Love Lists

Recognizing your own accomplishments is key during your divorce

Going through a divorce can leave you in the dumps, but one way to feel better is to take a personal inventory. This may seem counter-intuitive at this point in your life as you may feel devastated by your recent turn of events. While it’s true that one part of your life may have fallen apart, in reality it’s likely not the case in all aspects of your existence. A personal inventory will help you take stock and understand that there are many good things going on, and hopefully you’ll feel a bit better as a result. The beauty of this inventory is that it’s simple and quick. A few quick notes and bam, you have a handy list. And if you ever need a boost, you’ll have a copy in your wallet for a quick reminder. Review your list of accomplishments over your morning coffee, on the train…or sitting on what my father used to call his “throne”. You get the idea. Just do whatever works. Over time you’ll have things to add to your love lists and when you do, you’ll know you’re getting back to being you. Happy, healthy and with a well-balanced, full life.

This is a simple exercise. You will need two sheets of paper, something to write with and some matches. Don’t do this digitally. Write it out. You’ll understand why shortly.

Step One: On the first sheet of paper, list three things about yourself that you are most proud of. Maybe you regularly rescue kittens from trees, volunteer at a local shelter or can pick up socks with your toes. Choose three things about yourself that makes you smile with pride. In the event you found this article on a particularly down day, it’s okay; you are a great person even if you don’t feel like one right now. Just give yourself a moment and the answers will come to you. Go back as far as 5th grade, to that time you built a cool fort in your backyard. Don’t move on until you have at least three things.

Step Two: On the second sheet of paper, list three things about yourself that you are not proud of. Maybe you forgot to call your Mom on her birthday, or you cheated on your wife, or you pledged a contribution to your local public radio station and never mailed the check. Whatever it is, just be honest and write it down. No one from the outside world will ever see this.

Step Three: Going back to the original sheet of paper: list three things you learned as a result of the things you are least proud of. For example, if you wrote: I forgot to call my Mom on her birthday, then you would rewrite that as: I value my Mom; I want her to know I think she is special and care about her. Or, I know I don’t have much time left with my Mom, I want her to know I love her. Guilt is a byproduct of acting outside of your belief structure. This step will help you get in touch with what is important to you, rather than leave you stewing in your own juices of remorse.

Step 4: Back to sheet number two! List three things that you couldn’t do when you were married, but wanted to. Maybe you couldn’t buy the car you wanted, or take that fishing trip or she gave you crap about alphabetizing your soup cans. No matter how big or small, write them here.

Step 5: On sheet number one, list three things you can and still want to do now that you’re not married. Maybe you’re over the car and you want to tour California on a motorcycle. Maybe you’d rather go to Italy now than fish. Whatever excites you now, write it down without judging your urges. The sky’s the limit.

Step 6: On sheet number two, list three things you wished that your ex had appreciated more, or that you felt she took for granted. Maybe she never thanked you for getting the oil changed in the car. Or you always did the grocery shopping without thanks.

Step 7: Back to sheet number one; you are going to rewrite the three three things you wish she appreciated about you, only you are going to write them as strengths. If you wrote: She never noticed that I got the oil changed for her, then you would rewrite that as: I am great at accomplishing regularly scheduled maintenance on vehicles. Or, I take great care of my belongings. Something to that effect but as you write it, it has to feel true for you. This is your list. Assume no one will ever see it and if they do, they won’t know what it’s about anyway so don’t bullshit your way through it.

Step 8: On sheet two, list three things you appreciated most about your ex. These are specific things that you liked about her, things about her that made you happy. Don’t be an asshole right now either. Things may be different today, but at one point she had good qualities and you admired her. List your top three.

Step 9: On sheet one, you are now going to rewrite the three things you admired about your ex as qualities you would admire in a woman. Any woman. If you wrote, she was a fantastic cook, then you would rewrite that as: I admire a woman who can hold her own in the kitchen. Or I admire someone who is a culinary adventurer.

Step 10: Take the matches in one hand and sheet number two in your other. You are going to read Sheet Two, including the things you are not proud of, the things you felt she didn’t appreciate, the things you felt like you couldn’t do when you were married and the qualities specific to your ex. Read them out loud. Slowly. Then take a deep breath.

Now burn it.

A nice slow burn. Smell the sulfur. Watch the edges turn black, watch the redness of the embers crawl up the page. Watch your words float away in wisps of smoke and crumble into ashes. You’re letting it go.

Now take Sheet One. Read all of the great qualities about yourself. Read all the lessons that you learned and will carry with you. Read the list of opportunities you have, should you decide to pursue them. Read the qualities that you bring to the table. Read the qualities that you admire in a woman, any woman.
Fold this list up. Put it in your wallet and read it the next time you’re on your throne. You’re the king of your castle and your life. And you have a lot going for you.

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