October has been a pretty tough month for me the past few years. And the last couple of weeks of September aren’t usually all that fun either.
You see I got married on October 5 of 2002 to my high school sweetheart. We never had kids, but we built a life together of family, a family of friends, careers, businesses and two very sweet and crazy dogs.
Our first date was the homecoming dance in October of our junior year. The weeks leading up to that first date were so much fun. Hours on the phone getting to know each other. Flirting. Planning for our big date.
The weeks leading up to our October wedding had some ups and downs. I mean, there can be some anxiety around the biggest party you’ve ever thrown, right? And at the same time, there was so much excitement and joy around bringing so many people together for a big ol’party. Not to mention the fact that it felt really good to not have a single moment of hesitation about marrying this sweet man.
While we weren’t kids when we got married (we were 26) we were kids when we met. We grew up together. I don’t know that either one of us really knew what we wanted for our lives, but we loved each other, trusted each other and believed in each other, so we went for it.
And we kept growing. We were there for each other through the highs and lows of life. Trips with friends. Witnessing marriages, births and deaths. The endless entertainment of Barley and Baxter. The work and play of a marriage.
Our marriage always took work, but every marriage takes work. That’s what everyone says. And it’s true. It should take work. Work on yourself to always be learning and growing, and work with your partner to bridge the gaps that inevitably show up between two growing people.
But sometimes the gaps can become too big to bridge. Our divorce was finalized in December of 2016.
October 5th of this year was the second anniversary since we separated and the first anniversary since our divorce last year. And you know, I kinda thought that this October was gonna be a little bit easier than last year, but it wasn’t. This year was just as bad. If not worse. It started around mid-September.
I started to feel the buildup of feelings, but I didn’t know what they were. I was having some low energy. I was feeling tense. I was tired. I was grouchy. And finally I realized that I was sad.
I was really sad about the loss of all the best parts of us. The loss of the relationship I had been certain we could create. The loss of the familiarity of the world that we had built around ourselves. The loss of the house that we built from scratch and turned into a home.
You know what? It takes time and energy to feel all of the feelings. So when I finally realized what was going on, I let myself take some of that downtime that I needed to take care of myself. I let some people in so I wasn’t alone in it all. I let myself rest a little more.
And that meant that some things weren’t really getting done. But the thing is, I knew what wasn’t getting done. And here’s why. Because over the past two years I had been perfecting my system that helps me stay on top of things. I should say progressing, not perfecting. I don’t believe in perfect. I believe in progress.
Anyway, I’d been working on progressing my work and life productivity system.
You see when you decide to turn your life upside down and start all over again, it’s really helpful to have a system to keep track of everything because your brain is too swirly to do it on it’s own. Actually, your brain is not suited to doing that no matter what, but having an external brain to remember everything I couldn’t was especially important with all the newness in my life.
- How the heck do you get a divorce?
- Do I need an attorney?
- How do we divide assets?
- New bank accounts.
- New credit cards.
- New health insurance.
- Moving into a condo.
There was a lot that was going on and I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. But the thing is I had been introduced to the C-CORE Model from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity a few years before. And up until my separation, I had this kind of this half-assed version of the C-CORE Model in place.
C-CORE is an acronym. It stand for Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage.
Capture = Collect whatever has your attention
Clarify = Process what the things that have your attention mean to you. Are they actionable? What is the next action?
Organize = Put things where they belong. Create places to put things that make sense to YOU.
Reflect = Review your system frequently so you can keep things OFF your mind.
Engage = Simply do. When you have time, look to your system to do what you’ve decided needs to be done.
So I had my own version of the C-CORE model implemented in my life. But it was incomplete. I wasn’t really using it as it was intended.
And once my husband and I decided to separate, life kinda got crazy. Remember the firehose I mentioned earlier? There just was a lot to figure out. And so what happened, kind of organically at first, was I put in a much better version of the C-CORE Model in place. And over the first year after the separation I revisited Allen’s work at a much deeper level and really implemented the model in my life.
Having a solid system in place helped me stay really focused and productive in the midst of emotional, relational, and logistical upheaval. I just wanted to take really good care of the clients I already had and not go backwards. It was all up to me now and going backwards financially was terrifying to me.
But with my system in place, I actually grew my business income by 10% in that first year after the separation. And then this year, I’m on track for 20% growth over last year. I largely attribute that growth to my system. Having it in place has allowed me to really focus on what’s most important to me, what I most want to move forward, while also managing all the other demands in my life and in my world.
As I said earlier, our minds are not meant for holding all of this in our heads. Even under the best of circumstances. So creating a brain outside of your brain that helps you remember everything is critical. And it’s especially critical when the hard stuff hits.
The hard emotional milestones of wedding anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and friend traditions that trigger my feelings of loss. I’ve gotta navigate all that and there’s a lot of emotion around that stuff.
So sometimes I just need to take time for myself, and when I do that, I have my system there that will help hold everything until I’m ready to engage with the world of activity again.
It helps me know what’s not getting done and helps me make choices about things that I need to get done anyway because we all know there are some things we just gotta get done anyway. But when my energy is low, my system helps me make good choices about taking care of myself as well as moving things forward that I wanna move forward.
And my system isn’t everything.
I have a wonderful network of emotional and professional support in the form of an amazing girlfriend, my sister and her wife, my mom, my best friend, a wonderful circle of friends, my therapist, coaches that I work with. It takes a village, people. I’m really grateful for my village.
I’m also grateful that I’ve invested the time and energy and sometimes expense in building out a system that’s gonna support my dreams and my aspirations and my purpose. When my energy is up and I’m feeling creative and inspired my system is there to capture all the goodness I come up with.
And it’s also gonna support me and my sanity when the hard stuff hits. When the storms of life strike.
What you would be willing to invest to create that kind of strong foundation for yourself? I think it’s important that we invest in ourselves and give ourselves every opportunity to create the lives we are proud to life.
What helps you when the storms of life hit? What helps you keep things on track just enough to let you also take care of yourself?
Know that I’m here for you. I’m here for you if you need help creating your system that will hold you when you need to be held. And the system that you you can solidly stand on when you have the energy to get out in the world and get shit done.