Compliment Journal

After my 3rd husband announced he wanted a divorce, I was a wreck.  I could barely get off the floor of our house. I’m not talking figuratively, I mean I literally had no strength to move off the floor.  I was completely depressed and shattered. 

Both of us played our parts, adding daily to what would eventually separate us.  My first thought was, “I’m glad the cycle is broken.”  I continued to have hope of reconciliation. I imagined that because that everything was out in the open, we could fix what was broken and move forward together.  Other married couples had done it…. 

Regardless, I had to find something to help me get up off the floor. 

I realized it had been so long since I had heard anything nice being said to me. Amazing validation, acceptance, and profound love may well have been spoken in full truthfulness by each person I knew or met – however, at that point in my life, I didn’t hear or acknowledge it.  Or worse, I didn’t believe them when they said it. 

But in that moment, physically unable to lift myself off the floor, I said something nice to myself.  I said, “I am brave.”  Then I cried a lot. 

When I finally got off the floor, I found a 4 x 7 notebook, and wrote a list of compliments to myself.  I evolved that into a ritual of twice daily forcing myself to stand in front of a mirror, look myself in the eye, and say nice things to myself.  While that was ok, and I was hearing what I said, I desperately needed to hear it from someone else. 

I asked my children and my parents if they would call, email, text me each day, to say three nice things to me.  It didn’t matter if they repeated phrases.  All that mattered was the kind observations, from 5 people each day. 

There are times in our lives when we are devastated.  We believe we’ll never be "ok" ever again.  There is no rebuilding, because there wasn’t the foundation we thought was there.  Our lives are fundamentally changed – there is nothing familiar when that happens.  We’re amazed we still know our language, or how to cook eggs.  If we’re lucky, we have a strong community that immediately surrounds us and cares for us while we heal. 

Or, like me, we ask for it. I continue to write down compliments when I hear them – standing in a bank line, an acting class, or a conversation I jumped into because I knew I could help in some small way. 

It’s been 5 years since I started this journal. I don’t carry everywhere anymore… but I do read it all the way through when I’m feeling insecure.  My journal is almost full.  It’s a wonderful testimony that I’m not as terrible as I sometimes feel.  That people see me and appreciate me.  That I see me, and I appreciate me. 

Each time I look at it’s cover, I know that I am brave – I asked for help.  That’s not what makes me brave, though.  What makes me brave is that I accepted the help I asked for.