The story of Viv Singer may not seem unique, as more than 50% of marriages dissolve for untold reasons. Yet, it is her perspective which is unique and something we can all learn from. If I experienced what Viv went through, I’m not sure I could have arrived at the same understanding or realizations. Those realizations made her a stronger person, and led her to become independent, resilient and successful in her own right.
“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you”Wayne Dyer
FROM HEARTBREAK TO HEALING
PPP: Thank you for sharing your story, Viv. Tell me about your journey, and where did it start – what main events caused a shift which led you to where you are today?
The end of my marriage was the inception of my journey. My ex was a great guy. He was handsome, creative, generous and romantic. There was lots I loved about him but he operated within a comfort zone that was well outside of mine and it could make me and often others feel awkward. I knew this going in, but I hoped it was something we could work through with time and therapy. He was very open to that, but I suppose the desire to be his true self was stronger than his desire to be who I wanted him to be, which isn’t unreasonable.
Looking back, I see very clearly that I married him not for who he was, but for his potential. I wanted him to change. It’s something I’m not proud of, to be clear. Even though he understood that his boundaries were different from most people’s, even though he said he wanted to work on it, it wasn’t a fair expectation on my part.
Not surprisingly, one day he proclaimed to me that he didn’t feel like himself when he was in my company. I asked him how long he’d felt that way. His answer: “For about ten years,” which was nearly the entire duration of our relationship. Within a few days of that conversation it became very apparent that he had fallen for another woman. Within a few weeks, our marriage was officially over.
PPP: That must have been so difficult – how did you come to terms with this?
Don’t get me wrong, it was devastating and I was angry. But as time passed and the end of my marriage became further and further away and the anger declined, I was able to see my role in it more. I took ownership of my part. I had not allowed him to be himself. Of course, that didn’t excuse him, but at some point I became tired of blaming him and turned my focus towards myself, which was far more productive.
I began to look inward and just spent time being still in my body. I began to practice yoga and I found that this tangible practice of looking in and looking for good really helped me. The more self-reflection I did, the more I realized that I can only control what I can control. I needed to focus on what I could learn from that experience and use those lessons to move forward.
FINDING OUR OWN VOICE
PPP: What else did you do to move forward?
Before I launched my coaching practice, I was a full-time freelance copywriter. I’d never written for myself, only for my clients. One day, I decided to use my writing skills for self-expression and I launched a blog. That really supported my healing journey.
Initially, I kept it anonymous. Even though I was a professional writer, I felt I didn’t have a creative bone in my body, and I was petrified of speaking up. I struggled to use my voice and was always attributing the ideas I shared to other people. I figured it was better to say, “Oprah says …” or “Chopra says…” than take ownership of the thoughts myself. After all, why would anyone listen to what I had to say? I had a serious case of imposter syndrome! I suppose everyone has it to some degree. I even read that Maya Angelou would question the accolades she received when her books were published! Eventually I overcame it and attached my name to my blog. I suppose you could say, “I came out!”
I still went through a lot of doubt about sharing my stories. When I first launched my blog, I used to attend these monthly Meet Ups for bloggers. One day I told the facilitator I had no clear sense of why I was blogging. She responded with a question: “Do you really need to know why?” No, I didn’t, so I just carried on. At that time, I was questioning whether I had anything new to offer people, and then I realized that while my stories may not be unique, I’m unique and my stories are mine. Almost everything we read or listen to has been written or said by someone else before. I underestimated the fact that the author, as well as the story itself, plays a role in what resonates with certain people.
PPP: So you moved away from the anger, and began to discover yourself through yoga, and writing, among other things. For women who are going through the end of a relationship or who may be blaming themselves – what wisdom can you share from your experience?
Firstly, allow yourself to go through the grieving process. It’s not going to happen overnight. With stages of grief, you have to go through the anger. Trust me, I know the anger. The day I confronted my husband about his misconduct, I remember sitting in my car alone and yelling so loudly that I lost my voice for two days.
Secondly, and I acknowledge it may take time to get to this place, you need to make a choice. Do you want to throw your life out with the marriage or do you want to heal? It doesn’t matter whether you’re 30 or 60, you have this choice. You can wallow in the pain or you can choose to move forward.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING A TRIBE
PPP: How else did you transform yourself after these realizations resulting from the end of your marriage?
I used my voice more. I started sharing my feelings and beliefs with greater conviction. Like I mentioned, I had started my blog, Viv for Today. I began to build my own tribe of women. I didn’t know why at the time. I just knew I needed to do it. And then I surrendered to the Universe and everything fell into place.
The Universe has played a massive role in my transformation, especially in my becoming a life coach. Through networking, I’ve met a lot of coaches and I’ve been inspired by many of them. One day I was at one of these meetings, soaking in some of this inspiration, when I was handed an affirmation card. It read, “Today you create a new goal!” At that moment I thought, this is it. I want to be a coach. That evening I shared this epiphany with my now husband. He said, “You gotta do what you gotta do!” It’s so funny. He’s said to me so many times before. For some reason, I always heard it as a bit of brush-off, but this time I clearly understood what he meant. He was saying, you need to do this, so go do it!
PPP: Where are you now on your journey of transformation?
I’m a life coach! I did it. I’m also branch director for the East Toronto chapter of the women’s collective Happy Healthy Women. I’ve found my tribe and I’m stepping up, facilitating women’s groups, running workshops, coaching individuals, and saying yes to so many exciting opportunities!
I’m a life coach! I did it. I’m also branch director for the East Toronto chapter of the women’s collective Happy Healthy Women. I’ve found my tribe and I’m stepping up, facilitating women’s groups, offering on-on-one coaching and stepping up to new opportunities. I’ve also just launched a women’s workshop that’s running in August called Navigating Heartache After Divorce and Separation so that I can support other women going through what I’ve been through.
I feel like a completely different person from the one who went through that divorce. This version of me could be anywhere and be totally OK with that. I never felt that way before. It’s not that I don’t need people. I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere other than where I am today. But I’m not as afraid of loss as I was. I don’t have the same desperate attachment to others that I used to. I have a much stronger sense of who I am and who I want to be. If circumstances changed and I found myself alone, somewhere other than here, I’d be alright. I’d land on my feet.
LIVING ON OUR OWN TERMS
PPP: It sounds like opening yourself up to possibilities has led you to realize your dreams, despite the imposter syndrome that set in. What are you most proud of at this moment?
I think I’m a positive role model for my daughter right now. I wouldn’t have said that a few years ago. As a 19-year-old, she has a mom who is clearly vulnerable yet strong. She has a mom who really believes in reinvention and encourages it. I feel proud that I am charting my own course.
As Glennon Doyle says in Untamed, “Your life is your own idea.” My life is my idea. Something else Doyle talks about is how so many well-intentioned people want us to live THEIR best versions of our lives rather than OUR best versions of our lives. I’m proud to be living MY best version of my life and I’ve only just begun.
It’s funny. I find the older I get, the younger I realize I am! I say this because when I was 20 I thought 40 was old, and when I was 30 I thought 50 was old. Then I hit 50 and it didn’t feel old. I use this experience to frame the way I look to the future. I’m 54 now. At 74, I’ll probably have a few more aches and pains, but I won’t be old and I certainly won’t be done evolving.
PPP: 100%! We always have to make ourselves even better. It doesn’t matter how old we are!
Exactly. There’s always room for growth. I’ve found my thing, which is supporting others authentically, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to find another thing in 10 years and another thing in 20. Life is a journey. We need to own it and live it. The pretty bits and the ugly bits, too.
PPP: Thanks for your vulnerability and honesty, Viv.
My pleasure Kavita. I hope others can take comfort and find hope in my experience!