It can be challenging to create and preserve a Personal Manifesto in the face of a culture that supports aggression and anger as valuable components of a divorce strategy. There are times when you will need to be strong enough to gut against criticism from people around you who believe you should see your divorce as a holy war. You may have to protect yourself from being derailed by your friends who have just chipped in to buy you the commemorative DVD of The War of the Roses. Julia Cameron,
I know it’s difﬁcult to think about creating something like the Personal Manifesto when you don’t know where you are going to live, how you are going to pay your bills, whether you will have a mate again, or how to lift your children out of depression. But your Manifesto is vital, because it creates the window through which you can see the rest of your life, and it is the antidote to the negative seductions of the divorce process.
Very often I hear people say things like, “If only this case would settle—then I would ﬁnd happiness.” What this really means is, “My happiness is dependent on my spouse’s agreement.” But why wait? Why not take a path now that will lead to your happiness? Being content and finding peace—even in the midst of the divorce process—should not hinge solely on the behavior of another individual. You don’t have to sentence yourself to wait. You can start sculpting that strong, powerful person you can be right now. The average divorces
The aspiration toward a good karma divorce in the face of adversity is the underlying theme of your Personal Manifesto. Perhaps you gagged or rolled your eyes at one of the transformational warm- up questions, the suggestion that you write down the names of your heroes—those men and women, real or not, who display the kind of character you admire. This was meant to get your aspirational juices ﬂowing, but there’s a deeper purpose at work here too.
People gravitate toward heroes who display traits like bravery, compassion, and dignity, particularly those who show grace under pressure. You are inspired by their fortitude. When you choose to be heroic, you are inspired—and in turn you can inspire. As I said earlier, experiencing a divorce doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of heroism, but desiring the character of a true hero is precisely what will get you through your darkest days.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sow a thought, and you reap an action; sow an action, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” The character created through adhering to your Manifesto and attempting some of the principles of the Good Karma Divorce are the building blocks of your destiny—and not only your destiny, but the destinies of your family, your former partner, your friends and loved ones, virtually everyone you come into contact with, and everyone who comes into contact with them. This newly forged person you will become will enhance the legacy of your emotional DNA for your family during this generation and for generations to come.
When following your Manifesto, fortiﬁed by reading the chapters that follow, you will experience micro shifts in behavior. The transformation will start subtlety. Instead of calling your former spouse a liar, you refer to him or her as not always accurate. When you hear yourself exaggerating a story about your former spouse’s “bad” behavior as you vent to a friend, you check yourself. When you have done something for which you must apologize, you don’t wait for the other person’s resentments to harden. You pick up the phone, take a deep breath, and dial— you now sense that it’s so much better for everyone involved if you do it sooner rather than later. It only takes small shifts, merely little poppy seeds of change. On many
Finally, remember that adhering to your Manifesto can reduce your fear of “being found out,” even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. When you’re going through a divorce, complete with attorneys, legal papers, and proceedings, in the face of all this authority and officialdom you can still feel as though you’re “in trouble.” Under that
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With caution, and by reviewing it with your attorney, you may even bring your enhanced version of your Manifesto into the light (yes, if you are being viewed in a negative light, you can testify about its cur- rent importance). Its very existence is proof that you are setting out on a higher road. It’s proof that your goal is not to cause pain and seek revenge, but to protect your family—perhaps including your former spouse—from the destructive, life-damaging forces of divorce. It’s proof that you have the character of a hero.
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.
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/books/the-good-karma-divorce/.