A chapter written by Michelle for the book 'The art of resonant living'
Time to Go
By Michelle Lowe
Deciding to leave my marriage was one of the toughest challenges I have endured in my life. What made me decide to leave is that I became extremely unhappy and unhappiness is one word, which is not in my vocabulary. If I were to describe to you, which colour the word “unhappy” felt like, the colour would be black. Or to be clear, I felt as though I was in a black place. People often asked me how I reacted at the time of my decision. I explained how I tried to work through the problems, I tried to see reason and I tried to get my spouse to meet me half way. I was really sad and tried to talk through our issues but he was not open to communicating with me in any way.
It physically affected me, soon I became unwell, I constantly had knots in my stomach, I was unable to exercise, I wasn't able to sleep well at all, I wasn't eating, in general I wasn't able to concentrate at work either.
It affected my emotions deeply and I was so stressed out all the time, probably anxious. Non of the above were necessarily obvious to me at the time but you know looking back I can say that I was sometimes scared of what I got myself into and I was angry and disappointed. I became lethargic and started to lose my hair. I don’t mind sharing with you that the person that I was before the relationship and the person I became in, during and after the relationship differed and thus, it really led me to a dark place.
I loved being a caretaker, I wanted to be a mother and it didn't really happen in the traditional sense. I was still very motherly in relationships towards people and if I care about you and I love you, I like to take care of you. So I was very kind, very open, happy warm fun loving. I liked myself, I was a good person and very popular. I have never been someone who has tried to fit in. I have always been someone who wanted to just be who I am, so when I no longer recognized who I was, that’s when the change happened.
When I noticed that I was no longer being the person I truly loved to be is when I made the decision that I wanted to go back to being who I truly am. Becoming invisible in the marriage, was one thing, but I also started to lose who I was which was way more important than any relationship I could be in.
So, being invisible was absolutely not okay with me. I took the first steps to go back to being me. One thing that was most important in the first step was recognizing that I had lost who I was. It was the awareness, because often when you are in denial that something is going on however, I couldn't deny it because I was physically seeing the change in the way my body now looked and also in the person I was becoming. I didn't even recognize who I was. I was so unhappy, and as I said before, unhappy is not part of my vocabulary, so I knew something was off and that I had to make a change.
Our relationship was falling apart like a set of dominos and consequently it affected my relationship with my friends and family, but to be clear, event I began to sound and feel like a broken record. I began to feel like the “friend” that everyone has, who when they call you and they want to see you, you begin to cringe because you are already thinking “here we go again”. I have to hear the woe is me story for the 15th time, or the “you don’t know how bad my life is!”
In order to find a solution to the challenges I was experiencing, my first decision happened when I chose to go and have therapy. It’s quite interesting actually, as a friend of mine said you know if you are so unhappy sometimes it’s just better to talk to a third party. I thought that’s great I shan’t burden my friends and family - let me talk to someone else.
At my appointment the therapist said to me “… so here is the issue you have Michelle, you know exactly what to do, you are not just doing it and I could sit here and take your money and I am happy to do so if you want me to, however, . . . You have already told me what you need to do, so you just have to do it” and that was kind of eye opening for me. I told myself, “okay so much for my therapy”!
After my conversation with the therapist the second step I took was to qualifying the decisions I was about to make and to ensure they were real and not based on peer pressure. When I say peer pressure, not what my family and friends were saying not just my inner voice but sort of qualifying that situation was real.
For example, once I told my ex-husband, “I’m really not happy, this is really not working and I am really going to leave you, if you are not willing to make xyz changes or talk to me about making the changes or working with me on making the changes. But he would just brush me off and he essentially said, “you would never leave me, you love me too much.” I guess he wanted to test his theory? So we did!
With all the questions and qualifiers - I was still getting the same answers. Instead of having that dialogue with myself in my head, I was having that dialogue with him asking same questions I had been asking myself giving myself the answers. However I was not giving him the opportunity to answer them and the sad thing was everything that I had asked in my head, was what he had answered by just not answering. Showing me that he either didn't care or didn't want to be bothered to do the work to make things right. So looking back, that was the main thing that I did, it was the third step.
The first approach was therapy the second was talking but there were other steps I needed to take in order to remain true to myself in order to get through this time step by step to find a solution.
I had to figure out how to stay and get through this transition. Once I started talking to my husband I was able to confirm my decision was right. Deciding what the next step would be, which wasn't easy of course, but in the end I trusted my good old faithful intuition.
My intuition has never let me down and I was sort of ignoring it. I was focused on my vows of marriage to which I had been committed. I had to live up to them and follow through and divorce was not a solution, certainly not an option for me. I had to work through it. But I realized whether it was an option or a solution for me, if the other person isn’t on the same page, it doesn’t matter what you think or feel. You are in a one-person relationship and a relationship is a partnership that is really not a one-person situation.
That is exactly where we were, somewhat mentally divorced anyway. We had already moved on. He was very resentful and I just felt as though I wanted stick to my decision. I had to be sure that if I walked away I needed to be completely and utterly confirmed about it, that I had done everything that I could have done to solve and salvage our marriage.
I asked him to do therapy - he refused, I asked him to talk to family members - he refused. Or even to perhaps just have a third party interject who could be objective about our perspectives. But he refused and moved into another bedroom. So there was no marital sex happening. He would come in and not speak to me. I would ponder and say to myself "wow if I am paying all the bills, managing the household and acting like the glue to keep us together, then why am I living this solitary life within a marriage? Then why I am I married?
As I said earlier, I was in a dark place, I had to figure out a way to get out. I must admit I think I did a lot of things that may have not helped but I spent less time at home I spent less time in his space, just so that I would not feel the thick atmosphere that was around us that you could cut with a knife.
As a consequence of spending less time at home and more time with friends and myself I began to do things that made me happy. I began the initial steps of trying to reconnect with myself. When you are in a marriage, you still need to be an individual. Even if you unconsciously, end up giving up something that gives balance in a relationship you know it can’t be all about what you want, or what they want to make it work. You want to come together, so you compromise. I quickly realized that I had compromised pretty much everything I had.
I would go to brunch with the girls on Sundays. I would do my nails, although that was not really doing my own thing. It was finding sanity outside of a marriage that is not working.
At work I had tough manger and that relationship was no longer working either. I tried to make sense of the ensuing madness by going dancing and that helped to ease the pain.
I tried to go yoga but it wasn't really working. It was inconsistent due to the off hours I was working. I couldn't go dancing at nighttime due to late night events so I could go off to work and hide but even that became a chore.
Everything began to feel like a real headache. I specifically remember one day having a pain go from the back of my neck to top of my head and I thought "oh my God! I am having an aneurysm"; to this day I don't know what it was. But I knew I was going to change everything that day. That was a defining moment for me, it was the impetus to put some fire under the situation and move forward.
Everything even going to salsa, the thing I am most passionate about became a chore and that was because I was mentally and physically exhausted, stressed out, unable to focus, unable to concentrate and just unhappy in every way. Everything was affected, work and personal life and my energy was low.
Work had been a struggle, my manager was very inflexible and a micro manager. Work became extremely difficult. I was able to manage her for a while until I got home and perhaps would be better, I could balance it out, but getting extreme stress in the office and extreme stress at home, and something had to go and it was not going to be me. I felt split into fragments and was continuously trying to repair myself.
I did not even sleep most of the time. I would wake up either thinking about how I had forgotten to do something at work, or oh my God – he is not even in bed anymore. He sleeping in another room... it was always something. My mind was never still anymore.
When the day came when I decided to put some fire under his ass. Excuse the expression, I did what I had to do? I would call it "the straw that broke the camel's back”. I was working hard. I would leave home at 7am in the morning and walk in the house on average at 11:30pm at night with my laptop in hand.
One particular evening, I said good evening to my husband and he was watching the TV. I had this very long living room so he was on one end and I was coming through the door on the other end, I said “Hi” and he didn't turn even around. He just kind of raised his hand in a "whatever" manner, not responding. And just then, in that moment I thought, "Oh my God, he's not even acknowledging me in my own home - this is just not on."
I gave him one more chance and said “did you cook anything?” and he suddenly turned around and casually stated "I was busy today”. And I said to myself, okay I can do bad all by myself. I am not doing this anymore. “Today is the last day" - and it was.
The next morning I woke up with a vengeance. I went on the Internet, I printed out a bunch of places for rent. I told him that I wanted to have a really serious conversation with him. I showed him all of the options. I explained how I had decided to rent our apartment out as of the following month and that people would be viewing it. I wanted him to move into one of the rooms I had selected and I would rent it for him for the first two months to help him out, as I could not continue like this anymore.
So for me it I made another step forward. I took action with step 4.
Normally, the way I handle being in a stressful situation is I tend to be indifferent. The minute you begin to doubt yourself you unable to move forward. I could no longer be emotional about it. As I said before I had done everything that I could have done before to solve the marriage. At any point if he had said to me “you know what this is crazy, I want to work this out”. I am sure I would have stopped, but the train was moving so I kept moving with it.
The train was moving then we both moved out.
Initially, he refused to move out. He said he was not going anywhere. So that was the only way for him to move if I offered him an opportunity and I paid for the opportunity for him to move. That was the only way to get him out.
Emotionally I did that too. I moved out of the marriage and also I wanted to move out of that negative energy that was in our home. I could have found a roommate but I just could not see being in place once full of love and harmony which was now devoid of that and full of negativity, I literally wanted to shower myself clean and I just wanted to start fresh and get rid of all of that bad energy. I completely changed the environment.
I moved from the dark to being in the light by making some serious choices and changes. Albeit, now I had to make a huge life change. Within six months I moved out, I quit my job and I left the country.
These were all big and bold moves that were huge. I am not sure that I thought about what was going to happen when I moved back to London which is where I went after leaving New York.
When I arrived back in the UK I said to myself, "okay here I am what should I do now?" It sounded good on paper. I had not really thought about the other end of it. It was more about just getting out of the situation.
I have written a story in an anthology, where I talk about my dilemma in that book. I talk about feeling invisible and needing to breathe air, because I was suffocating in the marriage. I felt suffocated in the relationship and I think once I moved to London it was the first time I felt I could breathe again. It was just like Tony Morrison's book "Waiting to Exhale." I was able to inhale and exhale again for the first time in ages and it felt really good. I really did not know where I was going but it couldn’t be any worse than where I was coming from.
So you can see how taking a step-by-step approach helped me take a gigantic step. People still ask me now, how did I know when was the right thing and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know it was. I know it was just the universe whispering to me to do it, but I didn't recognize it as that I didn't call it that. I just knew I was a great woman, I didn't know I was a great manifester. I knew I could manifest things really well. Not necessarily easily but if I decide to do something it usually comes to fruition.
I didn't know then what I know now. I didn't understand the power that I had, to alter and change or the ability to redirect my life as necessary. I did what came very naturally to me, so that's what I did.
It was very quick within six months I had completely changed my life around or less than six months actually. For me it didn’t really feel that quick, it felt like a lifetime. Because I had been thinking about it for a long time, for some two years. I had been planning to leave him, at least in my head, but I wanted, as I said going back to being in the position that I could say I have done everything I could do and there nothing more I can now. So I was comfortable and I believe I had no regrets and no sorrow and only comfort in my heart that I did the right thing.
Eventually I found strength that I didn't really know I possessed and I was happy for it. I realized I am really a strong individual and I really believe that I recognized I was listening to my intuition but this time I was really tuning in and recalibrating when things felt wrong.
I realized that one of my greatest strengths is manifesting and I had not recognized that prior. Energy has always been something that is a big part of me. Something I didn't really understand and I just knew that I had used it when necessary. I didn't know what to call it I didn't know what it was.
I learned that tapping into that energy and power I really trusted and believed in was important. Understanding I was manifesting what was happening because the Universe wants it for me, knowing, acknowledging and submitting to what is before me.
When it is the right situation, the universe lines up all the right things for you, because this is what is meant to happen. The Universe will never send you in the wrong direction. But I came to learn and understand that better down the road.
I kept tools and techniques that I have learned to keep with me when I move from the dark place to the lighter place and they are the same tools and techniques I use to balance myself in the place where I now stand - harmony. They are the same tools and techniques I use to manifest everything thing I desire as and when I desire it.
One of the most important things for me is meditating. Its really important, even if you are just breathing deeply, continuing to practice the practice, to become better at it to become consistent .The biggest challenge while learning to meditate for me has been to get my mind to stop having conversations that were running around 24/7 in my head. I just needed to quieten the noise and meditating just gives you silence in a way I never experienced before. I use that as one of my techniques.
I have coaching sessions with my amazing coach who is truly amazing! I'm not just saying that. She helps me to tune into what I already know and what I know to be true and that’s been a tremendous help. Being true to what really makes me happy is an important desire for me, which I discuss in one of my forthcoming books.
One of the things that has always been a passion of mine is salsa dancing. For some reason the minute I hear that music and the minute I start dancing, it is as if nothing else exists. Just myself, the person I am dancing with and the music. It could be the most crowded room but it suddenly feels empty in a good way.
The feeling is of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing around and without a care in the world. It is as if you become five years old again and you are just playful and joyful and having no inhibitions. You are not fearful, you are fearless and you can do anything your mind decides you want it to do because you are only in a “can do” mode.
I tend to have a very positive attitude as a rule. I spend a good part of my life staying away from negative people and negative attitudes.
I have friends and family members that the minute you say something positive they will come up with ten negatives so I have learned to instead of saying I am thinking about doing this, so they can give you a reason as to why you shouldn’t do it, I just say something like did I tell you I am doing this next week or did I tell you I did that last week and what can I say it’s been done. Then all of a sudden they say wow that’s impressive – and it is isn’t it? This is what I do!
As a rule, it is important that you make sure you are in a positive environment all the time. It's really, really important, I can't stress that enough.
Sometimes people around you are in a negative space. I do my best to understand if what you see is really what you get? When I say this I mean is this person really unhappy because they are bringing unhappiness in their life into the work space or into their environment and it just oozes out of their pores because they are miserable or are they generally an unhappy person and it doesn’t matter what you do for them they will never change because that’s their disposition and that’s who they want to be. They must enjoy being in that space. I try hard not to discount people immediately, but if I feel negative energy I can walk in a room and feel it not having met the person and not spoken to them. I just say okay the negative energy is coming from the right so I am going to the left and I don’t indulge. I don’t entertain it. It’s just that simple. Or, when I am in a situation for example, when I am at work, at an event or if at a party, once I am around that type of energy I can become uncomfortable if I am in a situation where it's not easy to get away. I am just pleasant and then I just excuse myself. I just move away. I don't take it on.
Some people do take them on. Some people absorb other people’s negative energy but I don't. I make a point of not absorbing negative I deflect it.
There are reasons I choose not to absorb it. There is definitely a negative effect for absorbing both physically and mentally. I mean, it’s just you taking on someone else's bad energy and it brings you down. It doesn't do anything positive for you. It’s draining; I call these people energy suckers. I mean some people I have met in general who when you are around them, I feel drained in their presence. For me I've got to go. I can't take it on. Even physically feel them sucking the life out of me. As I make a point of keeping negative people at arms length.
Being around positive people is paramount. The effect is so wonderful because you can bounce ideas, energy, thoughts and feelings of that person and its great because you are on the same vibe. You enhance each other, you bring some light to them they bring some light to you. It’s such a wonderful place to be.
Having made these tweaks my life has now become physically and emotionally changed. I have made a total 90-degree turnaround. I am even in a better place than I was before. Now I am very comfortable with the person I am. I have made no excuses how I live my life nor will I.
I have lived my life in the way I have always wanted, but I had not really grasped who I was. I don't think I claimed the power of my greatness; I use that word, my own “greatness” without arrogance. Because I know I not am arrogant and I am confident and comfortable with all of these attributes. When one is really happy in their life, others think it can't be, that nothing can be that wonderful but it depends on your definition of greatness, or your definition of wonderfulness. I am really happy with the person I am, but I love the person I have evolved into so I am learning more and more about me every day and I am loving everything, I see - its really good.
I have achieved a lot in a short space of time along with discovering some gifts I didn't know I had. I am doing so much, creating products and services. Let me tell you a little bit about what has allowed me to achieve this.
I would say that being a coach is an amazing experience. There is power in coaching, it’s not same as mentoring, it’s another individual allowing you to answer the questions you already know but bringing them to the forefront and then you examine them and then action them. What happens is where were these ideas that we really want to do? But then someone says to you “you can't do that because x, y or z”. Or you step in your own way and you don't make it happen. Oh I really would love to go here but I can't afford it, how can I get there? Who is going to help me? I can't do it on my own. You come up with all these excuses. So coaching helps you to realize that as my father used to say's "you are your own worst enemy." If you step up to the challenge, and if you really desire something you can make it happen. You have to really want it and be willing to make the sacrifice, which is required to make it happen. Great things don't really happen by you laying around and waiting for things to falli into it your lap it just doesn't happen that way. You have to do the work. If you are committed to doing the work you will see the change.
As the first Joy Spot Practitioner/Relationship Coach, and Author, I have come a long way, and there were a few reasons why I decided to become a coach.
It began really because pretty much everybody and their grandmother I know would call me for advice. I used to do this thing all this is a really nice person, because I am open, and they feel very comfortable talking to me and I like that. Not only am I open and a good listener, but I tend I love hearing everyone's business. But I don't give it out. Then I would know everyone would stop sharing. I like that people trust me and are comfortable sharing with me.
It started from that perspective. I used to think – ooh if only that person knew what that person thinks of that person! I would say this in my mind. But then people asked me really big life questions and it’s really kicked off in its formative stage when I left my husband.
When I left him I would say to people openly, as I am that sort of person, “yeah, yeah I left my husband. It’s the best thing I have ever done”.
People would email me, call me or whisper to me in a situation, “Oh my God, what did you do, would you teach me how to do it?” I was shocked because the people I thought were perfectly happy weren’t. And were having a way better relationships than me, were coming to me asking me for advice. Saying “I want to know the secret - how did you leave?” I began to realize that maybe I had something there, a gift where I could share experience, as it was very natural it wasn't forced, with other people that were in a similar dilemma.
As I said before, I have always been a caretaker. It is a natural transition to help take care of other people in a different way from the professional perspective.
The impetus to do it came from having dialogues with people about what was going on in my life and I think just being honest about my story and experience. It made people relate and connect because it wasn't just me talking theoretically from documentation. It was this is more a case of this is my life experience and I am sharing it with you so you feel comfortable to have the ability to share yours with me and we are on the same page, I am no different than you are.
I started by having a relationship with myself first. Let's talk about the relationship with myself because obviously you can tell I am expressive, happy and a magnificent person. So I shall tell you how came to be that person again from an awful place.
It's getting to know myself all over again, and it was very interesting because I remember moving back to England and calling my best friend and saying to her I think I am depressed and she said "don’t be silly you are not depressed what are you talking about", I said "no I really think I am depressed I never experienced depression but I think this must be it" and she was "oh why are you so depressed" and I said "I sit and watch soap operas every night. I mean I use to be in New York in a theatre going out to dinner, night clubs, galas, etc. and here I am sitting on my flat mate's couch watching soap operas" and she said "may be that's what you are meant to be doing right now, may be you are just meant to sit still and be one with yourself!"
I thought, okay my friend is crazy now, okay she really doesn't know what she is talking about and I am not having any more conversations with her because she has given me some weird advice.
That conversation resonated with me and stayed in the back of my mind and I thought what if I just succumb to this what if just go with the flow, what if I just watch TV and one day I won’t really want to watch any more. What if I just be in the moment, be in the now and go with what seems right.
What my gut was telling me, even though my head was saying this is not what we do we don’t lay on the couch and watch TV we are reading. But what in essence was happening was I was clearing my mind and clearing the pathway. I was moving away from all the negativity that I had experienced and I was almost sort of flushing it out and reconnecting with me. I think, I know that the journey really became serious when I went to India I guess almost three years ago. Where I practised yoga twice a day at sunrise and sunset for ten days and I learned how to begin to meditate and I realized okay I am on a different path I am back on the path of me! We have to be happy within ourselves otherwise you can’t be happy with someone else or anything else - as it all starts within!
Although, I have written a book; The Joy Spot, Sex, Love and Men and there are four things in the book that are important to me. In my book, I talk a lot about loving your self, it is a big part of the book. Following along my journey you may be beginning to question and to wonder if I began to slowly start falling in love with myself again or fall out of love with myself further.
I don’t believe I ever fell out of love with myself because if I had fallen out love with myself it would have been really difficult to find love again. I know what happened to me was love on mute. I never stopped loving myself because I believe I had to be strong in and with love in order to go forward for me to have the strength to leave my situation. And I probably owe that to my love of self. I always believed I was worthy and still do.
I soon came to terms with the fact that I knew I loved myself more than I loved this relationship. And loving myself more had to come back to the forefront. My self-love became so quiet that it was almost on mute and I had to bring that vibration out again I had to come back to the forefront and be heard and I couldn’t hear myself.
The one key thing or thing I learned in that journey was probably just how important I was. How lost I was by becoming some one else. I was busy loving someone else I was busy doing for everybody else but myself and I think a lot of women who are married and who have children are guilty of that. We focus on loving everybody else, we put everybody else as the priority and if we don’t and we choose to love ourselves we either guilt ourselves, or we are made to feel guilty. I used to go to the spa every month religiously and nails, every other week, to get my hair done because these are the things that made me feel good. And feeling good resonated into my husband loving me more finding me sexier and bla bla and all that’s went out the window. I wasn't loving me anymore wasn't doing the things that made me feel good and showed me how good I felt so I think that the key thing was just that.
There are five steps that I want to share with my readers that would help with finding a dark place and moving to a place of joy and harmony.
Step 1 - recognizing that there is an issue by moving out of denial. This first step is powerful and probably the hardest step to take.
Step 2 - is being honest with your self. You have to ask yourself honest questions, which most people don't want to do let alone hear the answers. My rule of thumb has always been "don’t ask the questions, if you really don’t want to hear the answers" as you have to be really honest with yourself and look at what’s really going on. As Michael Jackson said – "I'm starting with the Man in the Mirror."
Step 3 - In the coaching world, the exercise, wheel of life is a really great tool. It is based looking at different areas of your life and really need to look at which path is really important to you by rating them figuring it out what’s the priority and what’s not the priority so prioritizing this key if use in your life or things that you believe to be issues and then focus on where your happiness lies on them. If no.1 is the most important thing that you desire most that’s the first thing that you need to action and then you want to break that down further and look at that really closely and start figuring out how you can work through the things that you consider issues to resolve or get you to that place of desire.
Step 4 - Number one is awareness that you are unhappy. That’s not always easy. Once you decided that you are going to take action then its figuring out what that will be, so is it coaching, is it therapy is it big action or a small action? It may be lots of small actions to get to a bigger place. That would dependent on whom and where the individual really is? What’s the issue you are trying to confront? And do you need to make some changes with the new self as opposed trying to try to make changes around somebody else.
Step 5 - After you have gone into the zone then you have to apply the change moving forward with action and decision, in order to do whatever is necessary next.
The gift is in knowing and learning how to change something. Or whilst deciding to make a change, actually apply the idea and then keep moving forward in the meanwhile.
As a reminder, like everyone, once in a while we get stuck we tend to plateau. It’s easy to fall off the wagon, for want of a better term, but get back to basics. It's not easy. The most effective thing you can do is to is to stop and breath, look around and surmise where you really are and then move forward. Then continue from where you are. Don’t go into panic mode and say this isn't working so I am going to stop here. Instead, continually work through your plan of trying to become a better you.
Essentially, what I am saying is always trust your instinct, I always do. It will enlighten you and give you divine happiness.
About Michelle Lowe
Michelle Lowe aka Divalowe is The World's only Relationship Event Planner Coach, advising and training women and men over 35 on understanding, appreciating and navigating through the peaks and valleys of finding love. Soon to be released books:- Meandering Mind Sports in the 21st Century and Men, Love, Joy and Sex.