seven white closed doors

Intentionality through Challenging Times

TL;DR: over the last three posts, I detailed major changes to my life, career and the impact on long-in-development plans. In today’s post, I begin sharing my approaches to stay mindful and intentional through intense change.

The key phrase is at 6:30 into the video, “I don’t walk into a place I don’t know how to walk out of.”

Allow me to paint a picture for you — what would you do in this scenario?

You’re asked for a divorce on a Thursday. Your birthday is on Sunday and the winter weather is calling for a blizzard that will shut down transportation, leaving you locked in the house with someone who made it very clear they don’t want you around.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to think much about what to do — Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is pretty good about reminding me that I can’t really think about higher order needs until I can lock down food and shelter.

Establishing First Principles

After I got over the initial shock, for my own sense of stability (or maybe self-respect?) I did not want to be snowed in for what should be a fun weekend, trapped with someone who was actively disengaging from me. I felt the need for a different roof over my head that weekend. Then I did something new to me — I didn’t first use my two feet (and credit cards!) and get a hotel room for a long weekend. I first paid attention to this need and specifically what was driving it.

It is impossible to be fully intentional. I long to feel secure/comfortable enough to be less so. But in this particular moment, feeling torn open and raw, this capacity for intentionality was a saving grace. I wasn’t going to go negative about others, or point fingers about who’s to blame for what. None of that matters now. None of that helps later. All that mattered in this particular moment and helps later is what I do and how I go about doing it.

Accepting this new reality and whatever comes with it, I needed to get myself open for it. That meant I needed surroundings, and people, who can help me to shape a more ideal present. Understanding that helped me clarify my own needs and next-actions. It also set the boundaries I’d need to enforce (and reinforce constantly): to avoid toxicity and reduce friction, this transition was going to need to happen asap. I needed space to process and a place I could ultimately put my things and call “home” so I could move on from “surviving this moment” to processing the hard stuff and healing.

The First 24 Hours

I packed up some things and took the train into Center City Philly to stay the weekend. Once I checked into the hotel, I needed a bit of a physical reset, so I got a much needed last-minute haircut, got an 90-minute massage, went for a decent sushi dinner. Once I returned to the hotel, having accumulated some needed spoons, I called my kids and let them know the news that a) I’d be getting a divorce and b) I’d be moving back to Chicago.

I rewarded myself with finalizing plans with friends for the next day, celebrating my birthday with a full, day-long (and nightlong) pub crawl in South Philly.

Having some sense of predictability at least for what the next day would hold, and looking forward to it, I slept as easily as I could, at least with some optimism and enthusiasm for the next day.

That was good enough for Day 0. That was mindful and intentional enough for a first day.

I tried to drift off to sleep, but i could not sort survival thoughts from otherwise interruptive thinking, so rather than fight it, I started sorting the thoughts I was having after a deep think about what I went through a decade before in my first divorce, and then approach this change as a change effort for myself.

  • What’s the goal?
  • What’s for Now?
  • What’s for Later?
  • What are my distractions?
  • Where can I vent?
  • What other energy boosts, like a birthday pub crawl, can I put in place so the next few months aren’t filled with endless suck?

My goal came to me pretty clearly once I resigned to moving back to Chicago — I wanted to be in an apartment no later than March 1, ready for “the new” by March 15.

Putting some scope in place for myself helped me then organize all the thoughts.

What’s for Now

By giving myself an ideal present and a milestone to shoot for of March 1, I created a mental framework for how I’d go about healing. Healing is not for the immediate — survival is. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs makes it really clear one needs a place to dwell before one can work on self-care. So the only problems I resolved to allow myself to work on in the “now” was going to be matters of survival:

  • where was I going to live while I’m leaving PA?
  • how was I going to get my stuff moved?
  • where was I moving to, specifically?
  • how was I going to manage all the logistics involved to enable moving, let alone a new place?
  • how was I going to deal with dissolving the business/personal relationships in ways that protect my interests without it getting toxic?

What’s for Later?

I decided that there were going to be a lot of hard challenges I was going to be dealing with, but only once I was settled (which is finally kinda now):

  • How do I deal with all the unresolved feelings resulting from this whole change, especially with the kids?
  • What’s this new life gonna be like?
  • How am I going to make progress on my plans?
  • How am I going to make an impact at work?
  • How do I rebuild relationships in Chicago?
  • How do I maintain relationships in Philadelphia?

In my next post, I’ll continue down the thread of managing all the spinning plates. My hope is that if you’re reading this, and you or someone you care about got hit with a bunch of shit… that my sharing here in this personal, unorganized way, helps spark an idea that makes your shit… a little less shitty.

let’s just start with trying to make life less shitty for ourselves so that we might be better for others, enabling others to be better for us, too.