Don’t be surprised if the development of your Manifesto occurs in several stages. You won’t have perfectly polished statements, of course, but you will have the beginnings of an important message to yourself.
The ﬁrst attempt at writing your manifesto is more like a dumping of the poisons on the page. Until you do that, it’s hard to think straight. Here’s a ﬁrst
I am in a slow, deep, seething boil. I can think of nothing else but how unfair my husband, John, has been. I am consumed with anger and resentment. One minute I’m so angry I want to kill him, and the next I’m paralyzed with fear and sadness. I want to make him suffer—I want him to pay. I want to call his boss to tell him what an unethical person John is. I know things that could probably get him ﬁred. And her. She doesn’t know what a manipulator he can be. I know how charming he is in the beginning. I’m throwing his stuff out in the driveway—including his Viagra pills. I can’t stop thinking about the day Dan was born. We loved each other so much. He was so sweet to me and so proud of his boy—I did everything to make him happy. What did I do wrong? Maybe I didn’t try hard enough—maybe I was too critical. I can’t sleep at night, and I can’t get out of bed in the morning. I am writing this with a faint hope that I can ﬁnd a different way to handle this.
Sample Personal Manifesto: Second Draft
In the ﬁrst draft of my Personal Manifesto I sound like a tortured animal. I do not want to be that person! It still hurts, and I’m still angry, but I have to be careful and not end up like Veronica, who can’t stop spewing about her divorce. I want to come out of this divorce with dignity and self-respect. I won’t stoop to his level. I don’t need to get even or hurt him, although I admit I still have fantasies about it. This morning on the news there was a car crash in Elmwood Park where he works. My heart stopped, as I feared he was hurt. When I found out it wasn’t him, I was disappointed. Apparently some days I am doing better than others, which is ﬁne. I need to move forward in the most positive way I can.
For the sake of the children, I am going to have to and a way to interact with him—to be at least civil when we have to see each other. I read the chapter on forgiveness and I am not sure
I can ever forgive him or his trailer-trash
I know I am going to have good days and bad days, but these are the things I want to be:
- a person of dignity and
grace amother who does not want her children to feel sorry for her aperson who does not want her children to suffer just because she is angry aperson who can forgive without feeling weak aperson without regrets who can forgive herself for mistakes or feeling fragile and tired aperson who does not fear self-knowledge, knowing that it is the way out of pain and on to a better future
Note the change to a more reﬂective tone in the second attempt. The writer is calmer, and her thoughts are directed more toward where she is going. She is starting to develop mile markers of her progress. She is also starting to notice her own patterns. The deﬁning quality of this draft is the shift from emotional venting to clearer, more focused aspirational thought. Notice how she gains conﬁdence and clarity in the next version of her
I know I need to see our divorce for what it is—not as a failure, but as a personal evolution. Maybe he was to blame, but I am not going to make myself crazy by focusing on that. But we have a shared history, and for the sake of the children, I can’t just throw that away. I am learning to value what was good. I want to be able always to look back and be proud of how I handled my divorce. I want to be the hero in my own life, someone who doesn’t act on the negative feelings. But when I do, and I will, I will take responsibility for my thoughts and actions—even if I admit that responsibility only to myself. I visualize myself as a soldier, complete with valor and dignity.
No matter how depressed I might feel, I will drag myself to my dance class and be okay with having a terrible class. I can just be proud that I went. Every time I do what I didn’t think I could do, I become stronger.
When I have a negative thought about John I will fuse it with a fond memory. I know many days I will have to dig to access one, especially after court. I may think it is easier to get over the divorce by focusing on the negative, to help me justify it, but then I am not being honest with myself. My marriage was as much good as it was difficult. I knew what our problems could be, and I didn’t want to admit it to myself. The illusion of perfection was strictly of my making.
I will act with respect toward him, but that does not mean I have to concede what I believe is right for me. I understand that John has needs, but that does not mean I have to give up my own. I do not have to sacriﬁce what I am entitled to in order to show compassion for my former partner’s struggle. For the ﬁrst
When my friends ask me what happened, I will resist painting myself as the victim. I also will resist implying to my children that I am the victim, even though it’s pretty tempting to do so, as I could get extra attention that way. I want to set a heroic example for my children about how to behave during adversity. I know they are watching
Every choice I make takes me one step closer to or farther away from whom I want to become. Even if I behave in ways I am not proud of in the morning, that doesn’t mean I have to continue them throughout the day. I will forgive myself for those actions and just try to do better.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book The Good Karma Divorce: Avoid Litigation, Turn Negative Emotions into Positive Actions, and Get On with the Rest of Your Life by Judge Michele F. Lowrance, published by HarperCollins Publishers ©2010.
Michele F. Lowrance has been a domestic-relations judge in the Circuit Court of Illinois since 1995. A child of divorce who was raised by her grandparents, Judge Lowrance has been divorced and has devoted her professional life to helping those similarly situated. For more information visit www.michelelowrance.com.