to do this work, and do it to the best of my abilities.

No one was going to climb Mount Everest for me. No one was going to take my hand and lead me to the top. I could gather my tools, my support, and my courage—but in the end, it was my feet that had to climb.

The same is true for you. This book is your instruction manual—but only you can implement the instructions I’ll give you. Only you can decide to move forward with hope instead of fear. And only you can take action to reclaim your life, your future, and your happiness.

THE PATH FORWARD

I’d love to tell you that I did everything right from the day I committed myself to positive and constructive action … but I can assure you, I didn’t.

There were whole days—and even weeks—when I found it difficult to channel my powerful emotions, and when my negative thoughts were set to replay on a 100-decibel loop. During those times, I engaged in stupid and emotionally-driven behavior I’m not proud of at all.

But there were also whole days when I felt connected with myself in a way I hadn’t been in years—days when I clearly saw my vision for a happy future beginning to take shape.

Having a plan comforted me more than I can say. No matter what kind of day I was having, my support team provided their support and love, and helped me stick to my commitment to take care of myself and my body. I learned, bit by bit, how to disconnect from my old life and plug into my new one. I learned to sense what triggered my emotional storms, and to navigate those situations differently. I cleaned out my house, got rid of all of my unnecessary belongings, and started fresh. I did things that were fun, simply because they were fun. I learned to laugh again, and to cry without feeling like it was the end of the world.

My old life was gone. My old love was gone. My old dreams for my family were gone. But I was gaining a new life, and a new love: myself.

How to Use This Book

About a year after my divorce was finalized, I began to wonder how I could teach others to apply the tools I’d used in my separation to their own situations. I developed my Positive Separation Method™ to help anyone going through their own separation to get their life back on track, feel happy again, and move forward into a brighter future. A few years after that, a big Dutch publisher bought the rights to my book, Je Wordt Weer Gelukkig (You Will Be Happy Again). Now, I’ve refined and restructured the Method that has helped so many people in the Netherlands so that you can create your own Positive Separation, starting right now.

The tools in this book are universal. Whether you’re going through a formal divorce or separating from a boyfriend or girlfriend; whether you initiated the separation, or it took you by surprise; whether you have children, or you don’t; whether you are young, or old, or somewhere in the middle; this book can help you disentangle yourself from your old life, get clear on what your new life will look like, and take action to get your life back on track and moving forward.

The Five Steps of My Positive Separation Method™

Step 1: Disconnect from Your Old Life and Connect to Your New Life

Step 2: Focus on What You Can Control (and Let Go of What You Can't)

Step 3: Empower Yourself and Reconnect to Your Core

Step 4: Take Loving Action to Care for Yourself

Step 5: Move Forward with Confidence!

As you see—and as you’ll continue to discover as you read through this book—my Positive Separation Method is all about you. It’s about your focus, your energy, your actions. It’s about taking care of yourself, and loving yourself, so that you can be the person you want to be in your new life, reclaim the essence of who you are, and be happy again.

Steps 1 through 4 of the Method are about getting through the initial phases of your separation and reconnecting to yourself on multiple levels so you can move through your separation in the most empowered, positive, and productive way. You may need to work with these initial steps for three months, six months, or even a year or more before you are truly ready to move forward into your new life with Step 5. My advice is: don’t rush it. You will know when you are fully ready to leave your old life behind and step into your new, happy future.

There are many ways to use this book, but my suggestion is that you read the entire book in a weekend, or over the course of several days. Once you understand the Positive Separation Method and get a sense of where you’re headed, go back and work through Steps 1 through 4, one by one. Dedicate a journal or notebook to your separation process, do the exercises, and use the tools and Empowered Actions in each chapter. If you follow the instructions in this manual and don’t let yourself get sidetracked, you should be on a more positive path within three to four weeks.

After you do this preparation and set up your new positive behaviors, you will need to keep doing them for as long as it takes to get through your separation. Then, when you’re ready, you can use the tools in Step 5 to modify these new positive habits and carry them forward into your new life. Fourteen years later, I still use my Power Hour every week to set up my schedule and lay out my intentions for the week. It’s a powerful practice that’s kept me on track through all of life’s ups and downs.

At its heart, this book is the practical, action-oriented manual I was looking for when I was in the throes of my own separation. Although you will find plenty of helpful tips in Steps 3 and 4 of my Method for coping with emotions and keeping a positive mindset on a daily basis, you would also be well-served to consider using this book alongside other methods which focus more deeply on emotional and spiritual health. Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After, who wrote the Foreword for this book, is one of the best resources I know for this kind of work, and her Conscious Uncoupling method is a perfect complement to my work and message.

A Happy and Radiant Future

Two years after my divorce, I met John. Like me, he had recently gone through a separation, and all of the grief and struggle that went with it. At first, I was afraid to dive into a new relationship. I had just found myself again, and I was scared to lose that new connection. But I was sturdier than I thought. I had grown into a fully-realized, happy woman, and could talk about my feelings in a way I hadn’t been able to do before. John took me gracefully by the hand and became a loving, dynamic life partner who helped me flourish even more.

We made our union official in 2008, with rings and a ceremony in the rainforest of the Suriname with the villagers of Apetina as witnesses. Our newly blended family—seven children in total—were all in attendance. When we returned to Amsterdam, we celebrated with a big dinner for family and friends in an old mansion. It was a night full of flowers, music, speeches, and happiness. When I was first going through my separation, I never imagined that my life could be so full, so rich, or so surprising!

I’m also happy to say that my children have a wonderful relationship with their father, who is remarried and lives around the corner from us in Amsterdam. Since the day we separated, my ex-husband and I have both been present for all the highlights of our children’s lives along with our bonus kids on both sides. We are truly a happily blended family. It took work, but everyone has been so positive through the entire process, and I’m extremely grateful for the way things have turned out.

In life, change is constant. We learn and we grow. We turn this way or that way. We try new things. We stop doing other things. We evolve, and we leave behind what we no longer need. We come together, and we separate. I know where you are right now, and how you feel. I also know where you can go from here—and I promise, if you keep your heart open, remember the lovely days of your past, and envision the lovelier days in your future, that radiance will become part of you. You will smile again, and your smile will be even bigger than before. You will dance in the sun and celebrate your life to its fullest.

Just hang in there, trust yourself, and follow this guide to the Art of Positive Separation, and I know you will be happy again!

POSITIVE SEPARATION STEP 1

Disconnect from Your Old Life and Connect to Your New Life

Disconnect from Your Old Life and Connect to Your New Life

Before you can take any steps to get your life back on track and start finding your happiness again, you need to untangle yourself from your old life. To do this in an empowered way (as opposed to a chaotic, stressful, and disempowering way) you need to understand all of the details of your separation—the good and the bad, the inner and the outer, the physical and the energetic. Then, you need to create a structure for yourself that will allow you to cope with the physical and emotional tasks of creating your new life.

Separation, even if the decision is mutual, is never easy. It turns your life upside-down, and you lose control of things that you once felt secure with. There will be days when you feel ungrounded, adrift, and stressed out. You will cry, a lot. You will also laugh, and rage, and wallow in regret. Your relationships with friends and family will change. You will have new worries and new challenges.

The only way to navigate this in a positive way is to draw a hard line between your old life and your new one. You need to make choices based on where you are right now, not where you were, or where you wish you were. And to do this, you need to take an honest look at your current situation.

In Step 1 of the Positive Separation Method, we will look at all the hard facts of your separation one by one. By choosing to look at things for what they are, you will feel less like a victim and more like a person who’s committed to moving toward a better, happier life. You’ll be better able to break down your tasks into manageable chunks that don’t feel overwhelming, and manage your store of personal energy so you don’t burn yourself out.

Once you have gotten crystal clear on where you are and what’s happening in your life, you will close the window on your old life and open the door to your new one. In other words, you will disconnect from your old life and connect to your new one.

If you are a parent, this work of disconnection and re-visioning your life is especially important for you. Many people in separation want to prioritize their children above all else, and so have trouble disconnecting from their ex-partners in a complete way which enables them to move on with their new lives. Instead of basing your actions and feelings on what seems best for your children, I encourage you to make yourself the top priority. When you lift yourself into a better and more empowered place, you set the tone for your children, and they will follow your example. More, you will be in a better position to begin your new parenting role.

Approaching your separation in this way—by deliberately disconnecting from your old life and connecting to your new one—requires courage and conviction. You need to take an active role in empowering yourself. No one else can do this